Why Attribution is Essential for Scaling Law Firms

Mar 16, 2023

Patrick Carver

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

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As a law firm investing in marketing, one of the most important things you can do is nail marketing attribution. It’s a simple concept, but exceptionally difficult in practice and almost no one is doing it correctly.

If you can get this right, you’ll have a cheat code for sustainable and profitable growth in your law firm. Let’s get to business and set your firm up for success.

In This Episode of The Optimized Podcast,  we discuss in detail the importance of attribution and the benefits of doing it right.

 

What’s in This Episode?

  • Understanding of Attribution
  • Why Your Law Firm Needs It
  • The Best Way to Implement and the Benefits of Doing it Right

Episode 12 |Why Attribution is Essential for Every Law Firm Who Wants to Scale

 

Patrick: 

A law firm, one of the most important things that you can do is nail marketing attribution. It’s a simple concept, but exceptionally difficult in practice. From what we’ve seen, almost no one is doing it correctly. If you can get this right, it’s basically a cheat code for sustainable and profitable growth in your law firm. Let’s get to business and set your firm up with success when it comes to marketing attribution. Welcome to the Optimize Law Firm podcast. My name is Patrick Carver, and I’ll be your host. I’m the owner of Constellation Marketing. We work with over 70 law firms, helping them get more business in the door from the internet. This podcast is all about helping you run a more profitable and enjoyable law firm. Today we are going to talk about marketing attribution. We’re going to break this down into really three sections. First, we’re going to give you a primer on what marketing attribution is, what it’s all about, then a discussion on why your law firm needs it, and finally, the best way to implement this and some of the benefits of doing it. So let’s get right into it and talk about attribution.

Patrick: 

So marketing attribution is the practice of determining which marketing tactics or channels are contributing in sales or conversions. What this really breaks down to is where are your leads coming from? You may have a suspicion about where your leads are coming from. But in our practice and what we’ve seen from working with attorneys for over six years is that the data is always a little bit different than what the perception is. Having good intelligence around this topic and having an insight into where your leads are coming from, and then more importantly, where your actual business is coming from is extremely important because for a lot of reasons that we’ll talk about a little bit later. You need to know where your success is coming from so that you can make better, more informed decisions about how you run your law firm. Before we get going into why this is important for law firms. It may be useful to just understand a little bit more about what exactly this looks like in practice and talk through an example real quick. Imagine you are a potential customer. You have just gotten a DUI and you call your loved one at home and they start looking for law firms.

Patrick: 

They go on to their phone, they then see a Google Local Service ad. They click on that, has you on it, and ultimately they get connected with you, hire you, and you help them in their matter. In this scenario, the attribution that we would give to this is Google Local Service ads. That is what we are looking at as really the catalyst or how that person made that connection to you. There are lots of different sources where leads can come from just based on our own data analysis, looking at thousands and thousands of leads every month. The majority for us and our clients typically come from Google search. So that would be organic as a channel. But for other attorneys and other law firms, it’s going to be slanted in different ways. Some may rely more heavily on an advertising system like Google ads, potentially being ads, or Google local service ads that we talked about a second ago. It could also come from social media, such as they found a post of you talking about a topic on Facebook. They remembered your name and then came back a little while later and hired you for an estate planning service.

Patrick: 

Same with Facebook ads. Point here is that there are a variety of channels or locations where somebody’s journey to find you can start from. What we’re looking at as a marketing agency is where are those people coming from so that we can do a better job of providing your firm with visibility in those areas and ultimately then help you make informed decisions about where you should be marketing, how you should be marketing, and how much you should be investing in the different channels. Talked about it a little bit there, but let’s get into why this is important for law firms. I think it’s easily represented by some of the questions that we get on a consistent basis when we are talking to law firm owners, and they typically ask some combination of these. Number one, is it working? At the end of the month, we provide reports. Really, the bottom line metric that everybody wants to know is, is it working? Is it working right? We also get questions like, where’s my money going? And why didn’t we see a decent number of conversions with all of the ad spend that we blew through? Or not so much with us, of course.

