Figuring out where to focus your attention to improve your firm can be quite a task, especially when there’s so many options for where to start. For lawyers with limited time, it’s important to be careful in choosing what tactics are going to have the most impact for you. From marketing to tool choices to figuring out workflows, there’s plenty of ways law firms can implement best practices to improve in 2020.
We wanted to find out what businesses can do to support these best practices in the coming year, so we spoke with Amanda Sexton, Founder at FocusWorks Marketing. With over 14 years of experience growing brands in the legal space, she uses data and research to drive campaigns to their maximum potential.
Below is the transcript from our Ask an Expert Series installment with Amanda, “Best Practices for Law Firms in 2020”.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: So for today’s presentation, we’re going to go cover three things. One, what do we mean by best practices? Amanda will let us know how we’re going to define that for today’s presentation. We’re going to go through the AMA and take questions from the audience as well. And then lastly, we’ll just do a quick elevator pitch from Amanda.
So, what do we mean by best practices?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So this is something that I feel is really relevant for firms of any size. When we talk about best practices, the things that we mean are looking at the strategies and tools that firms can use to make the most out of their marketing.
And for lawyers who have very limited time, that means making the best use of your time, and one of the best ways to do that that we’ve found is to use both technology and then look at your workflows and processes to figure out where we can increase productivity.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: So without further ado, we’ll go ahead and jump right into the questions. We have some great questions that we’ve pre-selected from the audience, we’ll start with those. “So do I need to have a business plan/marketing plan for my law office? What’s the difference?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So this is a great question to start off with, since a business plan is typically the jumping-off point for a lot of law firms, and I think to know whether or not you need it, it’s important to know what they are. So a business plan is basically a clear documented plan that includes every aspect of your firm.
And this is something, it doesn’t matter if your firm is just getting started, if you’re just thinking about starting a firm, if you’ve been around for five years – if you don’t have a business plan, there’s never a bad time to write one, because what it’s going to do is give you an overview of your financial situation. Things like cash flow, your management, what practice areas you’re going to be dealing with, any operations, your location and projections, which are really important, especially if you’re getting started, to kind of see what finances you might have in the coming year – and that’ll help you decide your budget.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And then typically, within the business plan is a marketing plan. So this is kind of more of a low-level piece rather than if you were going to do it completely separate.
There’s two schools of thought for this. One is that, why create a business plan? We’re going to make it, it’s just going to sit in a file, we’re not going to re-evaluate it year after year, we’re just going to do it and never touch it again – which is true for a lot of firms.
But the one good thing about this is that it gives you some structure and clear details. A lot of lawyers go to law school and you learn law, the technical aspects of it. You learn how to practice it, how to apply it, and that’s great, but when you go out to start your own law firm, the problem is a lot of lawyers don’t have that business knowledge and that background. So what creating this business plan is going to do is give you a foundation, and it might intimidate you to see just how much you don’t know about business, but what it will do is give you a jumping-off point. So you can say, “Okay, maybe I have a little bit to learn about finances and maybe I really need to narrow down what our practice area is going to be.”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: The marketing plan, that’s going to tell you how you’re going to separate yourself from all the other law firms, and it’s going to give you a clear idea of positioning. Because as you’re going throughout your law firm, when you’re going through growth, it can be really easy to get distracted. There’s a thousand things that sound good, new ways to grow your business.
But what this will do is give you something you can look back to as you make those decisions, so you can say, “Okay, this is where we thought things were going to go. These are our goals for the coming years and how do these decisions help us meet those goals? And if not, maybe they’re not the right decisions for us.”
These are meant to be living, breathing documents. It’s not going to stay the same, just as your firm’s not going to stay the same.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Any tips that you have for someone to get started in creating a business plan, or marketing plan?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketingwould submit to investors right off the bat. The whole point is just to get started, to say, “Okay, one week, I’m going to work on the operations side.” Or even two weeks or three weeks, especially if you already have a firm, that’s going to be pretty time-consuming.
