By now, you’re probably familiar with this quote commonly attributed to Department Store pioneer John Wanamaker:
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
In Wanamaker’s day, and really only to relatively recently, granularly tracking a customer’s journey from awareness to purchase was virtually impossible. But then along came technology.
Today, businesses have highly-sophisticated tools at their disposal to understand how people become customers and close the loop from potential client to fee.
Like most businesses looking to grow, law firms spend a significant amount of time and money to attract potential new clients (leads). However, many firms lack systems to ensure the lead is tracked, nurtured, and ultimately converted into a client. In fact, we still regularly hear lawyers complain, “I know I need to do X but I don’t really know how to measure or track the results of that.” Understanding how to implement such systems can have a significant impact on your ability to meet your firm’s growth objectives.
Table of Contents
|Chapter 1: What to Measure||Chapter 2: Improving Client Experience|
|Chapter 3: Implementing a System|
Before we dive into how to track leads, it’s worth considering what lawyers should measure. Unfortunately, too many marketing experts pitch lawyers on indirect metrics. These include things like likes, followers, impressions, visits, and clicks. Of course, you can’t pay your overhead with any of these. It’s not that these indirect metrics are completely meaningless, it’s just that they tend to be used as an excuse for failure to deliver / track actual potential client inquiries, and of course, client fees. So use these indirect metrics as leading directional indicators of improvement, but not as success metrics in and of themselves.
While every firm is unique, at a minimum, I tend to encourage most firms to consider the following:
- Target Cost Per Client: The amount time (yes, time is not an infinite resource, measure it) and money you can spend to acquire a client and meet your profitability goals.
- Target Cost Per Lead (by Channel / Campaign): The amount you can spend to acquire a potential client and still meet your target cost per client.
- Target Return On Investment: The amount of money you want to make compared to the amount of time and money you want to spend to make that money.
- Target Return On Ad Spend: The amount of money you want to make compared to the amount of money you want to spend on an advertising campaign.
Understanding these business metrics tends to provide enough insight to lawyers started. With these targets in place, you can begin to benchmark your baseline. In other words, where are you today? How many leads are you currently generating in a day, week, month, or year? What’s the current average value of a client? How many new clients do you want to earn to meet your growth goals?
You should also spend time exploring who your target audience is. What demographic characteristics do these people share? Are there commonalities among them with respect to age, location, or economic situation? Do they share psychographic characteristics? Are they facing similar issues, fears, or desires?
Most of your success will depend on your ability to understand detailed information about your target audience and deliver the right message to them, at the right time. While software can assist you, it can’t yet understand your clients and your practice as well as you can.
Once you have a grasp on both the business and audience metrics, you can begin to explore systems, processes, and tools to track these numbers.
Prospective clients aren’t just “leads,” they’re people who may be dealing with a very serious crisis or decision. How you “treat” them before they become a client will likely play the most significant role in whether they ever become actual paying clients.
Depending on your practice area(s), your next clients probably don’t have a lot of experience hiring lawyers. With respect to realistic outcomes, they don’t really know what to expect. In fact, how you communicate with them (and how others have communicated with them) will, to a large extent, set their initial expectations.
On the other hand, most people know what it feels like to be treated with dignity and respect. Regardless of how you track and nurture potential clients, it’s absolutely essential that you consider the experience from their vantage point. Put simply, you need to listen.
For example, are you listening to feedback from potential clients with respect to the nature and frequency with which you are communicating with them?
In my experience, too many firms don’t listen to what their audience is telling them via email open rates, unsubscribing, and spam reports.
The most effective lead tracking / nurturing systems have built-in feedback loops that keep the firm informed about the quality of their potential clients’ experience with the firm. Not only do these systems track those experiences, they respond to them. For example, if a particular advertising message is running up a lot impressions (views) and clicks, but not very many inquiries, the system should dynamically adjust the advertising message to include components that are performing better.
The build-measure-learn feedback loop made famous by the Lean Startup methodology is essential to optimizing lead tracking / nurturing systems.