Patrick: 

But questions like this arise all the time and we hear about them, especially from, particularly when we’re working with individuals who are coming from other agencies who… A big common concern coming from there is that I spent, Hey, I spent all this money on SEO, I spent all this money on ads and really got nothing to show for it. That’s where attribution comes in. We can give a little bit more context and figure out what, in fact, did happen to that, the money, the investment that you put in. Then finally, how can we attribute marketing campaigns and our efforts to the bottom line? This is more of an internal question for us that we want to know and prove that our efforts are actually resulting in a revenue growth for our customers. Because ultimately, if you don’t have clarity into this, it’s not only bad for you, it’s also bad for us because we want to know as marketers that our efforts are having an impact. And marketing attribution, which really gets down to identifying and having a system in place to identify where those leads and customers are coming from. It can make all the difference in helping you and us determine the impact of all of those marketing efforts that you’re paying for.

Patrick: 

And this allows us to then assign credit for where these conversions happen and those actions are taken, which ultimately lead to them becoming a customer. It’s essential so that not only you know where your money is going, that if you put $1,000 in and you get two clients out of that that bring in $3,000 a piece, then you have a really clear line from the beginning of your investment to the return on it. That’s tremendously powerful. What we’ve seen, especially with folks coming into our system and starting to work with us, is that they have absolutely no idea where their leads are coming from or which one was actually a good lead. They will have a rough idea that we think it came from Google. But even within that, you don’t necessarily know if it was a Google ad, if it’s your Google business profile, if they came in organically off your website. And you really want to know that stuff because you can then make smarter, more well informed decisions on how you want to allocate your marketing budget because we’ve seen plenty of situations where folks came in, they hear from friends that Google advertising is the way to go.

Patrick: 

We’re making tons of money, we’re doing great with it. It’s really, really effective. Then we try it out and we’re also running an SEO campaign at the same time. We look at the data after three, six months and we find out, hey, the ads actually are costing you, let’s say, $1,000 to acquire a customer. The SEO efforts ultimately are only costing about $200 to acquire those customers. Where is the more efficient use of your capital? What are the Well, of course, it’s on the SEO side. Now, there are other factors to think about when it comes to this. Ultimately, if it produces an ROI, regardless of the cost per acquisition, it doesn’t really matter. But if you can get 5 X or 10 X the amount of business from just moving your money on one side of the table to the other, it’s absolutely a no brainer. When you can attribute your sales to traffic sources and even keywords down to the specific word that people are using to get to you, you’ll no longer have this deer in the headlights feeling and be left wondering where your money is going, where your business came from, and which of the leads that actually came in from the companies that you’re working with actually had value.

Patrick: 

Now that we have a good understanding of why this is important, it really is fundamental in our understanding or our view of marketing for attorneys that you have to have this attribution as your base layer because everybody, to some degree, goes off their gut. We hear this all the time when we’re talking with attorneys is that they will speak with someone or they’ll go to an event at the bar association or something, and they’ll hear that Mr. Johnson across town, well, he does Facebook ads and he’s crushing it. Often it’s a little more complicated because you don’t know what exactly crushing it means. You don’t know if, in fact, that’s really where the business is coming from. People that we were in contact with a lot often make these uninformed decisions just based on what they hear works or they hear is the best tactic at that time and the prevalent thing to do. To some degree, I think that’s absolutely true with something like SEO, which we provide where folks hear that they have to do SEO. Yes, it is a great strategy and has a ton of value, but we actually often recommend just starting with advertising because it’s a faster way to get a return on your investment and we can prove where that business came from much more quickly than an SEO campaign.

Patrick: 

So it’s good for us because then we can draw that straight line between, Okay, you came in 30 days ago, you gave us X amount of money. We said we could produce at least a client for you, and we’ve gotten you three. Okay, here’s your return on investment. So seeing it full circle like that, I think, makes a lot of sense. You, as a business owner, you don’t have to become an expert at technology to implement all this. It’s really something that your marketing company should be implementing for you and should be leading the discussion on attribution, where your leads are coming from, what the cost per lead is, giving you some numbers. Now, I will say, and I’ll go through this in the second part of this discussion. It’s not perfect. The systems that are out there right now are not perfect, and there are some ways that things can break down. But contrast that to not having any idea period where you’re just giving your money and then you get a report back with a bunch of up and down lines that… And the person you’re working with says, Hey, this looks great.

