Web sites *DO* bring in new business

I was at the PM Forum kickoff reception in New York yesterday, talking to Robert Algeri of Great Jakes Web Site & Design, and he reminded me of the following facts:

1) 73% of law firms acknowledge having generated new clients whose first awareness of their firm was through its website. --"Web-savvy Law Firms Get New Business from the Web" by Hank Brigman, Legal Marketing Technology, August 5, 2003

2) In recent studies, in-house counsel say that they turn to websites twice as often as printed marketing materials when selecting a law firm. --"Managing Outside Counsel Survey Report," ACCA/Serengeti, 2003

3) 38% of in-house counsel search the web at least once a week in search of outside counsel. -- "Best Practices in Legal Marketing: Effective Use of Web Sites," Touchpoint Metrics, Summer 2003

4) When selecting outside law firms, general counsel say that a poor website is a reason some law firms aren't considered at all. -- John Remsen's Managing Partner Forum, October 2002

I can affirm that this is all true. The only printed marketing materials I have are my business cards. The rest is online -- in Web sites, an e-Newsletter, Blog and Listservs. When I get a call from a firm that wishes to hire me as a consultant, I always ask how they found me. Invariably, the answer is, "I looked you up on the Internet."

Is your Web site bringing in business for you?


Get Ready for the Recovery

The economic recovery has arrived for law firms, and it's starting in New York, according to management consultant Ward Bower, an attorney who is a principal of Altman Weil, Inc. I just heard Ward speak the National Client Advisory Board meeting sponsored by Pitney Bowes Management Systems in Williamsburg, VA.

According to Ward, the recession lasted only two months in 2001 but law firms didn't recover during 2003. In the meantime there were a spate of mergers and law firm failures (more on that in a second). Here's what's coming up:

  • 59% of corporations plan to fire their outside law firm in 2004, according to a new A&W survey. The reason? No, it's not fees, it's because of bad cost management.
  • Bad news: law firms are going to cut overhead, which includes associate and staff salaries and benefits. It's because the associates got those monster pay raises in 1999. To save on costs, law firms will be giving out tiny raises and telling employees to pay more for health insurance.
  • Because of the glut of lawyers (1.1 million at last count), competitive intelligence is more important now than ever. Ward has been busy mapping the business landscape for law firm clients so they can see where they stand.
  • Law firms are actually stating to hire professional sales people, to identify specific targets and set up meetings with them. If you're a reader of the LawMarketing Portal, you've know about this for a while; the site has an entire section devoted to sales.
  • Law firms are expanding into new cities, not because there are any economies of scale, but because it's a way to find more revenue. Also, being an out-of-town firm gives the local office an immediate distinction.

    Look at this list of firms that merged in the last 12 months:

    1. Seyfarth Shaw acquires D'Ancona & Pflaum
    2. Ropes & Gray acquires Reboul MacMurray
    3. Heller Ehrman acquires the Venture Law Group
    4. Bingham McCutchen acquires Riordan McKinzie
    5. Jones day acquires Gouldens in London
    6. Reed Smith acquires Crosby Heafey
    7. Blank Rome acquires Dyer Ellis
    8. Wilmer Cutler merges with Hale & Dorr

    Why do they merge? For the money. The average merged law firm showed increased profitability of 11% after the merger, according to Ward.

    The list of failed law firms is a lot shorter: Altheimer & Gray, Arter & Hadden and Peterson & Ross. Ward predicts that there will be more closures among the AmLaw 200 in 2004 and he has two firms he's got in mind (but he isn't telling). He also noted that there are 108 US law firms in London now, but fewer than two dozen are profitable. A London office is a huge investment, producing a small return for more law firms.

  • It's hard to get an email through these days

    What with all the SPAM filters, firewalls, anti-virus software and corporate paranoia about getting a virus, it's really hard for marketers to get a legitimate e-mail newsletter delivered these days. I spoke at the Seatle Legal Marketing Associaton chapter on "E-Marketing in the world of SPAM."

    The Wall Street Journal gave the example of the guy who applied for a job, noting he graduated "magna cum laude." His email was rejected for containing an obscenity. The stupid filter mistook "cum" as a porno word. Lots of people are using spam blockers, like the annoying Earthlink spamBlocker, which stops newsletters that people have requested to get.

    It's too bad, because research shows that sending an e-Newsletter is a highly effective marketing technique, and is among the top 10 things that clients want from their professional service firms.

    The good news is that marketers can maximize deliverability of their e-marketing, if they know the tricks:

  • Know what spam filters look for -- Avoid ALL CAPS or punctuation in subject line
  • Send simple messages - short text with URLs for detail
  • Personalize the message -- use software to personally address the message.
  • Send from an individual's email address - not info@lawfirm.com
  • Don't send BCC messages, spam filters consider this a hallmark of spam.
  • Use a service to send your E-newsletter. I recommend eLawMarketing, which has a feature called "Content Dectective," that score your email the way spam filters do. eLawMarketing will also send out your e-Newsletters in small batches of email, so as not to trigger volume filters.

    Here are some other things Spam filters look for:

  • Use of graphic images with little or no text
  • The message is larger than the recipient's limit
  • The message has an attachment (.pdf, .zip). These get deleted and stripped right off.
  • The background is in color
  • FrontPage used to create the message. Microsoft lards in all sorts of easy-to-spot proprietary code that is easy for filters to find.
  • Subject contains punctuation ( $ ! ? * / + )
  • Body or Subject uses voodoo words

    Here is a list of voodoo words that law firms use:

    Dear ....
    Not intended for residents of...
    Avoid bankruptcy
    Call now
    Toll-free prefix
    Limited time offer
    Full refund
    Save up to...
    Millions of dollars
    Urgent matter
    Potential earnings
    Free offer, free quote

    If you'd like me to give this lecture to your organization or group, please call me at 630.942.0977.

  • The personal touch

    VERY FEW PROFESSIONALS make the list of their clients' favorites, but the partner I was having lunch with did. He is an attorney at a major Chicago law firm where I had been the director of marketing for eight years. As was his style, he reached out to me and invited me to lunch just because wanted to see me. He had no other motive.

    Over salads and club soda, he mentioned he had made the All-Star List published by BTI Consulting Group of Boston, which is composed of attorneys who were specifically named by clients for their outstanding service. The "BTI Survey of Client Service Performance: The Client Service A-Team ranks" more than 200 law firms based on client rankings of the 17 key activities that drive client relationships. It's an incredible honor.

    It was easy to see why he made the list. I had always enjoyed working with him because of his ready smile, sincerity and appreciation of my efforts. Not only was he superb at his profession, be he also had an easy-going manner, asked me earnest questions about my work and listened to what I said. He even remembered the names of my family members. I enjoyed spending time with him.

    I asked him why he thought he made the All-Star List. He responded immediately, "It's the personal touch. That's what clients want." He told me how he spent time with clients, went bicycling with some of them, returned their calls promptly and always made himself available no matter what the hour. I know that if I ever run a company that has complex environmental enforcement and litigation matters -- I'm calling him.

    He also noted how his practice was thriving, he was billing tons of hours and he had all the business he could handle. This was no coincidence: if you as a professional can touch your clients personally and make an emotional connection, your clients will love you too. As they say, people like to do business with people they like.

    He picked up the tab, telling me with a smile that it was my turn next time. Then we walked to an espresso bar and got lattes, which he also paid for. I'm certain he's just like this with his clients -- marketing at its best.