Law firms tend not to be very systematic when implementing a growth strategy. They’ll often just throw some money into SEO or Google Ads or radio ads or Avvo, and hope for the best. This does actually work a lot of the time, and it helps bring in more clients. But, marketing is a lot more effective when you collect detailed data and iterate your approach over time to maximize your ROI and conversion rate. This is the key to sustained profits and steady growth. In this post, we explain the concept of a “marketing funnel” in the context of a law firm, and explain how creating a more systematic approach to marketing and sales will help you grow your firm.
What Is A Marketing Funnel?
In online marketing, a funnel is the series of steps required to get visitors to your website, and then get those visitors to take a specific action once they’re on your website. This action could be making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, creating an account, filling out a form, watching a video, or anything else.
The reason it is called a “funnel” is because the number of visitors who actually complete each successive step gets smaller and smaller as they go through the process. The funnel is wide at the top, and it narrows down steadily toward the bottom, where the desired action is completed. This action counts as a “conversion.”
For example, if 1000 people land on your website, only 200 may visit your “contact us” page, and of those 200, only 50 might submit the contact form. This would yield a 5% conversion rate for this particular action.
The goal of marketing is naturally to make your conversion rate as high as possible. To do so, you will need a good system for measuring your conversion rate and tracking it over time, along with a strategy for optimizing your funnel to see how it affects the conversion rate.
You can apply the funnel concept to design and implement a marketing and sales cycle for any business, including a law firm. The steps will just be a little different along the way, depending on your end goal.
How to Design A Marketing Funnel for Your Law Firm
When it comes to designing a marketing funnel for a law firm, the desired action is really to get a new client to hire you. Phone calls, referrals, and website submissions are great, but they are merely steps in the funnel, not the actual end goal.
So to design a marketing funnel for a law firm, we have to think about all of the various lead generation channels and the different routes these leads can take toward becoming clients. It isn’t quite as simple as tracking the number of visitors vs. the number of actions on a website.
Below we provide an overview of how to build, measure, and optimize your marketing funnel to generate more leads, maximize your chances of converting them into clients, and grow your law firm.
First, you need to build the funnel. If your firm is already up and running, you technically already have some type of funnel in place. But at many firms, the funnel is not well structured. You should map it out in detail and create a consistent, repeatable process.
Here are the primary stages in a law firm marketing funnel:
At the top level of the funnel are your lead generation channels. Typically, it’s some combination of referrals, online marketing, and offline marketing. These channels are where the process begins.
Start by thinking about all the sources from which you acquire new leads. The steps that follow will probably be slightly different depending on the channel the lead comes from, so it’s important to properly segment your lead sources at the top of the funnel and have a distinct process for each channel.
At the top of the funnel, your objective should be one thing: to get people to contact you. You want to make the mouth of the funnel as big as possible and capture as many leads as you can.
This is especially important if you are spending money on marketing, because the more leads you generate per dollar, the lower your client acquisition cost will be, enabling you to maximize the ROI on your marketing spend.
If you are not spending money on marketing yet and you are just starting out with your law firm growth strategy, you should just focus on mastering the process with referrals first. You can always add paid marketing channels to your funnel later on once you’ve got a system working.
Nurturing & Qualification
Once you have captured a lead, the next step is to start communicating with the person and qualify them as a viable client.
If the lead calls you directly in response to a referral, you can start to establish a relationship pretty easily on that initial call. These are probably the hottest leads you can get because they are coming from a trusted source, and you’ve already got them on the phone.
If they contact you via email or another online method in response to a referral, it’s still a hot lead, but the best bet would be to respond via email and arrange an initial call. You generally want to tailor your response based on the method of contact – since this person clearly chose not to call you, it’s best to respond via the same method.
If a lead calls you in response to an advertisement, it’s likely a colder start to the relationship because they probably have not had any previous interactions with you or your firm, or anyone who knows you. These leads tend to require more nurturing to get them to convert. This is where drip marketing, content marketing, and follow up come into play.
If a cold lead contacts you through your website or another online channel such as Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Avvo, etc., you will also want to respond as quickly as possible. Promptness is the key with web leads, as they will quickly move on to the next firm if they don’t get a reply. Ideally you can even set up some type of auto-responder to let the person know you received their message and that you’ll be in touch as soon as possible.
The goal of this phase is to qualify the lead, build rapport, and collect some basic information about the person’s legal needs. You will also start to screen out the wrong clients at this point if you feel they are not a good fit for your practice or do not have a viable case.
Client Intake Process
We have written a lot about the importance of the client intake process in the past. It’s one of the major components of the law firm sales funnel, and handling it appropriately is critical when it comes to providing a good client experience.
Focus on creating good processes that keep the firm organized, and make life easy for your clients. Too many law firms have poor processes in place, or fail to accommodate clients’ needs, which results in unnecessary delays and lost revenue as people slip through the cracks.
The more structured your intake process is, the more efficient it will be, and the less likely clients will be to drop off.
We have covered client intake at length in other posts. Here are a few topics you should familiarize yourself with to get a better understanding of how to structure the intake process, and why it is so important in the sales funnel:
- Why to use online intake forms
- How to schedule automatic appointment reminders
- 4 things your client intake process is missing
- How to organize your intake process with the Lexicata matter pipeline
The final step of the process is retention, where the attorney client relationship is formalized. This usually consists of signing a fee agreement, and often an upfront payment, depending on the type of case.