Patrick: 

There’s tons of impressions, all that stuff. But your net new case numbers not really increased. It’s a big problem. I think that piece of the puzzle is why a lot of law firms have really bad experiences with marketing companies because they get sold a bill of goods and then the results don’t pan out and there’s a lot of times no accountability. This is, I think, such a fundamental piece of any law firm’s marketing campaign is setting up a system at the beginning of it so that you can properly track and analyze the efforts that you’re paying for. Let’s get into some of the different ways that you can do this. I’m going to be very brief about this because I really don’t think it’s that essential for your perspective as a firm owner, but it’ll give you just a little bit of background about how this stuff all works. We’re going to talk about very briefly attribution models. Really what this means is at what point do we give credit for that lead? There’s a few different ways that you can do this. Some of the names that are out there are single, first, last touch, and we’re talking about touch.

Patrick: 

We have multi touch, we have linear, time decay. I’ll go through these very quickly. First click is the first touch attribution model. All the credit for a conversion is going to be attributed to the first marketing interaction of that click. Even if a customer interacts with subsequent channels, 100 % of that credit goes to the first channel. If we pick up for your website and a potential client that, hey, they came from social media, they came from Facebook, and then they come to your website and then they leave. Then 10 days later, they search your name of your business and then they’re ready to hire. 100 % of that credit would go back to Facebook because that is the first place that we saw of where the person actually came from. Last touch, as you might suspect, is similar to the first touch model, but it assigns 100 % of that credit to the last touch. So in that example I just provided, Google organic would actually be the last touch. And so if they go through those different things, it can get a little bit confusing. But as our general rule, all you’re really trying to do is get a better understanding of the majority of the activity.

Patrick: 

You don’t have to get into the weeds as far as understanding where every single person came from and having completely pure attribution with it. Multi touch is also another option where it spreads the credit out among some of those different touch points. This can absolutely be valid because typically when you’re going through the customer journey, especially nowadays where it’s much easier to get information through your phone, you’re going to probably go through multiple touch points. I’ve seen varying studies that talk about the number of touch points that happen before an individual is going to make a decision on a service provider like a law firm. And some say seven, some say even more than that, where they might get your name from an advertisement and then not ready to buy, come back, look at you on social media, see how you look there, look for reviews, different areas like that before ultimately making a decision. So for us, we look at both the first and last click associated with that user. And for us, there’s a lot of value in that because this explains how a stranger got to your website and then also what pushed them over the edge to actually convert.

Patrick: 

Really, what I view our role as a company and as a marketing provider is we are trying to get you non referral business, typically through the internet and typically through either search engine optimization or advertising. We’re not concerned if someone comes to your website directly. If they pop in your website address because they already know it. They talked with a friend who recommended you, and then they’re going to go straight there. We’re not concerned with other channels that we’re not working on. So often, folks will use directory services and place ads on there, or maybe ads on a niche site, something specifically for the group they’re working with. If it’s a variety of practices, can do something like that. That’s not what we’re after. We are solely focused on creating that visibility through ads, through search engine optimization, and then making that connection because that ultimately is the goal at the end of the day. Because what we see when folks come to us, it’s a very similar story for most firms that we work with, which is they’ve gotten up to that point where they’re making 10, 15, maybe 20,000 per month, but they’re existing almost completely off of referrals.

Patrick: 

With referrals, they’re great and they’re also terrible in terms of if you’re trying to scale and grow your business. They’re fantastic, but they’re also infrequent. It’s also not something that is particularly scalable because at some point, your friend network is going to be pretty tapped out. Unless you’re a prolific networker, you’re really not able to generate a lot of net new friends and people in your orbit who are just out there ready to refer you. Another problem is that most people are not financially motivated to refer you. This probably sounds extremely familiar. If you’re an attorney and you’re in that zone, or even now, that you probably have some really good months where you’re crushing it. You get a handful of really good cases, high dollar figure, paying you exactly what you deserve. Then that’s followed by one, maybe two months of really minor cases. And it’s a real depressing slide down and valley from it. And that’s really the big problem. And that’s what we want to solve is that if you want to scale beyond that lifestyle type business where you’re getting those, you’re making pretty good money, but you want to really build a strong business, possibly hire other attorneys or just meet certain financial goals, you have to get out of that system and have to start adding these other channels, other sources of new business.

