A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series Edition #19
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk with some of today’s most knowledgeable legal marketing minds. In this edition, we hear from legal marketing expert and best selling author Jan Roos.
We hope hearing the thoughts and ideas shared by the people in these blog posts, will inspire you to make positive changes to your marketing strategies. We also know that marketing legal services these days is more complex and challenging now than ever before, and hope that some of our readers may identify with some of the marketing struggles presented here, and perhaps be able to offer solutions.
The biggest goal of this blog series is to get the conversation going, so let’s dive in.
Our Marketing Conversation With Jan Roos
Jan Roos is the founder and CEO of Casefuel, a company that offers guidance on lead generation, and specializes in areas such as search engine advertising, social media advertising, and referral base marketing. This past April, Roos’ book, “The Legal Marketing Fastlane: Your Roadmap to Generating New Leads In 72 Hours Or Less, Even If You’re Small”, was included in our list of legal marketing books every lawyer should read.
In our below conversation with Roos, we discuss all things PPC advertising, the importance of lawyers owning their intake process, and what the most successful law practice owners seem to have in common.
Answering Legal: Can you tell us a little about your early experiences in marketing, and how the decision to go after paid traffic proved to be a significant game changer for you?
Jan Roos: My first time in the driver seat for marketing was as the co-founder of a consumer product business. We were bootstrapped so we didn’t have any outside funding which is pretty similar to the situation most starting solos find themselves in; we had no budget and could only eat what we killed!
We had tried everything under the sun – social media, content marketing, you name it. All of the things that were ‘free’ outside of consideration of time. But the major shift in that business was when we took some profit off the table and invested a small budget into paid media. We made a four times ROI on that first budget within a month and were able to keep doubling it until we had completely overtaken the other channels.
The major difference was cycle time. Instead of dealing with murky ‘build it and they will come’ timelines, we were able to get results and quantify them immediately. We had a pretty healthy risk appetite so we decided to keep doubling down but even if we hadn’t we would have found a profitable channel to make a solid return on.
AL: Money is always a top concern for growing firms. Can PPC advertising be done effectively without having to spend a lot of money?
Jan: There’s an important distinction to be made between money spent and money invested. For example – if someone came up to you and sold you a real $100 bill for $10, did you spend $10 or did you make $90? If you look at the people running the biggest law practices (or companies in general) most of the people running them have the mindset that the transaction above would be making $90. This is obviously a ridiculous example but some people run their practices in a way that would not consider a trade like that because it’s “costing” $10.
So long story short there has to be some money spent with PPC. The good news is with non-contingency based practice areas you’ll be able to get it back quickly in the form of retainers and/or billable hours.
The trick is getting the bases covered – traffic, conversion and analytics. Often times PPC is positioned as a cure all which absolutely isn’t the case (that’s one leg, traffic). You need to be driving it to a relevant landing page so people are interested enough to call/email you (conversion) and you need to make sure you know that’s coming from PPC (analytics). It sounds simple but I would wager 80% of the people saying PPC is a rip off were missing one or more of those things.
AL: Aside from claims about it being too expensive, what are some common misconceptions you often hear about PPC advertising?
Jan: One big misconception is that things take time to deliver results. The whole benefit to PPC is how fast you can get results. Anyone who is telling you it takes months to get calls on clicks you’re going to start getting (and paying for) tomorrow is just covering their butt because they’re figuring this out for the first time! Without fail we’re getting phone calls within the first day or two of getting clicks for a campaign.
Another one I see often is getting intimidated by other advertisers especially in big cities. This is sort of counterintuitive, but we actually see a LOWER cost per lead in dense metro areas than rural areas most of the time. In a rural area, you have so few people searching that you essentially have to be on top to get any eyeballs at all. In a bigger city, there are so many people that you can bid lower and only take the people who scroll all the way down.
AL: What are some of the biggest keys to doing PPC advertising right?
Jan: The first thing I ask a prospective client when they mention they had tried a PPC campaign that went wrong is: did it not generate calls or did it generate calls but no cases? Nine times out of ten the answer is no calls or not enough.
Funny enough this probably has nothing to do with how their adwords account is set up. Google is extremely effective at selling you people looking for your practice area of choice all day, every day. It’s almost guaranteed these guys were getting clicks to their website.
If they weren’t getting calls – that actually boils down to a conversion problem. People are getting to the website clicking on a term like “divorce lawyer Boise” but are not calling for some reason. This could be because they can’t find the number, don’t trust that the attorney can help them, or a million other things.
