Big, Smart, Profitable: How to Leverage Data for Your Law Firm
A Brave New World
In the not-too-distant past, all it took for an attorney to build a large and profitable client roster was to run a successful, ethical practice while generating inbound referrals and quality word-of-mouth advertising from past and present clients.
While this remains an effective way to operate your firm, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to thrive in today’s competitive legal atmosphere without digging into the data to determine where your practice’s strengths and weaknesses lie, what your ideal client type is, and what the most effective marketing strategies for your firm and practice areas are.
Furthermore, failing to collect, analyze, and leverage relevant information from your digital marketing strategies and your daily operations limits your firm’s potential for growth, and it also adversely affects your revenue by directing your resources toward the wrong locations, practice areas, and demographics.
Now don’t get nervous: the sky isn’t falling (yet). There’s still time to adapt to this new paradigm, as the legal industry is surprisingly one of the last to hop aboard the data train. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard or a mathlete to get caught up to speed, either. Analyzing and incorporating data really isn’t all that difficult if you have the right platforms and processes in place. From there, it all boils down to developing common-sense solutions to glaring inefficiencies. Read on to find out how.
The Tools of the Trade
Before you can begin to track data, you need to install the proper tools that will help you gather and organize it. The best place to start is with the granddaddy of them all: Google Analytics.
When installed properly on each of your web properties, Google Analytics allows you to track every bit (or byte, if you’d rather) of vital information, including site visitors, traffic sources, and bounce rate, among dozens of other helpful metrics. This information can then be segmented according to demographics, technology, behavior, date of first visit, time of day, date ― the list goes on.
Once you’ve put effective and accurate tracking methods in place, you can alternate preferred reporting settings to get real-time information regarding your marketing campaigns. Click here to view an excellent series of tutorials on this subject, straight from Google themselves.
If your firm is running a paid search campaign — which you likely should be, if for no other reason than to protect yourselves from conquesting (which is when opposing firms capitalize on your name) — then you’ll want to sync your Google Analytics with Google AdWords. (You can now also track your Bing Ads campaigns in Google Analytics by installing Universal Event Tracking ― UET.)
As a standalone tool, the AdWords interface is a great resource to track clicks, impressions, and conversions. Without adding the Google Analytics component, though, you’ll lack access to other important metrics derived from paid search campaigns, including bounce rate, pages per visit, average visit duration, and percent of new visitors.
By using Google Analytics to determine which landing pages aren’t performing, you can either work to optimize those pages or delete them altogether and switch your emphasis to the areas where you’re achieving the most success. Even better, when you drop landing pages that aren’t working, you can transfer the search terms or display ads associated with them to landing pages that are performing. (However, be sure to update the verbiage of your advertisements and existing landing pages before undertaking any drastic changes to the campaign. Adding irrelevant or superfluous information can drastically influence your AdWords Quality Scores and Ad Ranks, so take the time to update your campaigns across the board ― from keyword creation to landing page copy.)
Lastly, you’ll want to take a long look at your competitors’ marketing efforts and stay up to date on industry trends and best practices. One great tool for keyword research ― for both organic SEO and paid search ― is the aptly-named SpyFu. This inexpensive resource allows you to peek behind the curtain and get a comprehensive understanding of how your competitors are approaching search.
Among other things, SpyFu allows you to view the keywords that competitors are bidding for in paid search, the keywords that are generating the most traffic to their websites, information regarding cost-per-click and search volume for their keywords, and projections for what they’re spending on their campaigns. By leveraging this data, you can create a robust and effective list of organic and paid keywords and also determine your firm’s keyword costs for successful campaigns in the future.
Data Mining: Clairvoyance and Client Acquisition
2016 saw the release of two great television programs that relied on the dual premises of clairvoyance and the supernatural to advance their complex narratives: Stranger Things and The OA. And maybe it’s because I recently binge-watched each of these in rapid succession that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how collecting quality data and then using that data to predict future outcomes has become something of a modern-day magic trick ― the sort of sleight of hand that can make even the most inept charlatan appear to be a powerful sorcerer to the untrained eye.
The truth is that this sort of predictive analytics isn’t magic at all; it’s based on nothing more than a willingness to set assumptions aside in favor of the story told by objective data. For instance, if you keep losing out on what initially seem to be promising leads, it’s probably not because of that rival attorney across town who’s vengefully poaching your clients because you received a higher score on your Mass Torts final in law school.
