Why Afterhours Calls Matter in Legal Advertising

Want to know an easy way to boost your case conversion? Get better than the competition at handling afterhours calls. Intake after hours is one of the most significant growth areas for improving your law firm’s bottom line—without spending more money.

While this sounds like a simple fix, there’s strategy involved in truly dialing in your attorney answering service. But this critical form of intake can also very quickly separate you from other law firms—if you do it well.

Here’s how:

Change your expectations. Advances in technology and consumer expectations means people anticipate more from an attorney answering service. If potential clients’ needs aren’t met immediately in an intelligent and pleasant manner, there’s a strong chance they’ll just hang up. Think about your own frustrations with waiting on hold or not getting useful answers when calling about a product or service. Lawyers should expect that people increasingly expect more than an answering service can provide.

Pick the right answering service. Before hiring any answering service, ask a lot of questions. Visit the call center or office. Invest time in finding out how this service will report to you. Most importantly, talk to your legal advertising agency about best practices and how your marketing partner plans to incorporate call tracking and leverage analytics to better target your advertising efforts.

Record your calls. These days, this practice really goes without saying: You can’t act on data you don’t have. So be sure  your firm’s calls are clearly recorded and tracked. You’ll be impressed by what you can learn about your prospective clients just from the messages they leave with your answering service.

Know your drop call rate. Not sure what this is? Get up to speed today. Dropped calls are calls that are put on hold that eventually lead to a prospect hanging up. Uncover your true drop call rate—hang-ups that are never accounted for. It’s possible that a simple change in initial messaging, hold music, or tone could help keep people (legal cases!) on the line longer.

“Secret shop” your service. Have you ever tested or secret shopped your current answering service? Calling your own firm’s answering service at least once a month can lead to rich insight about what’s working best. Better yet, have a friend outside the legal industry call your firm after hours. Prepare a questionnaire for your secret shopper regarding voice tone, ring length, messaging, hold times, and other key qualitative and quantitative feedback that could help your law firm improve performance.

Remember, what happens when your law office closes shouldn’t stay behind closed doors. Keeping the lines of communication open around your answering service practices is a helpful way to enhance your intake—and convert more callers to cases.

Need more insight on how to improve your afterhours intake procedures? Network Affiliates has been helping lawyers tap the smartest ROI-propelled advertising and marketing strategies since 1981. Call (888) 461-1016 today!

When to Expect ROI in the Legal Marketing and Advertising Lifecycle

Legal marketing and advertising strategies are increasingly pinned to return on investment.

Why? Because advertising consultants now have better metrics to track marketing for law firms, from specialized call-tracking methods to actionable Google Analytics on Web-based advertising campaigns.

Seeing a return on your investment in advertising depends on several things, such as: your new campaign creative, the mix of marketing tactics being used and how integrated your legal advertising strategy is, among other considerations.

Creating true cash-flow momentum takes planning—and patience.

Typically, an attorney or law firm can expect to start seeing significant ROI in between 6 and 18 months. This equates to the length of time it takes for a typical auto accident case to settle, for example. If the case goes to trial, you can expect to see a return in more like 18 to 36 months.

However, in an area like workers’ compensation, temporary disability payments can start in as little as one month. However, permanent disability payments take much longer and typically require the assistance of a lawyer or law firm to negotiate with the employer and workers’ compensation insurance provider. Obtaining a resolution in a social security disability case usually take between 12 to 24 months.

You get the point. Marketing leads in legal advertising are ultimately tied to cases, and getting more in the pipeline will work to create a steady stream of clients—and ROI.

Most lawyers like to see how this might play out for each aspect of a marketing initiative, and a qualified advertising consultant can show you how each effort can tie back to ROI. Additionally, an agency with deep history and interest in the legal profession will understand the case life cycle and plan a smart marketing strategy around that cyclical process.

Likewise, the ability to shift strategies, especially with flexible Web-based “test” campaigns, helps your law firm try a specialized social campaign, for example, or a PPC-driven effort to adapt and adjust for variations such as seasonal fluctuations, expansions in the firm’s legal capabilities or mass tort campaigns.

Interested in running the numbers on the effectiveness of your current marketing mix? Call Network Affiliates’ expert legal advertising consultants to understand the potential of your advertising ROI — (888) 461-1016!

Are you maximizing the power of past clients?

Why referrals are the best cases that come into legal offices.

Ever met a lawyer who wouldn’t prefer more qualified cases? Thought not. The most valuable cases—both financially and professionally rewarding—come from referrals. Generally speaking, referred cases tend to have the lowest cost of acquisition and come with some helpful level of “prequalification” through a past client who knows your legal competence.