Patrick: 

T hat’s where we come in and provide options like advertising and search engine optimization. That really, I think, concludes the first two parts of what we’re going to talk about today. Now I’m going to pivot into why you want to implement this and really the best way that you want to implement this and some of the benefits of doing this right. Early on with our agency, we knew it was important to track our efforts and send reports. And so the thing that we really focused on was what we call leads or conversions. And so that, for us, means a couple of different things. It means getting someone to hit the click to call button on your website t’s a email inquiry, it’s a form submission on your website or a landing page. And from there, that’s what we would consider a lead. And so that was really our bottom line metric. We would track keywords and cost per click, and different metrics like that, making sure that you’re in fact getting traffic. Ultimately, that was converting its leads. But what we figured out over time was that we wanted to go deeper. We wanted to provide more transparency and honestly just more data for both the client and also us because what we found over time was that we would see numbers that look really good on paper, but ultimately they were deceiving because it was what I would call metadata.

Patrick: 

What I mean by that is that we don’t get to know the quality of that lead. We would only get to know that a call had been placed, not how long that call was. In our reporting and in our discussions with clients, it’s evolved over time to where we really now want to know as much information as we can from that first contact to the end product of whether or not they became a client or not. We have largely switched our entire reporting platform, and we have chosen to go with a system called What Converts. This is a tool that allows you to place tracking software on your website and then add tracking phone numbers and integrate it with other tools that you may be using, like Facebook ads, other landing pages and things like that. But the point of it is that it brings all of your sources into a single command center. You’re not having to get one report from Google ads. You’re not getting another one from Google Analytics or getting your trying to track by individual email or anything like that. There are some other platforms out there that do this.

Patrick: 

One that you’re probably most familiar with would be Call Rail. They have a pretty robust and they’re probably the best in the industry in terms of the call tracking component. But they started to roll out a lead center option which covers forum entries and does some of this other stuff that we want to track as well. But it’s fairly expensive. We have chosen what Converse because we really believe in the technology that we’ve tested it and it was the most robust compared to Call Rail, compared to high level is another tool that we’ve used to get that all encompassing tracking mechanism. What’s beneficial about this tool as well is that it’s different from other marketing attribution platforms in that it doesn’t just track the total number of leads from each channel, it also follows those individual leads as well. And so on any month, we actually can go in and see the data, not only this metadata of, Hey, you had 30 % of those leads came from Google organic, 20 % came from Facebook, and 10 % came from ads. We can actually see who those people are. We can see how long their conversation lasted, all those things.

Patrick: 

And it actually allows us to then share that information directly with our clients, who can then monitor that and in real time, give us indications by selecting or rating the leads as to whether they were good quality. And so for us, it’s really valuable, not only from a business perspective for us, that we feel like we’re giving our clients a really good customer experience and showing them what they’re paying us for and why that’s valuable. But also they can then provide us with real time feedback about the quality of these leads. The key insights that we get from this is that we can then better enhance our marketing efforts so that you’re getting a much better performance and it continues to get smarter over time as we do this. Let’s wrap this up and I’ll get into our ultimate set up and the problems that this solves for us. I strongly believe this would absolutely help you if you’re doing any marketing right now. Number one, we want to start with a base layer of tracking, and that’s where what Converters comes in. It’s what we call base layer, I would call it. I don’t know if anybody else calls it that.

Patrick: 

But nonetheless, we are going to install that on your website. We’re also going to integrate their tracking numbers to your Google business, Facebook, Facebook ads, Google ads, anywhere that you can think of. If you have a fine law account and you’re doing ads there, we can put one there. Like I mentioned, call rail, high level, even Google tag manager can do a lot of this. But where that breaks down is you don’t get the real good customer data. It’s giving you a lot of metadata. Used it a lot before and it’s a great product, but it doesn’t give you that all the way end to end attribution. Then we have the second layer, which is the communication tracking. And so that is going to be the actual mechanisms that are tracking the information that comes in, the people who are reaching out to you. So that is going to be call tracking with dynamic number insertion. If you’re not familiar with dynamic number insertion, it is a part of the software that will rotate phone numbers on your website. And the value of this is that by using these different numbers, and these will appear at the top of your website or wherever your phone number is listed, but it changes dynamically for each user.

