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Legal Marketing Questions: Return on Investment

Aug 01, 2016 | by Stacey Burke | Marketing Services
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In the final quarter of 2015, I polled several lawyers whose opinions I respect to find out what marketing challenges they face and what marketing questions they would like answered. I compiled this information, and I hope to address the hottest issues on a repeated basis in my writing and speaking engagements for 2016. 

In 2015, Jim Perdue, Jr. and his law partner Don Kidd, transitioned their law firm website, social media, and online marketing program from “a vendor with whom we were highly dissatisfied” to a new integrated approach. Perdue is one of the most published and sought after speakers for trial lawyer topics spanning a broad spectrum of knowledge, including medical malpractice and mass tort litigation. Now that his firm has an updated digital presence that it owns and controls, Perdue would like to know where to spend his marketing dollars next. 

His question is, “I want someone in legal marketing to explain the return on investment for increased expenditures for online legal marketing. Why does spending more make a difference, and how does it do so? And in language a non-techie could understand.”

One of Florida’s most prominent law firms, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A., has an in-house marketing department, works with outsourced marketing providers, and the individual lawyers do their own business development. Shareholder Brenda S. Fulmer has created a strong pharmaceutical and medical device practice for herself across a distinguished 20-year career. She shared her concerns about finding the time to market as an attorney. She says, “The biggest challenge is for our attorneys to find the time to devote to marketing and then deciding where that time is best spent.”

She also asks, “How can we know if our firm's marketing is really working?  Which metrics are the most helpful?  How do you know the right amount to spend and where?” 

Stacey: The return on investment will vary based upon the type of marketing expenditure. For example, the ROI of social media involves key performance indicators such as reach, following, and engagement and the ROI for paid search advertising can include items like cost per impression, cost per click, and average position. The one thing all of these metrics have in common is that most lawyers don’t care for the phrasing. If you do not put any effort into your marketing, whether spending money on a campaign or manually blogging and social media marketing yourself, you will not see an increase in inbound leads. You have to spend money to make money, as they say.

What lawyers really want to know is how every dollar that the firm spends will translate into an increase in leads, clients, revenue, and cash flow. Your marketing vendors must track every inbound lead your expenditures generate and your law firm must set up internal processes to track lead quality and the conversion of leads into clients. To a “non-technie,” I would say that you need to know what your acquisition cost is per lead, per qualified lead, per signed client, per filed case, and your anticipated financial return. If you track all of these financial amounts across all of your expenditures, you will be able to make the optimal marketing choices for your law firm.

Some firms do spray and pray ROI – they recognize that they have to spend money on marketing and decide to get married to a chosen vendor. The firm then spends as much money as possible, usually making decent money in return, without asking for or receiving a true accounting of their ROI. The firm figures that if it is making decent money, the marketing must be working.

Sidebar stacey e burke About Stacey Burke

Stacey E. Burke is both an experienced trial lawyer and law firm business consultant. She works with lawyers and law firms around the world to improve their business development, marketing, and infrastructures.

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