When it comes to business development, small firms are still often largely reliant upon traditional techniques. According to the 2022 Bellwether report from LexisNexis, most small firms consider the most effective method of generating leads to be through referrals, closely followed by cross-selling and upselling. But by sticking to existing strategies, are firms neglecting a potential goldmine of online opportunities?
Our survey found that the second biggest challenge facing small firms is attracting new business. But as members of a naturally cautious profession, legal practitioners prefer to rely on tried and tested techniques of acquiring new work, so many small firms are reluctant to spend any significant marketing budget on relatively new online methods.
One respondent to the Bellwether report summarised this risk-averse way of thinking thus: “Our conversion rate on referrals is 80%. Our conversion rate on Google advertising website enquiries is under 20% - so you can imagine it’s not time-effective or cost-effective to be sifting through those enquiries really.”
Even websites - which most law firms have had for at least a couple decades - are often regarded as little more than a shop window: “The website is seen more as a means of verification of our credentials as it were. A lot of our work comes in, as it does for many lawyers I'm sure, through referrals and recommendations and word of mouth.”
So there’s clearly an uphill struggle for many firms to make the transition to online lead generation. However, as we will explore below, there are some significant advantages to taking the plunge.
Let’s consider a few of the key online lead generation methods which can be used by smaller firms, for minimal effort and expenditure:
New blogs and articles about areas of law relevant to their clients can help a law firm attract more visitors to its website, some of whom eventually convert to clients. Either lawyers can write the content themselves - or this can be contracted out to a legal copywriter. Creating more relevant content for the website also improves its overall ranking on Google search results - and this is a lot cheaper in the long-run than spending money on advertising.
According to the Bellwether report, only 22% of small firms have implemented a social media strategy, but about 33% are planning to develop one. This is a contentious area which some firms may prefer to avoid, due to its relatively anarchic nature. However, the legal sector is increasingly making use of social media channels, and small firms can connect directly to a large cache of potential clients - often for free. It’s a particularly good source of private client leads - especially in areas such as family law and personal injury. But although firms can build up a good reputation on social media, it’s also easy for a single disgruntled client to create large waves, so social media channels need to be closely monitored.
Staying in touch with existing and former clients by email may seem relatively old-fashioned, but it’s one of the most effective online marketing strategies for extracting new business from the existing goldmine of a client contact database. A circular can be easily set up using free or low-cost email marketing software, but it’s important to ensure that at least one part of the email pertains to the relevant legal areas of interest of each client.
Take a look at our Bellwether 2022 report to find out more the challenges facing small firms and potential solutions.
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