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How to Adjust Your Legal Marketing Budget for Seasonal Fluctuations

Many law firms experience slow seasons and learn how to plan their business around them. However, they sometimes forget to adjust their marketing strategies to match. If your marketing tactics and budget don’t align with the cyclical nature of your practice, you may be wasting time and resources.

At LaFleur, we know you need different legal marketing strategies at different times of the year, and we understand how to use your budget to maximize results. In this article, we’ll give you a roadmap for building an effective marketing plan that accounts for seasonal changes in business.

Identify Your Busy Seasons for Client Intake

Some practices area, like tax law, have an inherent and obvious seasonal component. However, most law firms experience seasonal fluctuations in business. For example, research suggests that most people file for divorce in the early spring and fall, after families have wrapped up the holiday season or summer vacation.

Many lawyers also anecdotally report a summer lull. And some practice areas, like bankruptcy and debt collection, experience booms during a recession or when unemployment rates are high.

However, when we talk about your firm’s “busy season,” we’re not necessarily focusing on when you settle the most cases or bill the most hours. After all, even though many insurance companies rush to settle claims before the end of the year, your relationship with those clients and their claims probably started months or even years before. Instead, we’re interested in when your client intakes and conversions hit their highest rates.

If you don’t know when most potential clients are searching for legal representation, you’re missing an opportunity. Take a look at your intake data and ask yourself:

  • Are there certain times of the year when we consistently pull in more leads?
  • Can we identify any factors that might be causing these high-intake periods?
  • How much of our marketing budget do we spend during these high-intake times of year?
  • Where are our leads during peak times coming from?
  • How many of those leads do we convert into clients?

Hopefully, you can identify some of the triggers that lead to an influx of calls or an uncomfortably quiet office. Then, you can prepare for them and build a seasonal marketing plan around them.

Quiet Periods Give You Time for Goal-Setting and Website Improvements

During a boom, it’s hard to focus on website improvements and goal-setting — you’re too busy turning all those leads into clients! However, a seasonal lull offers a great opportunity to audit your website’s performance, evaluate site design issues, and identify improvements that will help you reach even more potential clients.

If it’s been a while since your law firm performed a keyword and competitor analysis, identified your best- and worst-performing pages and blogs, or evaluated your site’s loading speeds or usability, now is a great time to perform these essential tasks.

Then, based upon your findings, you can implement improvements, set marketing goals, and refine your year-round strategies.

Consider Incentives and Promotions During Quiet Times

A lot of marketing companies encourage lawyers to offer incentives or promotions during their quiet times. However, we think you should approach this strategy with caution.

First, free consultations are standard for some legal practice areas like personal injury, so there’s no way to get new clients in the door with a discount. Second, a poorly framed offer or incentive can damage your brand and value proposition. If you’ve marketed yourself as your city’s premier divorce practice and you specialize in property distribution for high net worth clients, then suddenly offering a bargain fee structure could undermine your brand.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s no way to create incentives for new and existing clients during slower periods. For example, if you’re an estate planning attorney, it may make sense to offer complimentary estate plan audits for both new and existing clients during a lull. These one-on-one meetings can strengthen your relationships, attract new leads, and convert those leads into clients.

Work on Community Building and Networking During Lulls

During your quiet season, you should take some time to improve your community outreach strategy, rethink your networking efforts, and build on your referral relationships. At LaFleur, we believe in the positive impact that community engagement has on marketing efforts. When you volunteer, offer scholarships, and engage with your community, you build goodwill and name recognition, all of which can lead to more referrals and conversions (not to mention good karma).

Start by considering your neighbors’ needs and how you can help. For example, years ago, when I was still working as an attorney, I realized a nearby community had unmet legal needs. While the city had robust programs for individuals with disabilities, it didn’t have a single attorney that focused on Social Security claims. Instead, residents with disabilities had to travel up to an hour to get high-quality representation, which many people couldn’t afford.