But doing it right – and doing it well – is much better than not doing it at all. So if it takes you a couple of months to do it, that’s no problem. Just getting started is the important part.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Totally agree. Next question we have: “How can I determine where to spend my marketing budget?” And an instant follow-up to that, “What percentage of my total budget should I allocate to marketing?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: The whole point of having a business plan is, what are your goals? So, when figuring out what your marketing budget should be, you want to figure out what your goals should be, because a lot of that’s going to impact how much you want your firm to grow in the coming years. And who is your ideal client and where can you find them?
All of those pieces are going to impact what your budget would be. So you really want to look at what those goals are, because best practices for firms is to use data to make your decisions and then evaluate them. So once you have a goal, then you could say, “Okay, here are the things we’re going to use, and the metrics we’re going to track to decide whether or not we met that goal and if this campaign was successful.”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And then, figuring out a budget too, a lot of that is dependent on the type of practice that you have and if you’re B2B or B2C. So do you market to other businesses or are you dealing with consumers on a front-facing level, like family law, personal injury, employment law – those kinds of things typically have a higher spend associated with them.
And for lawyers, it’s pretty unique, because business development and marketing historically have always gone hand-in-hand. So business development’s seen as the sales portion – your networking events, your local events, supporting your chamber of commerce – that’s all part of it.
So you really have to look at, who is my ideal client? Where am I going to find them? In marketing, you want to meet people where they are, so you have to think about where your ideal client’s going to be, dependent on platforms or location.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And the one thing lawyers should do is make sure you include your time in this. For lawyers, your time is really, really, really valuable. Lawyers are very good at what they do, and there’s no reason that they couldn’t do a lot of these marketing aspects.
You guys have gone through law school, you’re very intelligent, capable of picking up new things, but it is a question of whether it’s efficient and effective for your firm. So you could write blog articles for your firm, but if it’s going to take you six hours a month, what does that look like in terms of cost?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And then, in terms of what percent of budget should you allocate, that can vary pretty widely. Firms can spend anywhere from 2-18% on average. The Legal Marketers Association did a study in 2018 that showed typically, firms spend 6-7%.
But part of that that you have to look at is what your profit margin is, so if you deal with litigation, your profit for a case can typically be pretty high, although you might not take on as many cases a year. Whereas if you’re dealing with real estate, maybe you’re taking on more and more cases, but the profit margin is lower. So you would spend more to get a personal injury case, because it’s worth more to you, whereas for those real estate cases, you might not spend as much for each case, to bring it in.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And you have to think about, too, about how much you want to grow and expand your firm. Is your firm new to the market? If no one knows who you are, you’re probably going to have to spend more, in those beginning stages, to really get your name out there and to bring in clients. If you look at the AM Law 200, they normally only spend about 2% of their budget on their marketing, but they have the base. A lot of them are known nationally, they have the branding, so this is more just actually getting people to convert to being their clients.
So when looking at the budget, typically we see 6-8% of your revenue – spending that on marketing is a good way to see moderate growth, but if you really want to grow your firm, then you’re looking at anywhere from 10-15% normally.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex What do you say to the people who say that they don’t need a budget, or they don’t have the money to start marketing?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So, yeah, so I think those are two different pieces. So we get a lot of people that are like, “We don’t need a budget,” and what will happen is, throughout the year, they just start forwarding things. “Do you think this is a good opportunity? Do you think this is a good opportunity?”
But let’s say your marketing budget for the year is 10 grand. Well, once you start forwarding on those pieces, whether it’s a sponsorship, a dinner, an ad in a program for one of the local bar associations, you’re going to evaluate that differently if you only had 10 grand than if you’re just doing it one at a time. Because one at a time, $400 doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you only have 10 grand, that’s a pretty significant portion of your budget.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: For the people that think that they don’t have money for marketing, I think there’s a way to do budget-friendly marketing in that, for any firm that wants to grow, it’s a must. They say you have to spend money to make money. And it can be hard as a business owner, I know, to part with your hard-earned dollars, but at the end of the day, you should be able to look back a year from now and say, “Okay, that was money well spent, we brought in X amount of new business and we saw more revenue.” And while it might be hard to spend it at the time, it’s definitely going to be worth it in the end.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex Moving on to the next question then, “What is the best way to bring in new long-term clients,” speaking of?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So everyone wants to bring in new clients. The important part of this is bringing in clients that you actually want to work with and that are going to stay with you for a while, because as we all know, it’s far cheaper to keep a client than it is to get a new client.