In fact, industry research shows that only about 25% of legal cases come from other attorneys. Did you just do the math? That means three-quarters of all legal referrals could be coming directly from your satisfied clients. Interestingly, even tempted by this potentially low-hanging fruit, we know that most lawyers don’t spend near enough time and effort maximizing their referral marketing programs.

Why? Well, it takes work and planning—and that requires someone’s valuable time. Past clients need to be reminded not only that your attorneys did a great job and created a favorable outcome in their cases, but in what areas your firm concentrates, what references would even make sense, and how to get leads to your office easily. Law practices that are doing referral marketing right are in front of past clients and constituents. They win cases, plain and simple because their attorneys are most top of mind when it matters.

Think you could be staying in touch with clients a little better? It’s not as hard as it seems.

Here are a few ways to start giving your referral marketing more TLC:

1. Build your database.

Start with the information you have on all past and current clients, and go from there. This will become routine if you build data collection right into your intake process, including capturing basic intelligence on anyone who contacts the firm. Don’t forget to ask (and track) who, if anyone, referred the person to your office when they do call.

2. Stay in touch.

You can’t rely on the fact that since you did good work for a past client he or she will remember you in the future. There are simply too many marketing messages and alternative options out there to rely on that sliver of hope. Instead, create a plan for communicating with former clients—email campaigns, direct mail, in-person networking, informational seminars—after a case is closed.

3. Respect every relationship.

Even if you cannot help an individual with specific legal matter today, doesn’t mean that person won’t turn to your attorneys next time they need advice. Remember, you could be paying up to $300 per lead. That’s a lot of money just to say no. Nurturing relationships, even currently unqualified referrals, will build your firm’s reputation—something that while it doesn’t have a dollar sign on it today could pay off big tomorrow.

4. Leverage TV views.

Television advertising remains a crucial part of the marketing mix for law practices around the country. Use this massive platform to leverage strong testimonials from past clients, and you’ll have a smarter way to tell the world exactly what kind of cases you want in the future. Better yet, combined this visual advertising with a strong database marketing plan to keep your firm squarely in front of past contacts—and potential cases. Remember, you have to be available to victims when they need you most.

Interested in learning more about leveraging past clients? Network Affiliates’ digital marketing experts can walk you through “Why referrals are the best cases that come into legal offices”.

The call is free and confidential. The advice is excellent and will help you capitalize on this opportunity. What are you waiting for? Call now: (888) 461-1016

Do Your Intake Phone Calls Sound Like This?

If you’re like most law firms, you’re already spending thousands of dollars to generate leads. Ultimately, the goal is to turn as many of those phone calls into real, paying cases – right?

If that’s the goal, then you can’t afford to let any leads fall through the cracks of a broken intake system.

We won’t insinuate that every legal practice has a poor intake process. Some work just fine. However, whether you think your lead conversion processes beats the competition, or is in serious need of an overhaul, it’s always a good idea to consider conducting an intake audit.

So today, we challenge you to start auditing your own intake process by being a secret shopper at your law firm. Call your leads line as if you were a customer.

Don’t think it’s a big deal? Think again. Below is an example of what your intake calls could sound like if you don’t take the time to care about your processes. Just imagine if you were in this person’s shoes, how would you feel?

Listen: A Bad Intake Call Example

Pretty bad right? How many cases you could be losing due to poor intake performance like the call above.

The goal of conducting an intake audit is to first identify areas of weaknesses, then create a plan to fix the problem. We know first hand that law firms that take the time to regularly audit their intake processes have teams that perform better and consistently close more cases. After all, your firm only gets one chance to make a first impression.

Contrast the above call with the one below, which would you rather experience as a customer?

Listen: A Good Intake Call Example

If all of your intake calls went like that, you could rest easy knowing your team is always putting its best foot forward.

Playing ‘Secret Shopper’ at your Law Firm

One of the most helpful ways to understand just how your intake system works—what messages you’re relaying, how you’re qualifying cases and how fast you’re responding to inquires—is to play “secret shopper.” That is, posing as a potential client in order to evaluate the quality of customer service. And that starts with calling your own leads line. We recommend this type of audit so you can hear for yourself how well (or how poorly) your intake team performs.

To really gather the information you need to make an informed decision about what procedures seem right and what might be surprisingly off, make sure to walk through the whole process, from the first phone call to follow-up communication. Better yet, call a few times over the course of a couple of weeks to gauge the consistency of your intake protocol. You could charge several lawyers with playing secret shopper as well and then compare notes. Broader perspectives can lead to some insightful conclusions.