So, based on my urging, the law firm I worked with started collaborating with the community’s stakeholders, holding free Q&A sessions, and scheduling appointments in the local public library’s conference spaces. Within a matter of months, we had become the community’s go-to disability law firm.

During your quiet times, reconnect with your referral sources and meet with community members over coffee to ask them about the challenges they’re facing. Conversations like this can help you identify your city or region’s unmet needs and find a meaningful solution.

RELATED: Law Firm Experiences Impactful Increase in Conversion Rates

During Your Peak Season, Increase Your Paid Advertising

Most likely, your busy season matches up with the hectic periods of other law firms in your industry. So, during that same time, every one of your competitors is out there trying to wrangle every client possible. To compete, you need to target your ideal clients aggressively. Paid search and social media ads are a great way to reach them.

One 2014 study from Google found that paid advertising could result in an 80% increase in brand awareness. And business-to-business (B2B) paid advertising resulted in even higher growth. At LaFleur, we’ve found it most effective to use a multi-pronged approach that’s designed to build name recognition, promote informative content, and encourage conversions.

With paid advertising, you can push your law firm’s message to specific audiences based on their age, geographic location, interests, income, and many other factors. This degree of focus helps you communicate targeted messages to people who share characteristics with your most valuable leads and clients.

For example, banner-style display ads have relatively low click-through rates in the legal industry — 0.59%, according to WordStream. However, when you combine display ads with well-built paid search ads and social media campaigns, the cumulative effect of showing multiple ads to your most valuable potential clients can lead to much higher conversion and click-through rates.

RELATED: Creating and Optimizing an Effective PPC Campaign for Law Firms

Email Automation Can Streamline Client Communications

Automated emails can do much more than deliver monthly newsletters. You can build new client and drip campaigns that answer people’s most common questions and free up your team’s time for more pressing or high-skill tasks. This extra bandwidth becomes even more valuable during your peak season.

At LaFleur, we’re proud to be one of the few legal marketing agencies that is a SharpSpring Platinum Partner. Our email automation team can help you build seamless email campaigns that educate and empower your leads and clients without placing extra demands on your staff.

RELATED: How to Use Automation Tools to Improve Productivity, Sales, and More!

Produce Relevant Content Year-Round

Your digital marketing strategy should always include a strong content marketing component that emphasizes publishing high-quality content and nurturing early-stage leads. Research repeatedly shows that the long-term ROI on content marketing exceeds almost every other tactic. When you produce consistent, high-quality, and evergreen legal content, it will continue to attract readers month after month, year after year.

However, the one caveat is that content marketing rarely delivers instant results. But while paid campaigns can offer quick returns, a robust content strategy will build steam over time as search algorithms and readers discover your content. That’s why you need to write and publish original content on a consistent basis.

Help Maximize Your Marketing ROI With LaFleur

If you’re ready to strengthen your marketing strategies both in and out of your busy season, we’d love to hear from you. We’re committed to helping law firms improve their marketing strategies and understand their return on investment so they can make informed decisions. To learn more about our approach and get advice about strategies that can benefit your firm, complete our simple online contact form or call LaFleur at (888) 222-1512.

References

Bach, D. (2016, August 21). Is divorce seasonal? UW research shows biannual spike in divorce filings. University of Washington. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/news/2016/08/21/is-divorce-seasonal-uw-research-shows-biannual-spike-in-divorce-filings/

Content marketing ROI. (n.d.). Kapost / Eloqua. Retrieved from https://www.oracle.com/webfolder/mediaeloqua/documents/Content+Marketing+Kapost+Eloqua+ebook.pdf

Irvine, M. (2019, August 27). Google ads benchmarks for your industry. WordStream. Retrieved from https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/02/29/google-adwords-industry-benchmarks

Lam, B., & Verma, K. (2014, June). Search ads drive brand awareness. Think with Google. Retrieved from https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/search-ads-drive-drand-awareness.html

Best Practices for Tracking Digital Marketing Leads in the Legal Field 

Your law firm probably receives a lot of phone calls that seem like solid leads on the surface. After a brief conversation with a legal assistant or lawyer, the caller thanks you for the information, and you never hear from them again.

