Boost Your Law Firm’s Growth with Benchmarking

Jun 11, 2024

Patrick Carver

Hi, I’m Patrick Carver / CEO of Constellation Marketing

I hope you enjoy reading this.
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Every law firm owner knows that marketing is vital for the success of their business. The problem is that marketing results are often massively underwhelming.
The relationship with your marketing vendor is often a key part of the equation, leading to failure and frustration.

The good news is that there is a better way to create a functional relationship with your marketing company, get more ROI, and avoid frustration.

Enter benchmarking.

Benchmarking is the systematic comparison of one’s marketing metrics against a set of goals or expectations.

We’re going to cover why you should implement why you need to implement this today and exactly how to do it.

Ready to make it happen? Let’s get it.

The Relationship Problem Between Law Firms and Marketing Companies

Law firms often encounter significant problems while working with marketing companies. Many factors contribute to this, but poor communication is often at the heart of it.

Initially, relationships between law firms and marketing companies shimmer with promise. They sell you a great-looking solution and are very responsive, and this creates a feeling of confidence in your mind.

Then, time goes on. The marketing company sends snazzy reports that look like substantial progress is being made. They are confident that they are doing an amazing job.

As time goes on, you see your credit cards getting billed every month, but you notice that you’re not getting any clients. Your business is stagnant. You start to send questions to your agency, and they respond, “Just wait a little bit longer.” Marketing often takes time, but you’re probably thinking this long. Not even one new case?

Now you’re upset because you’ve wasted a bunch of money and time, and you feel deceived. I get that. I completely understand that. I’m also a business owner, so I completely understand that feeling because we pay for marketing ourselves.

Failures in these collaborations can typically be classified into three categories: dishonesty, ineffectiveness, and poor communication. Dishonest practice might involve marketers making exaggerated promises about the achievable scope of digital reach or client engagement. Ineffectiveness manifests in poorly executed campaigns that just don’t work.

We’ll focus on poor communication. Without a clear plan to measure the success of your marketing campaigns effectively, you’re doomed to fail.

It’s not uncommon for law firms to feel underwhelmed and financially strained as initial excitement gives way to the reality of unmet expectations. Subsequently, this scenario often results in a rift, with resources poured into strategies that yield little return.

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How to Benchmark Effectively

Benchmarking is essentially a measured, trackable process for evaluating the performance of a marketing campaign. This is super important because, ultimately, marketing is a gamble to some degree. Good companies will make it significantly less risky because they’re good at what they do.

They have developed repeatable processes that allow them to get relatively predictable results. But when we’re talking about things with many different variables that could go in any number of directions. There is an element of it being a gamble, and it’s more of an art than a science. The thing to remember overall when we’re talking about benchmarking is that you, as a law firm owner, should expect that you are going to get to certain metrics that correlate with success, the success of your business in terms of revenue, in terms of exposure, the things that will then feed into getting you those new clients.

Practical Steps for Benchmarking

This process is absolutely a two-way street. The marketer’s responsible for having all of this, providing it, thinking about it, and working on it because it’s their job.

Conversely, you must also have goals for yourself and your business. You can keep it pretty simple by looking at how many new cases per month you want or if it’s a specific revenue goal. That makes it black and white regarding the metrics and benchmarks you should look at.

Through the marketing efforts, we want to have one new case in three or five or whatever the number is by month 3. Then, by month 6, we want 10. And then by month 12, we should be producing 15 or 20 or whatever that number is.

You want to have just some level of identification of what that would be. You may change that. You may adjust it over time, or that may be ultimately unrealistic. But, by only saying, “Well, we want as many as you can get,” you will have less success.

This creates this situation where the success is binary, and you are coming back at six months, at nine months, whatever that is, and you’re saying, Is it good or bad? This approach means your decisions are made on gut sentiment, which is wrong.

Establishing a clear timeline and routine check-ins facilitates a structured approach, keeping all parties accountable to the agreed objectives. This accountability ensures that marketing efforts are ambitious and aligned with the firm’s long-term growth plans.

Setting Realistic Expectations

you need to think about your goals and what you feel is reasonable. Your goals may not be reasonable with how much you’re prepared to invest.

It depends on your practice area, your market, the types of cases you’re going after, and all sorts of stuff. But with that said, once you bring your part to the table, the marketing team should have a plan for how they will accomplish that and in what time frame. It may change or get adjusted over time, but that is what you are asking them to provide. You are going to have the goals, they’re going to have how it gets done.

Key Metrics to Track

New cases attributable to marketing. That’s it! This basic measurement then leads to seeing a return on investment.

We use other “supporting” metrics internally to measure a campaign’s progression, but you shouldn’t worry about that. You are ultimately hiring a professional and expecting them to get you the result. Let them work, and then judge them based on those results.

Then, from there, hold them accountable for it. Set calendar events. If they don’t do a monthly or quarterly check-in with you, or they’re not doing reporting or something like that, set your calendar up on the first day as soon as you sign that contract. Set up some increments that you feel comfortable with, whether monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, to go in and have those more detailed checkpoints. You should now be armed with all of the data that you need.

How We Do It

We’ve created a structured way to measure progress, and we do this monthly, quarterly, and yearly. The first part of what we do is set up introductory questions when you’re coming in. What we’re asking for are things like, how many cases are you getting currently? Where do you want to grow? What types of cases? How many cases do you want to grow in the next month? What would be a big win? Are certain cases better than others?

