How to Take Control of Your Online Marketing Dollar

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Google is a multi-billion dollar company, and they want your money. Yellow books are reinventing themselves; they want your money. Website design and SEO firms are teeming; guess what? They want your money, too. The TV, radio and billboard salesmen are all vying for their share. And they all tell you that you have to be in their space.

So where should you really put your marketing dollars? What’s worth it? More importantly, what works?


Regardless of the marketing avenue, the end result needs to be business — enough business to justify the advertising spend. For the most part legal marketing is about lead generation. To take control or truly understand what you are getting for your marketing dollar you need to answer some fundamental questions:

  • What is an average case worth?
  • What am I willing to pay for that case?
  • How many leads do I need to sign up one case?

While this is no easy task, it is essential that you place an average value on a particular case type and what you are willing to pay to get that lead. Once you do this you can start to take control of your marketing spend.

It’s best if you can “reverse engineer” your return on investment (ROI). For instance, say you determine you are prepared to pay $1,000 for a converting DUI lead. You know that your website produces 5 emails and 10 calls a month for DUI and about 1 out of every 15 of those contacts converts. Since you pay $1,000 a month for your website, then you are probably doing okay on your ROI.

Coming to the above conclusion sounds easier than it is. You need to slice and dice your data in order to understand where your leads are coming from, which practice areas convert best and where to put your money to maximize your return on investment. You need to start by tracking everything. I would suggest a “silo” approach. First, separate your efforts by marketing stream. If you are putting up billboards, those billboards should have a dedicated phone number. Your website should have a different phone number than your paid search accounts and each should have their own email. Then you can start to track how many leads come in; what type of cases were secured; how many leads converted to actual cases and their value.

Internet marketing is all about tracking your leads and tracking what those leads cost. As you plan your firm’s marketing budget, be sure you have access to your reports. If you’re employing a company to take care of that for you, are they supplying you with adequate information? How do they track a lead, conversion rates, return on investment? The days of worrying only about “clicks,” “impressions” and “traffic” are over. Especially in regards to online marketing, the ability to track your dollar has become a reality. If that data is not being provided to you, you may want to start shopping for new marketing partners. Once you figure out your numbers, you know where you need to allocate your marketing dollars.

It’s your money and they want it. Make them earn it!

Troy Lightfield, of Attorney PPC, provides pay-per-click solutions for law firms.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arghmonkey/2323053026/)

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  • This is a great, quick overview on how to put a value on your marketing efforts. When we talk to new clients about our high performance marketing services, they are often turned off at first by having to pay a fee for a contact/click that doesn’t ultimately become a client. They change their mind, however, once they realize their monthly marketing fee is worth it when measured against their caseloads and thee fees they collect from new clients. At the end of the day, measuring ROI on marketing is not always immediate and value needs to be measured in success over time.

    I also like your idea of creating dedicated numbers for various marketing outlets. That is a simple, relatively low cost way to see what works and what doesn’t work.

    In addition measuring ROI on paid advertising, attorneys should pay attention to how much time they spend on “free” marketing platforms, such as social media, and how much their time is worth. Sometimes, they may find that it is more efficient to hire someone else to assist in social media marketing so they can focus on other aspects of business.

  • Functionally, I like the idea of using different numbers as one way to track results. As a practical matter, though, you want clients to remember your phone number, and the value of that number as a statistics tool will go down when existing clients start using it. Plus, if clients learn that number instead of your regular one, you commit yourself to maintaining that number over the long term, which can get expensive.

    It’s probably easier to just ask people what website they got your number from.

  • @Kevin Chern – I completely agree, there are very few things that are “free”. Time is money.
    @Sam Glover – Yes, tracking numbers can provide some challenges, but, asking people where they found you can prove unreliable. For instance, someone runs a search on Google and clicks on your paid listing that displays your “normal” firm phone number. They call and end up coming in. You ask where they got your phone number, they respond by saying they got it off your website. In some cases, visitors have no idea if they came in on an organic or paid listing within the SERPs. Thus, the originating source of the lead is lost.

    The inability to attribute leads to a marketing source is a VERY hot topic right now. That is why we recommend using a tracking number on landing pages. However, to your point, it isn’t a perfect solution.

    When meeting clients, make sure they get your business card, ask them to please use the number listed. This may help eliminate any confusion.

    • @ Glover and Lightfield – Multiple phone numbers would be very helpful in tracking leads, but I agree that maintaining multiple numbers is a logistical nightmare, particularly for a solo. I also gave up a long time ago on asking clients where they found my number, as non-referrals invariably respond “the internet” but don’t remember (or really care) where on the internet they found me. I try to be as efficient as possible with everything I do in my practice, including online marketing, but the best (admittedly inefficient) methodology of tracking online marketing ROI I can come up with is trial and error.

      • I love the idea of tracking phone numbers however, since Google’s Place Search update (and likely the upcoming updates related to local), having several different phone numbers tied to your firm MAY actually hurt your firm’s visibility for local search results.

        While I anticipate that Google will eventually provide a work-around for this issue, currently, multiple tracking numbers can hurt your local seo efforts.

  • Cliff Lange

    What are your thoughts on a paying $40 for a lead if you know it’s qualified but 2 other firms are also getting the same lead. It’s like the vendorseek model where you submit a request and all the vendors fights for your business. Is it worth it for a law firm or solo practitioner?

  • People who talk about this stuff all the time -like Troy, Kevin, and Sam- understand where the boundaries are in paying to develop leads, but the way Cliff phrased his comment makes me a little nervous. In most jurisdictions, lawyers can pay for advertising, pay for clicks, pay for click development, etc, but they cannot pay for specific client leads (which sounds an awful lot like referrals). Paying to join a service, such as Total Attorneys, may be permissible, but we should be careful not to give the many new solos, new lawyers, and law students who read Lawyerist the idea that they can pay for specific client contacts.

    • Cliff Lange

      I’m not familiar with Total Attorneys here in Nevada so I don’t know how they work. I was referring to a 3rd party sourcing the leads and then selling them, much like a referral service. Aren’t we all “paying” for leads to be generated somehow? How is this different? I don’t want this huge investment of a website, ppc, seo, etc when I can get the amount of leads that I want and grow at the rate that I want.

      • @cliff I have known of similar services. I guess if it passes bar muster you would then have to try and run the numbers.

        Out of the leads how many do you get before the other firms? 1 in 5?

        $40 x 5 = $200

        Out of the ones you do get, how many turn into a case? 1 in 10?

        $200 x 10 = $2000

        Just an example but you need to look at the larger picture and not just the $40. Just because it’s qualified doesn’t necessarily mean it will convert.

  • Not much of a surprise here but, Proposed NC Ethics Opinion Says Lawyers Can’t Ethically Offer Groupon Deals, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/proposed_n.c._ethics_opinions_says_lawyers_cant_ethically_offer_groupon_dea/