For many law firms, there tends to be a direct line between growing the business and generating new leads. After all, new leads = new clients = growth.
That’s why many law firms invest in SEO, social media marketing and even billboards – because they want to be easily found (or remembered) by individuals in need of their legal help.
But what if I told you that generating new leads via marketing efforts may not actually be where you should start when attempting to grow your firm? That, instead, you possibly already have some of the leads you need to grow, but – for one reason or another – you’re missing them.
We call this intake self-sabotage, and it draws attention to the importance of how we actually deal with new leads, not so much in finding new leads – because sometimes, the push for generating new leads happens at the expense of not properly managing the leads (and clients) you already have. After all, a “lead” is a real person with a real legal need (as well as real fears and challenges associated with that need) – and they should always be your primary focus.
In this post, we’re going to examine five of the most common ways that law firms sabotage their intake processes, and – if you’re guilty of them – how to get your act together.
Common Causes of Intake Self-Sabotage
Cause 1: Handling Phone Calls Poorly and/or Unprofessionally.
This one’s dear to our hearts. On multiple occasions, we’ve called law firm offices only to be answered with a basic “Hello, law firm.” Thank you, Captain Obvious.
Even worse, the person handling these calls often comes across as being clearly distracted, bored or otherwise disengaged as the intake process progresses. Potential clients need to know from the start that they’re speaking with a member of a law team that cares about what they’re going through and can aggressively stand up for their rights. Lacking that level of compassion and professionalism, many of your potential clients will just keep looking until they find someone who cares about what they are doing.
Not to be cliche about it, but when a client calls your office, it’s the first actual human-to-human interaction they have with your firm. Even if you have the greatest website ever, a stellar social media presence, loads of accolades, testimonials, badges – if someone answers that phone like they’d rather be managing their cuticles, it can sabotage all of the good work you did to get them interested in your firm in the first place.
Instead, leverage the power of that initial conversation, and establish a real connection with your prospects. Nothing done online can substitute for making a strong, compassionate first impression in person with prospective clients.
But, hopefully and ideally, answering the phone isn’t your job anyway. It’s really not possible for most attorneys to focus throughout their days when they’re constantly being riddled with meetings, cases, court, and trying to take calls and qualify leads on top. So, if possible, hire someone to do nothing but take calls, qualify leads and manage your intake processes.
In many ways, the individual that handles these calls plays the most important role to growing your business, so hiring or training a professional is a must. It shouldn’t just be tacked on to the responsibilities of an assistant or paralegal, who already have responsibilities and haven’t been trained for intake management.
If you’re serious about growing your firm, it’s that important. But, if this isn’t feasible for you, at least make sure to always handle calls from potential clients pleasantly, compassionately, and with a personal touch. It’s such a small thing that can make such a huge difference to incoming leads.
Cause 2: Losing Prospects in the Mix.
It’s surprising how easy it can be. It’s possible you don’t even realize it. After all, it’s not as if your market isn’t competitive, and prospects don’t have other options if you don’t return their call pretty quickly. Leads aren’t going to badger you for a response, reminding you of their request – at least the sane ones.
So, if someone at your office is taking calls and scribbling down numbers, with notes being passed around like it’s 1995, it’s possible you’re totally missing some promising prospects simply because your modus operandi is outdated.
If you haven’t implemented CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software into your firm, now’s the time to get on board. Not just Case Management Software (like Clio), that helps you deal with existing clients, but software that’s designed specifically to aid with intakes.
Even if you run a solo practice, and it seems like you can keep everything straight in your noggin, remember that it can be surprising how incorrect our assumptions about such things can be.
These platforms not only help you keep your leads straight and prioritized, but they also give you data to help understand where your leads are coming from, providing you with some actionable information for improvements to make.
Which brings us to…
Cause 3: Not Capturing Information or Compiling Data
There’s no denying it, we’re living in an increasingly data-driven world. It’s incredible to think about, really – everything from the success of companies like Google and Facebook, to the popularization of (and scandals involving) the NSA, all of it comes back to data. What we can – and do – know about people, and who has access to that information.
Well, it’s time to get on board! Though it may seem a bit mundane at times, compiling and analyzing data can really make a positive impact when used properly and consistently over time.
With a good CRM, this is much easier. You can understand some key things about your business, along with establishing some important baselines for how to grow. From forms to pie charts to automated reminders, they provide a variety tools that can really help you step up your game.
At the same time, they only really work when you actually gather the information. You need to have seriously good client intake forms that gather key pieces of data, which you can integrate into your CRM. (Some CRMs, like Lexicata, actually offer intake software and CRM software packaged together, which makes things even easier on your end.)
Cause 4: Making Assumptions About Lead Quality
Having preconceptions and learned generalities that influence how we perceive people is an unavoidable part of being human. Our ability to recognize and establish patterns saves our conscious minds from a tremendous amount of overload.
But what’s good for our conscious minds isn’t necessarily what’s good for our business.
Someone might call your firm and seem like a complete waste of time, as likely of winning a case as the Unabomber. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a winnable case, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t have a legitimate need, even if you feel 99% certain.
Again, this is why having a staffer dedicated solely to intakes is so important. When you’re in the middle of a hectic day, it’s incredibly difficult – if not impossible – for you to treat every single new lead with the time, respect, and attention they deserve.
At the same time, it’s really important that you have a thorough, sound strategy for how your firm’s intake process works. It should be formalized and intentional, and your employees and partners should all have a unified understanding of how leads are qualified, followed up with, managed and documented.
Sometimes things get so busy that it’s hard to follow up with everyone in a certain amount of time, and everyone should know what to do in unusual situations to ensure that quality leads don’t fall through the cracks.
Cause 5: Not Following Up with Pending Cases
We can relate a lot on this final one. Before we wised up, that is.
At times, we’d be hard at work on a client’s marketing materials — building their website, writing their content, implementing SEO – and, to our astonishment, receive a frustrated message from the client, saying that they didn’t know what was going on with their campaign.
As it turns out, we had become so focused on the marketing work that we had neglected some of the people work. (Which, by the way, is why all of our clients have a dedicated Account Manager now.)
But enough about us – the same could be true of some of your new clients. It’s a difficult time in the relationship, when trust is just being built, and it’s important to understand what they’re experiencing so that you can meet their needs.
Also, this could be really relevant for cultivating your brand and, ultimately, growing your business. If an existing client has a bad experience with your firm, most of them won’t think twice about telling everyone who asks (and many who don’t) about how terrible you were. And that’s something that no amount of marketing dollars can fix.
But, of course, the other side to that is that the inverse is also true. And it should be leveraged in your favor.
Looking For New Ways to Generate Leads Online?
If you’d like to speak with us about your law firm’s marketing efforts, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We take a unique approach for each firm that we partner with, focusing on strategy, data, and getting our clients a killer bang for their buck. We know what it takes to be successful online, and we have the ability to turn that knowledge into deliberate, effective action.
If you’d like to talk to a legal marketing strategist at Black Fin about your law firm’s digital presence, give us a call or fill out our online contact form today.