We recently announced the general availability of My RealPractice, our innovative new platform to help attorneys get clients, manage work and accelerate income. In addition we have expanded online marketing services to provide dedicated, cost-effective leads for our clients. The feedback from our beta clients has been very positive and influential to many enhancements we've recently made.
Forward-thinking attorneys and firms are taking advantage of our new tools to easily build websites, manage their incoming client leads and track the effectiveness of online and offline marketing campaigns.
Some key recent improvements that were launched at LegalTech New York:
- Utilize dozens of new, professional and pre-formatted web design options to create attractive law firm sites — in just minutes.
- Get immediate notifications of incoming prospective client leads via email, SMS messages and alerts within the My RealPractice platform.
- Send customizable auto-response emails to prospective clients using the My RealPractice lead forms or tracking email addresses.
- Track the sources of all incoming prospective client leads and marketing campaigns via tracked website contact forms, call tracking numbers and tracking email addresses.
- Review the results of marketing campaigns and incoming leads and invest in campaigns which drive highest return on investment.
- Use, create and save matter templates, documenting regular checklist items and saving time on repetitive tasks.
- Centrally organize and access client contact information: starting with the incoming prospective client lead, through to client matters and then to final invoices and ongoing communication.
- Automatically generate, modify, send or print professional-looking client invoices using new and improved invoice creation tools, and track payments made against those invoices.
If you have questions about any of these new or enhanced features, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As law firms close the books on 2010 and begin a new year, many are reviewing their year-end financials for their practice and are looking for new and better ways to increase their income for 2011.
Here are 10 key marketing goals which, when achieved, can help to grow any law practice:
1). Track the sources for all new clients. Follow the suggestions in an article we wrote for ABA’s Law Practice Today to better track the firm’s investments in marketing. By closely evaluating what is working and what is not, firms can more efficiently allocate their time and marketing dollars during the coming year.
2). Set up in-person meetings with at least 1-3 new referral sources per month. Meet other attorneys and other potential referral sources via LinkedIn or at local events such as those put on by local bar associations, chamber of commerce and networking groups. Set up networking lunches or meet for coffee with these new contacts. Consider putting on your own seminars and inviting existing and prospective clients and referral sources.
3). Get a new website or revamp the existing one to generate at least 5-10 prospective clients per month. Review our recent blog post to get tips on creating or improving the firm’s website and then work with a consultant to make sure the site is well-designed to drive phone calls and inquiries.
4). Appear on the first page of Google for one or more key search phrases used by potential clients. One of these easiest ways to determine what keywords you want to “rank” on is to combine your key area(s) of practice and your city location: “bankruptcy attorney Santa Ana” or “estate planning law firm Portland”. Work with a trusted and cost-effective vendor or consultant to help your law firm to show up in one or more of the three parts of a Google “first page”: (1). sponsored listings at the top of the page and on the right side (or “pay-per-click” ads), (2). Google places listings (center of the page and on Google Maps) and (3). “organic listings” or “SEO listings” which usually appear at the very bottom of the page, and are the least important of the three types.
5). Better utilize LinkedIn and Twitter (Facebook optional) to increase network impact, credibility and reach . Watch our “LinkedIn for Lawyers” webinar to get quick and easy tips to improve your LinkedIn profile and get more from the service. Increase your contacts and Twitter followers by at least 100 each by the end of the year and spend 5-10 minutes per day connecting, posting or “re-tweeting” key news items, etc.
6). Increase your prospective client “close rate” to at least 30%-50%. If you have someone answering the phones and emails, make sure you have an efficient and effective process to screen and take incoming calls from prospective clients. If you can’t take the call immediately, get back to the prospective client as quickly as possible. Have automated email responses. Data and experience shows that the longer it takes to respond to an incoming inquiry, the less likely it is that the prospective client will retain the firm. Also work to improve the consultation process, intake forms and “script” used to evaluate the client’s case and to help them make the decision to retain the firm.
7). Test at least 3-5 new marketing campaigns/techniques. Consult with a marketing vendor or advisor to map out new programs to add through the year in smaller “test” campaigns. Try pay-per-click online marketing or drop a postcard or letter to a targeted mail list. Make sure each test requires a relatively low investment, does not come with long-term contracts and is easily measured (see #1).
8). Identify your “best” clients in 2010 and get more like them in 2011. Look back at the new clients you worked with in 2010 and think about the cases you enjoyed most and/or were the most profitable for the firm. Examine where these clients came from, what their reasons were for hiring the firm and focus your marketing efforts on attracting and retaining more of these types of clients.
9). Spend at least one hour per month learning new marketing strategies. Attend online webinars or local CLE events to learn new parts of marketing strategy and techniques, especially ones that are focus on offering practical tips to quickly and cost-effectively drive more prospective clients. Avoid seminars that encourage your firm to spend many hours of time and/or many thousands of dollars each month. Also look for ones that focus on teaching how to evaluate and measure vendors and programs.