And this is where doing that whole marketing plan comes into play, because with that, you’re going to say, “What’s my ideal client? What do they look like?” And you’re going to target all your marketing for that.
So let’s say you are a little higher priced than a lot of firms in your area, certainly not the highest, but by far not the cheapest. But then you offer a really low discount, and that’s going to be your offer just to get people in the door. What happens is, you’re going to wind up with people that are just price shopping, and once they get over that initial discount and then they get that secondary bill, where you’re billing a little bit higher than typical market value, they’re going to leave.
Those kinds of situations are where you want to figure out who your ideal client is from the start, and that’s where the marketing comes to play. But from a business perspective, there’s a whole other piece that comes along with actual client retention. You need to stay in front of them even after that case is closed, because you can do an excellent job for someone and, three years from now, someone will need the same service and be talking to them, and they’ll draw a blank on your name.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: Is your billing timely and descriptive? Do you have any value-adds? Do you have a client portal where clients communicate with you and securely get documents? So all of those things are going to be part of the client retention.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: The idea of getting a long-term client also starts at the very beginning. When someone submits a contact form on your website, getting back to them in a timely manner, answering your phone, returning your messages, things like that. How much do you think that that really does play into that long-term relationship?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: 100%, because if you’re not putting your best foot forward from the start, clients have a hard time seeing how you would, then, best represent them along the way. I think it’s something like after five minutes, I forget what the stat is, but if you take longer than five minutes to get back to someone after they fill out a contact form, the likelihood of them working with you just drops off dramatically. And that’s a pretty quick time to get back to someone, but it goes a long way to showing what your firm has to offer. If you’re that on top of intake and leads, then you must be very on top of your cases.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: I think part of that stat is that they begin to price shop as well, right? Think about it – they’re looking for an attorney at that moment in time, and you take a few hours to get back to them. Well, they’ve already contacted 10 other attorneys in that same amount of time. If you get back to them in a quick and timely manner, the likelihood is that they’re going to talk to you more and move forward with the case.
But I think also when you don’t have processes in place, when you don’t have something to pick up that line so quickly to be able to get back to that person, that’s something that law firms often miss. Just because you’re a solo attorney doesn’t mean that you can’t put the right processes in place to be able to get back to someone quickly.
So, any recommendations on tools for recording our processes – recording steps, task tracking, sharing notes?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So I think this is a good question, like you were saying, even if you’re a solo attorney or if you’re a small to mid-size firm, because every firm without a process, you could wind up doing something differently, a different way every time, and that just leads to time wasted, to client dissatisfaction.
So it’s much better to have a pretty clear understanding of how things work. And in creating your processes, too, you’re going to see ways that you can improve your workflow, so this is why you want to get everything written down.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So creating these processes and workflows are really good just for your efficiencies, and then also, for that long-term growth. If you’re looking to scale, this is 100% the way to do it.
As far as recording steps, this is the same as working on your business plan. You could say, “Okay, I am just going to create two to three processes a week. I am not going to overwhelm myself, I’m going to make this very easy for me, we’re going to do two to three a week,” and just get started.
What we do is, we work with clients and we use Google Docs, because that’s a great way for you to make edits, make changes, see how things have changed over time, track those changes. If you’re working with other people on your team, typically they can go in and create the process themselves in a Google Doc and share that with you, and then you can go in and make updates and fine-tune it.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: This is where something like a project or a practice management tool comes into play. You can set up task tracking, you can set up reminders, you can have multiple people assigned to things, you can share notes That way, everything for one case is right there on the dashboard. Because otherwise, you’re sifting through 1000 emails trying to find notes on a case between you and your paralegal, and no matter how great your paralegal is, without a practice management system, it can be really difficult to track everything.
