Answers to Your Attorney Marketing Questions from Great Legal Marketing

Ben Glass and his team at Great Legal Marketing work with an elite mix of attorneys from virtually every practice area from personal injury to bankruptcy and beyond. We are definitely not for everyone, in fact, while we attract many who "want" to get better we know that only about 20% of any population will actually do the work necessary. The difference in results has nothing to do with where your law practice is located or how much experience you have. This is all about the choices that YOU make.

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  • I bought a trackable 800 number for my law firm, and I included it on my website and marketing materials. Do I need to spend money on other ways to contact us?

    You should definitely give your customers more than one way to initiate contact, but many of these cost nothing for you or the customer—with the added bonus that the customer can get an instantaneous response.

    Here are a few contact options you may wish to consider:

    • Instant email. You should already be using email as a way to communicate with your clients. However, keep in mind that you can create as many email addresses as you want, filling a number of different marketing uses. A specific email address for inquiries can be programmed to send out automatic responses for free.
       
    • Contact us now! widget. A contact box can be written into the code of your website, making it easy for your customer to get in touch with just a few easily-typed lines.
       
    • Irresistible offer. Your irresistible offer is not only the most compelling reason to contact your firm, but it is also something that will give you the biggest return on your investment. If you offer it only as an e-book, than your only investment is time.
       
    • Live Chat. Many customer service sites now offer a Live Chat box that pops up while the customer is visiting the site. You must pay for a live operator to be available day and night, but it may be worth the monthly fees.

  • One of the clients at my law practice is a major source of irritation - phone calls in the middle of the night, unpaid bills, missed appointments, etc. I'd like to fire him, but he also brings in a significant amount of money. What can I do?

    This is an issue virtually every lawyer faces at one time or another. What you're referring to, though you may not be aware of it, is the Pareto Principle—the general rule that 80 percent of a given outcome can be traced to 20 percent of possible causes. In the best case, you can identify the 20 percent of your practice's clients who give you the majority of your aggravation, and fire them—and retain the 20 percent that produce 80 percent of your profits!

    The problem arises when these percentages overlap—that is, when one of your clients is difficult to work with, yet also contributes a fair amount to your bottom line. In this case, you have to sit down and really think about the consequences of cutting this client loose. Sure, you will lose some money in the near term, but if this person has made you so crazy that you can't even think straight, you may find that getting rid of him frees up the mental space you need to find and service new paying clients.

    On the other hand, if firing this client would be an extreme financial hardship, you need to come up with a strategy by which you can retain his business and reduce your angst. A patient intermediary (a paralegal or administrative assistant) might be one solution, or you can come to an agreement with the client that you will only be available via phone or email during specific times, or address the other issues (late payments, missed appointments) that make him difficult to handle.

  • Do I really need to track my advertising campaign? I can tell when business is picking up, and it’s obviously because of my marketing efforts. Why should I spend money on tracking software?

    There may be no greater indicator of where the market is going than tracking your advertising efforts. Think of your marketing campaign as a finely-tuned sports car: tracking is the compass that tells you where the best roads are.

    A few things to keep in mind when it comes to tracking the effects of your marketing for personal injury lawyers:

    • Correlation is not causation. You may have gotten an influx of clients because of your new marketing campaign, but it also could be because a competitor went out of business, or a recent client gave your business cards out at a conference. Knowing why your business is successful is key to keeping it successful for years to come.
       
    • You may have multiple balls in the air. Effective marketing is a juggling act. You may have several commercials, multiple practice areas, and four or five specific marketing materials out to the public at once. Think of how much money you will save by knowing which one is bringing in all the new business (and which ones you need not pursue in the future).
       
    • You may not need to spend much. There are some software options that will evaluate your marketing for free. For example, Google Analytics is a free online tool that can tell you basic statistics, such as the search terms people used to find your site, how long they stayed on your pages, and which search terms are the most popular—all invaluable to your marketing campaign.

    Of course, there is more to tracking than just identifying popular keywords. You must also set up individual phone numbers or websites for each piece of your marketing pie, pinpointing exactly where your customers are coming from.

  • I've installed state-of-the-art client management software at our law firm, which is so simple that even an entry-level employee can master it. Doesn't that reduce the pressure on me to hire the “best” administrative assistant I can find?

    You are basing your question on a faulty premise—that even the most advanced client-management software system will somehow make up for the failings of the employee you decided to hire right off the street, with a minimum of screening.