Patrick: 

It allows the person coming in then to basically tie them to that source. You then can follow that person all the way through with other attribution systems. As someone comes in and they pick up the phone and call, really all that the software can tell you is that, Hey, someone called. You don’t know who it was. You don’t know how they found you. When we’d have these discussions, it was like, Hey, we got a really good client the other day. Don’t know where they came from. It wasn’t a referral, but we don’t know where they came from. It’s great that we know that that came from us. But at the same time, we want to know, was that from our ads or was that from our SEO? Because if we’re picking up a pattern of great clients coming in through ads or SEO, that’s where we want to move the lever a little bit and start to put more money into the channels that are reaping the most benefits. In addition to that, we’re talking about form tracking and also chat tracking as well. Another big problem that we’ve had with attribution as we work with our customers to figure out this challenge is that chat, typically chat bots, people like them, and increasingly, I think, becoming more popular for the consumer.

Patrick: 

They are a completely different system. Typically, you will add that script on your website and it’s going to go into the software of the company who runs the chat bot. In this scenario, in a normal website or normal marketing campaign, you’ve got your form on your website which probably doesn’t give you any analytic data source data. You then have maybe call tracking or you don’t have any call tracking set up at all. Then you have a chat. All of these things are coming from different places. Then you’re having to go at the end of the month to look at Google Analytics and try to connect the dots as to where did your customers come from, which ones were the sales calls, which ones were the actual people who were calling in. We were trying to do this and matching up Google Analytics with Google ads, with Google business profile, with also a chat bot, and then compiling all of that at the end of the month and trying to go through that. It’s an enormous time suck and a big lift to go in through. There’s still a lot left to be desired. Those are the two main components of having that base layer of tracking and then a robust form and call tracking chat tracking system that all works together.

Patrick: 

T hat’s really the big advantage from our point of view with what converts is that we have our own AI chatbot tool that integrates directly with what converts Google Analytics integrates with that, and then they have call tracking. Also, the forms go through directly to what converts. And so it’s essentially aggregating all of this data into one singular platform and has it all in a standard list where you can see, okay, that’s a pay per click lead, that’s an ads lead, that’s a search lead, makes it so much easier for both you as a client and also us as the marketing provider. Now, finally, what you can do with this is get them automatically pushed into your CRM with that source data. So you as the attorney can just see these coming into your CIO or Practice Panther or another tool like that. And so for us, that’s really the triple crown of the set up in terms of attribution is having the software, the forms, and then being able to push that into the CRM so that you are not awash in emails and communication because that’s another big challenge that we have seen with the firms that we work with is that you are getting some form or some leads from one provider.

Patrick: 

You’re getting chat scripts from another. Then you’re getting form submissions that come as an email through your website and trying to keep that all together is not only challenging, but you’re also then relying on typically your assistant to aggregate all that, put it into your CRM, and then start the follow up process. So there’s a way to leverage the technology here to make your intake process much more smooth so that you only really have to focus on those people just getting dropped into your CRM where you can actually do some of that marketing automation. You can do follow up sequences. I think more importantly, you’re just going to make sure that nobody gets left, that those emails are not going to spam. They’re not getting forgotten by an assistant who’s overworked or has too much going on. Then finally, you can then reconcile all this activity inside your CRM or just through the system like Web Converter. That’s what we do on a monthly basis with our clients to show the value and basically show them, Hey, here’s where all of your leads came from. Let’s go through which ones actually became customers. And that way, we can attribute a direct dollar amount to those marketing efforts.

Patrick: 

So this is really the full attribution set up that is going to give you the most insight into your business and the quality of your marketing efforts. So tons of value here. And I would highly recommend working with somebody who has an approach like this in mind because once you get in a couple of months and you’re starting to try to understand, hey, is this marketing working? If you don’t have this underlying data and this type of process in place, you’re going to be completely guessing. You’re going to be relying on your marketing provider to basically tell you and trust them that, hey, yes, this SEO campaign is working. This ads campaign is working. Beyond just what I hear from attorneys a lot is I feel like it’s working. I have a sense that it’s working. If you’re really serious about scaling, as you get up to that level and you’re starting to invest pretty heavily, you have to have that better level of detail with your marketing. If you really want to be efficient and get the most out of it. Last point on this discussion on attribution is that with this set up, this ideal set up for attribution that we’re talking about here, it solves a bunch of problems.

