This post is the second in a three-part series on new case intake and lead management. Refer back to Part One: Efficient Capture of Lead Information and watch out for the upcoming Part Three: Referral Source Tracking and Measuring Your Return on Investment. The mantra of all three posts is that if your law firm is going to spend time and money on marketing, you cannot underestimate the value of a strong intake process.
Whether you are a small or mid-sized law firm, following up on leads is one of the most important steps you can undertake to sign new clients. You are nine times more likely to convert web leads into clients if you follow up within five minutes of the lead submission. This means you can potentially gain nine times as many clients simply by prioritizing follow-up.
In order to assess the reliability of your existing new case intake process, ask yourself the following questions about how new leads are input into your system:
- Once a new lead arrives at your firm, what happens next?
- Who enters the lead?
- Where do they enter it?
- What data is entered?
- Is the lead entered before it is screened, while it is being screened, or only if it is a “good” lead?
- How are leads numbered or catalogued – by last name, by number, etc.?
Once you know those answers (or decide them based on reading this article), you can then review your lead qualification process. The questions listed below should give you a great start toward looking for holes in your law firm intake process:
- Once the lead appears in the screener’s list of tasks, what happens next?
- If the lead requires an outbound phone call, what happens if you do not reach the person?
- If you are able to speak to the lead and they are qualified, what happens next?
- What criteria are used to determine if the lead is qualified?
- Who determines if a lead is qualified and a packet will be sent out?
- Who sends the packet out?
- How are packets shipped? Does it vary by campaign?
- What type of enclosure is sent with the packets?
- Are all of the packets coded and automated?
- Do you track delivery and follow up according to packet receipt?
- If you are able to speak to the lead and they are not qualified (a reject), what happens next?
- Who determines if the lead is unqualified?
- If the lead is unqualified for your firm, will you refer it out and how will you track that internally?
- If the lead arrived via a referral lawyer, you will need to return the lead to them, but who will send the rejection communication?
- Who sends the rejection communication?
- Is there a letter or email and if so, is it automated/coded?
- Who mails it out/sends out the email?
- Do you use email to interact with leads? How?
- How many outbound calls/emails are made per week, by whom, and with what content?
- Is there consistency with regard to who interacts with the leads to build the relationship?
In the law firms I audit, the most common problem I see is undefined qualification criteria. Ideally, you should make the intake questions specific and comprehensive enough so the screener can determine if each lead is qualified or not on their own (without having to ask an attorney) and move through the corresponding process accordingly.
Long-term legal marketing success relies on generating leads as well as managing and nurturing those leads so they become clients. For many law firms, converting incoming leads into paying clients can be the most challenging component of marketing. With an effective process in place, you will be able to manage leads, follow up with them efficiently, and check back frequently.
One phone call is not likely to convert a lead into a client, so firms must seamlessly transition to nurturing the lead until he or she reaches the decision-making stage. The objective of lead nurturing is to keep the lead interested and engaged with your firm. Lead nurturing allows your firm to connect with the lead immediately and regularly after initial contact.
If you ask a digital marketer, a conversion occurs when a visitor to your website completes an action you wanted them to complete, e.g. filling out a contact form or requesting a live chat. However, an actual conversion can mean something completely different to a business. In the context of new case intake, a conversion occurs when a potential new client (or lead) hires your law firm. While a marketer can feel good about successfully generating leads, actually converting those leads into clients is the job of the law firm. A high number of marketing conversions doesn’t mean anything if none of the new leads become revenue-generating clients.
With regard to a digital marketing campaign, you can assess the campaign’s conversion rate in Google Analytics: select a time period and divide the total number of conversions by the total number of website visitors during that time period. The result will be your conversion rate expressed as a percentage. But with regard to what I consider to be the real conversions – signed clients with qualified cases – you’ll need to move beyond Google Analytics and into your case management software and/or any other locations where you track inbound leads.
If you are abiding by case intake and case management software best practices, you will enter all leads that come to your law firm, whether they are qualified or not. This way you can run reports to show how many leads you received, how many of those leads were qualified, and ultimately how many converted into clients. Then you will know your true acquisition cost per lead, per qualified lead, and per signed client. Keeping track of these metrics (along with estimated case values) is essential to determining whether your marketing campaigns are worth it and if your intake process is working.
New Case Intake Tips
Be Quick on the Follow-Up
This is the one that trips up most law firms. Many firms make the mistake of assigning follow-up to lawyers, who are typically too busy to respond immediately to inquiries and leads. Current research on response times reveals leads contacted within five minutes are 21 times more likely to convert than those contacted within 30 minutes. And I’ll bet you thought 30 minutes was pretty good!
Use A Dedicated Intake Team
Having a dedicated intake team takes the pain of follow-up out of busy attorneys’ hands and will increase your conversion rate dramatically.
Use Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is the method of ranking prospects according to their value to your law firm. This helps you determine the leads requiring direct follow-up by a member of your intake team as well as which leads need more nurturing to get them further along the conversion path.
Keep Your Data Clean
Data hygiene is critical and bad data can get out of control quickly. With leads arriving at your law firm in a variety of ways and multiple employees potentially tasked with lead entry, duplicate records are bound to happen. My advice? Clean your database every quarter. Divide it up alphabetically among the two to four best software users and have them look for incomplete fields, duplicates, and more. While “cleaning the database,” it should become apparent if one particular user is making repeat mistakes. This gives you the opportunity to retrain that employee in areas of weakness to avoid costly mistakes and turnover.
About the Author
Stacey Burke is an attorney who provides consulting services to law firms across the country. She has worked with over 150 law firms in a wide range of practice areas in many different states on projects ranging from social media marketing to brochure design. If you have a question about law firm marketing, Stacey knows the answer. In addition to her legal industry accolades, her company won the American Marketing Association Crystal Award for Online Marketing in Google Analytics for 2018. She lives in Houston with her husband, two daughters, and two French bulldogs and eats a lot of popcorn.