Another crucial component to the potential client experience is timing. Not all of your potential clients come to you ready to hire. For example, someone considering a divorce might not yet be ready for a conversation about hiring a lawyer. However, they might be ready for an education about some of the major issues that are likely to arise throughout the process.
Lawyers who deliver the right message to their audience at the right time will build more trust than those who prematurely push clients to retainer. A properly implemented lead tracking system will take timing into account and deliver the appropriate messaging throughout the potential client’s journey.
Maybe you want to move into a new practice area, take on more complex cases, more high-value cases, or just a higher volume of cases. Leads will be the first place you’ll see how the changes you’re trying to make are actually working. Do your leads reflect your firm’s future goals?
In the context of lead tracking, defining success usually means hitting a target cost per lead (CPL) number. Eventually, everyone should be tracking to target cost per client, ROI, or ROAS. However, for many firms, the time from awareness to lead is too long to be used as an initial feedback loop. Instead, firms should measure the cost / quality of potential client inquiries. Put simply, if the phone is ringing, but it’s costing more to make it ring than the likely value of the client, some changes need to be made right away.
Alright, now the good stuff. Here’s how I think about implementing a lead tracking system.
We have to think about how our target audience prefers to engage our firm. Do potential clients prefer phone calls, emails, forms, live chat, something else? Pro tip: most are likely to prefer the phone for initial conversations. While you should nudge potential clients to preferred calls to action, don’t force them. Provide them options. Ask them how they prefer to communicate.
The reason we start here is that because how your potential clients prefer to interact with your practice will play a significant role in choosing your systems and tools. For example, if your next clients prefer email, you want to design your system around making it easier for them to engage you that way.
For our example, we’re going to build a system for a firm for which the following is true:
- The firm serves local legal services consumers who are likely to use the web to find information about their legal issues / needs.
- The target audience prefers to engage the firm in a variety of ways including phone, live chat, and forms.
- The firm has a diverse marketing / advertising portfolio that includes organic search, paid search, social media, paid social media, and email.
Now that we’ve examined how potential clients prefer to engage us, the next step is to consider the tools we are going to use. For our example, we’ll need tools for:
- Call Tracking: Preferably with keyword pool tracking, but at least dynamic number insertion by channel.
- Website Chat: Preferably answered by a human, but at least with a bot that can stop temporarily stop the consumer’s search and schedule a next step.
- Web Form: Preferably that captures the visitor’s referring source / medium, landing page, and conversion page.
There are many options out there, and without knowing more about your specific firm, it’s difficult to make an informed recommendation. Nevertheless, I encourage everyone to examine CallRail for call tracking. I often say lawyers can tackle a large portion of lead tracking with CallRail alone.
Once you’ve solved for providing the means by which potential clients can engage your firm, the next step is to consider where these inquiries are routed. This is the realm of client relationship management (CRM).
It’s worth noting that CRM is not always the same as practice management. While some practice management solutions are moving into the CRM space, most practice management solutions don’t have sophisticated lead tracking and reporting features that will enable you to track calls, forms, and chats down to, say, the keyword level for a paid search media campaign.
Furthermore, your CRM solution ought to include automation features. Here are a few I encourage you to consider:
- Email automation based on date, site visit, and workflow triggers.
- Appointment automation that integrates with your calendar system (preferably bi-directional sync).
- Custom fields that allow you to track the data most essential to your practice.
- Customizable pipelines for various client journeys.
In my view, the most essential component of a CRM is marrying front-end marketing data (i.e. channel, source, medium, campaign, etc) with back-end client data (i.e. potential client status, and most importantly, fee). Without this fundamental connection, it will prove extremely difficult to accurately and granularly measure return on investment and return on ad spend.
Perhaps the second most essential feature of a solid CRM solution is reporting. I’ve vetted so many feature-rich CRM solutions that fail on reporting. After all, if you aren’t an excel ninja, just having the data in the system without usable reports with which to gain insights and perform analysis, is just a shiny waste of money.
