Marketing – when properly executed – can be the lifeblood of a law firm. The need to generate consistent interest in your services is more important now than ever before. Recognize that marketing is another word for communication and who needs consistent communication more than your current clients?
One way to look at marketing is that of a service department. It serves the business in all areas -to generate interest, to support clients, and even to keep the clients you don’t want from knocking at your door.
By automating your marketing you are able to build a brand image of knowledge and trust. It increases the likelihood of referrals by keeping your firm at top of mind, and reminds clients to post reviews for potential new clients to consider.
What is Marketing Automation?
Consider marketing automation a form of automatically communicating with an interested party. Which could include, but is not limited to: a prospect on your website, a current or former client, and a referral source.
Automation does not mean that you are not involved in the process, relinquish control or give up the option to communicate manually using traditional means such as the telephone or email. The purpose of automation is to supplement, not replace the communication you would normally have. For example how many times have you said to yourself “I need to reach out to _contact name_ today” but the day got away from you and it never happened. Or, how many times have you re-used the same language, instructions, or content in an email to potential or current clients?
The two examples above are areas where marketing automation tools can help whether it’s something as simple as an automatic string of messages that go out when someone submits a form on your website or adding live chat or offering a scheduling tool for clients who want self-service. All of these vehicles dramatically improve communication without any additional effort required on your part.
Recent studies have shown that clients are expecting nearly instantaneous response as well as communication on nights and weekends both before and during the time they engage with a law firm. It is our goal to share both tools to help you automate communications, as well as practical examples you can adapt to fit your practice.
Automation is a Supplement, Not a Replacement
In business success is a numbers game. Yes, you have to be a good lawyer, care about your clients and exercise ethical practices. That said, your actions in the physical world are what builds your law firm’s pipeline.
Facetime with current clients, attending networking events, and working your powerbase for referrals are a requirement. It is these activities that continue to line up new opportunities for your business.
By having marketing automation in place, you jumpstart the follow up process for new business. You make your law firm look organized and professional when working with current clients. Lastly, you set yourself up to be acknowledged and trusted as a resource for quality legal representation in the eyes of potential clients or referral sources.
Website Must Haves
First, commit to your website being your home base for all client communication. Where people can open a virtual door to your office, schedule an appointment or communicate with you digitally. Here are a few of the absolute ‘must haves’ that turn a law firm website into a communication powerhouse:
- A persistent “Contact Us” form is easily accomplished with plugins for WordPress users, or built in tools with all of today’s website builders. All form submissions should go to an email that is monitored throughout the day, seven days a week.
- Persistent, clickable telephone number in a locked header. If you scroll down your website and the phone number or contact us form disappears, you are losing potential clients guaranteed. As impatient consumers we need a website to make life as easy for us as humanly possible.
- A pop-up for email collection for growing your marketing list. While some people may find pop-up forms annoying, they work! Pop-up forms in exchange for valuable information outperform traditional ‘eNewsletter’ sign up boxes by over 30%.
- Lightboxes are the semi-transparent boxes on a website that ask for an email address or suggest you check out a relevant piece of material specific to that website page. When used properly, they can not only generate a new lead for your business, but also enroll the contact in an automated marketing campaign that educates them on the value of hiring your firm.
The tools above bridge the attention span gap that most legal consumers battle. When they are finally ready to reach out to a law firm, it is your duty to make that process as simple and fast as possible. By offering a variety of options and valuable resources they can voluntarily enter a communication process that will lead to an appointment or conversation. Then you can determine if you are able to service them. Which keeps them happy, and you in control.
Marketing and Automation Tips
In order for your marketing efforts to generate business for you there are a series of best practices that industry professionals recommend. These habits help keep your data clean and manageable. An example of why best practices are important is to avoid a situation where potential clients interested in estate planning aren’t getting bankruptcy related emails.
- Mark and Maintain Your Client’s ‘Status’ Accordingly
- Use software to track and manage the interests and status of all of your contacts. Such as client, former client, business contact, referral, or not a fit.