How many times does that happen to your firm each month? How many of those cases would you have accepted if the client had asked for legal representation? What went wrong?

Too frequently, lawyers have no idea, because they don’t track their leads or know who is browsing their website and social media profiles. Because they don’t even bother trying to collect the relevant data, they can easily lose clients to firms with well-established lead generation systems.

Change Your Perspective on Lead Generation

Law firms face unique marketing challenges due to state bar rules limiting a lawyer’s ability to solicit and generate leads. While you’re held to a higher standard than most professions, that doesn’t mean you can’t create a responsible and compelling digital marketing strategy.

Before you begin nurturing leads, you must consider the client journey (sometimes called the buyer’s journey or sales funnel). There are three primary stages in this process:

  1. Awareness: In this first stage, your potential clients realize they have a problem and start looking for information to guide them toward a solution. At this point, they might not even be looking for an attorney. Instead, they might be searching for information about auto liability insurance claims or stopping debt collection. While online, they find your firm’s site and benefit from its excellent, informative content.
  2. Consideration: Armed with new knowledge, the reader decides to initiate contact with your law firm to learn more about his or her claim and perhaps discuss how your firm operates and what you can offer. This might involve completing an online form, downloading an e-book or infographic, calling your office directly, or asking a general question on a social media platform. Once they’ve initiated contact, they become leads that you should add to a customer relationship management platform (CRM).
  3. Conversion: Your lead is ready to sign a retainer or fee agreement, initiating legal representation. Conversions are usually the result of a carefully crafted digital marketing strategy that includes tactics like paid advertising, remarketing, and email automation, as well as an effective lead scoring system.

You and your team should develop and distribute digital marketing materials that engage leads at every stage of the client journey. You should also track the efficacy of these materials using data analytics.

RELATED: Analyze This! Leveraging Analytics to Optimize Your Law Firm’s Content Marketing

Define Key Goals at Each Stage of the Client Journey

There are numerous metrics that gauge the success of your digital marketing presence. Rather than getting swept up in all the data, identify a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help you gauge lead generation and conversion performance. These might change over time depending on your user behavior, so establish an initial set of metrics and then update gradually.

At the Awareness stage, you might assess your performance on:

  • Organic traffic
  • Time on page/site
  • Unique and return user rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Click-through rates on paid advertising
  • Newsletter sends, opens, and clicks

Once you reach the Consideration phase, you should analyze:

  • Form fill rates
  • Landing page conversion rates
  • Scheduled appointments
  • Social media engagement

Finally, at the Conversion stage, you might gauge:

  • Cost of client acquisition
  • Average time for conversion
  • Client retention ratios
  • “No Call, No Show” rates for scheduled appointments

These metrics can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing plan, understand your return on investment, and spot trends in your market. They can also help you develop a useful and reliable lead scoring system that will encourage you and your team to focus on the most promising leads and gradually influence those at the beginning of the funnel.

Related: LaFleur Podcast — All Analytics Talk (Rise of the Machines)

Create Standardized Processes and Client Experiences That Nurture Leads

How does your law firm handle client and lead intakes? Do you have a standard system that tracks the source of every lead and conversion, or do your partners handle their own intakes on an ad hoc basis? At LaFleur, we believe consistency is always the best policy. 

We encourage law firms to implement:

  • Phone tracking to identify and catalogue lead sources
  • Concise and direct calls to action
  • Dedicated landing pages 
  • Google Analytics
  • Automation systems that facilitate consistent email campaigns and track key metrics
  • Integrated CRM systems that compile all your law firm’s lead generation data
  • Internal policies that align your administrative staff’s intake procedures with your brand to offer a consistent experience
  • Regularly scheduled assessments of your KPIs

If only part of your firm is collecting accurate data, you can’t calculate your marketing ROI or assess the efficacy of a particular campaign or platform.

