Stephen Fairley 2014-07-26 00:31:48
Paying for Leads: Should You Buy or Build? An attorney in one of my LinkedIn groups recently asked a question I’ve heard many times before: “I am curious whether anyone here has had luck with pay-per-lead generation agencies. I am looking to expand my bankruptcy department and am wondering what has worked well for others in the past.” There are several lead generation companies out there for attorneys with similar pay-perlead (PPL) business models in which you pay a fee for each lead. From Total Attorneys (quite possibly the original) to Nolo (may be the best one), to Lead Rival and LegalZoom. New ones pop up every month, but they all follow the same playbook. The PPL model started out in bankruptcy, but it has moved to other consumer practice areas. Some offer exclusive territories, while others send the same lead to two or three of your competitors at the same time, leaving it up to the individual firms to fight over the lead. These companies get their leads the same way thousands of tech savvy attorneys get theirs – through the Internet. They use a combination of Google pay-per-click and SEO to drive leads to a landing page where the lead signs up to “get more information from an attorney about their situation.” The company sells that lead to the participating members for anywhere from $10 to over $100 per lead, depending on the practice area and the specifics of the case. Bankruptcy leads are usually $10-$60; personal injury leads start at $20 and go over $100 for more serious injuries; divorce or family law are $20- $40; DUI/DWI leads are usually $50-$100; medical malpractice leads can be $20-$60; and mesothelioma leads are over $100. Some of these companies screen calls to ensure a higher quality contact, but the results are debatable; while others simply forward the contact information to the law firm. While this business practice (selling leads) may sound dubious, over a dozen State Bar ethics committees have deemed it acceptable. I'm sure some of you are asking right now, why would I buy leads? Common reasons I've heard include: I'm just getting my law firm started. I have a lot of overhead to pay for and I need more leads now. They can produce leads cheaper than I can. I can't compete on Google so I'm just paying for someone to do it for me. I don’t have time to waste waiting for my networking efforts to pay off. 7 KEYS TO IMPROVE YOUR LEAD CONVERSION There are some common characteristics among law firms who are successful in converting these purchased leads. If you are buying leads or are considering supplementing your marketing efforts, then you need to know these key points. 1. The leads must be geographically exclusive. It is difficult to convert PPL leads because many of them are price shopping or just looking for free information and almost all of them fill out multiple sites. It's twice as difficult if you are competing with another law firm who was sold the same lead! I would only recommend you get leads if you are the only one they are sent to. Here’s where it gets a little sticky – there are some unethical companies who buy their leads from a lead broker (usually at around $10-$15 per lead) who sells them to multiple PPL companies, then the PPL company sells them to your law firm on an “exclusive” basis. While they are technically exclusive in that the PPL company only sold the lead to you, the lead broker also sold it to another PPL company. Be sure you ask very pointed questions about where they get their leads. 2. You must have a dedicated intake specialist. No attorney or paralegal will go after a lead with the kind of persistence and dedication it takes to convert them. Referrals are easy to convert, paid leads are not. If you are not willing to hire a dedicated intake specialist and train them to go after these leads like a pit bull then I would reconsider paid leads. 3. There must be a sense of urgency when following up with the lead. Research by velocify.com indicates conversion rates drop precipitously if you fail to follow up within five minutes after the lead comes in. If you are going to use PPL, you must be faster than any of your competitors. These leads must be a priority. The same study found your lead conversion rate drops by half if your first follow up attempt goes from five to 10 minutes! 4. Your intake specialist must call them a minimum of seven-10 times before giving up. No, that is not a typo. If you want to convert these leads, you will have to work harder than anyone else. There should be three calls made the first day: one within five minutes, a second call within about an hour and the third by the end of the day. Two more calls should be made the next day, then two more the day after that, then ideally one per day for the next two-three days. 5. You need to send them three-five emails in addition to the phone calls. These emails should be educational in nature and subtly informing them of why they should call you and set-up an appointment. 6. You must track every single lead. How many of these leads turn into appointments? How many of your appointments show up? How many sign up at the initial consultation? How many sign up afterward? 