Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Best Practices for Converting Legal Leads from the Internet

The single biggest success factor of your online marketing effort is the number of paying clients that you convert from the online leads you generate. This conversion rate will be the difference between success and failure of all of the marketing efforts your firm undertakes. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to lawyers that view $175 for a personal injury lead to be an incredibly reasonable price (often Google AdWords Buyers) while others have complained that the same leads are not worth more than $10.

Ironically, there is no material difference between the leads with a perceived valued at $175 or $10. In fact, here are the similarities:

  • They are generated from the same websites, with the same lead form that collects the same information.
  • The visitors to the sites come from the same source (organic search from the same set of keywords).
  • The number of lawyers that receive the leads is the same (as in, exclusivity is not the biggest factor in lead conversion).
So, what accounts for the difference in perceived value? While every situation is unique, I’ve been able to isolate three consistent best practices that lead to a high conversion rate.

#1: Follow up with every lead and learn more about the client’s need
When reviewing leads that have become valuable cases, one of the most common observations is that some the best cases came from a lead that initially looked less than promising. The consumer often leaves out the most important facts and/or emphasizes the wrong ones. Through a dialogue with the consumer (which may happen through email or over the phone), an attorney may come to realize that the case lead is more valuable than it initially appeared.

#2: Make it someone at the firm’s job.
Perhaps the biggest factor that determines success is focus on conversion from a dedicated resource. Regardless of the firm’s size, the firms with the highest lead conversion rate do not have lawyers following up with consumers initially. Whether it’s a business manager, office manager or personal assistant, it makes sense to hire someone to fill the new client pipeline as much as possible. Even if you are a solo practitioner, you can probably find someone to do this on a part-time basis. If you invest in training them in asking the right questions and being diligent about following up with prospects, they will pay for themselves many times over through incremental business. If you absolutely cannot afford to hire someone part-time, find a way to make some time to follow up diligently with all leads.

#3: Have a clear, consistent message about how you can help the consumer.
One of the biggest complaints that I hear from lawyers is that too many leads “just want their legal questions answered for free.” While it is absolutely true that not every inquiry will result in a paying client, that is the nature of every business: whether you are test driving a car, buying a house or choosing a lawyer, there is a decision making process that all consumers go through, and that decision making process usually involves more than contacting someone with a question and immediately handing them a check.

Building on points #1 and #2, not only should a dedicated resource follow up with every lead, they have a standard approach to qualifying the lead and communicating your value proposition. After establishing contact with the consumer, the best firm’s communicate their qualifications (“here’s why you should choose us,”) and walk the consumer through the process (i.e. steps in the process, fee structures, timing, etc). The goal is not to solve the legal issue, the goal is to establish the value of your firm. This is incredibly important. Between the time the consumer sends in the lead form and actually chooses and pays a lawyer, they will receive additional information and input . . . either from their friends/spouse/co-workers, from additional internet searches or by contacting another lawyer. Therefore, the goal of the initial follow up is to establish your firm’s credibility and value. I have noticed that a lot of lawyers that have a hard time converting leads insist on an in-person meeting quickly because they feel like they can close someone if they get them in their office. The problem with this approach is that, unless that meeting is going to happen in the next hour, someone else could intervene.

See also: Evaluating Your Online Legal Advertising Effectiveness