If you ask my credo on online marketing expenditures, I am a strong believer in my own wise words, which I pasted to the wall when I became the marketing director of a multimillion dollar family law firm in Southern California: “What gets measured, gets funds.”
No, I am not a poet. I paraphrased those words — the original was “what gets measured, gets done.” It’s an old business credo. When I took over the marketing for this firm, I discovered something that absolutely shocked me: despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on paid advertising every month, the data systems tracking the return on investment were crap. While they did have systems in place, nobody was trained on how to use them properly, nor were they set up properly. Instead, the firm assumed that every incoming lead that didn’t immediately blurt out “I am a referral,” was from paid Google ads.
Needless to say, that’s a problem. When I rejiggered the data systems to track properly, and worked with our outside PPC vendor to set up ad tracking, it turned out that less than 1/4 of our cases were coming from paid ads. Worse, a deep audit of the PPC search ads showed that our ad was showing up for things like “Riverside yield to horse law,” rather than, you know, family law and estate planning.
To be extra clear: we did not practice horse law.
I saw the same thing on paid Avvo ads (Avvotising?): With tracking phone numbers, landing pages, and tracking emails in place, I determined that our thousands of dollars on spend in banner advertising got us about three clicks and one call in the first month the data systems were live – not a huge surprise to me, but a big surprise to the managing partner who insisted that I run the ads for a couple more months just to be sure.
I use that example for two reasons: first, you can never trust your outside vendor blindly. Always demand tracking and stats before they start running up your spend. This is doubly true for paid search ads, where most vendors charge a 10 to 15% commission on your spend level, incentivizing them to inflate your spend as much as possible. I suspect that is why that particular vendor was bidding on crap like horses.
Second, after working with dozens of lawyers over the years on their marketing strategies, there is one constant: almost all of them forget that running a law firm is a business. If you do not know what your return on investment with regards to advertising is, you are probably burning money. My former firm was: I saved thousands of dollars per month with that one audit, and at the time I had no idea what I was doing on paid search. My background at that point was in writing online content and search engine optimization. All law firms that are spending money on advertising should be tracking a few very basic stats:
- Cost per lead (potential new clients — not actual clients)
- Cost per client acquired (great for comparing to the lifetime value of client. And, naturally, you’ll need to segment out by practice area because some practice areas are more lucrative than others);
- Conversion rate (What percentage of leads turn into clients? Measure this by source of leads, so that you can know if a certain website or advertising channel is bringing in those crap pro bono requests. Measure this by person handling the consult as well — you might discover that your best attorneys are terrible at closing new clients in the room.)
- Return on investment (You should segment out ROI on each paid channel to determine if you are spending too much per client acquired in each channel.)
I know a lot of this sounds intimidating. I can hear the lament now: “I am an attorney, not a god damn accountant!” True indeed. But the joy of being a soloprenuer is that you have to wear many hats. You have to know marketing, you have to know business fundamentals, and you have to be a damn great attorney or all of the cases that you botch will come back to bite you in the butt via bad client reviews, bar complaints, etc.
To date, I have not found a great business fundamentals for law firms course, just as I have not found a great marketing fundamentals for law firms course. If anyone knows of any, please comment and I will share them as wide as possible because I truly believe that this is imperative for small firms to succeed and grow.