One of the awesome things about these is that you can also create automation, so that goes back to the best practices for efficiency. So you can say, okay, when we take on this kind of case, here are the six things that need to happen, and every time you open up that kind of case, it auto-populates with all those tasks you need to do.
There’s plenty of tools, you can certainly use otherwise. If they’re sharing notes outside of emails, some people use GChat, Slack, you can certainly do it that way, but it’s just nice to have everything all in one location.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: At CosmoLex, we internalize that a lot. As many of you may probably know, is that CosmoLex is a practice management software, but as a company who works with attorneys, we also internalize the same processes that we build into our tool.
Picking tools that are simple, straightforward, but get the job done, is process number one. But more importantly, I think, taking one step back to recording processes is understanding the problem, laying out exactly what that problem is, documenting that so that you can come back to it. Because one issue that often people run into, and even in researching practice management software is, they don’t really have in mind what problem they’re trying to solve or what this process is trying to do.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Client intake as a process might be one good example. You might feel like you’re doing it different every single time. Well, what are the different ways that you’re doing it? How could you improve those steps? What are the bottlenecks that you’re facing? What are the issues that have come up? What’s fallen through the cracks before?
That way, when you go ahead and do your research when you go to find your next tool that you need, instead of sort of just going, “Oh, yeah this looks like it would fit my needs”, you have more of a sort of a punch list of things that you are looking for specifically.
We’re huge advocates of right person, right fit. In this case, it’s right firm, right fit from a software perspective. But don’t be afraid to tell someone no. And don’t be afraid to take a look at multiple different softwares.
We fully suggest you look at three, four, or five different practice management softwares with that punch list in mind, and try and figure out what those things are that you really need. The same goes for recording processes, at least in my opinion.
So, what general metrics should every law firm measure?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: When it comes to metrics the list of what law firms spend with that is pretty extensive in terms of business. But one of the biggest things for law firms, just looking at financials, and efficiencies, is to look at their profit first versus revenue just on a general business level.
That’s a big piece because what you can see is firms have a great process and that looks great on paper. Until you realize what the actual profits are once all the expenses have been paid out. And if there’s really high profits and low revenue, that typically means that there’s some kind of issue in terms of expenses, whether it’s overhead, there might be certain areas where cuts can be made,
if it’s staffing, so that’s usually an indication that that needs to be evaluated. Matter profitability is also something that pretty much every firm should look at because it’s going to tell you if you’re billing enough or not, or if you’re over-priced. This goes, whether you’re a flat fee or an hourly rate model. So you want to look at, for each of those matters, what are you actually making on them, versus what you charged?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: Another important one for firms is their aged accounts receivable. So accounts receivable is basically the lifeblood of your firm – you need cash flow, you need money to pay for things. You need to pay for your investments, whether it’s paper, hardware, technology, you need to be able to pay your employees, you need to pay for marketing.
So all of those things are really important and if your aged accounts receivable is showing accounts that are passed due 60, 90, 120 days, that’s a big problem. And so that means you need to take a look at what your collections efforts are like.
Is there something that we can automate? How can we get paid faster, up-front? Should we start accepting credit cards?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: You want to look at how many new clients and matters you’re opening. So, that’ll effect, of course, your profits and your revenue, but if that number is declining or it’s drastically on the rise, you want to know why.
A lot of times for law firms, it’s not the, “Okay, where are we right now?” but, “How does this compare to where we were six months ago, a year ago, two years ago?” It’s those trends that are going to show you if there’s any indication for concern.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And another important one is your realization rate. So you want to see how much am I working versus how much am I actually collecting?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And then, in terms of marketing, a lot of times people don’t have any metrics in place to track it. They just say, “Okay we’ve either gotten more clients or we haven’t,” and that’s kind of how it’s judged. And there’s a lot more to it than that.
So one of the things that firms should really look at is what that cost per lead is for them. And specifically by channel, because in marketing, there’s no one silver bullet that works for everything and for every firm. So you want to say, “Okay this is what’s working really well for us, we want to put more money in here.”
