November 14, 2018 Articles

Four Tips for Making the Most of Your Business-Development Time

Many attorneys don’t know the best way to use business-development time or how to scale their efforts.

By Larry Bodine

Lawyers spend 33 percent of nonbillable hours on business development, according to a 2017 report by Clio, the legal practice–management software company, but many attorneys don’t know the best way to use this time or how to scale their efforts.

“[A] significant amount of time dedicated to business development involves one-on-one time with clients (30%), which can be time-consuming and inefficient. Instead, [attorneys] may want to invest in other activities,” such as the following:

  • Offering a variety of ways to get in touch with you
  • Making your website more engaging
  • Developing “lead magnets”
  • Using digital tools to boost referrals

Offering a Variety of Ways to Communicate

Attorneys usually have clients from different generations. Because clients from different generations often prefer different modes of communication, attorneys should offer a variety of ways for clients to get in touch with them.

Millennials, the largest living generation today, prefer to get in touch and work with law firms online, rather than on the phone. In several categories of client-lawyer communications, according to the Clio report, millennials are much more inclined than Americans in general to favor a technological option:

  • Text and email communications. 19% of millennials who have ever had a legal issue say that they’d rather text or email their lawyer than talk on the phone or face-to-face, compared to 14% of Americans [overall].
  • Document sharing. 30% of millennials say they’d prefer to use technology to share legal documents with their lawyer, compared to 23% of Americans [overall].
  • Online payments. 18% of millennials say they’d prefer to use PayPal or similar platforms to pay their lawyers, compared to 11% of Americans [overall].
  • Credit cards. 24% of millennials who have ever had a legal issue say they’d rather pay their lawyer by credit card than any other payment method, compared to 20% of Americans [overall].

“As the millennial generation grows older and comes to rely more on legal services, their expectations should determine how law firms seek their future clients,” notes the Clio report.

Making Your Website More Engaging

It’s a fact that more clients find attorneys online than from referrals, so tailoring your website around the expectations of potential clients will pay off with new business.

Attorneys should try to develop a few weighty, “blockbuster” pieces of content that their audience would find immensely valuable, as opposed to developing tons of meager, lightweight, barely interesting posts. Follow the model of Disney, which is not producing dozens of different movies, hoping that one of them is a hit; instead, the company is making really big bets on fewer and fewer films. Attorneys can find powerful topics in the questions that clients ask in-person and on the phone. Based on what they hear, attorneys should create high-quality, error-free writing; give how-to advice or instruction; and provide thought leadership. For more ideas, read 81% of Law Firm Marketers Will Produce More Content in 2017.

Keep your website clean and simple. Some attorney websites have way too many choices for visitors to make, including nine main navigation options with submenus below them, a list of half a dozen verdicts, 13 badges and awards, plus a list of 12 practice areas—all on the home page! Littering your website with as many interesting things you can think of will not engage people on your website. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. If people cannot find the information that they’re looking for quickly, they will feel overwhelmed and will bounce away.

Of course, in-person marketing is always effective, but it is one-to-one marketing. Online marketing is more effective because it is one-to-many.

Developing “Lead Magnets”

Offer website visitors bigger pieces of downloadable content—such as ebooks, white papers, checklists, and how-tos—to put a nice piece of valuable, branded content in your prospective clients’ hands. For example, LawLytics offers a free, downloadable PDF titled “SEO Basics for Lawyers,” which has proven very popular with attorneys.

Through this type of content, you can establish yourself as a true authority—that is, a thought leader. And having website visitors fill out a form to download your content provides a key opportunity to get your leads’ contact information immediately.

Using Digital Tools to Boost Referrals

Many attorneys say that referrals have given them the best return on investment over time. There are at least three digital tools that you can use to boost these referrals.

  • Utilize client email lists. Email marketing is an excellent way to maintain good relationships with former clients and stay in their field of awareness. By crafting regular email newsletters that keep former clients up-to-date with your firm and provide informative legal content, you are taking the right steps to stay on the minds of people with whom you have worked successfully in the past.

    Services such as MailChimp and Constant Contact allow attorneys to personalize emails sent to potential referral sources, by calling recipients by their first names. Attorneys can also segment their former clients into groups more likely to refer new leads. Has a recent personal injury client suffered from a particularly bad injury? Don’t be afraid to reach out to that client after his case has been handled successfully.

  • Foster your professional network through social media. There are plenty of firms that don’t handle a particular kind of case or client even though they sometimes get inquiries about those types of cases—so they pass that lead off to other attorneys or firms that can be of service. This makes fostering your professional network an excellent way to boost your referrals. And while attending industry events and physically meeting people will always have its place in networking, putting effort into networking online can be easier and just as effective.

    Become active in LinkedIn and Facebook groups made up of attorneys who either practice in the same market or in the same practice area. And once you’re active in those groups, don’t be afraid to reach out to the attorneys in those groups individually to strike up a professional relationship.

  • Add to the review and testimonial process. Generally speaking, clients are happy with their attorneys at the point when they’ve received compensation after a case has been handled successfully. This point in time is always a great opportunity to ask for reviews and testimonials from those clients, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to ask for referrals. While clients may not have a person in mind at the moment, make it clear that you’re happy to help anybody they might know who is in need of legal services.

    Use this time as an opportunity to make sure that your clients are following your social media pages and that they agree to have you contact them via email after their case has been handled. As with getting online reviews, the fundamental key to getting referrals is quite simple: you simply must ask. And if you want some online tools to help you manage the process, look into using BirdEye or ReputationStacker.

Conclusion

Attorneys will find that it is time well-spent to offer a variety of ways to get in touch with them, to make their website more engaging, to develop “lead magnets,” and to use digital tools to boost referrals. You have only so many hours to devote to business development—make them count.

Larry Bodine is a senior legal marketing strategist at LawLytics, where his focus is on law firm marketing and business generation.


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