10). Hire at least one trusted and experienced marketing company to handle keys aspects of Goals 1-9! For a solo or small firm law practice, it is difficult, if not impossible, to maximize marketing effectiveness alone. Just as it takes many years of training and experience to become a good lawyer, it takes similar time and training to become a good rainmaker. Look for companies and people with proven experience, references, easy ways to get started and who are not afraid to be closely measured to prove their effectiveness.
RealPractice can help law firms of any size to accomplish all 10 of these marketing goals in 2011. For more than ten years, we have been trusted by thousands of solos and small firm attorneys as well as the biggest firms in the country. Our team has managed thousands of law firm marketing campaigns and web projects and we are not afraid to be measured to make sure we are delivering value. We have low cost and easy ways to get started without long-term commitments.
We’ll even be happy to give firms a FREE consultation to review these 10 goals and suggest ways to achieve them! Just email me at email@example.com or call me at 714-415-4354.
Earlier in the year, we developed and offered a FREE primer for attorneys about LinkedIn titled "LinkedIn for Lawyers". It was very well-received and even garnered comments such as these:
"The presentation covered the topic well, very succinctly and presented many ideas that I had never considered. As a new solo attorney I am struggling to make connections and advertise in a cost-effective way. This complementary webinar was perfect!"
"Wow, I can't say enough positive things. Mr. Ransom provided so much useful information that I took 4 full pages of notes and still didn't get a chance to write out everything I wanted to! Good thing I can get a copy of the presentation so I don't lose any of the suggestions."
We are big believers in simplifying things like LinkedIn for busy professionals, and focusing less on the tools and more on the strategy, opportunity and results. With a new year almost here, I thought I'd share a few ideas to make LinkedIn more useful to you in 2011:
- Ask yourself, are your potential clients on LinkedIn? If you work with corporate clients, busy professionals, and others in and around the business world, then the answer is a resounding "YES." If the answer is closer to "NO," then you might consider some of the ideas in this post, but may determine your ideal clients are spending their online time on Facebook or Twitter or some other online sites. If you want some help with strategy there, just let us know.
- Make sure your profile on LinkedIn is complete – a professional photo, content that can help you connect and relate to potential clients, and some unique ways to differentiate yourself from other attorneys.
- Connect with others on LinkedIn and help them. Find groups to join and participate in discussions. Answer questions and offer advice (not legal advice). Becoming a resource to others first is the best way to see how LinkedIn works. It will also teach you how to respond at "Internet speed," which is what clients now expect when they interact in places like LinkedIn and other social media sites.
- Think of LinkedIn as a good way to identify people you want to meet, and meet them in person. I describe it as "using online tools to make meeting people offline more efficient." Instead of going to a big networking event and hoping that you'll find a good contact there, you can use the perpetual networking event, LinkedIn, to find highly qualified contacts and you can invite them to coffee, lunch, even an introductory call. It's much more efficient and a better use of your time.
- Create content you can share with people on LinkedIn. What are topics that will be relevant to your best possible clients in 2011? What will they be looking for help with in their organizations and lives? Anticipate what needs and situations will drive people online to look for help and information – more and more that information is found through social media sites like LinkedIn.
RealPractice wishes you and yours a healthy, joy-filled and Happy New Year, and we look forward to connecting with you in 2011!
At RealPractice, we review lots of attorney websites every week and talk to dozens of attorneys about their online marketing and web presence. While we see some good sites, most are not well-optimized to attract new clients. Still other sites may look “pretty,” but the firms paid far too much to have them built, are locked into long-term contracts and the sites may still not be well-designed to get prospective clients to contact the firm.
While it’s tempting to blame attorneys for their websites, as technology providers and marketing consultants we should hold ourselves accountable for the overall state of law firm sites. Up until recently, we simply have not provided good, cost effective solutions.
For solo attorneys and small firms needing a website or looking to improve their existing site, there have really been two main options: “do-it-yourself” or have someone “do-it-for-you.”
“Do-it-for you” websites: It’s hard to find good help
One option for attorneys is to hire a consultant or web design company to build their site. In general, the main problem with this option is that, more often than not, lawyers are being charged far too much and/or are locked into long term contracts. We have seen attorneys pay in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars just to get a website and hope that folks will visit it. Attorneys are often led to believe that the more expensive the site is, the better it is. Inexpensive sites are dismissed by these vendors as being low quality or “cookie cutter.”