Or maybe it is. But you won’t know either way unless you are actually tracking the data. There are plenty of other explanations for why leads don’t consistently turn into clients: maybe your support staff isn’t following up with your leads in a timely (which really means immediate) fashion. Maybe your email drip campaign open rate is suffering from a precipitous decline that started with the hiring of your new freelance copywriter. Maybe your paid search campaign is receiving hundreds of clicks, only for those clicks to redirect to a broken landing page. Whatever the case might be, don’t automatically assume that a particular tactic is failing or succeeding because you see short-term plunges or spikes. The name of the game here is determining direct causation, not coincidental correlation.
By undertaking a thorough audit of your former clients within the last three to five years and cross-referencing that information with the profit (or loss, as the case may be) your firm leveraged from each client, along with the amount of time and resources that went toward achieving those profits, you can develop a data matrix that helps you ascertain exactly who you should be targeting with your marketing efforts. From there, it’s a matter of adopting the proper targeting strategies to achieve success and tracking the data (always tracking the data!) gleaned from your chosen strategies to build on your success.
Putting Data to Use When Practicing Law
In addition to lead generation and client acquisition, data continues to expand its impact on the actual practice of law. Still, many attorneys, even despite the high-tech tools available to them, tend to rely exclusively on their skill, experience, and intuition when practicing their craft. While these are no doubt valuable attributes, though, they simply aren’t enough in a modern context — especially when more lawyers are getting on board with data-driven tools every day.
Instead, you need to supplement these timeless skills with clear and objective information from automation and analytics tools that have been designed to optimize the legal profession. From case result projections to improved e-Discovery to client engagement, leveraging the data at your disposal streamlines work processes and improves not just your digital marketing results, but actual client outcomes as well.
For instance, many firms are now providing reporting to their clients in real-time via customer portals with individual logins and case profiles. This practice can benefit your firm in several ways, but the two that come immediately to mind are: 1) Such reporting increases client satisfaction by allowing clients to access the progress of their case and measure that progress against pre-established key performance indicators (KPIs) when they want; and 2) It decreases the amount of time and effort that you, your colleagues, and your support staff must expend reaching out to your clients to answer questions, inspire confidence, and quell an xiety. Clients appreciate the transparency and convenience of customer portals, and they free up your staff to focus on legal case work and lead follow-ups with prospective clients.
Emerging data technology can also assist the day-to-day legal operations at your firm through more efficient e-Discovery. Without assistance from technology, reviewing this massive amount of information (sometimes hundreds of gigabytes) can overwhelm you and exhaust valuable resources. Certain analytics tools, however, can scan the text and metadata of these digital documents to determine how often they have been viewed, updated, or redacted, as well as identifying the use of key words and phrases most relevant to the case in question ― possibly bringing out the importance of a document that you might have otherwise assumed to be inconsequential.
Ask yourself: Would you rather have your best paralegal or a bright and innovative associate attorney manually searching massive databases one query at a time, or would you like to automate this process with the use of content analytics capable of near-document grouping, concept searching, and assisted review? The answer is obvious: harnessing the power of big data in your daily operations drastically reduces wasted time, liberating your staff from tedious work so they can focus on the aspects of your caseload that truly require a subjective, human touch.
LaFleur: Data Is Our Middle Name
OK, so technically our middle name is “Legal,” but you get the gist. We predicate our marketing strategies on automation platforms that allow us to expedite and optimize our clients’ campaigns. At the same time, we track massive swaths of data, even while these platforms continue working to bring in new leads that subsequently become quality clients for your firm.
Additionally, we are committed to streamlining the daily operations of our clients’ firms, and we regularly consult with them to find new ways of improving their practice. Our thoughtful and well-researched suggestions have trimmed expenses and created new opportunities for many of our clients, and we thrive when working as a team with key stakeholders to uncover and execute sensible solutions to complex problems.
If this sounds like the type of marketing partner you’ve been looking for, we’d love the opportunity to speak with you. Please contact us by completing this brief form or by calling (888) 222-1512. We can’t wait to hear from you!
- Q&A with Chip LaFleur, President of LaFleur Legal Marketing
- Email Marketing: List Building and Growth
- What Good Is Data without Context
What does “Big Data” mean in terms of e-discovery? (2016, October 13). FindLaw. Retrieved from http://technology.findlaw.com/electronic-discovery/what-does-big-data-means-in-terms-of-ediscovery-.html
Steiner, D. (2016, April 28). Data analytics and your law firm. Law Technology Today. Retrieved from http://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2016/04/big-data-law-firm-data-analytics-influencing-cases/
Vallaeys, F. (2014, August 13). These 10 analytics reports will improve your AdWords results. SearchEngineLand. Retrieved from http://searchengineland.com/10-analytics-reports-will-improve-adwords-results-198918