Here are some tips for your first secret-shopper mission:

  1. Don’t take your ego with you. If something sounds wrong, don’t try to explain it away to protect your own law firm or the brand you’ve worked hard to build. Look at intake objectively—and move on to fixing it.
  2. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. On this call, you’re not an attorney. For this purpose, you’re an everyday guy or gal with a real problem that you need an answer to.
  3. Engage thoroughly and open-mindedly in the consumer experience. Then, make a pros (remember, those are important too) and cons list of what stood out during the intake calls. Regroup with other in-house secret shoppers and compare notes.

Making an Intake Action Plan

After an internal audit of your lead-conversion process, start to group big ideas together to create an action plan to update or overhaul your intake process. Be mindful of making sure you cover all the pieces that are critical to turning borderline calls into cases, referring out when appropriate and staying in touch with clients who could easily bring your firm a future case.

Here are a few questions for focusing your action plan:

  • Did an attorney, paralegal or legal secretary pick up and greet me in a friendly manner when I called? If not, how long did it take to get a return call?
  • What was intake specialist’s tone of voice and what was my initial gut reaction to it?
  • Did he or she seem knowledgeable and appropriately authoritative?
  • Did the intake specialist acknowledge my problem and make me feel heard?
  • Was my case carefully and concisely screened in a way that felt complete, yet not overly detailed or taxing?
  • Did I get a sense of what the firm specialized in or what made them stand out from other area lawyers?
  • Did the intake specialists inquire about how I heard about the firm or why I decided to call?
  • Where next steps in the process to vet my case clearly explained? Did I get off the call knowing what to do?

Use these secret shopper insights to craft a better checklist for your intake staff members. Put into place, or re-emphasize in writing, an easily accessible document that’s regularly updated. This document should include: the appropriate step-by-step intake protocol, the tone of voice to be used, the speed of follow-up communication, the client data to be recorded, and entry for future marketing purposes.

Finally, empower your intake team not only follow new rules, but to take the initiative to speak up if they have an intake-related suggestion going forward. You’d be surprised what they might reveal, knowing a secret shopper could be checking in at any time.

In fact, we suggest that you let your intake team to take ownership of the process and take stock of what’s working and what’s not on a quarterly basis. That way one of your biggest potential revenue generators never runs out of earning power.

Add to Your Bottom Line by Focusing on Call Intake

Intake and conversion are two words regularly tied together in the legal marketing world. But how about owned media? These days, the marketing messages you own and control deserve to be a much bigger part of intake anatomy and the conversion conversation.

Let’s start with a quick recap of a point that can’t be clarified enough: Owned media is all the branding and marketing messages your law firm creates and delivers through channels you own. The most obvious of these are your website, social media properties, blog, mobile applications, etc. The goal is to have all owned messaging be consistent and complementary. For example, you might take an advertising campaign and deliver key elements of that ad in the right context for the right platform.

But what if we extend that owned media mindset to assets specifically designed to handle intake and conversion? We won’t go as far as to suggest that an intake employee or call center is just another “platform,” but if you give these human extensions of your brand the same kind of value you place on your carefully controlled media, you might just buy your law firm some new cases.

So we have people and we have platforms. And ultimately your law firm is in charge of how your brand, message, and image is conveyed at all points. If you want to compete, you must make all of these “touch points” finely tuned intake and conversion machines.

Intake initiatives for owned media

Quiz yourself about your own firm’s tactics while considering a few common scenarios:

  1. You’ve spent much of your marketing budget on a classy TV advertisement. It appears to be working—it’s making the phone ring.
  2. You’ve built in several easy ways for potential clients to reach you through live chat on your website or with clear calls to action on your direct mail campaigns.
    • What happens after the initial connection?
    • Do you follow up quickly and regularly to get that case?
  3. By old-fashioned word of mouth, you’ve been referred to a person with what on the surface sounds like a solid case.
    • How thoroughly do you qualify that potential client to rule out (or in) any possible ways you can legally assist this person?
    • How quickly do you follow that lead over the phone or via email?

All three of these intake-related scenarios touch on what’s in your control. You alone have jurisdiction over how your brand message is positioned and delivered through your owned media. Are you sending out the right messages but not consistently following up with those who have actually received the message? Are you appropriately meeting expectations when your ad campaigns work and people pick up the phone for legal advice?

