1. Improving Client Communication
The number one complaint clients make to bar associations about their attorney is lack of communication. Communication is fundamental to building a strong, lasting relationship with clients. You must stay on top of your email and phone messages. If you're a solo practitioner or a litigation attorney who spends a lot of time in court, then you need to:
(a) Better set and manage client expectations as to when they can expect a response to their email or phone call; (b) Assign someone on your staff who is trustworthy and reliable to return those calls for you and set up an appointment to speak with you when you are available. Be sure you have a staffer scouring your email for client requests that can be handled without your intervention.
Beyond the everyday communication, there are three other areas most lawyers can work on to improve their client communication:
Beyond the everyday communication, there are several other areas most lawyers can work on to improve their client communication:
(1) Keep clients informed monthly about the progress of their cases.
(2) Proactively educate clients on events or changes in the law that could affect them.
(3) Inform them of other ways you can help them and other areas of practice in your firm.
(4) Remind your clients regularly of the results they are getting from working with you.
2. Improving Your Billing
There are several ways law firms can improve their billing system and lower their A/Rs:
(1) Make sure you have a written procedure in place for when a client is to be charged, payment options, how to verify that client accounts are up to date, how to notify attorneys and paralegals to stop work on a client who is overdue, how to handle overdue accounts, and how and when to send them to collections.
(2) Account receivables can kill your firm. Not only have you spent the money to do the work, but now you haven't been paid for it. If you're in the type of practice that has to deal with overdue client payments then be sure to review an aged A/R report every month and have a system in place to notify people to stop working on a case when a client hasn't paid. Create a series of letters and emails to send to clients who are overdue.
(3) Include "No Charge" line items on your bills. Just about every lawyer does things for his or her clients that aren't billed. Keep a list of those freebies as you go through your month and then include them as line items on your bill with the notation, "No Charge." Instant added value!
(4) Eliminate surprises. No one likes a billing surprise, so if you are constantly getting pushback on charges clients did not expect, then you need to do a better job of managing their expectations. Give them fair warning on big ticket line items. If the bill is going to be particularly high, call them to explain.
(5) Cut out nickel and dime charges. Roll up all your miscellaneous charges for postage, copies and other small stuff into your hourly rate. Clients hate to see that stuff on a bill.
(6) Don't charge for phone calls. I've never met a single client who likes to be charged for a phone call so be sure to follow up the call with an email that details the conversation, any action steps that will be taken, deadlines to remember, and any major points.
(7) Consider charging more frequently. Ask your clients how often they want to be billed. If you're entering a phase where the bills will be high (more than a few thousand dollars for a consumer or over $10,000 for a small business) I strongly recommend warning them ahead of time and then sending them a bill every two weeks.
3. Lead Nurturing and Lead Conversion
Do you have a system in place that generates high quality leads for you every week? Do you have a system that nurtures those leads along a predetermined path until they are ready to call you for a consultation? Do you have a way of sending regular communications to all your former clients and all your referral sources every month just to keep you "top of mind" for their legal work?
Many people who initially contact your firm are still in the early stages of making a decision..but they might be ready next week or next month. If you're spending time and money generating leads, but you don't have a drip marketing system that can follow up with these leads day after day and week after week until they are ready to buy, then you are likely loosing dozens and perhaps hundreds of clients every month!
Here are 5 steps you can take right now to better manage and convert your leads in 2016:
(1) Only ask for crucial information. Research shows that contact forms with only three fields convert 25% more leads than those with more fields. You really only need a name, phone number, and an email address these days.
(2) Follow up fast. I've said it over and over again, but it bears repeating: NEVER make an attorney or a paralegal responsible for following up with a lead! You can have an assistant or an Intake Specialist follow up with a lead. Every single lead must be called back within five minutes or less. The faster you call back a lead the more appointments you will set. Studies show that after an hour passes with no response, the chances of doing business with that lead are reduced by 400%.
(3) Make it all about them. Be sure you ask the right questions and record the information you receive from the lead in a central place (an excel spreadsheet or an intake form or a software program) so whomever is tasked with another follow-up has all the information they need to make a smart decision on whether to move forward with that client or not. Nothing is more annoying to a prospect than having to repeat themselves again and again.
(4) Focus on the next step. The goal of that initial call should be (a) qualify or disqualify the lead and (b) get all the qualified leads into your office as quickly as you possible so you can close them. Make it your goal to follow up with next steps within one hour of their contacting you and you will see your conversion rates increase.
(5) Play the long game. According to inbound marketing firm HubSpot, 50% of new leads are not ready to buy right now-but they may be ready to buy later. This means you need a system in place to stay connected with them over a long period of time. Having a lead conversion system in place that allows you to pre-program a series of emails or text messages to automate the process of nurturing prospects, takes all the pressure off your back while still getting the job done.
We have developed an automated lead nurturing program that includes training and consulting with a law firm's staff on best practices in intake and lead conversion, but at the heart of it is a software-driven system that tracks where all your leads are coming from and ensures every lead is followed up with automatically and consistently until they are ready to buy. Once they are ready to buy, it notifies your staff so they can contact the prospect to help them take the next step in hiring your firm.
If you would like to find out more about the Rainmaker Lead Conversion System and our automated marketing software we customize for clients, I invite you to sign up for a complimentary strategy session with one of our trained Rainmaker Law Marketing Consultants by calling 888-588-5891 or filling out this form.
If you'd like to learn more proven strategies for business development, I invite you to attend a Rainmaker Retreat, our two-day law firm marketing workshop. We have sessions every month around the country - go to RainmakerRetreat.com to check the schedule.
We have helped over 18,000 attorneys across the nation discover the secrets in building a financially successful and personally satisfying legal practice and we would love to have your law firm be our next success story!