Increase the ROI of your marketing campaigns from the middle-out, with improvements to the way you capture, screen, and schedule new leads.
By Maddy Martin, Smith.ai
Maddy recently joined us on our GNGF LIVE! broadcast where we discussed referrals, your intake process, and more. Catch the replay here.
Solo attorneys face extra burdens compared to lawyers working for bigger firms: While you’re working, nothing else gets done at the firm. You seldom have back- or front-office support. Days are densely packed, from mornings at the courthouse to afternoon client meetings to weekend case research.
That means you’re unavailable, and the group that this hurts the most is your potential clients. The 2017 and 2018 Clio Legal Trends Reports show us year after year that 2 out of 3 potential clients base their decision to hire on an attorney’s initial responsiveness. Miss their first call, email, or web chat, and they’re off to call, email, or chat up the next firm. The first to respond is most likely to win that client. This goes for cold leads as well as warm referrals.
So what’s a solo to do when letting up on work isn’t an option, but stalling growth sure isn’t either? Stock up on software and services that help you optimize the middle of the funnel — including the stages of capturing, qualification, and scheduling. You can continue investing in marketing at the top of the funnel. And you can maintain control of the “sell” stage at the end, where you show off your special sauce and win the client personally after completing a compelling consult. We’ll call it an Oreo Cookie Approach: the cookies are you; the cream filling is your newfound resources. Together, the whole is better than the sum of the parts.
Sample Law Firm Marketing Funnel,
with Cost of Acquisition (COA) and Return on Investment (ROI)
From the Smith.ai Law Firm Communication Playbook, 2019
Meaning, if you make some of the affordable and simple mid-funnel improvements I suggest below — like adding a free basic intake form and Calendly link to your website, or installing live web chat — you’ll reap rewards, and often immediately:
- First, you’ll pay yourself back for the investment in these new tools and services, often as soon as the first client is won (who would have been lost) with an “assist” from one of these improvements.
- Second, you’ll increase marketing ROI by winning more clients thanks to more effective and speedy tools for responding to them and filtering through only the most qualified clients. Your ad spend now goes further. And, you win more net new clients, too. So you acquire more clients and spend less to bring in each one.
- Third, as you increase your margins and client base, you get to be more choosy in determining the clients you actually want to work with, and not just taking the work you can get. Most solos choose to work for themselves in part because they want control. If that’s one of your reasons, too, gaining more control over the clients you accept or reject is no doubt appealing.
Ok, time for that Oreo cookie cream! Here are five ways to optimize the middle of your marketing funnel and get those most-wanted new clients for your law firm.
1. Add texting to your landline office phone number
Lots of lawyers still rely on a landline phone service. If that’s you, it’s common to feel uneasy and out-of-touch when you’re away from the office. Even if you forward calls to your cell phone, you won’t always be able to pick up — if you’re in a session, for example.
Add-on texting services, like ZipWhip, let you send and receive texts with your existing business phone number. The extra-smart feature they offer is automatic responses. Consider ways this can help you respond quickly and accurately:
- A potential client texts to see if you’re taking new clients. You are. You set up an auto-response triggered by certain “new client indicator” keywords that says not only “Yes,” but also confirms they’re looking for an attorney in your practice area. And if so, here’s the link to your online calendar to book a consult.
- You get a text from a new client and aren’t able to determine what they need. They need to speak to a real person, but you’re not free. You forward the text to an email address of your virtual receptionist service, which notifies them to initiate an immediate call-back. The lead is instantly pre-screened and booked on your calendar, with a highly personalized touch, all without interruption to you.
- A potential client texts to see if they can pay their invoice for the upcoming consult with a credit card. Yes, they can, because you have online payments through LawPay, Headnote, or another similar program. You send the link to your online payment page and get paid instantly, and have a strong sense this client is going to be good to work with (they’re proactively trying to pay you!) and strongly interested in hiring you after the consult. The client’s thrilled, too: It’s one item crossed off their to-do list.
ZipWhip offers a 14-day free trial, which gives you ample time to test it fully. After that, plans start at a palatable $35/month.
2. Book consults with new leads using online calendaring software
Fully featured and affordable online scheduling tools abound, and there’s even a free option available through Calendly, an easy online program that plugs into Google Calendar, Office 365, Outlook, or iCloud.
With online scheduling apps, you can make your calendar accessible on your website, in your email signature, and to your in-house or remote staff, so clients and firm staff can book consultations and appointments with you, without your direct involvement.
For example, see the steps that Justie Nicol, owner of Nicol Law Offices in Fort Collins, Colorado, outlines on her website for her solo criminal defense law practice:
When help is needed, in-house and remote staff, like virtual receptionists, can use her Acuity links to book new consults like these, as well as other appointment types, like those for existing clients, court staff, or other attorneys.
Let’s say Justie’s heading to 3 different courthouses in one morning, all over the Fort Collins area. New bookings can happen while she’s out of pocket.
3. Add FAQ to your website to address routine questions
Your website is the best first line of defense for answering basic questions about your firm for new clients before they interrupt you with a call, text, or email. And you know those questions that are most frequently asked. Add a page dedicated to these FAQ, or just add them as a section on your homepage.