For the vast majority of solo and small firm attorneys, paying anything more than about $1,000 for a website is probably too much. Unless the law practice is well-established and spends a large amount of money driving traffic to the site, the firm’s marketing dollars are better spent on online advertising, PR and social media to get potential clients to visit a well-designed, high-converting and cost-effective landing page or mini-site. A simple, clean site often does a better job of getting the firm’s phone to ring than an expensive, flashy or content-heavy one.
|RealPractice Tip: Try searching for your firm’s practice type and city location in Google. How many “organic” results do you see on the visible screen? (i.e. not sponsored ads, not Google Places listings)?|
Some website developers will also try to convince law firms that they need to invest a lot of time and money for the consultant to help them get better search engine optimization (SEO) for their site. Along with the SEO recommendation, they usually also insist that attorneys need to spend many hours per week blogging and building massive amounts of content. However, it really does not take rocket science or many hours to build a nice site with good SEO characteristics. In addition, due to recent changes in Google’s local search results (aka “Google Places”), website SEO matters less and less for attorneys. For searches like "bankruptcy attorney Chicago” or “divorce attorney Los Angeles,” almost the entire visible screen space (as of the time of this post) consists of either sponsored pay-per-click ads or listings from the Google Places directory listings—no organic attorney website results. So any SEO done on a firm’s website itself would have very little (if any) impact on improving the chances of the practice getting included in the results of these searches.
“Do-it-yourself” websites: Who has time?
At the other end of the spectrum, some attorneys decide that they want to build their website themselves “for free.” Often they will use the website building tools provided by domain name sellers or web hosting companies. While sites can be built fairly quickly using some of these tools, the templates available are usually not very attractive, are not well-designed for attorneys and are not well-optimized towards getting new clients to contact the firm.
|RealPractice Tip: How many hours would you need to allocate per week to build and manage your firm’s website? Multiply this time by your billing rate to get the true monthly “cost” of managing your site.|
Other website tools, such as WordPress, may offer better-looking template choices, most of the nicer templates are not “free,” costing in hundreds of dollars per template. While these tools offer more flexibility and customization of the design, the templates often have limitations and most attorneys find these tools far too complex and hard to use.
At RealPractice, we’ve seen far too many self-built attorney websites that are started but forever “under construction.” The initial excitement about building one’s own site quickly gives way to frustration and the paralysis of making things “look right.” Additionally, many attorneys do not know the basics of creating sites that get the most clients or that have solid SEO characteristics.
Cost effective, high-performing websites: Finally, some good options
Over the past year, RealPractice has been hard at work in developing solutions to the problems associated with small firm websites. WithMy RealPractice, we are proud to provide a FREE “do-it-yourself” option for attorneys to easily create a nice, clean website in under 15 minutes. These sites will be well-optimized for getting clients and providing good SEO. If the firm wants a domain name, website hosting, or a little help with the site, RealPractice has very affordable ways to get, transfer or host custom domains (i.e. “yourlawfirmname.com” or “yourpracticetypeandlocation.com”). Solos and small firms can watch our video for more information and to get started.
In addition, we will completely “do-it-for-you” starting at only $199 to build a nice, three page website, with good SEO, contact forms, call tracking, landing pages and monthly maintenance for only $79 per month. With more pages, A/B testing, content and monthly updates, firms can get a great site, usually for less than $1,000 set-up and $99-$149 per month for updates and SEO optimization. We can then re-direct the rest of the thousands of dollars small firms would have spent with other providers on marketing the firm’s site to help attract and retain clients. Our integrated website and search engine marketing campaigns are generating a high volume of quality calls and emails each month for our attorney clients.
Before solos and small firms spend thousands of dollars on websites and/or for SEO, they should contact us and we’ll review existing websites and online marketing strategies and suggest alternatives that will maximize marketing dollars to drive the highest number of new clients.
The UK is continuing to provide us in the U.S. a glimpse into the changes ahead for legal services and the practice of law. Our friend @DonnaSeyle pointed us to an article in the Law Society Gazette which surveyed consumers about their interest in legal services from prominent UK consumer brands, such as Tesco.
Interestingly, 1/3 of consumers said that they would be happy to buy legal services from a non-legal brand. That seems like a high number, but it appears to be a vague question. It would sort of be like asking US consumers "would you consider buying ____________ from Costco?" If you are or know a Costco fan, anything may be considered!
The two key numbers that stood out to me:
84% of consumers said service was more important than price when it comes to legal services. Attorneys: service is where you can continue to differentiate yourself from low-priced, mass-market, future legal service providers. But you have to focus on actually providing good service. Good service is not just providing a quality service, but also engaging a potential client from the outset, being responsive throughout the relationship, and communicating effectively with the client.
61% of consumers said they would rather use a local solicitor. Attorneys: the good news is that your clients still want to talk to, meet with and sit face to face with a local attorney. Since most attorneys' clients are from their local markets, you should focus your efforts on highlighting your local expertise in your marketing – another way to differentiate from competition.
While things may not appear to be changing rapidly in US legal service delivery and consumer use of lawyers, it's coming, and we should continue to monitor new models such as some of those coming from markets like the UK. Change will bring opportunity to those who adapt and seize it.