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Evaluating your small firm’s marketing results

Solo and small-firm lawyers frequently hear how important marketing is to their success. But they often do not spend enough time evaluating the outcome of their marketing efforts.

To save time and money on fruitless efforts, experts recommend spending an hour or two each month tracking marketing results.

“There is more interest … at this time on what is the return on my investment,” says Sue Remley, a vice president at Jaffe PR in Washington, D.C. “People want to know results.”

Trey Ryder, a legal marketing consultant in Arizona, agrees.

Attorneys “have to do it,” he says. “In today’s marketplace, you don’t have a choice.”

Susan Van Dyke, a legal marketing consultant in Vancouver, British Columbia, urges her clients to start by establishing a measurable marketing plan. It can be as simple as deciding you want to bring in a new client each quarter, and then setting various tasks to achieve that goal, such as introductions, conversations and luncheons.

“No plan is engraved in stone,” Van Dyke says. “It requires a willingness to go back and revisit [or] recalibrate if necessary.”

When developing a plan, it’s essential to evaluate each attorney’s willingness to participate and the firm’s marketing budget, she says.

Pursue high-ROI efforts

Larry Bodine, a Chicago-based legal marketing consultant, advises solo and small-firm lawyers to launch only marketing efforts they can appraise.

“The starting point is: Don’t do something if there’s no way to measure the results,” he says. “So, right away, that eliminates PR, advertising, directories, billboards, radio and bus stop signs.”

Instead, Bodine suggests, pursue low-cost marketing efforts that can be easily measured, such as free listings in Google Local, Yelp.com and LinkedIn. Ask clients to provide recommendations on such sites, and don’t be shy about providing a few flattering paragraphs about yourself they can sign onto.

Another way to ensure you can later measure the return on your marketing investment is by sending out marketing materials that require a response, Ryder recommends.

For example, an e-mail newsletter from your office should contain links for prospective clients to contact you for additional information or to sign up for a seminar.

Art Italo, a legal marketing consultant in Smyrna, Ga., suggests establishing a benchmark for the average number of prospective client inquiries you receive each month. Then, whenever you launch a new marketing campaign, check if there’s an increase.

Also consider the quality of the leads that are coming in, Italo advises. Can the people who call afford to pay your retainer, and is the inquiry relevant to your practice area?

“If you’re a divorce lawyer and you’re getting corporate inquiries, they are not appropriate to your practice, so your marketing efforts are not bringing in the right kinds of leads,” he says.

Here are other tips for determining whether your marketing efforts are working:

Use inexpensive online technology to measure your marketing campaigns.

For $15, an account at Constantcontact.com will enable you to track how many people open e-mail alerts and e-newsletters and tell you what links they clicked on, Bodine says.

“If you send out an e-mail and you have three articles and you make the title of each of them a link, you can tell what people are interested in and you can find out who was interested in it,” Bodine says. “And these are all people who are leads.”

Conduct surveys before and after a marketing effort.

Remley recommends that law firms – regardless of size – conduct pre- and post-marketing surveys to measure outcomes.

If a firm wants to increase potential clients’ awareness of its tax expertise, for example, it could conduct an online or telephone survey in the community before a marketing campaign and then at the conclusion to determine if awareness has increased.

Track revenue spent on each marketing method.

“Most lawyers have the ability to figure out how much each client has paid them through their billing program,” Italo says. “They also, if they’re diligent, can ask each client where they heard about them. If you have a [referral] source and a dollar amount, it’s pretty easy to have a spreadsheet that shows how much you got paid in revenue per source and how much you spent on each [marketing] source, and then just divide one into the other.”

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