And you want to look at your website traffic to leads. That’s another important thing because a lot of times we see law firms that are getting more and more traffic to their site, but they’re not getting any more leads. And that usually is a sign that maybe there needs to be a change to the copy, maybe there needs to be more contact forms, maybe something’s not working, maybe it’s not user-friendly.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And then you want to look at your leads to customer ratio. So just like getting a ton of website traffic might not always translate to actual revenue, same thing for getting leads. You could be getting a ton of leads, but if none of them are becoming clients, or a lot of them are becoming bad clients, that requires a lot of constant communication.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: So question number six, “What is the best way to handle bad online reviews and going forward how can I get better reviews?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: I think bad online reviews are probably every attorney’s worst nightmare. And the unfortunate part of the situation is that sometimes these reviews, and we’ve seen it, it’s not even someone that you’ve ever worked with. Sometimes what we see is that someone that you just had a five-minute, 10-minute consult with has left a review. Maybe they didn’t like the information or feedback that they heard back about their case evaluation.
With online on a lot of these platforms, you really can’t do much to get rid of the review. You can certainly flag it if you feel that it’s not genuine or if you’ve never had any contact with the person, but the likelihood is that it’s going to stay up.
So if you do get a bad review the first thing you should do is breathe because no one likes to see these bad reviews. Your initial reaction means you probably shouldn’t write a response right then and there. Take a breath, step away from it for a few minutes, you don’t have to respond to it right away.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: If you’re sure that you did everything that you could have, you went above and beyond for this person, sometimes all it takes is a phone call. And you’ll have to gauge which situations warrant that, but a lot of times people just want to be heard. Maybe they put a response or a small complaint into your auto-generated end of case response, but they never heard back so they feel that this is the best way to air their concerns.
You still want to make sure that you give them a chance to actually voice their concerns and for you to fix it. If there’s a way that you can fix the situation or maybe make your side more clear and explain it, definitely go ahead and do that.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: You do want to respond online and be considerate. You want to address the situation and you want to explain your side. Because what’s going to happen is looking at these reviews, if you don’t respond to it people only see one side. You don’t want to give any identifying information, you don’t want to overly discuss the case – you want to keep it very broad and as an overview, but you can certainly respond to it and should.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: And then the next best thing to do is just to bury it. You want to get as many reviews as you can after that. That’s a process that you should have in place at your firm when cases end – to get feedback and to request a review.
If you have one bad review in a sea of 200 it’s not going to be taken as seriously as if you only have three other reviews.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: I think it’s also important to respond to the good and the bad reviews equally. Only responding to the bad reviews also looks reflects poorly on you. I think responding equally does show that you’re engaged with your client base and that you do care as well.
At the end of a case, make sure that you have a process in place to follow up. If you think Google is most important to you, send them your Google review link. If you think some legal specific Super Lawyer or something like that’s more important to you, then send them that review link.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: 100%. Especially since people are so busy. You might ask them in person and well-intentioned they mean to, but an email is always a good follow-up reminder.
So question seven: “What’s the best way to develop a definable brand for my firm on a budget? Should it be serious, casual, informative, funny?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: Not every law firm has the budget to work with an agency on this but I think it’s something every firm should spend time on. There’s tons of online questionnaires – you could just Google branding questionnaires and it’ll kind of give you the steps and questions that you should be asking yourself when you’re figuring out your brand.
Typically what we see as the most important thing for figuring out your brand is one, what makes you different – what sets you apart from the competition. Do you give outstanding customer service? Are you in constant contact? Are you an aggressive litigator? Whatever that is, you want to have that set in stone.
And you want to think too about how you want clients to see you. When figuring out should it be serious, casual, informative, funny, think about if you want your clients to see you as funny or do you want them to see you as informed and capable?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: You need to figure out what sets you apart and convey it in every piece of your messaging. I would take some time to sit down and answer really those two questions to start, and with the questionnaires online, you can certainly walk yourself through the process and have a better idea of where your firm stands.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Having a definable brand in general is probably on the top of the list of important things to do for your firm. I think there’s also the example of something you can’t ask your college-aged son, or daughter, or a friend to help you with. I think it’s something you have to do yourself and understand exactly what you’re trying to do, and then if you do have the budget for it, consult with an agency, or you can consult with a freelancer, but again – sticking to the professional world, for sure.