RELATED: A Horse to Water: Evaluating Your Lead Generation Strategy

Understand Your Law Firm’s Capabilities

This probably all sounds great, but how does your law firm accomplish everything? The answer depends on your financial and technical resources.

There are flexible, easy-to-use CRM systems that help automate and track lead generation. (HubSpot offers a free version that could get you started on the right track.) In the right hands, these powerful tools can help identify, nurture, and convert leads into great clients.

While quality CRM platforms and automation software are usually affordable, most involve a modest monthly financial commitment. You will also need to use your available resources to implement these products and use them properly. If you need help with CRM implementation or utilization, we can help with that too.

If you’re not ready to purchase CRM software, you should consider other tools. You can track your basic website traffic with Google Analytics and other similar programs (KISSmetrics has an excellent platform). Once you have your KPIs, you can begin building and updating your own client and lead databases using basic spreadsheets or AirTable.

RELATED: (C’mon, Baby! Do the Automation!) Marketing Automation FAQs

Team With an Agency That Specializes in Legal Marketing

We understand most lawyers would rather focus on their legal practice and counseling clients than the nuances of their marketing plan. If you don’t have the time or inclination to build a comprehensive legal marketing strategy that generates, scores, nurtures, and tracks all incoming leads, LaFleur can help!

We provide original, comprehensive marketing services for law firms (and all business types). Our skilled and experienced team includes former lawyers, journalists, and professors who work together to develop compelling and accurate content, brilliant websites, effective paid advertising campaigns, and sound marketing automation solutions.

For more information about our services and approach, please call us at (888) 222-1512 or complete this brief online form.

 

What Is Native Advertising and How Does It Work?

While browsing your favorite website, you might encounter promoted or sponsored content. If you weren’t looking carefully, you probably couldn’t differentiate it from the site’s editorial content because the ads matched the site’s fit, feel, and messaging. This is native advertising.

In the right hands, native advertising can enrich a reader’s experience and increase brand awareness. At its worst, native ads alienate customers and erode trust. Before you begin a native ad campaign, make sure you understand the basics of responsible and effective native advertising.

Types of Native Advertising

Native advertising can appear in many forms, including editorial-style articles, videos, infographics, images, animation, game modules, and music playlists. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a digital marketing industry group, there are six types of online native ads:

  1. In-feed native ads: A story or ad placed in the publication’s normal editorial feed that contains relevant, targeted information and might link to offsite content. Many of these ads look like traditional editorial articles, but are designated as “promoted” or “sponsored content.”
  2. Paid search ads: Ads that are included in organic search results.
  3. Recommendation widgets: Ads or content that is delivered in a publication’s main editorial feed via a third-party widget. The widget uses an algorithm to recommend advertising content that reflects the reader’s interests.
  4. Promoted listings: Catalog or directory listings that fit seamlessly into the site’s user interface and look almost identical to other listings. The advertiser pays a fee for preferential placement of its listing.
  5. Standard ads with “native elements”: Standard advertising that is outside the editorial feed but placed in a specific location to maximize its contextual impact.
  6. Custom ads: Native advertisements are constantly adapting to new digital technologies and consumer preferences. Agencies sometimes build creative and customized ad solutions for their clients.

Each of these types of native advertising varies in format and level of integration. However, they all serve the same purpose: fostering brand engagement and cultivating leads.

How to Use Native Advertising Responsibly

We’ve all seen native ads that are less than forthcoming about their purpose. These poorly-crafted native ads damage the brand and the digital platform’s credibility. Business owners and editors need consumers to trust them. If your company or media platform is seen as unscrupulous or deceitful, you’ll lose users and leads.

