Lawyers tend to have mixed feelings about buying leads online. Some lawyers rely heavily on lead generation to grow their practices, and others think it’s unethical or a complete waste of money. So this begs the question, should lawyers buy leads online, or not? In this post, we’ll help answer this question by explaining how online lead generation works, and identifying the key circumstances when it actually makes sense for lawyers to use lead generation as part of their marketing plan.
The internet changed everything
Before the internet, lawyers held a position of complete power. They were the gatekeepers of all legal information and the only source for accessing legal advice. As a consumer, you had no option but to hire a lawyer, and accordingly, you had to pay the very expensive “gatekeeper” fees.
The internet has created massive change in the legal industry already, and this transition is still in the early phases. Today, there are thousands of articles, videos, and other pieces of legal content available online for free. There are also self-help legal services, free legal forms, and other resources available for a very low cost.
People can perform their own legal research and learn about potential risks they face without having to ever contact a lawyer. They can access basic legal services like entity formation, estate planning, and even filing for divorce at a fraction of the cost. Thus, the power is gradually shifting away from lawyers and into the hands of your clients.
How online lead generation works
Online lead generation capitalizes on the growing trend of internet-based legal information and services. Lead generation companies like Avvo, NOLO, FindLaw, and many others have staked out their territory online and built up a wealth of free legal content and resources (or even tricked lawyers into building the content for them).
Lawyers are typically not the best online marketers, so these lead gen services have stepped in to act as a middle man. They create websites, perform SEO, buy ads, utilize social media, or employ a variety of other online marketing tactics to attract potential clients.
Having a huge online presence is extremely valuable, akin to owning real estate in the physical world. When people search Google regarding their legal issues, they often land on lead generation websites rather than websites of actual law firms.
Content is a magnet for attracting leads
People are inherently attracted to these websites because they are looking for free information and resources. They want answers to their legal questions. They want to know what consequences they could face if they don’t take action. This is how content marketing works.
However, it’s inevitably not always possible to provide all the answers people are seeking with free content. Legal issues are too nuanced and complex.
Instead, the lead generation websites offer to connect the person with a lawyer who can provide more in depth advice and answer additional questions. Then they capture the potential clients’ contact info, and sell it to a lawyer for a fee.
While many lawyers may not like the idea of having to pay for access to a potential client they have never even spoken to, it’s actually a viable way of acquiring new clients, but only under the right circumstances.
The ONLY circumstances when lawyers should buy leads
Many lawyers will sign up for a lead generation service, try it out for a couple months, and fail miserably. They don’t acquire enough clients to cover the fees they spent, so they blame the lead generation service for not providing quality leads.
Of course some leads are going to be low quality, and there is nothing you can do about it. But often the failure is more a result of not having the proper structure in place to effectively market and sell legal services to these leads.
Below are the three criteria your law firm needs to meet before ever thinking about buying leads online:
1. Ability to service the leads
Every lawyer will say they want to grow their firm, but many of them find themselves too busy to spend time on business development, marketing, and sales.
These activities are required for growth, so if you don’t have time for these things, how will you have time to actually provide services to these new potential clients when they hire you?
Before you ever start buying leads, you should make sure that your firm has the bandwidth to take on additional clients. This might mean hiring additional support staff, or it might mean implementing better processes to improve your efficiency.
But don’t expect that you can grow your practice if you can’t even find the time to serve the leads you purchase.
2. Processes in place for tracking, follow up, and intake
The biggest mistake lawyers make with any form of marketing tends to be not having a good system in place for managing potential clients, following up with them, and getting them signed up.
If you take days to respond to new inquiries and track them with unreliable processes like sticky notes and unread emails, there is a high likelihood that your leads will slip through the cracks and/or end up hiring someone else.
This is why you need a law firm sales process. The more effectively you track and follow up with leads, the higher your conversion rate will be. This is what will make buying leads worth the investment.
If you don’t have such a system set up beforehand, you’ll just end up wasting your money, and your aspirations of growth will fade away.
3. Ability to measure a consistent ROI
When you buy leads, you are making an investment into your business. If you invest wisely, you will see a return on this investment in the form of new clients and increased revenue. If you invest poorly, you will incur a loss.
With that in mind, it should be clear that you need a system in place, not only to track the leads, but also to measure the results. You should be calculating your conversion rate and keeping track of the total expenses paid vs. the revenue that results from buying leads. A CRM system can help you store your lead data in a nicely organized format so that you can generate these metrics.
Until you have a good system in place for measuring the ROI from buying leads, you’ll just be shooting in the dark. You won’t know how effective your investment actually is, or how it compares to other forms of marketing you might try.
With the growth of the internet as a source for free legal information, more and more people are going online to learn about their legal issues before meeting with a lawyer.
Since lawyers are generally not online marketing experts, this has opened the door for “middlemen” and created a large lead generation industry. They product legal content online, attract potential clients with it, and sell their contact information to lawyers.
While some lawyers may dislike this form of marketing, it is actually quite effective, as long as the law firm is set up properly to handle the incoming stream of new potential business.
Lawyers should only consider buying leads if they can handle the added volume of clients, and if they have the right system in place for tracking leads, following up with them, and measuring the return on their investment.