Vendors, marketers, and consultants often advise law firms to incorporate more automation into their client intake and marketing processes. As you've heard, automation is a great way to improve efficiency, reduce staff time spent on administrative tasks, and make your team much more agile.
However, due to the sensitive nature of a legal practice, legal teams may be anxious about setting up systems that will make leads and prospective clients feel like cattle herded through a cold intake process. When a potential client visits your website, clicks an ad, or calls a law firm from a directory listing, they are most likely in a very vulnerable state in seeking your help.
But there are automated systems you can put in place that will make clients feel safe and guided by your team. The right messaging and empathetic intake staff can guide these leads through converting them into a client. Simply put, intake and marketing automation helps to make converting leads easier, explicitly referring to any digital marketing.
We'll highlight six ways to implement automation throughout the marketing and intake processes while maintaining the same level of customer service a potential client expects from your firm.
Law Firm Marketing Automation and Client Intake Process
Making the jump to automation can be a daunting task for any business. For law firms, it can be tough to let go of the manual management processes that have been in place for years.
However, with the right tools and approach, automation can make these processes more efficient and create a more personalized experience for clients. By taking the time to understand their firm's and client's needs, law firms can empower themselves to make the most of automation technologies and improve their business.
Struggling with Manual Management
The client intake process differs widely (and wildly) among law firms.
Some firms have their intake team siloed, answering calls and manually writing out information on client intake forms to hand over to a paralegal. Some firms use practice management software and have strung together an intake process but don't relate that information to marketing efforts. Some firms are staffed to only answer calls from 8:30 - 5 P.M. and have intake people follow up on any missed calls the next day.
No matter where your firm starts, there is always room for improvement regarding catching high-quality leads and cases.
The 2020 State of U.S. Small Law Firms found that only 27% of surveyed firms use Client Intake and 18% use a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), and 74% of firms aren't using any other technology to help unburden their practice. Yet, the top three priorities for the firms were to improve, upgrade more technology, increase marketing efforts, and cut overhead costs.
The cost of software investment and training staff can be a significant hurdle for law firms looking to automate their marketing and intake processes. When looking to put systems in place to track marketing and have a high-converting intake process, firms should consider the following tools: call-tracking and a CRM or intake management software. Ideally, you will also want a law practice management software that integrates with these tools.
Taking the Leap into Automation
Automation can provide law firms many benefits, such as increased efficiency, reduced staff time spent on repetitive tasks, and improved agility. Additionally, automating specific processes can improve the overall experience for potential clients by making law firms more responsive and efficient.
Examples of automation in law firms include online forms to collect information from potential new clients allowing legal staff to gather information without spending a long time on the phone.
Additionally, law firms can use online calendars to schedule appointments with potential clients. This saves time for law firm staff and allows potential clients to see available times and choose a time that works best for them.
Using Automation to Create a Personalized Experience
Automation can be a powerful tool for creating a personalized experience for your clients. Automating repetitive tasks can free your valuable time to focus on more important tasks. Using software to track client data, you can create a more personalized experience for each individual.
Take your time when setting up these processes. Start small and iterate over time. And don't forget to rely on human interaction as well. After all, automation should be about empowering you to provide a better experience for your clients, not replacing you entirely.
1. Custom Messaging on Landing Pages and Forms
Law firms need a marketing system that is both automated and human-touch friendly. To start, you need to take the time to customize your messaging for each type of client or case you handle.
Don't Do Advertising that You Can't Track
There's no point in spending money on advertising that can't be tracked. For one reason, advertising opportunities that cannot be tracked are typically non-specific ads. For example, a magazine ad may have branding and a phone number, but the messaging will not be specific to the potential client.
If you can't track the efforts, how do you know if it's performing at the expected level? Instead, focus your advertising efforts on channels that allow you to measure the results. Not only will you be able to track the results of your advertising, but you'll also be able to craft the funnel a potential client will take and see which ads are generating the most leads and conversions. This information is essential for deciding where to allocate your advertising budget.
By focusing your efforts on trackable channels, you'll be able to maximize the return on your investment, curate messaging, and ensure that your marketing dollars are well spent.
