Digital marketing lets law firms of every size put the internet to work for them to bring in leads. We talked with Brad Poller of Princeton Internet Marketing to find out what lawyers need to know about all things digital marketing, including leveraging digital channels, search engines, social media, email and websites. Brad is the Founder and President of Princeton Internet Marketing, who prior to launching his business in 2009 served as the Director of Digital Strategies for Omnicare Initiatives handling digital strategies for national brands.
This live webinar was an Ask Me Anything (AMA) format, where we asked Brad questions gathered from social media as well as webinar attendees. The following is a selection of the questions that were asked as well as highlight from Brad’s answers. To listen to the full Q&A session watch Ask an Expert: Digital Marketing for Lawyers in 2019.
CosmoLex: So the first question, Brad, is how much time should a law firm spend on marketing versus practicing law?
Brad Poller: So as an owner of an agency, my first answer is a lawyer should spend very little time marketing and a lot of time hiring good people to market for them. They should be focusing on building their practice through lawyering, but I would typically tell any attorney to take 10% of their time and dedicate that to building their business through leads, following up on opportunities and marketing.
CL: …we’ll move on one of the next question. So what kind of budget should a law firm have for marketing?
BP: That’s a great question. I would typically say it depends on the age of the firm. At a certain point a firm could survive predominantly on their referrals. However to continue to grow, I would always recommend anywhere from a 5% to 10% of revenue re-investing into the company to continue to grow the company.
Obviously, if you’re doing anything, like paid search, you only have so much bandwidth as an attorney to take on cases. And so when it comes to paid search strategies, or if you’re putting ads on Google or Bing or Facebook or any of the other platforms that can generate leads, those are things that you can turn on and off as as you are busy. So if you’re very busy with a bunch of cases at one time and you can’t take on any new leads, you have an opportunity to pause those campaigns. But when you start to see around the corner those cases are coming to a close and you want to reinvigorate the pipeline, you could turn the floodgates back on.
CL: I think one follow up to that is what do you think some of the key KPIs, the key performance indicators, are that a law firm should be looking out for when they’re setting that budget? Once that the bill starts to come, I know that a lot of people will start to worry about how they’re measuring that number.
BP: There’s a lot of different indicators because when you’re doing different avenues of marketing, whether it be through search engine optimization or paid search, strategies or even social marketing, or going to events and networking – all of those marketing strategies have a cost associated with them. Some have more brand building benefit than others. When you’re doing a paid search strategy your brand is getting out there in terms of your name as well as you could delineate a specific return on investment on those strategies. Where if you spend 500, you should know that you’re gonna get one, two, three, four different leads that came in through that strategy.
Whereas search engine optimization is a little bit more of a long game when it comes to paid search, and that content development and strategy may take months and months to build up momentum on before you’ll actually see a return on that Initially getting a campaign ramped up, it may take a number of months before you even begin to see movement unless of course you’re doing paid search.
CL: And I think a lot of law firms get hung up on the lead versus client. Do you have a suggestion in the sense of when you’re trying to evaluate your marketing budget should you be focusing more on the number of incoming increase that you’re getting or the number of close business, the cases that you actually take on?
BP: So it’s whole you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink strategy when it comes to that question because you have a lot of things that get in the way of a closing percentage when it comes to inbound leads. It could be the demeanor of the attorney, it could be the response time based on the inquiry, it could be as to whether or not the person already has a friend or an expectation as to what something should cost and what their budget might be.
But when it comes to determining a return on investment, what we like to do is essentially track through various strategies where did the lead come from, did that lead result in an appointment, and did that appointment result in a new client and did that new client result in a potential win?
And so the question also is, what do you wanna put your advertising dollars towards? For instance, a bankruptcy attorney might be able to get a lead at a lower cost per acquisition but the revenue generated from a bankruptcy lead may be nothing compared to a personal injury that may come in and so it might be worth it to spend what could equate to thousands of dollars on getting a new client through the personal injury strategies what may be hundreds of dollars to get a new client on the bankruptcy side. Because the return on your investment, overall, is much higher when it’s a higher value potential client to…
CL: Awesome, yeah. So next question, “What results can a law firm expect from SEO — search engine optimization?”
BP: So one of the better strategies to use with SEO is to focus on a long-tail strategy. Long-tail strategies are essentially targeting keywords that have more of a description involved in them. And those longer tail strategies will tend to get you that lower hanging fruit so to speak. So when you’re doing search engine optimization and I have a firm come to me and they say, “I wanna be found on page one for lawyers, that’s an unrealistic expectation for maybe a small individual firm to be found for, on a national level.