Then what would you like at the end of the year? What would a great success look like? Then, based on that, we essentially have our status quo and goal metrics. Then, every month, we fill in that data to determine whether or not we are at, beating, or missing out on the goal that the client has described. Then we do that on a quarterly and yearly basis to look back at that initial goal and say, Okay, you told us you wanted two extra cases per month, and it looks like we’ve done that in all, but… We’ve done that in five or six months or something like that. It looks like we’re trending in the right direction. The SEO is starting to work. You’ve gotten three and then four cases in the past two months. Yes, we’re moving in that direction. You told us by the end of the year, you wanted to have 10 new cases per month. we are at five right now and moving in the right direction.

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The Benefits of Benchmarking

Benchmarking poses distinct advantages.

It steers law firms away from unproductive partnerships and the resultant frustrations. Quick, informed decisions become the norm, not the exception. Benchmarking transforms guesswork into knowledge, propelling firms toward informed strategies and substantial growth.

This approach minimizes risks and offers predictable outcomes, instrumental for strategic decision-making. Firms gain critical insights that enhance their competitive edge by assessing performance through a specific, measurable framework.

Avoiding Bad Relationships From the Start

A common scenario is that law firms get sold on an agency and then check out, putting the relationship on autopilot. Then, nine months in, you’re like, wait for a second. I’ve spent all this money, all this time, and energy selecting these people. They’re supposed to be doing their job, and I haven’t seen a dollar back from it.

You get much of your time, capital, and energy invested, but you’re not getting any real return.

Understanding the importance of benchmarking can help you avoid bad relationships. During your initial conversations, you’re already in a bad situation if they can’t prove that they have a good ROI process.

Don’t sign up if they can’t offer some level of ongoing analysis and performance monitoring for what they do.

Stop Unproductive Relationships Much Sooner

Once you’re into a relationship and have some benchmarking items set up, you can hit the eject button sooner rather than later. God forbid you are working with FindLaw or another company that will put you into a one, two year contract.

You should not expect that you will get into an SEO campaign if you are starting a website from scratch or just starting your practice. In month three, you will rank for the most competitive terms in a major metropolitan area. Simply will not happen.

But you can look at benchmarked results to see whether or not you’re on the right track. You can lock on to those things and follow the progression at month 3 or 6. From there, you have a good feeling: Okay, we’re on track or off track. Instead of by month 9 or month 12, you can get that data within Month 3 or month 6. You’ll probably know whether or not it’s on the rails or not.

 Empower Yourself as a True Law Firm CEO

The final benefit of this is empowerment in your business. I think a big part of the frustration with working with marketing companies is that, for many lawyers, it’s not in their wheelhouse. They are not experts or maybe tech-savvy. It’s really hard to understand how some of this works.

The good thing with benchmarking is that you don’t have to worry so much about the method of how it’s working. You can tie yourself to the results. Then, as a business owner, you don’t have to put on yourself the burden of becoming an expert at SEO or advertising. Instead, you are just an expert at operating your business.

So, you’ll develop some way to determine if they are doing a good job beyond just your gut sentiment. That’s what you want to apply here. I highly recommend you work with your marketing provider to get those and then reference other folks, people you trust and other lawyers to see if that matches up with what they’re seeing. With that, you’ll get so much more confidence within your business that you know what’s happening, you know why it’s happening, and you’ll be able to comfortably know whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. One of the biggest things with this is that it gives you that confidence and empowerment to ultimately make better decisions.

Scale Up Profitable Strategies

It’s not all about preventing financial loss and frustration. You can also use this process to scale up profitable strategies.

By determining which strategies are working or not, you can reallocate capital to those yielding a great return on investment.

Imagine you are running advertising and SEO. The ads produce a cost per lead of $100, and SEO is at $36. Should you be investing in them equally? No! But this often gets overlooked.

Key Takeaways

So, now that you understand the importance of benchmarketing and how to get started, you should work on implementing it today. Here are a couple of final tips as you begin your preparations.

Number one, don’t sign long contracts because this will eliminate your ability to have any recourse if they are not meeting those benchmarks.

Number two: Start small and then upgrade as you get more knowledgeable. We often start clients who may be skeptical about marketing or burned by a smaller plan. So we’ll start with advertising and then move into SEO after we’ve shown we can get you a return on your investment and can use some of that cash to invest in things that will provide a longer benefit. So don’t worry about trying to jump all in at once because companies should be able to accommodate you.

Suppose they’re a good company that stands on the results. In that case, they’re not worried about maximizing the amount of revenue that they’re going to get from you in month one because they’re going to stand on their results, and they’ll know that they can then continue to upsell you as you go and as they’ve proven value.

Number three, make the marketing company lead the discussion instead of trying to be the expert. Be consistent in terms of speaking with your marketing company, checking in on those benchmarks, and having a conversation with them to better understand it, see what they’re seeing, and then ultimately, you can apply that pressure to them so that they know you are going to be there and want to talk about this stuff. They’re going to be on their P’s and Q’s and make sure they’re actually performing to the degree with which you’re expecting and you both mutually agreed on.


Patrick Carver

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