Hyper-Customize Landing Pages
Whether it's your law firm's website or dedicated ad landing pages, customizing your messaging is a great way to improve your conversion rates. For example, a landing page that discusses Prenuptial Agreements should be tailored to speak to the typical client.
Speaking of audiences and messaging, you don't need a marketing agency or dedicated marketing person to tell you who your audience is. Your intake team, legal staff, and you are the experts who most likely need Prenuptial Agreements for your local area. You can gather this information from past client experiences and intake calls.
By tailoring the messaging and call to action to specific demographics, you can ensure that your visitors are more likely to take the desired action. Take it further and include tailored social proof on your landing pages, like a client testimonial focused on that type of case, to increase trust and confidence.
Instead of having the same generic call-to-action on every page that says, "Call for a free consultation today," tailor it to that practice area or concern: "Call us today to discuss your prenup."
Reduce Friction with Your Contact Forms
Keeping the user experience in mind when designing a contact form is extremely important. The goal is to make the form as short and straightforward as possible while gathering enough information to provide a helpful response. You'll want to collect contact information and a first and last name so you can run a conflict check. But beyond that, every additional field you add will add friction and decrease the likelihood of getting a submission.
So less is definitely better when reducing friction on your contact form. Keep it short, sweet, and easy to use, and you'll be more likely to hear from potential clients.
2. Personalized Follow-up Communications
Personalizing your messaging as much as possible will increase trust and connection as you nurture your leads. Your recipients are more likely to engage with an email that speaks to them directly, rather than feeling like they're just another contact.
Talking to an Audience of One
Firms can automatically segment and communicate with each person based on their unique needs if they are using a CRM. So instead of emailing every contact the same newsletter, your business can send targeted specific emails about the subject they want to learn more about.
For example, the potential lead filled out the contact form on the prenuptial agreement page. With automation tools, you can trigger a workflow to segment that person into a prenuptial email nurture drip campaign (which is a marketing way to say- email follow-ups).
People contacting your firm are expecting a quick response time. Automated emails may not be as personal as having your staff call back, but you can send them out quickly-- informing your potential client that you will get back to them shortly.
Always Personalize Automated Emails
Generic emails will quickly be deleted or ignored, but emails that are personalized with the recipient's name and a message that is relevant to their interests will be more likely to be read and acted upon.
You can personalize your automated emails by using merge fields to insert information like the recipient's name into the email. When drafting your email templates, you need to inject your brand voice into every email. By taking the time to fine-tune the copy, you'll ensure brand consistency, and your communications will sound more like you.
Add Videos to Your Follow-Up
In your follow-up emails, you can embed a video that speaks directly to a potential client about their issue. Make quick videos that give 60 seconds of insight into their case and how your firm can help.
A video that speaks directly to our prenuptial client may cover:
Who is a prenuptial agreement good for?
How our firm handles prenuptial agreement matters
Keep it simple. Keep it short. And most importantly, keep your audience front and center in your marketing communications- it'll make all the difference.
3. Weed the Leads
Generating leads is essential to your success. However, not all leads are created equal. That's why it's critical to screen your leads carefully before you invest time and resources in pursuing them.
Perform Your Conflict Check
Performing conflict checks is an important step in your intake process that can be easily automated with the help of a legal client intake software. Typically, a CRM or client intake software can automatically run a conflict check. The program can search using any terms, like a name, to check if those terms are present within any of your firm's matters and suggest whether to approve, deny, or flag the results as a possible conflict.
Screen the Leads Before the Consultation
On the website contact form, we aimed to reduce friction to get as many leads as possible. At this stage, we want to add in just the right amount of friction to reduce the number of consultations your firm has with unqualified leads.
Assuming your website contact form is short, you will need to quickly determine if a lead is in your correct geography, if they need your services and if they can pay you. If your follow-up includes having your intake team give a call-back, have them ask these questions upfront.
To automate the screening process, you will need to craft a follow-up email asking these questions and be upfront about pricing. You don't need to quote an exact amount of expected fees, but you can outline a few tiers of what fees may look like depending on their case.
Take it a step further and have your potential clients submit all relevant information upfront. This can be done through an online intake form embedded in your website. You can ask for all the information you may need and have leads upload pertinent documents.