But if you look at more of a long tail keyword, such as if I wanted to be found for “DUI attorney in Princeton”, now I’ve not only have a much better chance of organically being found through search engine optimization for that keyword with the right strategies in place on the website, but I’ve also gotten the attention of a potential client. That client is much more likely to engage me as their attorney because I have a page that dedicated to DUIs in the Princeton area and that I’m an attorney that handles that. And so just from a conversion perspective, you’re at a much higher rate depending on how robust your content on your website is and that’s going to really affect the success of a good SEO program.
CL: Speaking of that, I know one strategy that a lot of law firms talk about is local search, being found specifically on the Google Map results or Google’s local result, stuff like that. What are your thoughts on local SEO?
BP: So I have mentioned before about the longer tail keywords, including the names of the towns that you’re servicing and some of the towns in your area. Local SEO being found in the GMB, as Google My Business pages, being found on the Google maps, being found in that magic the pack that shows up when somebody’s looking for a lawyer near me, or a DUI lawyer near me or a criminal lawyer or whatever it might be. You need to make sure that you are optimized from an SEO perspective on a hyper local level. We work with a number of national franchises, and those national franchises, they have a good name for themselves on a national level, but when somebody’s looking for that local franchisee we need to create an entire footprint on a franchise-based level to help those local franchisees get found by creating turn-key local solutions that focus on local social media, local paid search and local search engine optimization strategies.
CL: That leads us into our next question – how long does it take to get results from SEO? I would think that it’s from both sides of that coin.
BP: Sure, and again there are certain strategies that could be used that would right out of the box, help, but typically you’re looking at anywhere from three to six months to start to see some search engine optimization movement for a website. And again, it does have to do with the momentum that exists. If it’s a brand new website, it could take 6-8 months. If it’s an established site, and it’s just a matter of moving people from key words that are on page two to page one or page three to page one, then you can see movement infinitely quicker.
So it does depend a lot on what is the existing perspective of what your law firm is in the eyes of the search engines today, whether or not you’re already being indexed and how easy it would be to implement changes on the website that the search engines will identify and give you credit for.
CL: I think a lot of small firms also underestimate that budget portion of things. Just starting out or been in business for a few months, they set that budget and that expectation, and I think a lot of them don’t put in those key performance indicators. They don’t know what their cost of conversion is, they don’t know what they’re really making when it comes to these things.
I think that that is one of the other areas where law firms fail a lot. They are lawyers, but they don’t necessarily know the business end of running a business. And I think one of those in the marketing side, I think, especially online marketing and SEO is a giving up too soon based on a number value they see. “I got a bill for X amount and I didn’t get anything from that”. Did you do the analysis, did you have the right piece of set up so that you would know what analysis to even do?
BP: The analytics is key. In addition to that, asking those two important questions which are where did you hear about us for the first time and where did you get our phone number? Those two questions are key in doing some form of attribution to your advertising strategy. Because if somebody comes in through a referral, that’s terrific. But how did you get that referral, and then if they did come in through a referral, where did they get your number from? Were they reminded because they saw an ad? Were they reminded because they saw your billboard?
CL: And I think that’s one of the best tips possible is coaching your staff. If you have someone who’s answering the phone or a paralegal who does that client intake is to work those into that discussion. How did you hear about us? Where did you find us from? Those sorts of questions.
So moving on to the next question – how can blog posts to help market my law firm?
BP: So blog posts are great. They’re terrific at adding additional content to your website, which basically expands your digital footprint. The larger your digital footprint is, the more opportunities you have to be found in search engines. An additional blog post is a new set of keywords that you could be found for.
I certainly recommend that any blog posting that you do, you try to make it as poignant as possible and give good punch list items of answers to questions. The search engines are embracing that a lot more…
CL: I know that a lot of attorneys feel that they don’t have a lot of time, but any suggestions on questions or how to find someone to help you with blogging?
BP: So hiring a marketing firm to handle that for you is a great strategy. Being a part of the process of what those blog posts are gonna be on is going to be great because it’ll help you get more relevant leads that come in. So if you’re blogging about criminal defense and probation violation, or petty theft and drug crimes but you’re a disability attorney, then it’s not the right, topic to focus on. So you wanna make sure that whoever is doing your blogging has a good understanding of what’s trending in the search engines right now and what will what will get you the type of eyeball that you really want.
I had an attorney who decided that they wanted to focus on dental malpractice, and I thought that was gonna be a really great strategy and we were able to get him a bunch of mental practice leads and it wasn’t until four or five months later he turned to me and said “we’re getting all the leads we could handle, but these cases aren’t generating more than a couple hundred in revenue and so maybe we don’t wanna focus on dental malpractice anymore”. And so knowing the type of audience that you really want to target will be super helpful in working with the right agency to reach that audience for you.
