Lawyers spend 33% of non-billable hours on business development, according to a report by Clio, the legal practice management software company, but attorneys don't know the best way to use this time or how to scale their efforts.
"A significant amount of time dedicated to business development involves one-on-one time with clients (30% of business development time), which can be time-consuming and inefficient. Instead, attorneys may want to invest in other activities," such as:
- Offering a variety of ways to get in touch with you.
- Making your website more engaging.
- Developing "lead magnets."
- Using digital tools to boost referrals.
It's true that more clients find attorneys online than from referrals, so tuning up your online presence to meet the expectations of potential clients will generate more business. Of course, in-person marketing is always effective, but it is one-to-one marketing. Online marketing is more effective because it is one-to-many.
Offering a variety of ways to get in touch with you
Millennials, the largest living generation today, prefer to get in touch and work with law firms online, rather than on the phone.
- Text and email communications. 19% of millennials who have ever had a legal issue say that they'd rather text or email their lawyer than talk on the phone or face-to-face, compared to 14% of Americans overall.
- Document sharing. 30% of millennials say they'd prefer to use technology to share legal documents with their lawyer, compared to 23% of Americans overall.
- Online payments. 18% of millennials say they'd prefer to use PayPal or similar platforms to pay their lawyers, compared to 11% of Americans overall.
- Credit cards. 24% of millennials who have ever had a legal issue say they'd rather pay their lawyer by credit card than any other payment method, compared to 20% of Americans overall.
"As the millennial generation grows older and comes to rely more on legal services, their expectations should determine how law firms seek their future clients," the report says.
Making your website more engaging
It's true that more clients find attorneys online than from referrals, so tailoring your website around the expectations of new clients will pay off with new business.
Attorneys should try to develop weighty, “blockbuster” pieces of content that your audience would find immensely valuable, as opposed to developing tons of meager, lightweight, barely interesting posts. Follow the model of Disney, which is not producing a dozens of different movies, hoping one of them is a hit. Instead, the company is making really big bets on fewer and fewer films.
Attorneys can find these powerful topics in the questions that clients ask in-person and on the phone. Based what you hear, attorneys should create high-quality, error-free writing, give how-to advice or instruction and provide thought leadership. For more ideas read 81% of Law Firm Marketers Will Produce More Content in 2017.
Keep your website clean and simple. Some attorney websites have way too many choices for visitors to make -- including 9 main navigation options with submenus below them, a list of half a dozen verdicts, 13 badges and awards plus a list of 12 practice areas -- all on the homepage! Littering your website with as many interesting things you can think of will not engage people on your website. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. If people cannot find the information that they're looking or quickly, they'll feel overwhelmed and will bounce away.
Developing "lead magnets"
Offer visitors bigger pieces of downloadable content, such as ebooks, white papers, checklists, and how-tos, to put a nice piece of valuable, branded content in your prospective clients' hands. For example, LawLytics offers a free downloadable PDF titled SEO Basics For Lawyers, which has proven very popular with attorneys. Through this type of content, you can establish yourself as a true authority – that is, a thought leader. And it provides a key opportunity to immediately get your leads' contact information, by having them fill out a form to download your content.
Using digital tools to boost referrals
Many attorneys say that referrals have given them the best return-on-investment over time. There are at least three ditigal tools that will boost these referrals.
1) Utilize Client Email Lists. Email marketing is an excellent way to maintain good relationships with former clients and stay in their field of awareness. By crafting regular email newsletters that keep former clients up-to-date with your firm and provide informative legal content, you're taking the right steps to stay on the minds of people you've worked with successfully in the past.
Services such as MailChimp and Constant Contact allow attorneys to personalize emails send to potential referral source, by calling the recipient by their first name. An attorney can also segment their former clients into groups more likely to refer new leads. Has a recent personal injury client that suffered from a particularly bad injury? Don't be afraid to reach out to that client after his or her case has been handled successfully.
2) Foster Your Professional Network Through Social Media. There are plenty of firms that don't handle a particular kind of case or client, even though they sometimes get inquiries about those types of cases. So they pass that lead off to other attorneys or firms that can be of service.
This makes fostering your professional network an excellent way to boost your referrals. And while attending industry events and physically meeting people will always have its place in networking, putting effort into networking online can be easier and just as effective.
Become active in LinkedIn and Facebook groups made up of attorneys who either practice in the same market or in the same practice area. And once you're active in those groups, don't be afraid to reach out to the attorneys in those groups individually to strike up a professional relationship.
3) Add to the Review and Testimonial Process. Generally speaking, clients are happy with their attorneys at the point when they've received compensation after a case has been handled successfully. This point in time is always a great opportunity to ask for reviews and testimonials from those clients, but it's also an excellent opportunity to ask for referrals. While they may not have a person in mind at the moment, make it clear that you're happy to help anybody they might know who is in need of legal services.
Use this time as an opportunity to make sure your clients are following your social media pages and agree to have you contact them via email after their case has been handled. As with getting online reviews, the fundamental key to getting referrals is quite simple: you simply must ask. And if you want some online tools to help you manage the process, look into using BirdEye or ReputationStacker.
Attorneys will find that it is time well-spent to offer a variety of ways to get in touch with you, to make your website more engaging, to develop "lead magnets," and to use digital tools to boost referrals. You have only so many hours to devote to business development -- make them count.