Law firms are businesses. Of course, attorneys and firms provide highly specialized services to their clients, and are bound by unique professional and ethical codes. Nonetheless, like any other business, firms need to ‘keep the lights on’. Which means that partners and managing attorneys need to strategize about how to continually generate new leads and clients.
Successful firms have carefully-implemented marketing strategies, and don’t think of ‘marketing’ or ‘sales’ as ‘dirty words’ unfit for the rarified legal profession. Ultimately, a marketing strategy is simply a way to get your value proposition in front of a target audience. In this article, you will find an overview of key concepts in modern marketing and how you can use them to generate new business for your firm.
Decoding Sales and Marketing Language: Funnels, Pipelines, Intake, And Onboarding
Like the legal field and many other specialized industries, the marketing world has its own language and jargon, which may be unfamiliar and intimidating to outsiders. However, the basic concepts are pretty simple once you understand the terms. Here’s a quick guide to sales and marketing speak for law firms:
- Funnel: A ‘sales funnel’ is the process by which a large number of potential leads becomes an inevitably smaller number of ‘converted’ clients or customers. When an individual or business comes across your firm in their search for an attorney, they enter the wide opening; if and when they emerge from the smaller opening, they’re a client. The funnel is a simple visual metaphor that illustrates two key points about any sales process, including your firm’s acquisition of new clients: 1) Not everyone who finds out about your law firm becomes a client; 2) The further someone gets in the process— in other words, the deeper into the funnel— the more likely they are to emerge as a revenue-generating client.
- Pipeline: A ‘pipeline’ denotes the steps your firm takes to convert leads into clients— in other words, the actions you take to get leads from the top of the funnel to the bottom. Firms need a steady pipeline of potential clients to prosper and grow, because most clients’ needs are intermittent, and they come and go. Even if your firm has ample work right now from existing clients, that might not be the case in a few months or a year. One of the keys to building, growing, and maintaining a successful law firm is keeping a steady pipeline of potential clients, and this requires a proactive approach to ‘closing the deal’. Remember that progressing through the funnel takes time, and only a fraction of leads are converted. A solid pipeline strategy can increase and hasten your conversion rate.
- Intake: A solid intake procedure is an important element of your pipeline. When a lead becomes aware of your firm and is considering hiring you, you need to provide a seamless method for them to learn more about why you’re the best choice among the other firms they may be considering. Otherwise, one of your competitors will convert them before you can! Client intake can be a challenge for any firm; it’s time-consuming, and often wholly or partially un-billable. You want to design an efficient process that includes securing a potential client’s contact information, pre-screening them to ensure that they are a reasonably good match, running checks for conflicts, scheduling more comprehensive consultation, and presenting a fee agreement for them to sign.
- Onboarding: Onboarding is the final step of bringing in a new client. Getting leads and guiding potential clients through the pipeline you’ve devised is challenging. You don’t want to lose them due to a problem or miscommunication just as they’re finally through the door.
Funnels, pipelines, sales intake, and onboarding play key roles in the success of virtually any modern law firm. Ultimately, these are simply terms that describe the pathway from generating leads to bringing a new client into your firm so that you can begin billable legal work. Too often, firms take an ad hoc approach to this process. Law firms that develop well-crafted marketing and sales methods will be in the best position to grow their client list.
Law Firms Need a Comprehensive Marketing Strategy To Compete
According to data cited by Statista, the American legal industry is worth more than $350 billion annually as of 2021, and continues to grow. There are lots of opportunities for legal service providers, but it’s also a hyper-competitive field. The battle for clients is real. Firms ranging from BigLaw to solo practitioners need to devise a smart strategy to attract and obtain new clients. Elements of this strategy could include:
- Content Creation: Content creation has become a proven legal marketing tool which can bring in significant return-on-investment (ROI) to your firm. That’s because providing knowledgeable and useful legal content online is a great way to get your brand and your professional expertise out there without overtly ‘selling’ your service.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The internet is now the most common way that people and businesses find the legal services they need. Is your firm well-placed in Google and other online search platforms? If not, your search engine optimization (SEO) needs work. Proper SEO remains the single most effective technique to boost traffic to your website, thereby generating leads.
- Direct Advertising (PPC and More): Some firms may benefit from direct advertising, especially if they’re in a specific legal niche. For example, you may want to explore a pay per click (PPC) strategy that targets your paid advertising towards users whose online browsing and search history suggests potential interest in your services.
- Professional Connections: The traditional ways of getting your law firm’s name out there are still valuable. Professional connections, referrals from satisfied clients, and community involvement still matter. Make sure your firm has the structure in place to take advantage of your good name and reputation.