I like to say that you need dashboards and reports. A dashboard should provide you with real-time data on how you are currently tracking against your goals. Reports should contain insights and analysis as to why you’re tracking that way. Both dashboards and reports should have intuitive visualizations of your key performance metrics (i.e. cost per lead vs. target cost per lead, cost per client vs. target cost per client, ROI vs. target ROI, etc).
Ideally, all of your lead tracking tools have a native Google Analytics (GA) integration. While workarounds like Zapier can be useful, there’s really no substitute to native GA integration. With proper configuration, you should be able to analyze extremely detailed information about how potential clients are finding you and which marketing and advertising expenditures are delivering the most value defined in terms of income for your firm.
Further, any CRM worth its salt must play nice with parameters. Adding parameters to your URLs allows you to pass detailed information about your various advertising and marketing campaigns. For example, one version of a paid search landing page might be converting a lot of leads, while a different version is converting less leads, but at a lower cost per lead. Another example is comparing campaign performance on different channels like email and YouTube ads. It is with this sophisticated approach to tracking and analyzing campaign performance that your competitors are able to deploy resources faster and more efficiently.
When a user clicks a parameter-modified link, that data can be passed to GA and your CRM solution. Now that campaign data is married to your lead and client records.
There are 5 parameters common parameters that you should be adding to your URLs:
utm_source: Identify the advertiser, site, publication, etc. that is sending traffic to your property, for example: google, newsletter4, billboard.
utm_medium: The advertising or marketing medium, for example: cpc, banner, email newsletter.
utm_campaign: The individual campaign name, slogan, promo code, etc. for a product.
utm_term: Identify paid search keywords. If you’re manually tagging paid keyword campaigns, you should also use utm_term to specify the keyword.
utm_content: Used to differentiate similar content, or links within the same ad. For example, if you have two call-to-action links within the same email message, you can use utm_content and set different values for each so you can tell which version is more effective.
Additionally, and this really applies to any vendor you work with, make sure you own all of your data and it is easily exportable. I am regularly shocked and dismayed to see just how many vendors license a law firm’s data back to them. When the time comes for the firm to make a change, the vendor holds the firm hostage and makes it much more difficult for them to make a change. Ask questions and read the terms of service. Demand that your vendors agree that your data is yours and that you will be able to export it out their system if the need may arise.
Finally, in order for your lead nurturing system to be an asset, and not a liability, it needs to be invisible. In other words, any automation built into the system must work seamlessly and authentically. Once a potential client feels like they’ve entered an automated system, the system has failed. In fact, most of the law firm lead nurturing systems I review do more harm to the firm’s reputation than bring in business. Even the best systems require some level of engagement from the people operating them.
Converting more potential clients to paying clients is part art and part science. The art of client service starts with listening and empathizing. There is no software solution that can replace remarkable client service. At least not yet. Eighty percent (yes, that’s an arbitrary number) of your ability to earn your next client will depend on your ability to create, nurture, and solidify professional relationships and communicate how you are uniquely qualified to solve your clients life-legal issues. But to me, even though so many firms fail so hard here, that’s really table stakes.
The competitive advantage comes from a firm’s ability to scientifically measure and adjust to feedback. It is only after building, measuring, and learning that you can iterate toward better experiences that motivate a larger percentage of your audience to inquire about your services and hire you. That’s not to say that you’ll win more business simply by a/b testing paid search landing pages. There are a seemingly limitless number of factors that go into potential client’s hiring decision. But if you aren’t measuring, you can’t improve those experiences.
About the Author
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers earn meaningful attention online because that’s where clients are looking for them. As a lawyer himself, Gyi is familiar with the unique considerations of effectively marketing a law practice online. In 2008, Gyi founded AttorneySync to build the most trusted team in digital legal marketing. He serves as a Vice Chair on the ABA’s Client Development & Marketing Committee. Gyi lives in Chicago and loves coffee. He also misses coaching football and is happy to discuss various strategies and techniques of defensive front seven play. Have a question? Don’t hesitate to ask him.