What is the return on investment for legal marketing?
The biggest obstacle most have to answering these questions is an inability to understand the ROI of investing in their brand, writes Beyond Billables co-founder Maciek Motylinski.
I get it, you want to put a value on your investment. We like to walk clients through exactly what this bottom line value is, but the equation itself surprises most.
Big firms don’t have a problem with this. Ask someone who the leading technology law firm is in Australia and a big portion will say Gilbert & Tobin. This is not by accident. They have invested in their brand and created a brand that is known. They therefore attract literally millions of dollars of work because of their brand. Talk to a banking lawyer in London about who the biggest and best teams are and they will probably say A & O, Linklaters or Clifford Chance. Got a really complex problem? You call them. All of these firms have invested in building formidable brands for a long time and are good examples of what can be achieved. “The Magic Circle” is itself just a brand term, but that simple term has attracted some of the best and brightest lawyers from around the world.
Bringing this back to the micro level it’s clear that brand is important… but still no matter the evidence most business owners will simply ask “how much money will it make me today, next week, next year?”. While this is a massive oversimplification we thought we’d have a crack at telling you exactly how much and when each different part of the puzzle will make a difference to your business. This really is digital marketing for law firms 101.
What is ROI?
Maybe, for some of you, the ROI isn’t simply more clients through the door. For us, ROI incorporates increased profit, clients you actually want, and managing the growth of your firm with your personal ambitions. All work is not good work; ultimately, you standout for what you say no to as much as what you say yes to. For a lot of business owners they didn’t actually sign up for the long hours; they did it for the flexibility and control. So making sure your ROI is an accurate representation of what you really value as a return is an important first step.
So for our purposes…ROI = Increased profit or increased useful referrals or increased conversion from meetings or increased time doing other things you value … or whatever is important to you.
So how can each of your legal marketing efforts lead to increased ROI?
Ads on Google and Facebook only amount to short-term sugar hits
Advertising in all it’s forms is all about engaging with users who are actively searching, TODAY, for your service. This makes it incredibly valuable (and at times costly) but is only one part of your brand strategy.
We like to approach ads with a short term focus. Maybe for your firm investing in paid ads requires a return in the next 6 months (and it should). Say an average fee is $20,000 and you spend $10,000 a month on ads – you want to be returning at least two average fees. Investing $10,000 to make $40,000 is a pretty good deal as long as it is in the right and most profitable part of your business. An extra $30,000 for a property firm that only makes a 20 per cent return per new matter won’t, but if you’re a family law practice that makes $20,000 per matter then that is highly profitable and it makes sense.
Make sure your turnover maps back to profit and that your spend is focused on areas that will deliver on that.
Ads don’t just live by themselves though… and that is a big problem we find that people get really poor advice about. An ad won’t convert if the lead is bad, if the person is never followed up, if you don’t have great landing pages, give great content or create an offer that is worth the person engaging with. If you don’t have a great process in your firm for dealing with referrals or a solid conversion rate after the ad then no matter how great the creative, you won’t hit the profit point you’re after. That is the problem with “just doing ads” instead of having a holistic approach to each step which will ultimately affect your return.
Ads and content really are intrinsically tied to each other… and without quality content you are just pissing money away on campaigns that aren’t converting anywhere nearly as well as they could be (so you’re losing BIG chunks of $$).
Creating great content is all about getting people to listen to your message and view your brand as something that creates value for them.
A podcast or blog is a short term investment in your overall brand, medium term investment in your client acquisition, and long term investment in limiting your advertising spend. Short term you can get a huge amount of notice with great content that is valuable to your audience. We went from 0 to 15,000 website visits in 1 month off the back of great content.
Having your own podcast or writing content can get your brand in front of far more people than you can individually. One big reason we started a podcast was the realisation that someone listening for an hour was like someone sitting down with us for an hour… and if we could get 1,000 people a week doing that then we’d be massively duplicating ourselves and our business growth. Anyone can become a thought leader in their own niche with the right commitment and right quality of content. If you want to be known as the expert, the ROI can be relatively quick.
From a medium term perspective the ROI on your content is the SEO organic traffic that you can develop over time if you have the right SEO strategy. Organic over time = less ad spend = more profit. That is the dirty little secret of SEO. The thing is… it doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it is a 9–12 month play where you need to be consistent and create lots of content that is valuable to your reader. Using us as an example, we went from 0 organic traffic to 8500 search visits a month in a year (not from social, ads or newsletters etc). Do the math on how much we save on not having to pay for ads to attract that traffic.
Social media marketing
Social is all about eyeballs and engagement and it is absolutely FREE. Well, all except for your time/effort/design skills… but look it is free-er than anything that has ever been available to build your brand (if you invest in it). If you have a shop, you want foot traffic; for anyone in business this is a no-brainer.
The point is that it’s where everyone’s attention is and no matter what you personally think of Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn – if you’re not on there, you’re losing out. So many people think that just because they aren’t on social media that their consumers, clients or referral sources aren’t… but again that would be just a blatant cop-out to the reality of the numbers.
We’re not saying you have to do everything…but if you’re fair dinkum you probably will be.
If you take the time to apply these to your own business you’ll find you can work on a lot of basic marketing strategy alignment yourself.
Maciek Motylinski is the co-founder of Beyond Billables.