Bonus points: Put web chat up on your site and further stem calls and emails from folks who still can’t find an answer. Bots can auto-respond with simple answers and links to those FAQ, and live chat agents can provide custom-tailored answers. Chat services that also provide live phone services can even turn a chat into a call, for a very high-end client service experience for web visitors who appear to be very strong leads (or happen to be VIP existing clients).
4. Outsource call answering & web chat to virtual receptionists
When you hand off call answering to remote receptionists, you maintain (and even improve) responsiveness while you’re busy or out of the office. Better yet, have them return non-sensitive calls (like calling back web-form leads and rescheduling clients who can’t make their appointments). Even better, have them respond to chats on your website, so they don’t even have to call or email in the first place.
You can even set these outsourced front-of-office services up so calls ring first to you and then to the remote receptionists, so they’re backup during times you can’t pick up, and you decide exactly when you’re willing to pay for them to answer calls (harkening back here to what I mentioned early on about increasing your sense of control!).
Or, if you have an IVR or phone tree (e.g., “New clients, press 1”) route calls for new clients only. They can not only answer these calls, but also screen them based on your criteria, schedule a consult on your calendar, take payment if you charge for consults, and capture basic intake information so you’re prepared for your consult when you return to the office or finish your task.
Bonus: Choose a service with post-call services that reduce data entry later on, and keep you in the loop, like:
- Immediate post-call email and text summaries, and
- Software integrations, which mean callers are added as new contacts (for example, in ClioGrow/Lexicata, Lawmatics, HubSpot, Client Sherpa, Lead Docket, or whatever intake software you’re using), alongside the receptionist’s call notes
Example: Remember that online scheduling scenario? A phone receptionist or live chat agent can serve as a gatekeeper if you don’t want to post your calendar online. Just provide the link to the receptionist or live chat service, and instruct them when and how to book appointments for you.
It could go something like this, when a client reaches your website and indicates they’re a good potential new client:
Behind the scenes, the chat agent booked the appointment on your calendar and the chat transcript was sent to you via email. Done and done!
Live chat can also be used to help guide new potential clients as they complete the basic intake form and book an appointment on your website. Remember Justie? Chat agents are able to instruct new web leads on how to best answer intake questions to help them have a successful, informed first consultation appointment with her. Chat widgets begin with a disclaimer, and then proceed with helping the new lead:
Not only is Justie not interrupted, but she’s even more likely to have a consultation booked with a new potential client who has properly completed her intake form (which is short but not insubstantial), and has also likely had some routine questions answered. Meaning, the first consult will be more productive — and with a potential client who’s likely very serious about hiring her. Something she’ll be particularly thankful for as she catches up on the backlog of work that’s inevitable to follow after all her courthouse visits.
5. Reduce interruptions by filtering out unqualified leads
Sometimes the most frustrating inbound calls, texts, and emails are from people who contact you about a family law matter even though you clearly state on your website and everywhere online and in print that your firm only handles criminal defense cases. Unfortunately, some people don’t read. Don’t let them waste your time. Using some of the services above, like auto-responder texts, web chat, remote receptionists, and online calendaring, you can screen out bad leads before they ever reach you.
For example, in ZipWhip, you can set up an automated response when a potential client texts you about a case outside of your practice area. Let’s say they use a keyword like “divorce,’ you (and I’m calling you Joan here) can respond with a polite, instant text back that says something like, “Hi – thank you for contacting me. I don’t currently handle family law matters like divorce. I focus on personal injury cases. If you ever need help with a personal injury matter, please reach out to me. All my best, Joan.”
Bonus points: It doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, I recommend it doesn’t. Instead, build goodwill by referring unqualified leads to other firms you recommend.
First, inform them briefly about your firm and what types of cases you do handle. You never know if they may be a good potential client for a different legal matter in the future, which your firm does indeed handle. Or, they may encounter someone in the future who they refer to you since they will now better understand what matters your firm does and does not handle.
Then, recommend one or a few firms that are better suited to their needs.
If you have a process for referrals and a list of firms you recommend (identified by criteria, like practice area and cost), you can even hand off referrals to in-house and outsourced staff.
Check that out. Now, you’re equipped to queue up high-quality new business well suited to your firm’s strengths, all while you’re busy working on existing client work, out there networking your tail off, or just strategizing with your marketing agency (GNGF, ahem!)… No time or money (or effort) is wasted, and new leads get the quick help they’re looking for. It’s a better all-around experience for everyone involved.
Questions? Interested to try a great receptionist service for live calls and web chat?
If you have questions about anything I covered above, or simply want to dive deeper into some of these suggestions, feel free to email me at [email protected]. I’d be happy to help you identify the best solutions to suit your firm’s specific needs.
Also, if you’re interested in working with us at Smith.ai, our receptionists are available to help with phone calls and live chat on your website. GNGF readers and clients get $50 off their first month of calls or chats with code GNGF50. That’s a $110-$120 value when combined with our 10-call/5-chat free trial. Learn more and get started by visiting https://smith.ai or calling (650) 727-6484.
About Maddy Martin
Maddy Martin is the head of growth and education at Smith.ai, which provides superior virtual receptionist services for live calls and web chat, through a combination of U.S.-based professional receptionists and AI technology. She has spent the last decade growing tech startups from New York to California, and has expertise in digital marketing, small business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, SEO, and event marketing. Maddy can be reached at [email protected], and you can also connect with her on LinkedIn.