A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series: Edition #14
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk legal marketing with real law professionals. In this edition, we hear from Steven Long, esteemed law firm marketing consultant, and co-founder of Precision Legal Marketing.
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 Steven Long
Since launching our legal marketing community last winter, some of our favorite people to collaborate with have been the team members of Precision Legal Marketing. The marketing firm was launched in 2014, by former LexisNexis – Martindale Hubbell consultant Steven Long, who we’re pleased to feature in this edition of our “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” blog series. With the help of dedicated marketers like Jay Williams and Jyllian B. Kivelin, Long has helped countless firms transform their websites, improve their online presence, and capture new clients.
In our below conversation with Long, we discuss how to go about finding the right marketing company for your firm, the importance of properly tracking marketing results, and common mistakes law offices are making with their new leads.
Answering Legal: What should attorneys be looking for when trying to hire a marketing company for their firm? What are some things they should be wary of?
Steven: I think the number one question to ask is “how many or what percentage of your clients have you lost in the last year”. If that number is greater than 10 percent, you should run. This strategy will eliminate the big box companies, but I submit that that is okay! Find an agency that not only understands your practice area, but also understands you as an attorney. If they are not legal specific, they should at the very least speak your language. During an interview with them, you should ask probing questions like the aforementioned, as well as how many clients they have in your practice area and locality. You are fishing for honesty here, and use your courtroom filter to check this.
Often times you are talking to a sales person, and that is great! They can help you with understanding the product and recommend something to you that hopefully fits your needs and budget. But do not be afraid to ask in-depth questions about whom you would be dealing with for things like reporting, changes, and day-to-day customer service needs. Think about interviewing three firms prior to selecting what you consider to be the best. Be wary of freelancers and folks who do not have documented law firm marketing experience. If you have to buy from one of the big box folks, please be aware of exactly what you are paying for and the terms of your contract.
Answering Legal: In your opinion, how has legal marketing evolved over the past few decades?
Steven: It used to be all you needed as a consumer facing plaintiff’s lawyer was some ads in your local yellow page directory and some TV commercials. Standing out from the crowd at that point came down to ad design and messaging. In today’s fragmented and more demographically focused avenues, lawyers need to do research on potential clients in order to effectively stand out from the crowd. Attorneys need to take a look at what consumers are reacting to online in places like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. What catches their attention and why? Understanding who your clients are will help with putting together a “target profile” for potential new clients. Gone are the days of spray and pray marketing. Lawyers also need to define themselves (or hire someone who can) as a brand, and establish who they are as a person and as an attorney.
Answering Legal: You’ve worked with a lot of legal practices over the years. What marketing habits do some of the most successful ones have in common?
Steven: I think it’s best to break this down into two components. Attraction and conversion. The attraction side of the equation is what is going to motivate people to contact your firm for services. A good marketing strategy plan is key, but what separates the “best” from the rest is what they do on the conversion side. Have you called a firm and heard the person on the phone answer as “law firm” in a boring tone? Most of us have. The best firms are controlling the message from contact point to the finish line with professional phone answering, friendly customer service, forward paralegal staff and more. They are employing technology like live chat, call tracking, email campaigns, auto-responders and schedulers. Consumers are savvy and expect the white glove treatment. The best law firms are giving them that, using technology to implement most of it.
Answering Legal: So you are a proponent of law firms having a live chat feature on their websites?
Steven: Absolutely – as long as it’s a human driven interaction, with real operators and not bots! Providing a potential client with a contact point, with a real person who they can tell their story, and feel like they have been helped, is crucial. We did a study last year with a client that was skeptical about deploying live chat long term. He thought those that engaged with live chat would have called or filled out a form on the site if the live chat were not present. Consequently we found a 1% overlap, and he was obviously convinced. His conversions have increased by 35% since that time period.
Answering Legal: Is the tracking of marketing results an area where a lot of lawyers are slacking? Are there any tools you recommend for tracking such results?
Steven: Oh yes, tracking and conversion KPI metrics are often ignored by firms. On a basic level, having Google Analytics installed on your site and some basic event and goal setup there is crucial. It can also be useful to have a marketing consultant pore over historical data for your firm. Without access to that data, you are flying blind. Another strategy I can recommend is instructing your intake staff to ask new leads where they found your firm online. Both of these are fairly easy to implement and present little to no cost.
Answering Legal: What are some common mistakes you see firms making when it comes to handling the new leads generated by their marketing efforts? How can these mistakes be avoided?
Steven: Many firms aren’t responding to new client inquiries fast enough. I see some (lawyers) waiting hours to get back to prospects and that is simply too long. All new leads should be contacted within 3 minutes of coming in.
Law firms often have no system or methodology in place for handling their new client intake. Phones will go unanswered until late in the evening (usually smaller firms have this issue). If your phones’ unanswered rate is greater than 10 percent, you have a bleeding organ. Firms should consider deploying live chat, using an answering service and putting a paralegal in charge of answering the phones.
Answering Legal: Are there any new marketing trends that you’re keeping a close eye on?
Steven: Certainly the early adoption of voice search is an interesting trend. The basics of SEO protect most firms position there, but the future marketing potential in that space is certainly something we are watching.
Answering Legal: What’s your top piece of marketing advice for a lawyer just starting out in 2019?
Steven: If you’re not tracking, then you’re slacking. Slacking didn’t get you through law school, so don’t slack. Know where your money is going and how it’s working for you, or find someone that can help you figure that out.