    As anyone at NASA can tell you, a sophisticated computer system is no match for a poorly trained employee, who in the best case will be unable to interpret or manipulate the data that the system spits out, and in the worst case will succeed in pressing the wrong button and erasing all the information you've stored about prospective and existing clients. (One day scientists may develop truly self-aware software that resists the determined efforts of human beings to foul things up, but we're not anywhere near to that ideal yet!)

    The fact is that even the most “user-friendly” software systems require a certain amount of training on the part of the employees that use them—and if you hire just any administrative assistant, especially one who is not familiar with how computers work, you will just be asking for trouble. Look at it this way: as good as your software is at keeping tabs on prospective clients, emailing them regular newsletters, and automatically updating their contact information, somewhere down the line that person will want to hear from a real, live representative of your firm. If you happen to be in court that day, or tied up in other business, you'll have no choice but to delegate that task to your employee—and if she's not properly trained in customer service, you can kiss that prospective client goodbye.

  • I feel like I’m contacting my prospective customers all the time. Aren’t they going to feel pressured or annoyed by all of the mailings and emails I’m sending?

    Probably not. After all, they gave you permission to market to them when they signed up for your newsletter, free book, or other materials in the past. You should never be marketing to anyone who hasn’t given his consent.

    That said, the reason you send these materials out is to keep your name fresh in your contacts’ minds—and if you’re annoying them, that name will be mud. The best law firm marketing ideas depend on consistent and considerate contact with your customers, which often means:

    • Tailor your “opting out” choices. All of your materials should include a line or link with simple instructions for “opting out” of your marketing. In some cases, customers who receive too many emails may not want to unsubscribe completely, just receive one message a month. Better to keep them less often than lose them completely.
       
    • Switch up your message. People are easily bored if all your contact with them points toward a single message (hire us!). Instead, send a newsletter with the happenings around the office, or changes in local laws that can affect the cases you serve. If you’re appearing on a radio show offering free legal advice, send a postcard inviting them to listen in.
       
    • Exceed your clients’ expectations. Imagine someone is so annoyed by your constant marketing materials that he calls you up and grills you for legal information. Imagine his surprise when being greeted by courteous staff, being put through to an apologetic and knowledgeable attorney, and getting answers to all of his questions with no pressure to sign a contract. I’ll bet he is glad you sent “too many” newsletters now!

  • After all the effort I've put into my law firm's website, we're still not ranking highly in Google for our targeted search term, “New York personal injury lawyer.” Can't I put together a pay-per-click advertising campaign so we can finally appear on the first page of Google results?

    Yes, you can, but you'd better have deep pockets! First off, it's no surprise that your firm is not ranking highly for the phrase “New York personal injury lawyer,” for the simple fact that this is one of the most competitive search strings in the American legal system—and there are only 10 slots available on the first page of Google results. Even if you do absolutely everything right, it might take years for your law firm's website to claw its way near the top—and even then, you could be taken right down again by the next Google algorithm change.

    Now on to your question about a pay-per-click campaign. The way this kind of advertising works, you will pay more when prospective clients click on more general key phrases—and “New York personal injury lawyer” is about as general as it gets. Don't be surprised if chasing this phrase costs you hundreds of thousands of dollars, which might be better spent on a different kind of web advertising or a redirection of your marketing efforts toward TV, radio or print media.

    However, if you're feeling less ambitious, you can spend a fraction of that amount on more highly targeted phrases with lesser search volume. If “New York personal injury attorney” is out of the question, you might want to consider something like “Brooklyn car accident lawyer”—or even get more specific (“Flatbush fender-bender attorney” probably won't set you back all that much). Better still, you can purchase a wide assortment of less popular key phrases for a fraction of the cost of “New York personal injury lawyer.”

  • I've done everything right with my law firm's website—writing tons of copy, adhering to best SEO practices, using crisp images and compelling headlines—yet I still can't make it onto the first page of Google results for my key search phrases. What do I do next?

    There is nothing more frustrating than “playing by the rules” when building your law firm's website, and not being able to reap the desired results—a spot in the top five search results when a prospective client types in one of your key phrases (such as “Minneapolis car accident lawyer.”) This isn't necessarily your fault; there's a lot of competition out there, and if other law firms in your area have gotten a head start, it may be very hard indeed to claw your way onto the first page of Google results.

    But don't despair—all hope is not lost. As you've surely noticed in your adventures on the web, “traditional” search results in Google are increasingly accompanied by all sorts of paid ads, to the extent that many people in search of a lawyer have a hard time telling these ads from the actual results!