7. Use lead conversion software. There are three components to a successful law firm: people, software and systems. You need the right people running a lead conversion software (this is completely different from practice management software) and following a precise system of intake and lead conversion. If you're unwilling to make these commitments, I recommend you stay away from buying leads as your conversion rate will be so low it won't give you a good ROI. The average consumer attorney only converts 5-15 percent of their leads into paying clients (out of 100 leads they sign up five-15 new clients). I have met many attorneys buying leads who are converting in the low single digits. If you use a systematic approach to lead conversion, including the principles I mentioned above, you can increase that to 25-35 percent. A SLOW RESPONSE WILL KILL YOUR LEAD CONVERSION A study on the lifespan of sales leads conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that leads contacted within one hour are seven times more likely to be converted than if the contact was two hours later – and 60 times more likely to be converted than if the contact was 24 hours later. Fast follow-up is a real stumbling block, especially for solos and small firms that usually rely on attorneys to return a call or email inquiry. This is the first mistake. Never have an attorney responsible for following up! You may want to, you may intend to, but it rarely happens because of your workload. So what to do? Automate the process! You simply cannot be consistently good at lead conversion unless you have a system and software in place that sends your prospect an immediate message responding to their inquiry and notifies your intake team to call the lead. Every contingency can be planned for in advance with an automated marketing follow up system. A prospect calls in, a staff member gets an email address, enters it into the system, and that person is immediately sent a series of emails. The emails can encourage them to set an appointment, educate them about your firm, include testimonials from other clients, offer a free consultation, or whatever you want to happen next. The same process can be put in place for leads that you capture through your website, blog or social media pages. You also implement a drip email campaign that guides your prospects along the path to becoming a client. If they miss their initial appointment, this triggers a series of emails encouraging them to reschedule. If they don’t sign with you after the initial meeting, another series of emails prods them to take that step. All of this can be done without any intervention by busy attorneys. 5 WAYS TO NURTURE YOUR LEADS Getting leads is only the beginning; it’s what you do to nurture them along the path to signing up with you that requires your careful attention. My experience in teaching lead conversion techniques over the last decade shows that you need to focus your messaging to prospects on these five areas: 1. Tell them what you can do for them. At the end of the day, clients are only interested in what you can do for them. Your job is to tell them what your service can do for them personally. The answer to this question must be one of the first things your clients see on your website and in your firm-wide communications. 2. Tell them what makes you different. For every service you provide there are many other attorneys who provide the same services. So what can a client get from you that they cannot get from anyone else? Perhaps it is your credibility or the creative way you bring solutions to your clients. Emphasize that point. 3. Tell them you understand their pain. The most effective way to ensure a lasting impact on your clients is to communicate with them on an emotional level. You must find their pain. What is it about their business, life, family, time or environment that is causing pain? Are they not working or getting far behind on their bills? Is their business growing too fast or too slow? Find their pain and communicate with them on an emotional level about how you can help heal their pain. 4. Tell them the benefits of working with you. Features are what your service does. Benefits are why your client needs your service. For every feature you have, you must tell your client the benefit. Is your firm better, faster, guaranteed or more personal? Will your service create more clients, decrease turnover or increase profit margins? These are all great features, but you must tell your clients how this benefits them specifically. 5. Tell them why it’s safe to hire you. Many of our clients work at small law firms that have services similar to those at larger, more established firms. Other than for a lower price, why should a potential client buy your service over the big firm’s service? While no one can predict the future of your firm, the savvy small firm recognizes the need to develop creative ways to reduce the risk of their clients in working with them. How could you lower the risk of your clients if they are concerned about working with a solo practitioner or a small law firm? If you want to learn more about how we do this, we offer a free marketing strategy session for qualified attorneys – simply email me and put “Free Strategy Session” in the subject line. Two-time international bestselling author, Stephen Fairley is CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, LLC, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in marketing and lead conversion for small to medium law firms. Over 10,000 attorneys nationwide have benefited from learning and implementing the proven Rainmaker Marketing System. Over the last 12 years, he has become a nationally recognized legal marketing expert and been named, “America’s Top Marketing Coach.” He has spoken numerous times for over 35 of the nation’s largest state and local bar associations and has a large virtual footprint with his highly successful Rainmaker legal marketing blog and has over 150,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. For more information, please visit www.TheRainmakerInstitute.com or call (888) 588-5891.
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