The pitfalls of blind trust: Navigating digital marketing agency reports

Posted by Sam Borrett, director of Legal Futures Associate Legmark

Borrett: Law firms need to provide data back to their agencies too

In the ever-evolving world of the legal sector, digital marketing stands as a beacon of modernity. Yet therein lurks a challenge – not every law firm boasts in-house digital marketing gurus.

It’s akin to navigating a ship in dense fog; without reliable instruments – you’re sailing blind. And here, the instrument in question often turns out to be agency reports. These are useful but not foolproof.

A double-edged sword

Agency reports, for many law firms, are the linchpins of understanding their digital presence. However, without a solid grasp of digital marketing fundamentals, or what exactly you’re supposed to be measuring, how do you know if they’re reliable as a performance metric?

For example, consider the case of a law firm that focused solely on website traffic as reported by their agency. Impressive numbers were shown month on month, but there was no corresponding uptick in client inquiries or case engagements.

The agency reports painted a rosy picture, but the reality was different – the traffic was not targeted, and the visitors were not potential clients. This is a classic case of misinterpreting data, a trap it is easy to fall into without proper understanding.

The misdirection game

Agencies, generally, aim to provide value. However, without the foundational knowledge of digital marketing, law firms may find themselves swayed by data that looks good on paper but doesn’t translate to real-world success.

Data, much like a shapeshifter, can be presented to highlight certain aspects while downplaying others.

The feedback loop

I don’t always blame agencies for this, though. Law firms are all too often guilty of not providing data back to the agency so they can refine and optimise their marketing activity. You might not even be getting that level of data as an in-house marketing team, based on what I’ve seen – even within top 200 law firms.

Unlike other sectors, such as e-commerce, where the full transaction and value takes place online and is visible to the digital marketer, with almost all legal services, the final ‘conversion’ happens offline.

This means that what digital marketers see as conversions are in fact simply enquiries and what you do in-house to turn that enquiry into a paying client is the actual conversion.

If you don’t feed back that offline conversion, the agency is working with only a part of the overall picture. And taking just a part of the data can very easily lead to incorrect assumptions.

Do agencies care?

I’ve seen very few marketing agencies working with law firms that have a real appreciation for and understanding of the nuances of the legal sector. Unless you’ve worked in-house, it can be difficult to appreciate the organised chaos and data silos that often exist in law firms.

From a practical business perspective, you need to make sure your marketing spend has a solid return on investment. This figure can vary depending on the nature of the work and it’s not just based on the agency’s performance.

For example, if you’re not optimising your onboarding, sales funnels and client journey, you’ll have what I call the ‘colander effect’ – leads and enquiries (potential clients) will be dropping out all over the place.

If your agency is not pestering you about this issue, then they either don’t understand it, or don’t care. Or maybe they used to pester you but never got any meaningful feedback and stopped asking.

A nudge towards independence

So, how do you determine what to measure? What metrics might make the difference? This is where a tool like the LegRank dashboard could offer a whisper of insight. An unbiased advisor, providing a different and independent perspective – alongside comparative data from thousands of other law firm websites.

The true north of digital marketing

The first step is understanding the basics of digital marketing – not to become an overnight expert, but to be able to discern the wheat from the chaff.

For instance, it’s crucial to know that high website traffic does not necessarily equate to high conversion rates. A firm might be getting thousands of visitors, but if they’re not the right audience, it can have a detrimental effect by generating useless and time-wasting enquiries.

Balancing act

Tools like the Legrank dashboard can play a supportive role. Think of it as having a reliable first mate, offering a different viewpoint but not dictating the course of your ship.

Striking the right balance is essential. Use agency reports but supplement them with your understanding and independent tools.

In conclusion

Blindly following agency reports is like trusting a GPS without looking at the road signs. Sure, it’s helpful but you need your own sense of direction. Arm yourself with knowledge, and independent data, and you’re on your way to making more informed decisions.

After all, in law, we thrive on evidence and informed judgement. Why should our approach to digital marketing be any different?

And if your agency isn’t already asking for data back from you on your internal conversions, then ask them why not.

If you’re part of the in-house marketing team and you’re not getting access to this critical management information, then send the board this article to read. Optimising the marketing activity based on internal conversion data will lead to a greater return on investment and improved profitability.


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