CL: Of course, that’s a great point. Next question – what are three ways we can reach more people who are looking for our legal services online that we are not doing currently?
BP: So the three pillars are social, search engine optimization and paid search. So through social media, reaching out, expanding your audience, expanding your footprint, letting people know through LinkedIn, through Facebook, through Instagram, through Twitter, about what you do keeps your name out there keeps them in front of people. When the time comes, it will help them think of you. Through search engine optimization, like I said, any on-site content development that will expand your digital footprint will give you more opportunities to get found online and then there’s paid search which is a matter of, specifically buying keywords that you know your particular customer is potentially looking for.
CL: I would just say the next extra question actually is a follow-up to that in a way – what is one marketing task that we are currently doing that we should not be doing?
I think those are good examples of the pillars of what marketing is in today’s world. Is there something that law firms in the past have leaned on heavily, that maybe they shouldn’t be leaning on as much anymore?
BP: The biggest problem is that when a law firm is doing marketing and they’re spending money to drive leads and these leads are not coming through referrals, they don’t have as much patience as your referrals have. So you need to be there, you need to have somebody answering the phones, you need to have somebody responding as quickly as possible to the leads that do come in and you need to sort of focus on that. Because the those leads that come in, having them wait a day, they’re just gonna move down the list to the next company because if they’re finding it whether organically or through paid search or even through social media and you’re not there to answer their question, they will move on to the next one.
So one of the most important things when we’re working with a company is making sure that they’ve got systems in place to make sure that all of the calls that are coming in are answered and that everybody feels like they’re being responded to.
CL: I definitely think that’s one of the biggest pieces is making sure that you are on top of those leads, you are talking to someone as soon as possible. I know that that’s one of the big stats they talk about with Facebook messaging and responding and stuff like that is that the lower your response time is or the quicker that you respond to someone, the more likely that someone is going to reach out to you.
For more of the discussion focused around social media marketing, PPC and cost expectations, please watch the complete Ask an Expert session. At this time in our live presentation, we switched from FAQ social media questions to questions asked by our live webinar attendees.
CL: There are a few questions already coming in from the audience, and the the first from those is from Grace.
Grace: How do you create different phone numbers to track them and see where clients are coming from? Is there a specific program for that?
BP: So we subscribe to a system called Callrail, a great phone tracking system where you could generate different phone numbers based on the different campaigns that you’re running. Some of the cool features that I like about Callrail is that they do have a record feature so you can record the calls that are coming in through that number. It also has a very cool Whisper feature that when you pick up the phone it will say where the lead sources coming from.
CL: Next question is from Thomas
Thomas: Is Facebook video worth it?
BP: So it depends on your industry, specifically for the legal industry. I would not spend my money on Facebook video until after I’ve exhausted my budget and sort of reached my point of diminishing returns in AdWords. I found from a return on investment perspective that there is a specific priority as to where I spend my money and video for the legal profession would be a little bit lower on my priority list. I wouldn’t completely discount it. When you have a very robust budget, and you really want to build your companies of brand, the video is awesome, especially if you can do videos that will stand out from the rest.
Ian: How should you strategically set up a law firm website with multiple areas of focus?
Brad: So that’s a great question. I would certainly make sure that you have those areas of focus in your main navigation. What I found is a successful strategy is to have a sort of a question and answer section when they’re first coming to your website, which is what type of a lawyer are you looking for. And then that way when they go past that level of navigation and they’ve stepped into and they say “I need a criminal attorney” then you could basically create entire experience from a criminal attorney perspective on that next landing page.co
So essentially, what you want to do is you want to do is hold their hand and walk them down a path so that every question you ask them or every answer they give you, through pressing a button or through pressing a link, that will drive you closer to a completely customized experience.
Another way that we’ve done it is we built out multiple websites, one for each different line of practice that you have as well. That’s also been a successful strategy. It’s very effective from a paid search perspective because when somebody comes and land on that page and your URL is “Princeton DUI attorney” and they’re in Princeton and they have a DUI, they’re gonna feel you’re the right guy for them.
Marketing often leaves lawyers with lots of questions, but it’s an essential part of growing and scaling your practice. Using the answers to these questions and applying them to your firm can give you the knowledge you need to make smart marketing decisions.
To get even more expertise on how to handle internet marketing for your law firm, check out the full and expanded answers to these questions: Ask an Expert: Digital Marketing for Lawyers in 2019 with Brad Poller.