Controlling each intake platform and person is a matter of strategy. It requires sitting down and looking at each piece and determining if it is fulfilling its role. Some other questions to consider are:

  • Do you have a policy for how quickly calls are returned?
  • Does the tone of your owned-media content match that of your call specialists?
  • Do people report a disconnect between online and offline experiences?
  • Do you track where each lead comes from and how many actually convert to cases?

Conversion considerations for owned media

When it comes to converting a call to a case, it always comes down to numbers. What did your last advertising campaign cost? What did you spend to make your website a leads task-master? What kind of time and resources do you spend on keeping up a cutting-edge social media mix?

Weigh those costs—the ones you pay to get your message out there—against what you put into truly converting leads into legitimate paying cases. Usually, and unfortunately, the latter loses out. In fact, most lawyers only convert around 20% of leads to paying cases.

Consider what your law firm could see in profit potential if you converted a minuscule 5% more of those calls to cases. Here’s a scenario: Your firm generates 100 leads per month and each costs an average of $200. That’s $20,000 out of pocket. You win 20% of those cases (with an average of $10,000 per case, for example). That’s 20 cases and $200,000 in gross annual fees back on the docket.

Now imagine if you converted 25 cases the next month. That’s an extra $50,000 and a cool $3 million gross annual fees for the year. Makes your leads and advertising investment a little easier to swallow, right? The mathematical equation is simply a way to quantify the importance of conversion for business success.

How you convert on owned media is no less logical, but a lot more tactical. The best conversion strategies hone in on what happens after a lead comes in the door, the website or over the phone. You can—and should—own that process, too. Here are a few conversion tactics for helping your people maximize hot and cold leads each month:

Scripts: Do your intake specialists or call center folks need them or want them? If so, how do you ensure they’re using scripts conversationally and in such a way that supports your entire brand message?

Staffing: Do you have the right intake staff in place already or do you need to consider hiring, firing or re-training? Are you tracking calls and which specialists are converting the most calls to cases? How about which tones of voice and speeds of delivery have worked best in the past?

Empowerment: Have you given your intake specialists all the tools they need to help achieve the best first impression possible—and to be a human hand of your brand and consistent with all the owned media you’ve worked so hard to control? Do they feel valued for the important work they do? Do you recognize and incentivize them? Are they empowered to make suggestions and improvements?

When it comes to looking at intake and conversion from an owned media standpoint, don’t stop at a website or a social media campaign. Consider how both your platforms—and your people—can be equally powerful at reinforcing your marketing messages and securing lucrative new business.

Ratchet Up Your Referrals

The strongest law firms know that referrals bring in the strongest cases. Referrals score high points for conversion and case value. So why don’t attorneys spend more time on getting cases through past clients? Well, because it’s not as sexy as advertising. It’s more strategic. But having a solid referral plan in place will not only support and supplement your advertising; it can give your firm a wider network, more credibility and a steadier flow of high-quality cases for little to no upfront cost.

The truth is about 1 in every 10 clients refers a friend. That means you’ll need a stream of referral sources. That requires reaching out and staying in regular contact with clients once a case closes. However clients aren’t the only ones who can refer your firm. Referrals are really just word-of-mouth recommendations. Sometimes they come from someone who just wants to return a favor. Start to view family, friends, legal partners and out-of-industry professional peers as additional referral sources.

Staying top of mind with past clients and your network of referral sources takes a multi-pronged approach. Here are a few tips for building a referral strategy:

  • Dig through your database. This is where past clients come to life. Keeping your database as complete and up to date as possible is one of the most simple and strategic returns on investment. Make sure your intake staff uses it to gather and track all relevant information about clients and you’ll be sitting on a marketing goldmine.
  • Reach out regularly. The only way to become the go-to law firm in your niche is to communicate regularly with clients and referral sources through print and digital tools. Test a newsletter or response from an email or direct mail campaign with a tactical call to action for each audience. Even consider personalized communication like birthday, thank you or holiday cards.
  • Open your access. While not all social media is appropriate for attorneys, several platforms are ideal for positioning your firm as an influencer and opening the lines of communication. Whether you leverage LinkedIn or Facebook, for example, you are giving referral sources one more access point and, ultimately, one more easy way to pass your attorneys’ names name along.

Sometimes referrals come from the person and the place we least expect it. By opening more channels of communication more regularly you’ll increase your firm’s odds of capturing the most lucrative leads. Remember, when a case closes the referral door opens. Start to build long-term success by building long-term relationships.


Never Send a Prospect to a Lawyer

When you want to return a product, do you want to talk to the marketing department or customer service? You want a direct line to the person most trained to answer your exact questions; the person who will listen and even commiserate with your frustrations about the product; the person who can facilitate returning your misfit item and reimbursing your money in the most efficient way possible.