So you want to give a quick elevator pitch of what FocusWorks Marketing does?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So we work with lawyers to basically help them bring in leads without breaking the bank. That means we know that everyone has a particular budget and we work with that budget to figure out what makes the most sense for them.
The world of marketing is enormous and the number of tactics that you can use to bring new clients is huge, but we all have budgets and we have to stick with them. So we’ll say, “Okay these are the first three things to do that make the most sense to start bringing in leads within the next month and then from there, here are the next pieces that we can put into place.”
One of the things that we do is look at what firms are doing now or what they’re not doing now, or where they have room for improvement. So that’s something that we’re offering to you guys and I know CosmoeLex is going to send a follow-up email and that link will be in there, so we’re offering a free audit of your marketing that you’re doing today.
If you’re not doing marketing, we’ll take a look and give you some suggestions about what you can do yourself. Like I said, we’re very conscious of budget and for any lawyer that right now it makes sense for them to do some things internally, we’re more than happy to give suggestions on how they can go about that.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: And just a little bit about CosmoLex. I know we didn’t cover much in the domain of CosmoLex, but the CosmoLex is a legal-specific practice management software that includes billing, time keeping, business and trust accounting as well as the practice management pieces, documents, emails – all in one login.
So instead of having to use separate tools like a QuickBooks, or Zero, or something like that, we have that all built into our software so that you can truly focus on your firm and not have to worry about things like sync issues or duplicate data entries, things along those lines.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: So, we’re going to go ahead and move on to questions. The first question is “What are some of your suggestions for building my book of business?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So my first suggestion for building a book of business is to figure out what you like to do. How everyone is going to bring on new clients is different. If you’re not someone that truly enjoys networking and the thought of being in a room of a whole bunch of people just is not your thing, you don’t have to do that.
Maybe you want to write articles, maybe you love writing, and you had a lot of really good insight on the industry, and there’s new rulings coming out that you want to comment on. That can be your thing. So you need to one decide what makes sense for you and how you want to do it.
And then you need to set your budget, what your time is worth and how much time you want to devote to these things, and how much you want to spend on them. Building your book of business won’t just happen. It’s not necessarily like you’ll just build a website and that’s it – all of a sudden you’ll start getting clients. There’s going to be some kind of effort that you’ll put in. So you can decide how much of that you want to be digital, people finding you online and coming to you.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Great. Next question: “Do you have any tips for establishing a budget for things like overhead, technology and other business expenses?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: I think this is a tough question, and again, this is going to be really firm-specific. So, if you’re in a state that has an office requirement, then obviously you need to have an office. Let’s say you’re dealing with high net worth individuals for divorce. You might need to have a higher investment for your office location than someone who might be dealing with a different kind of more low-level practice.
So, you need to think about that when you’re making your decisions. As far as technology goes, again, it comes down to how much time you want to invest. I think at a certain level, investing in technology is a must if you want to make the most of your time. And for lawyers, their time is typically better spent on billable items.
Wherever you can spend to make that happen and recover the cost, that’s going to be helpful for you. In deciding the budget, a lot of these pieces come in to play when you’re just getting started, and you’re outlying a significant portion of money to get things up and rolling.
I think, to Josh’s point, is evaluate what problems you have, what needs to be solved, and then you can decide where your budget should be allocated percentage-wise, based on the overall budget.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Cool. “How should a firm approach email marketing?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: Email marketing is such a loaded topic right now with all of the changes going on with GDPR, and then in California – all of these compliance and privacy issues, and making sure you’re gathering email addresses correctly. Sometimes when we start working with clients, they just hand us a list of 2000 names, and it’s kind of like, “Where did you get them?”