    If you invest in a pay-per-click marketing campaign, you can guarantee that a text ad will pop up somewhere on the first page of Google results when a user types in your desired search term. You may be buried on the fifth page of results for “Minneapolis car accident lawyer,” but your text ad will still be there, waiting to be clicked on. Even better, the way this kind of advertising works, you don't have to pay a dime if that searcher does not click on your ad—and if he does click on your ad, you're already well on your way to signing him on as a client!

  • I don’t see how a “low-pressure” sale is going to work on my customers. If I don’t sign them right away, won’t they go to another attorney?

    It’s pretty unlikely. After all, if you were looking for advice and nobody would talk to you without signing a contract, would you trust any of them? Or would you go home and look elsewhere for someone who was willing to answer your questions for free?

    For example, consider the length of time it takes for someone to hire an attorney after they are in an accident. They may rely on hospital care for several weeks, and when they are released, they are focused on convalescing and returning to work. They may not even begin to consider legal action as a way to cope with their injury costs for months—or years.

    What are you doing all this time?

    • Providing answers. The content of your website is free and specifically tailored for your ideal clients. Since each new blog and article will address a facet of their case, your customers will think of you as an authority (and the ideal lawyer to hire for their case).
       
    • Building loyalty. By keeping in constant communication with your prospects, you are keeping your name in their heads as a viable option and letting them know you haven’t forgotten them.
       
    • Spreading your message. All of your customers have the potential to recommend or share your materials with their friends, increasing your reach.

    People often assume that attorneys are only interested in them to make money. Your prospective clients will hold back on hiring you because they are naturally mistrustful of “ambulance chasers” who profit off of others’ misery. If you want to change their minds, you’re going to have to be willing to spend the time earning their trust.

  • I have a free offer for my niche practice area, but one of my competitors is now offering something similar. What can I do to get the advantage back?

    Now that attorneys have started to see the value of a free offer for their customers, it’s becoming a buyer’s market for legal services. And that’s fine; remember, there are plenty of clients to go around. The clients you don’t want may be perfect for your competition, and if they’re not going to be profitable for you, you should let them go.

    However, this can be problematic if your niche practice area overlaps with that of your competition. To avoid fighting for over your ideal clients, you only need to change your tactics slightly. For example, try tweaking your irresistible offer by making:

    • CDs. Listening to your guide is even easier than reading it, and gets the customer familiar with your voice.
       
    • DVDs. You can easily compile your informational YouTube videos into an informational DVD, allowing your customers to watch you give them all the answers they need.
       
    • Another guide. If your first free offer deals with the aftermath of a car accident, answer a different question in your next guide. A book on whether or not the customer even needs an attorney (meaning you or your competitor) will turn him back toward you for the answer.

    The ultimate goal your guide should achieve is getting the customer to contact you. Most attorneys wait until the customer is actively seeking an attorney to market to them, and then making a “hard sell” to sign the client. But planting your name in the customer’s mind takes is a much more effective technique, and can take place at any point in the customer’s search—and it begins the moment they enter your site.

  • I've noticed that a lot of lawyers in my area advertise on billboards, and also run the same basic ad in the local Yellow Pages. What's wrong with deploying this strategy myself, so I can attract my share of prospective clients?

    Well, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it, if you know for a fact that this billboard/Yellow Pages double whammy is actually growing your competitors' law practices. It's amazing how many lawyers will take a “monkey see, monkey do” approach to their marketing efforts, investing no more effort in their promotional campaigns than looking out the window (or turning on the TV) and seeing what their competitors are doing.

    But unless your competition has been doubling in size every year—while your law firm has dwindled down to you and your secretary—you may want to rethink whether imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery.

    Let's look at it this way: perhaps, years ago, there was a visionary lawyer in your area who saw that billboards were the way to go, since they reach a captive audience of people stuck in rush-hour traffic. For a time, the billboards worked—and then a competing firm decided to buy space on its own billboards, and the firm after that, on and on down the line until it's your turn to commit your hard-earned money. The law of diminishing returns dictates that billboards will no longer be an effective advertising medium, since literally everyone is buying billboards—at which point motorists will fail to differentiate one billboard from another—and one law firm from another—and the medium will be completely played out.

    Copying what someone else is doing—without knowing whether it’s truly successful—isn’t a law firm marketing strategy. It’s a way of washing your hands of the task, and refusing to take responsibility for the success of your own career. If you believe you’re a better lawyer than that, then you owe it to yourself to make a honest effort.