Well, the same principle applies to taking in new cases at a law firm. Prospective clients don’t want to talk to a busy, preoccupied lawyer who’s deep in the research required to prepare a case. People with problems that feel very real to them—whether the predicaments turn into viable cases or not—want to talk to a qualified legal intake specialist who knows how to empathize. They want a lifeline—a person who quickly acknowledges stress and identifies with overwhelming emotions.

Often attorneys believe that they can handle it all—from intake to marketing to lawyer-ing. But like any other business, in order to effectively service customers and build a successful organization, the experts in each line of work must handle these specialized functions. That means lawyers interpret the law. Intake specialists negotiate the calls. Marketing firms create brand strategy.

Your firm will find the quickest path to success if leadership delegates functions to the right people. Your brand counts on it. If you market your law practice as a dedicated advocate for accident victims, for example, your attorneys better be spending a large majority of their time preparing cases, negotiating settlements and trying cases in court. Not answering the phones. Not trying to qualify a case. Not designing the website. Not writing marketing copy.

After more than three decades of providing advertising expertise to law firms across the country, we know that lawyers who try to do it all or micro-manage other executive functions ultimately fail. Heed our advice. Use it as a catalyst to get the right people in place before it’s too late.

Arming Your Ambassador of First Impressions

Remember the last time you called customer service? Then got sent to someone overseas? That was irritating. Well, the same applies to the intake administrator for your law firm. Whether you have a large operation or one person sitting at a desk, how you take you call-in leads—and turn them into profit—matters.

If you don’t have a strategy for how you handle random and strategic leads that come by phone, now is a great time to design a plan. For it’s often he or she who answers the questions best who gets the case.

First, consider whether or not your intake ambassador needs a script. For firms that have the luxury of employing someone who knows the business intimately and can conversationally qualify a client, this might not be necessary. For other practices, you might have found a warm and approachable intake expert that’s not quite up to speed on kinds of clients that would make a great fit.

Both scenarios require some oversight. A script or questionnaire can be a helpful aid for a person with the voice but not the knowledge. In this case, sit down to draft a conversational script that will carefully and quickly explain your firm while qualifying the caller—without closing the door too quickly. Sometimes that extra question or two can turn a borderline case into a real client.

Even if your intake person is well versed in how to answer a variety of questions from callers, it can’t hurt to review this process. You never know if you could be getting more business. Consider taping intake conversations or even physically listening in on a regular basis to make sure your ambassador is asking all the questions you would were you taking to a potential client.

Remember, you spend a lot of money pleading with people to call you. Don’t you think they deserve to have their expectations met when they finally do communicate with your firm? It’s your responsibility to connect the dots. After all, the person who makes your firm’s first impression can influence the decisions your clients make. Better hope they’re good ones.

Answering the call!

What do you spend on advertising versus answering the phone at your law office? Step back for a moment and think about how much time and money you invest in making the most effective TV advertising commercial. The point is to drive traffic and make the phone ring, right?

But what happens when the phone does ring—and all your advertising efforts start to pay off. Do you have the right people in place to make sure that those phone calls convert to cases? There are so many nuances to answering the call, from your intake professionals’ tone of voice to the speed in which your office addresses inquires.

If you’re wondering why your advertising is making the phone ring but cases are not growing at the rate you projected, the missing link might be a greater investment in the speed, accuracy and creativity of your call center. Here are a few questions any firm should consider when making a strategic plan for over-the-phone intake:

  1. How knowledgeable are your call receptionists or call-center specialists about your law firm and its services?
  2. Do they need to read from a script or can they answer on the fly a variety of questions about your legal services?
  3. How fast do your intake professionals return a call? What happens after they’ve left one message for a caller?
  4. Are you accidentally turning away cases because you’re not probing further into a caller’s questions?
  5. How do you handle after-hours calls?

Often the firm that’s the quickest to return a call wins the case. Other cases are won by the intake representatives who are the most creative when examining a caller’s legal needs—ones that might not initially fit into a firm’s “box” of services. Sometimes it’s the offices that have a strict policy about multiple follow-up calls that ultimately win the business.

Remember, intake is not about you. It’s about the caller—a busy person who has a life. And work. And kids. And can’t always carve out the time to return your call within 24 hours. That doesn’t mean your firm should give up trying.

If you want to increase your case load and ensure your advertising efforts have legs, start thinking more strategically about answering the call. You might find that a little fine-tuning can go a long way.