- Use Lead Status to Measure ROI
- For anyone familiar with managing a ‘sales pipeline’ it is important to know how many clients you have in each stage of the conversion process. For prospects who have not yet retained you, but have engaged with a particular piece of content, reaching out to them is a critical part of moving them towards an appointment. This can only be done if you are tracking the lead’s stage in software designed to do so, or with custom fields or tags.
- Measure ROI by Lead Source
- Marketing automation also allows you to tag a contact with information on where they came from. If you are using the same phone number for all of your marketing efforts you won’t know which methods are working, and those you should cut. When you use a CRM or automated marketing system you can use different forms, or tracking links to measure the success and financial return of each of your marketing vehicles. Simply add a custom field for ‘lead source’ if it is not already included in your CRM or practice management application. Every campaign, advertisement or marketing program you run should be tied to a unique url, phone number, or identifier for comprehensive tracking.
Marketing and Automation Goals
Marketing automation is not something that you decide to do, and a week later are good to go. It is a process that takes time and effort. Don’t dive into it like a New Year’s Resolution, you will not lose 10 lbs in 5 days and are more likely to get frustrated or hurt yourself. Instead, outline a series of goals, then create a list of projects that will move you in the direction of accomplishing them. An example would be to create one email campaign, or communication ‘workflow’ per month.
Next, set clear expectations for both yourself and your teammates. It is important to understand that marketing automation and marketing of any kind are not overnight success stories. Almost all marketing efforts require ninety days of testing to determine if they are able to bear fruit. In many cases, you will test different subject lines in marketing emails or change the color of a landing page to see if it impacts the success of a campaign.
Make sure your marketing goals are realistic. Before you make your plan, think about the past – what worked and what didn’t, and what you think you can do. Don’t overburden yourself with goals or you will be stressed out and will not accomplish anything. It is better to have smaller, attainable goals than loads of lofty, unreachable ones. Start small so you achieve some early success and build momentum. Increase your goals as you have success. Give yourself a deadline for each goal, it doesn’t matter if you accomplish your goal by that date. Having a deadline increases the likelihood that you accomplish the goal at some point. For instance, a goal would be to call three law school friends and reconnect – NO, instead say call one law school friend each Friday afternoon for the next four Fridays and see if they have time to meet for coffee or a drink in the next couple of weeks.
Take a look at your business plan. What are your key goals? Can you break those goals down into smaller action steps? For instance, a key goal is to be recognized as top young lawyer in the local land use/zoning practice area. Break it down into smaller component parts: 1. Attend all bar association land use committee meetings; 2. offer to write a column on residential land use issues for the local community organization newsletter and other neighborhood group newsletters; 3. ask a senior land use attorney who no longer deals with residential issues to help you learn the ropes and develop your practice.
Consider a task management application for helping you or your firm stay on track with marketing efforts. Simple tools from To-Doist to Asana can help you stay on track. Asana (https://app.asana.com/)is a simple free-for-limited use project management/checklist management tool. You can have multiple owners of marketing projects, each project has checklists with tasks and sub tasks, conversations, a calendar, progress meter and files. It integrates with Dropbox and Box. You can assign tasks to people with due dates and attachments, and each person gets a dashboard. Premium at $7 per user per month gives you custom fields, task dependencies, and private projects within your domain.
Need more help staying on track? There are virtual marketing coaches. Lawcountability® (http://lawcountability.com/), created by Ari Kaplan, is a cloud-based software platform designed to help lawyers network more effectively for their business and professional development. Subscribers watch an original ten-minute program, which offers creative ideas for raising their visibility and reaching out to others. Every program assigns three tasks based on the week’s theme. Origination Station (http://theoriginationstation.com/) from Steve Fretzin offers interactive and engaging videos, plus coaching sessions.
Catherine Sanders Reach is Director for the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association, providing practice technology and management assistance to lawyers and legal professionals.
Chelsey Lambert is a Legal Technology Specialist, published Author and CLE Speaker. Chelsey is the Founder of Lex Tech Review. Which provides legal technology and marketing education. Where, she recently published the nearly 200 page 2017 Legal Technology Buyer’s Guide. An eBook which has been downloaded by thousands of legal professionals all over the world.