By requiring potential clients to submit all relevant information before the consultation, you can identify the potential clients who are serious about working with you and focus your attention on those people.
Create Workflows to Handle Unqualified Leads
Once you've reduced the friction for potential clients to contact you, you will end up with a percentage of unqualified leads you are not interested in taking.
How you handle these leads reflects your brand values, and you need to figure out a way to either help them or move them along. Depending on why the lead is unqualified will determine how you route them.
Here are some common ways to route unqualified leads:
Send eBook that addresses their specific situation or helps them through it themselves
Send them to your local Bar Association Lawyer Referral Program.
Send them to your referral network
Send an email to connect on social media in case they do need your help down the line
Having a plan for dealing with unqualified leads ensures that your brand is consistently represented positively.
4. Presell and Consultations
A good intake process should be designed to gather as much information from the client upfront so that the lawyer can assess the situation and provide the best possible advice. It should also be designed to presale the need for an attorney so that the client understands why it is in their best interest to hire one.
After Scheduling, Confirm the Consultation
To combat no-shows, you must send a confirmation email and, ideally, a reminder for every consultation. Include a calendar event so they can easily add it to their calendar.
If you handle your consultations in person, you need to add information about parking information and accessing the building.
You can make these confirmations, and reminder emails, look more personalized and custom. With some tools, you can send out the confirmation on a slight delay, so it feels like your intake team wrote it and sent it manually.
Presell the Need for an Attorney
Just before a consultation is a great time to presell your qualified leads on the need to hire an attorney. After all, most people know that attorneys can be expensive, and the thought of dealing with the legal system can be daunting. But you can incorporate email messages with videos that address the many good reasons to hire an attorney.
Prepping for the Consultation
Avoid making the potential client repeat their whole story during the consultation. You should already have most of the information you need from their initial contact with your firm. Using a call-tracking system, you can prep for your conversation by listening to the recording of the initial call.
During the consultation, your goal is to confirm your data is accurate and get any additional information you need to strategize and price the case.
Track Your Close Consultation Rate
If you're tracking your close rate and noticing that you're booking many consultations but not closing many deals, it's likely something you're doing (or not doing) during or after the consultation. Make sure to track this information so you can identify any patterns.
5. Keep the Human Touch After the Sale
After the consultation, keeping the lines of communication open will maintain a good relationship with your clients. Delight your clients with the extra effort you've put into ensuring they feel cared for.
Automatically Send Retainer Agreements and Collect eSignatures
Using your intake software, you can leverage the document automation features to generate and send a retainer agreement to your new clients. Set up email reminders nudging clients into returning the contract to you. You can inject your brand voice into your email message and even include a pre-recorded video saying thank you for their consideration of hiring you.
Automatically Generate Invoices and Receipts
If you bill clients regularly, you know how important it is to have a system for generating invoices and tracking payments. These days, there are many software options available that can automate this process for you. While some people may be hesitant to use automation, it can save you time and hassle in the long run.
Use invoicing software to customize your invoices with your branding elements (logo, color scheme, etc.). This will help ensure that your invoices make a good impression on your clients and help to build your brand identity.
A legal billing software can help you automate sending invoices and tracking payments. This will help you save time and ensure that payments are processed quickly and efficiently. Easily automate the delivery of your flat fee invoices, enabling you to accelerate your billing process to get paid faster and free up time to focus on other priorities.
Implement Automatic Payment Reminders
Making sure your clients pay on time can be a big headache - but it doesn't have to be. You can set up automatic payment reminders to avoid the frustration of past-due invoices and ensure your clients are always up to date on their payments.
You can customize each invoice reminder by using merge fields in your email reminder template and even create different templates for different invoice types.
Automation Can be Personal
When it comes to automation, many people think of it as a cold and impersonal process. However, automation can be a great way to improve your customer service and nurture your leads. Personalizing your automated messages and landing pages can create a seamless customer experience that will reduce friction and increase conversions. Screen leads early and automate a process to reroute unqualified leads so you can ensure that your staff is only spending time with qualified leads.
Following these tips can lay the foundation for a successful automation strategy that will improve your customer service and help you close more deals.