Because what we’re finding is that more and more people are getting in trouble for having these lists. From our end, we’re seeing big size agencies get fined, and as a law firm, that’s certainly concerning when you’re supposed to be ethical.
As far as getting started on email marketing, it’s so inexpensive in comparison to other types of marketing that personally I feel like it’s something that every law firm should be taking advantage of. Even if you meet someone, if you want someone to opt into your site, you can only keep up with so many people at a time, whereas email marketing affords you an opportunity to stay top of mind for anywhere from. Even if your email list is only 25 people, that’s still 25 people that you’re now in front of every two weeks or every month.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: You can send email newsletters, which is traditionally the way that we see a lot of firms go about it – they just send helpful information that’s valuable to your specific type of client. You could send client alerts. So, “Here’s this new case law that just came out that’s going to impact your industry,” which is going to be extremely helpful. And then they’re going to think of you every time they’re like, “Okay, who’s the expert in this? Who should we call?”
So, there’s a number of ways to go about it, but I think, just like with everything, it’s important to get started, you can use a service like Constant Contact or MailChimp that are free to start. It’s really just a time investment to get everything set up. And then just to make sure that email addresses that you’re getting, you’re getting them in compliance with the rules.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Yeah, things like making sure that your unsubscribe is very easy to find is one tip that I often suggest when you’re doing email marketing. Letting people go is far better than them reporting you as spam, or getting annoyed at your brand in general for email marketing to them. But also things like if you are moving from one provider to another, redoing the opt-in process is never a bad idea either.
It does, again, reduce those problems that you may have with email marking. Christine asks, “Have you seen social media used effectively to market smaller mixed practice firms?”
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: So, this is a good question. A lot of times when clients come to us the first thing they say is, “We want to be on social media,” which sounds great given the audience set on social media and what the reach could be. The problem with that is typically a lot of these platforms have turned into a pay-to-play scenario.
Like on Facebook – you could post on there, and even if you have 1000 followers, Facebook is only showing that to 1% to 2% of your followers. Where we’re seeing social media used effectively is when there’s ads that are geared towards a certain audience and you’re not just boosting the post and just spending money without being very clear on who you want to see it, but actually doing ads effectively.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: Another way that we’ve seen lawyers be successful is on LinkedIn.
The views you can get on your posts and on your information on LinkedIn is unseen anywhere else. And I have a feeling like it’s only a matter of time before that kind of changes too, but that’s something for every lawyer, I would highly recommend taking advantage of now.
Take five minutes in the morning, make sure you have a really solid profile, a clear headline, a good summary. Again, include what sets you apart, and just take five minutes to comment, provide valuable feedback, maybe share an article along with your insight into it.
Social media these days, unless you’re paying, it’s not traditionally a good spend of money. It’s good for branding, and when someone goes on your website, they might click your social media channels. If you have a solid website and they go to our social media profiles and they see they’re filled in, that can give them a sense of security of, “Okay, this is a well-established firm,” but aside from that, we’re typically not seeing great results.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Also, before I cut it off – Amanda, any last comments to add?
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: No, I feel like we’ve covered a lot today. I think the only other comment I would have for today, is if you got nothing else out of this, is to make sure that your firm takes some time to be very clear about what your firm stands for and represents. Then you’ll know what goals you want to accomplish in the coming year, and that’ll make every other decision so much easier for you.
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: 100%. Could not agree more, actually. It’s something I also find that there’s a few key areas that law firms struggle in, and we talked about them a lot. But planning and working on their actual business is something that we often find that is their biggest struggle.
Amanda Sexton, FocusWorks Marketing: Yeah, and I think that’s everyone. Life gets very busy, very fast, and all of a sudden you look at the calendar and it’s a month later, and you’re like, “What happened?” But that’s why with those goals, too, you should also set timelines, because otherwise, it’s the third quarter, and you’re like, “Oh no, we only have another three months to get all this done.”
Josh Goldberg, CosmoLex: Alright, I’m going to end today’s webinar. Thank you again, Amanda, for joining us. Her contact information is up on the screen if you want to contact her. As always, you can reach us at cosmolex.com, and have a great rest of your day.