It seems that client generation websites are multiplying faster than a boat full of rabbit sailors enjoying a period of extended shore leave. Notwithstanding the significant doubt surrounding whether leporine society actually boasts a merchant navy, it does seem that these types of websites are launching with greater regularity. They all promise to attract pretty much the same thing: sensible clients with the ability to pay for legal services.
The problem these sites are facing in persuading lawyers aboard in significant numbers, however, is that previous versions have been spectacularly unsuccessful. Unless the current models represent a significant departure from the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ platforms of the past, they too are heading for the dustbin.
If you have been in practice for any period of time, you will know exactly what I mean. These sites will invariably rely on the law firm paying an annual subscription or similar to join. The typical model will usually involve those behind the website spending some of this money on Google PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising in an attempt to drive traffic to the website. If you aren’t a digital marketing expert and have ever tried to manage your own firm’s PPC campaign, you will know that it is cheaper and more financially rewarding to maintain a large string of glacially slow racehorses.
The net result of this harum-scarum strategy is one of two outcomes. If you are really lucky, then you will never receive an enquiry from a potential client. In this case, silence is golden. If you are really unlucky, however, your staff will be swept away on a tidal wave of worthless enquiries all of which will cost your firm to process. Or as one lawyer of our acquaintance put it recently, ‘my heart used to sink whenever the phone rang’.
Many of these lead generation sites either rely too much on technology or not enough. The former tend to be those leading the race to the bottom by marketing themselves as price comparison sites for lawyers. Price comparison sites are great for building market share but, using our own experience of buying car insurance, who really looks beyond the cheapest quotes? And do you as a legal professional want to be dealing only with those clients for whom price is the most important aspect? Sure, all clients expect to receive great value, but the type of client who is prepared to drive 200 miles to save £40 will very likely present their own unique challenges.
The flaw is further compounded by relying on technology to vet the client’s individual need. Clients are usually led through an interative process which, in theory, is designed to match them with the most appropriate lawyer. The trouble is, people get confused easily particularly when they have a pressing legal problem. Platforms which rely solely on clients responding honestly to online questions are increasing the likelihood of firms receiving worthless and ultimately costly enquiries.
The most successful platforms will be those where SEO is woven into the fabric of their websites. In plain English this means websites which are tuned to responding to the sort of search terms used by ‘sophisticated’ clients who use the web to find a lawyer. These sites will not rely on client reviews or clumsy PPC campaigns to drive business to participating firms. They will understand both the clients and the lawyers, and meet their needs with equal effectiveness.
And they will have confidence in their ability to drive fee paying clients to partner firms without demanding subscriptions or administration fees. The UK legal industry is worth billions of pounds – there are no shortage of fee paying clients out there. If you understand your market and have confidence in your technology, you should be prepared to put your money where your mouth is and back your judgement without asking lawyers to pay for your risk. The future belongs to those sites who can deliver real performance-based digital marketing.