The conversion rate (people who call divided by people who click) is very telling here. One of the biggest researchers in the area showed an average of 5% conversion compared to 20-30% which we regularly see in our client accounts. On a $10 click, that’s the difference between making the phone ring for $50 vs. $200!
AL: Is PPC advertising something lawyers should feel comfortable attempting to do on their own, or is investing in professional guidance a must?
Jan: The answer depends on where someone is at in their journey. You start out your practice with more time than money, and assuming things go alright you eventually get to a point where you have more money than time.
The worst case scenario you can have with PPC is having your credit card on file with Google and the person running the account asleep at the wheel. If that’s you because you’re too busy – hire out! Even if you’re only spending a few hours a week on PPC, if you’re billable is say $200/hr you can easily hire a top flight agency and have access to talent that does this every day instead of doing it yourself.
AL: I’ve seen you discuss in other places the importance of “owning the intake process”. Why are a lot of firms struggling in this area, and what can be done to correct common intake problems?
Jan: Because it’s hard! Proper Intake is complicated to set up, and emotionally challenging to follow through with. On the surface though – you or your staff is “just having a conversation” with a prospective client which leads people to think that’s all there is to it. It’s a huge blind spot, and many firms let literally hundreds of thousands of dollars walk through the door by not focusing on it.
A crazy fact I learned from an intake specialist I interviewed on the podcast was that the big national tort firms close 70-80% of the qualified leads that call them cold on the phone. Let me tell you – those numbers don’t happen by accident. There is relentless focus on process and hardcore accountability within the teams that produce those numbers.
The good news is focus and accountability are free. Most of the firms we work with start around 10% or less for conversion on leads (outside of referral), so increasing that to 20% will mathematically double the case files they have without spending another dime on marketing.
AL: You get the chance to work with a lot of law practice owners? What do the most successful ones seem to have in common?
Jan: The best firms focus on numbers and people.
The firms that look like they’re taking the most risk and spending money to grow usually know the numbers on what they’re going to get out of an investment. This is done through knowing what they can afford to test out a channel and then doubling down if it works.
People are the second part of the equation. A guaranteed way to never get past being a solo is to have ‘superhero syndrome’ and do everything yourself. The biggest firms hire smart, bring on the best people they can afford for a given task and do it at the right time. You end up with a team of specialists who are doing what they do best, not jack(s) of all trades who are just ok at a bunch of things and unhappy doing half of them.
AL: The Casefuel podcast, which features top experts from the world of attorney marketing, has gotten a lot of positive feedback. What are some of the favorite lessons or takeaways you’ve had from guests while doing the podcast?
Jan: One of the things I’ve been really fascinated by is the different ways people end up finding success once they have numbers and people down. I interviewed two very awesome Todds (Stanton and Villarubia) who decided to go downmarket and serve transactional work at volume and go upmarket to solve extremely high level tax problems for a very small group of people, respectively.
There’s a lot of leeway you have to make your practice once you have the basics down. It’s amazing to see how the successful owners have ended up building practices that suit their unique skills, preferences and markets.
AL: What search marketing trends have caught your interest so far this year?
Jan: We’re making a huge push towards geofencing right now. There have been a few false starts over the last 5-10 years on geofencing with secondary networks, but with the consolidation of eyeballs on the big platforms and the strength of targeting on platforms like google and facebook, we finally have the ability to target people in a certain location and serve them an ad they’ll actually click.
One of the best applications for this is actually outside of search – we’ve been getting fantastic numbers on personal injury cases targeting people killing time on facebook or instagram at hospitals, for example.
AL: What’s your top piece of marketing advice for an attorney starting out in 2019?
Jan: Set your goals from day one. Where do you want to be at the end of this journey? Do you want to be your own boss and make a healthy living or do you want to build a business? I feel like a lot of the content out there pushes people to think building a business is for everyone but it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with making a healthy six figure salary as a solo. What IS wrong is wanting the benefits of one path while walking the other.
If you’re treating your firm as an asset and are willing to hire, growth is everything. Assuming you have positive ROI marketing channels at your disposal you’ll be growing faster the more you put into it.
Don’t expect to be on the inc 5000 anytime soon if you’re running a lifestyle business and don’t expect to take a high salary if you’re putting everything back in the company. Different strokes for different folks.