In 2013, The Atlantic published an advertorial touting Scientology’s increasing membership. The sponsored post included unsubstantiated claims and did not reflect the typically high standards of The Atlantic’s editorial content. To make matters worse, the magazine censored the Scientology ad’s comments, erasing any criticisms. Facing significant backlash, The Atlantic pulled the post within 24 hours, issued a series of apologies, and revised their native advertising policies, but the damage was already done.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) specifically referred to The Atlantic incident in its 2015 native advertising guidelines. The FTC broadly defines deception in native advertising, including publishing truthful product claims but failing to make the ad’s promotional nature obvious. They also state that, whomever creates or publishes deceptive native ads, you are liable for any harm the ads cause. While the FTC does not mandate a disclosure for clearly promotional content, the commission emphasizes that “the watchword is transparency.” For this reason, it’s typically in your best interest to warn readers that your native content is a paid promotion.

How Your Business Can Use Native Advertising

Native advertising is a growing, multi-billion dollar industry. In 2016, about 56% of ad revenue was from native ads. By 2021, native advertising will bring in an estimated 74% of ad revenue. While consumers might gripe about native ads, they seem to work. According to Sharethrough, a native advertising firm, people are 52% more likely to look at a native ad than a banner ad. Additionally, ad-blocking software will eliminate banner ads, but it doesn’t impact native, in-feed advertising.

Step One: Identify Your Target Audience

Before you start sponsoring advertorials online, you need to have a well-developed brand identity and a strong understanding of your client or customer personas. The goal of native advertising is to subtly reach your core customer base, foster brand recognition, and convert leads.

At LaFleur, we love talking about client or customer personas. When you’re building a native ad campaign, these personas are particularly important. First, you need to identify a publication or media platform that will reach your target audience. Second, you need to create content that appeals to and educates your target audience. If you don’t know who your target client or customer is, you’ll simply waste time and money on ineffective native ads.

Step Two: Build a Native Advertising Plan That Maximizes Your Budget

Small businesses and law firms probably aren’t going to purchase ad space on a Conde Nast magazine cover. However, that doesn’t mean that your native ads won’t reach your target audience. You should run cost-benefit analyses on your options, including in-feed ads in regional and niche publications, recommendation widgets, social media platforms, paid listings and search ads.

Step Three: Deliver Cohesive and Compelling Content

A native ad should reflect the form and voice of the hosting publication. However, that’s not the end of the process. If your native ad links to additional content on a landing page or your website, there should be continuity between the hosting platform and these secondary pages. For example, if your native ad promised “easy estate planning tips” on a parenting blog, don’t link to a highly technical and lengthy discussion of your state’s probate processes. Instead, deliver relevant advice that mimics the conversational tone of the hosting blog.

Remember, the goal of your native ad (and the related content) is to engage your clients and leads, encourage them to return to your site for more information, and initiate contact with your firm. If your content is dry, boring, or poorly written, it won’t build trust or brand awareness — and it certainly won’t encourage a reader to follow through on your call to action.

Need Help Developing Quality Native Advertising? Contact LaFleur Marketing!

Digital marketing never stops adapting. While native advertising has existed for centuries, digital native ads are a remarkably powerful tool. At LaFleur, we work with law firms, healthcare organizations, and growing businesses, building comprehensive marketing strategies that include websites, social media, email campaigns, and native advertising. Please contact us by either calling 888-222-1512 or completing this brief online form to learn more.

References

Boland, M. (2016, June 14). Native ads will drive 74% of all ad revenue by 2021. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/the-native-ad-report-forecasts-2016-5

Federal Trade Commission (2015). Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_
statements/896923/151222deceptiveenforcement.pdf
.

The native advertising playbook (2013, December 4). Interactive Advertising Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.iab.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/IAB-Native-Advertising-Playbook2.pdf

Native ads vs. banner ads. Sharethrough. Retrieved from http://sharethrough.com/resources/in-feed-ads-vs-banner-ads/