Posted by Bernadette Bennett, business development lead for the legal sector at Legal Futures Associate Moneypenny
Getting a good return on your investment is always business critical, but during uncertain times law firms must be sure that every single marketing activity is driving lead generation, supporting client engagement and protecting brand reputation.
We recently commissioned a survey of 250 senior legal decision-makers to explore how firms market themselves and manage new business. The results are eye-opening and confirm that now’s the time for firms to sharpen their approach.
Your staff are overstretched
The research revealed that 64% of firms are usually too busy to handle new enquiries and 28% consistently find themselves in this position. Some 40% don’t have a dedicated in-house marketing function and just under a fifth outsource their marketing provision, with a similar number of firms still sharing the function between other roles.
In the face of all this, calls to law firms have increased 34% compared to five years ago, which puts those lacking the resource to handle inbound communications properly at risk of mishandling opportunities or missing them altogether.
Quite simply, it’s pointless pumping budget into generating leads if no one has the time to handle them. It’s not only a waste of money – it also leads to lost revenue and damaged reputation.
Before spending anything, develop a clear plan that follows an enquiry from initial contact all the way through the sales funnel. This will identify where leads could potentially fall through the net and allow you to plug the gaps – either with extra staff or technology.
You’re not budgeting well
The legal sector is spending significantly more on marketing, with 94% investing more than they were five years ago. However, according to PwC and Gartner, the top 100 firms in the UK are spending between 1.5% and 2.1% of revenue on marketing, which is still well below an average across all sectors of 10.5%.
In the face of the pandemic especially, every penny of marketing spend is under scrutiny, so now may not be the time to pitch for extra budget. However, we can’t ignore the fact that for the vast majority of firms (87%), generating new business leads is getting harder.
Covid-19 is causing demand for legal services to fluctuate; some firms are swamped with enquiries while others are seeing significant drop-offs.
It’s never been more important to monitor data closely and use agile marketing to effectively manage leads through to sales conversion. Legal marketers must work dynamically and put budget where it’s guaranteed to work.
It’s become a cliché but we really are living in unprecedented times so approaching your budget planning in the same way you did pre-Covid will no longer cut it. Tune into the changing demands of your audience and make regular adjustments to your tactics as you need to. This will maximise your chances of capturing attention and getting prospects over the line.
Your systems are outdated
Virtually every firm surveyed said it would try new technology to drive more enquiries. Interestingly, 98% of firms reported receiving significantly more enquiries out of office hours and 60% admitted to relying on web forms to capture them. However, of the 17,000 legal websites in the UK, only 2.5% currently have live chat installed.
By adding live chat and outsourcing calls during ‘closed office’ hours, firms can maximise opportunities outside the 9-5.
The figures speak for themselves. Pre-lockdown, 35% of legal chats would result in a lead or new business. During lockdown, 65% resulted in a lead or new business as demand peaked in certain areas of law.
Some 41% of chats on average are a new enquiry and almost half take place out of office hours or at weekends.
When it comes to business development, larger firms typically have the advantage with the resources, systems and processes to maximise every new opportunity. Smaller firms have to work harder, with less and without a big-brand profile to rely on.
Many customer-care focused technologies such as telephone answering and live chat are helping to level the playing field – giving the small and large firms alike the tools to excel at lead capture and conversion.
Clever marketing is vital to stand out within the legal market and it can be extremely frustrating when efforts fail to generate an adequate return. If this is the case, take the time to step back, think strategically and really get to know your audience.
It’s a crucial exercise and one that will not only avoid wasted spend and tighten the sales funnel, but also enhance customer experience.