Patrick: 

There are four specifically that I think are most valuable to law firms. Number one, not knowing if your marketing agency is effective. If you have all of this set up and your marketing firm is giving you this type of data on a monthly basis, then it’s really hard for you to make errors in your marketing strategy. Right now, most law firms have to rely on trust, on gut feeling, whether or not their marketing company is doing good work. This completely eliminates that, and it makes sure that you know where you can draw that line from start to finish of your business. Super, super essential. Second, if you’re relying on gut sentiment right now for marketing decisions, I hear this all the time from clients where predictably, or usually this is from potential clients who say, Well, I don’t think my type of clients are going to search on Google, or I don’t think my type of clients are going to click on those ads, or I hate ads and I never click on them, so my customers are not going to do it. This is obviously a biased opinion because it’s your preference speaking for everybody or also hear this all the time, Well, my friend Bob, he knows about these things or knows about marketing, and he says Google ads don’t work or Facebook ads don’t work or whatever.

Patrick: 

This allows you to get out of that space. Because as you transition to a business owner, beyond just a practitioner of law, you’re really getting into these bigger business challenges. You need to get outside of that gut sentiment. It’s good for some things and it can help. It’s obviously going to get you started, got you where you are. But at some level, you want to be basing your decisions on who you’re giving your money to, where it’s going, not on gut sentiment. And that’s where this attribution data helps. Third, overspending on poorly performing marketing campaigns. So if you recall the example I gave you a little while back, we have worked with companies or clients who when they come in, they are super gung ho about Google advertising. And we also do SEO. And I can think of one client in particular who was spending heavily in the personal injury space, spending $100, $200 per click. And basically, maybe very break and even, they were spending thousands and thousands of dollars each month, while in contrast, spending about 30 % of that on search engine optimization. And after about six months to a year, we figured out that overwhelmingly, the source of new business for them was almost always from search engine optimization.

Patrick: 

You had this big bucket of money being spent every single month on ads and not really comparing that to SEO. When we finally broke it down, we saw that the cost per acquisition for an SEO client was substantially lower. So it makes a lot of sense for them to push their chips to the other side of the table. And they barely do any advertising now because the SEO program is so productive and the cost for personal injury cases has risen, continued to rise substantially. So this gives you great insight as to whether your marketing dollars are being spent efficiently across the different channels that you may be utilizing. Lastly, and very importantly, under spending on the best activity. This is the flip side of what I just talked about. You may be under spending on or over spending on bad campaigns, but you may be under spending on the things that really are working. A lot of people will, again, go into using advice from people who are really just giving examples or stories about their experience. It’s not based on data. Some of the things that I think fall into that bucket are like billboards.

Patrick: 

I think TV advertising can be effective, but it’s a very difficult thing to prove and really clearly attribute. You have these things that cost a ton of money, but there’s no way to attribute the value to them. There’s no way to attribute it to it. Whereas something like search engine optimization has a slow ramp up period, but in our experience is the absolute most cost efficient way to produce clients. I’m not going to go into a big spiel about SEO, but what we have seen over the time with ads, you’re paying for every single click and you’re not building up any equity or any value in your presence. Whereas with SEO, you are. And so you put in an investment now, it can continue to pay dividends for you for months or years from it. And so this attribution data is so essential for every law firm because you want to know exactly the best utilization of your capital, make sure it is running efficiently. Thank you so much for your time. I hope that was useful and informative. If you ever have any questions about attribution and or marketing, we’d love to talk about it.

Patrick: 

And if you want to give me a shout, my email is [email protected] And our phone number is 4044823539. I would be more than happy to take a look at your current efforts and we can do an attribution audit so that you have a better idea of whether or not you’re getting value from your current providers and figure out if, in fact, it’s a good strategy. Thank you again. My name is Patrick Carver, and thank you again so much for your time and have a great day.

Patrick Carver

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