It’s critical to make these steps as easy as possible on your clients, because they are among the biggest bottlenecks you will face in the funnel. The less seamless the experience is for clients, the less likely they will be to do it. It’s that simple.
When it comes to getting a fee agreement signed, you should do whatever necessary to help the client. Walk them through it in the office to help explain the meaning of everything, and if they don’t want to come in, let them e-sign it online while you explain it over the phone.
People are lazy, so you shouldn’t make them do extra work to hire you. Asking them to download a PDF, print it, read it, sign it, scan it, and email it back to you is a painful experience. This is a major bottleneck in the intake process, and the longer it takes them to do it, the less likely they will be to go through with it. You want to handle it quickly, and make it easy on them.
The same goes for payments. Nobody likes handing over their hard earned money. But when you make them write a check and drop it in the mail, then it really becomes challenging.
If you don’t already, you should offer the ability to pay online through a service like LawPay, which is the best online credit card processing solution for lawyers. That way, people can pay you from their iPhone while watching TV on their couch.
Once you have developed a funnel by mapping out the process from lead capture all the way up until retention for each type of marketing channel, the next step will be to start measuring your results to establish some baseline metrics.
Website Traffic & Website Submissions
If you are doing any kind of SEO/online marketing, or even if you aren’t but you still have a website that gets some traffic, you should be measuring this traffic.
Keep track of how many visitors you get per day, which pages they are visiting, what percentage of them are contacting you, and any other data points that might be interesting.
You can measure all of these data points quite easily with Google Analytics, which is free and very powerful. Here’s a post about how to install Google Analytics to help you get started.
Phone Calls & Lead Sources
You should be logging all calls from potential clients, and following these callers all the way through the funnel to determine if they end up retaining the firm. You should also be capturing the source of each caller.
Keep track of how many calls you get, how each caller found your law firm, and whether those calls were viable matters or not.
Many law firms use a spreadsheet for this, which we don’t really recommend, but it’s better than nothing. Ideally, you should implement a good CRM to track this information and make sure nothing is falling between the cracks.
Intake Process & Retention
For potential clients that make it past the lead nurturing and qualification stage, you should start tracking whether or not they end up retaining the firm, and if they don’t, do your best to determine where they fell off in the process, and why.
Is it after you send them a 20 page intake form to fill out? Is it pre-consultation or post-consultation? Is it after they’ve received the fee agreement or after you request them to make a retainer payment?
It won’t always be possible to determine why someone didn’t end up hiring you, but do your best to get a sense of it because it will help you with funnel optimization later.
With your funnel in place, and your metrics being tracked, the next part of the process is optimization. Essentially, this means finding ways to get more people all the way through the funnel.
Ideally, you can both generate more leads at the top of the funnel, and patch up any leaks to reduce the number of people that drop out at each step.
There aren’t exactly rules when it comes to optimization. It is very much a trial and error process:
- Come up with an idea about why a certain process isn’t working as well as it could be
- Try changing something about the process
- Compare your results to see if your metrics improved as a result of the change
Below are some general guidelines about funnel optimization for you to think about:
Generating More Leads
Obviously, ramping up your marketing budget is probably the best way to bring in more leads. You can also try these ways to generate more referrals, but referrals are not usually as predictable or reliable for growing your firm. The referrals will come naturally as a byproduct of doing good work, and making your clients happy.
If you are doing online marketing (which you should be if you’re looking to grow), making website improvements can really contribute to your funnel optimization efforts.
This is a huge topic in and of itself, but here are some posts to read:
- How to boost conversions on your law firm website
- 7 pages every law firm website needs
- A modern web design guide for law firms
- 6 common mistakes made on law firm websites
The goal of optimization is obviously to get more website visitors, and to increase the likelihood that they contact you. Each post above has some useful tips to help with that.
This is one of the biggest areas where most law firms can optimize their funnels. Many firms aren’t doing any type of lead nurturing at all. Just because a lead is cold and isn’t ready to hire immediately, that doesn’t mean they won’t be ready soon. You want to continue engaging with these people and stay top of mind.
You should be following up with them to see if they have any questions, providing them with articles/blogs/other content relevant to their situation, sending out email newsletters, etc. This helps to establish your credibility, and helps the client better understand the benefits of legal representation.
Check out these posts for more info:
- Benefits of drip marketing for law firms
- Top 3 legal content marketing strategies
- How to start an email newsletter
These lead nurturing strategies can help a lot when it comes to keeping cold leads engaged and moving through the funnel. Test a few things out, and keep track of how the changes you made affect your baseline metrics.
Intake & Retention
When it comes to intake and retention optimization, the focus should be on increasing efficiency and making the process easier for your clients. Any unnecessary delays or burdens will give people more time to mull it over, and can increase the likelihood of them having second thoughts.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of benefits of providing online options for filling out intake forms, signing fee agreements, and making payments. These tend to be the most burdensome aspects of the entire funnel, so streamlining them can help boost your conversion rate significantly.
Marketing is much more effective when you use a data-driven approach where you can actually measure the impact of your efforts. But in order to do this, you first have to implement a structured, repeatable process for managing your entire marketing and sales cycle.
This is why developing a law firm marketing funnel and thoroughly mapping out the details is so useful. It gives you the structure needed to measure your baseline metrics and KPIs.
Analyzing those metrics over time will give you the insight necessary to learn what things are working and what areas need improvement, enabling you to optimize your funnel and drive greater ROI from your marketing budget.