May—A Good Month to Adjust Your Law Firm’s Marketing Plan

The first third of the year is behind us and it’s an opportune time to analyze your law firm’s financial performance and make changes to grow revenue and improve profitability.  

Your financial reports should be complete through the end of April, and four months of results are enough to identify potential changes in course. This is particularly true in 2022 because last year’s financial performance may not be easy to replicate. Specifically, many law firms increased their profitability in 2021 by reducing travel and entertainment related expenses. While it is tempting to conclude that profitability levels can be maintained in 2022 by repeating what you did in 2021, that might not be possible or desirable. 

To maximize your profit, there are two categories of expenses that are particularly important to review.

The first is payroll. It’s your largest expense and too many firms treat it as a fixed expense that gets tweaked at the end of the year when decisions are made about compensation and bonuses. In today’s market you should take a more active approach. Specifically, you need to analyze who is making the greatest contributions. If your profit margins are lagging, it’s most likely because your lawyers are not generating enough revenue relative to the total cost of their compensation. If your lawyers aren’t generating between two or three times what you pay them (including benefits and imputed overhead) there is room for improvement.

The second is marketing. An increasing numbers of firms, especially boutique firms, aren’t spending enough on marketing. In a post-pandemic world with less business travel other forms of marketing are becoming more important. Specifically, you could consider increasing your marketing spend in the following areas: 

  • Upgrading your website,  
  • Sponsoring events (in-person and virtual) where your best clients and referral sources meet. 
  • Rebranding—The world is changing rapidly. Perhaps it’s time to move away from the scales of justice and courthouse pillars. 
  • Increasing your online exposure through SEO and increased commitment to social media, especially LinkedIn.  
  • Investing in a more robust electronic newsletter. 

If you want to impact your bottom line in 2022, now is the time to devote more resources to content creation.  

What new marketing initiatives are you going to kickstart? If you are inclined to rely on what you think has worked before – reconsider. The costs of standing still (both in terms of how you deploy your payroll costs and your marketing expenses) have never been higher. 

Avoid Leaving Money on the Table With Google’s Business Directory

Traditionally, consumer-facing law firms have paid much more attention to online reviews on places like Yelp and Avvo than their B2B counterparts. But even firms that cater to businesses should be thinking about their searchability online. Potential clients may not be looking for directions to your office right now, but they are still using Google to identify lawyers locally. This means that Google’s business directory can be a powerful tool in helping new clients find you instead of a competing firm.

Taking the simple step of filling out a profile for your practice will tie you to the map of nearby firms that pops up when someone who could use your services types in a few keywords. The other good news for attorneys who aren’t in family law, estate planning, personal injury, or similar consumer-focused practice areas is that there is not a ton of competition in these local search rankings.

You don’t have to spend money to get the benefits of this directory. Begin by adding your logo and a description that includes the most relevant terms. The time it takes you to draft a paragraph and fill in a few boxes could net your firm significant amounts in new business. And if you want to go further, a couple of positive reviews could be enough to dramatically increase your visibility in local searches. Don’t miss out on valuable opportunities by not prioritizing these kinds of quick and effective marketing tasks.

How Lawyers Can Generate More Leads from Presentations

Those in the legal profession tend to believe that lawyers shouldn’t need help when it comes to making public speeches. After all, most lawyers know a thing or two about being persuasive, and trial lawyers address juries for a living. Many seem to be master communicators, but there’s a major difference between a jury and a conference or webinar audience: one is forced to be there under threat of arrest.

Because some attorneys assume they’re already accomplished public speakers, a discomfort arises around suggesting one could benefit from additional help. Although an increasing number of law firms are quick to provide support with respect to time management, hourly billing, and the drafting of marketing materials, there is an added level of sensitivity regarding a lawyer’s possible need for speech coaching. There shouldn’t be.

Even lawyers who are skilled at communication and agile on their feet often don’t fully appreciate the business purpose of a speech. Too many view speeches from a professorial perspective. They approach a presentation as if the goal is to make sure that a vast majority of the audience can pass a non-existent substantive test about the subject matter covered. This overly educational approach is reflected in how much time lawyers spend putting together PowerPoint slide decks chock-full of bullet points.

But if the business purpose of a speech is to create new leads, there are more important pieces to prepare. How the speaker will be introduced and what will be said by the event organizer at the conclusion are key to this goal. And while the presenter has an audience of potential clients and referral sources, it’s crucial to obtain contact information, a set of email addresses at the least.

Most lawyers don’t recognize the significance of the speaker’s introduction or an evaluation form to the business success of a presentation. And if this is news to you, you’re in very good company. Just as lawyers shouldn’t feel embarrassed when they call on the IT department for assistance, they should embrace the notion that experts can help them become better speakers and more effective marketers.

How to Get More People to Read Your Law Firm’s E-Newsletter

There is a straightforward and massively overlooked way to improve the effectiveness of your e-newsletter and other electronic communications: sending messages to relevant sub-sections of your recipient list. Just as you wouldn’t send holiday cards that say “Merry Christmas” to folks who don’t celebrate Christmas, you shouldn’t always send a single message to your entire email database. This seems like common-sense advice, but as consultants to law firms, we know that many attorneys violate this rule and few fully appreciate the potential benefits of segmenting their databases.

Let’s use the example of an estate and tax planning law firm to show you a more effective way to maintain your database. At a minimum, keep track of the city, state, and zip code of every potential recipient. You may be attending a conference in a particular city and want to notify only people who live or work nearby.  And you may not want to send information about a change in California law to people who live in other states.

Next, identify specific categories of referral sources. In our example (the estate and tax planning firm), this typically includes CPAs and financial advisors, so you should segment your database accordingly. This will, for example, allow you to avoid sending messages to CPAs during the height of tax season.

Most law firms receive many of their referrals from other lawyers, so you should generally segment your database to include at least two sub-categories of attorneys. One category should consist of lawyers who broadly do what you do. The other should contain every other kind of lawyer. Segmenting your database in this way will allow you to write content that is specifically targeted to each audience. You will also be able to send some messages that you don’t want your competitors reading.

Larger law firms need to decide whether to segment their lists by originating attorney or by practice area. It is often most effective for lawyers to contribute their individual email lists to the creation of a larger database. But this is hard to accomplish at firms where lawyers view clients as their clients as opposed to firm clients. This lack of cooperation among partners is more likely to happen at firms with “eat-what-you-kill” compensation plans.

Marketing professionals and advertisers know the power of segmenting your database into finer and more specific segments. Readers respond better and more frequently when they feel that a message is specifically directed to them.  And modern e-newsletter services make it easy to identify which segments of your database will receive certain messages.

Market segmentation is a powerful tool for reaching your intended audiences. The first step is to collect and input the data.