Today’s guests, Erik and Elliot, will be joining Christopher on our upcoming Community Table live Q&A on February 16, 2023 to discuss all things marketing. Sign up here (it’s free) to join us so you can get your questions answered!
Acquisition, from cold lead to paying client, is the important stuff. Marketing is one of three pillars of a successful firm: finding and signing new clients. Guests Erik and Elliot Alicea, co-founders of Empirical360 legal marketing, have a passionate focus on law firm marketing built on ROI, return on investment. Get real bang for your marketing buck.
Automation may not be your best bet when it comes to generating cold leads. The process differs from referrals, you need to be personal. People only look for a new lawyer when they are in trouble, so be compassionate, be human. Reach out. And by all means, answer the phone.
Learn to measure the return on your marketing dollar. There should be accountability and measurable results. Know what it’s costing you to land every new client. How do you know if you got your money’s worth? And when you get a lead, hey, that’s not the end. Get the contract signed, that’s work.
(Plus, if you had only ONE channel for marketing your firm, which would it be? Can you guess the answer?)
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Managing your law practice can be challenging. Marketing, time management, attracting clients and all the things besides the cases that you need to do that aren’t billable. Welcome to this edition of The Un-Billable Hour, the law practice advisory podcast. This is where you’ll get the information you need from expert guests and host, Christopher Anderson, here on Legal Talk Network.
Christopher T. Anderson: Welcome to The Un-Billable Hour. I am your host, Christopher Anderson. And today’s episode is, are you ready? It’s about acquisition. Yay. This is, like, always our most popular topic. You know, we’ve done a couple episodes lately about, you know, physical plant and metrics and like the actual really important stuff, but everybody wants to talk about acquisition and beginning of the year is a great time to talk about it. But hopefully by now, you’ve realized that it might not be the only topic you need to focus on. But today, we are going to discuss some marketing myths and how to see through them to make your marketing work for you. If you remember, of course, in the mean triangle of what it is that a law firm business must do, you’ve got to acquire new clients. So that’s what we’re talking about today. You’ve got to produce the results that you promised; otherwise, it’s, you know, leads to lawsuits, and you’ve got to achieve the business and professional results that work for you, because, otherwise, why are you engaged in this ownership of a law firm business?
In the center of the triangle is you. You drive it all, for better or worse. And today, we’re going to make you a better manager of the marketing and the acquisition piece. We are going to discuss how the right approach to marketing will work for your business and how most approaches to marketing that are pitched to you won’t. And to have that conversation, I couldn’t be more happy than to talk with Erik Alicea and Elliot Alicea. They’re co-founders of Empirical360 and I’ve been working with these guys for quite a while. They know their stuff and they give it to you straight, which is why they’re on the show; otherwise, they wouldn’t be. And we’re going to call today’s episode of the Un-Billable Hour, “Marketing Is Metrics”.
And again, once again, I’m pleased to introduce EriK and Elliot, the co-founders of Empirical360. They started out designing websites back when they were 16 and by 18, they started a wine business, which I didn’t know. I go talk to these guys for years. I didn’t know this. So we’re going to learn more about the wine business after the show. And they were marketing directors at a large warranty company, and then they figured out, you know, what they can do what the big agencies can do better. And so, they started their own Empirical360. In the last few years, they’ve successfully grown a variety of businesses, but what they specialize in is law firms, which is again why they’re on the show, because they realized the enormous potential that we attorneys have to be successful in marketing, and they’ve now helped over 100 law firms across the United States achieve great results and grow their ROI. And, again, see, that’s why I like to talk to these guys. It’s about the ROI. We don’t talk about silly things, like number of unique visitors. We talk about ROI. We talk about how the marketing works. To date, they’ve managed more than $40 million in ad spend. And, of course, when they’re not working to get law firms more leads, you can find them training at the jiu jitsu gym, walking their dogs or spending time with their friends and family also didn’t know about the jiu jitsu. I’ve got to talk less smack with these guys. So, anyway, Erik, Elliot, welcome to the show.
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, thanks for having us, Chris.
Christopher T. Anderson: Oh, my absolute pleasure. So, how did I screw up your bio? What else do you want folks to know about how you got started in the law firm marketing business?
Erik Alicea: The only thing you screwed up is Elliot is actually a black belt in jiu jitsu. So, that will be the interesting thing, so that, you know, small percentage of those out there.
Christopher T. Anderson: So, what belt are you?
Erik Alicea: I’m brown. I’ll be black soon.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay.
Erik Alicea: But he started like a year before me, so he got the jump on me.
Christopher T. Anderson: Most excellent. All right. So, we’re talking about marketing and you guys, I mean, I really think — I don’t want to call it a unique take on marketing. It’s just to me it’s a rare and correct take on marketing, particularly as it applies to law firms. So, the people listening to the show, they’re getting calls from marketing and Facebook Ads for marketing and Tik-Tok ads for marketing, and when they go to the State Bar, they’re confronted with people who want to sell them marketing. And, you know, with the number of vendors out there and the lack of success and lack of ROI that I see, the first thing I just wanted to put to you guys is, why do attorneys fail at marketing so much when there’s so many people trying to sell them marketing?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, yeah. So, you know, we’ve talked to hundreds of firms at this point, and I’ve kind of narrowed it down to three reasons, and Erik can chime in. But, I would say that the first, and I don’t want to be one of those companies that always blame people, so I’ll start with us, is poor marketing.
You know, Facebook Ads are not the best channel for attorneys, and generally, where you’ll started something like Google Ads, and Google Ads is kind of a monster. And if you think about Google as a platform, its main goal is to make money. And so, there are a lot of traps in Google to where they’ll make you click and they’ll make money, and the end user is kind of the victim of this. So, poor marketing, lack of knowledge of the platform is a giant problem because, really, anybody can become a marketing agency tomorrow. You just had to say, “Hey, I’m a marketing agency, and now this person is managing your money.” Whereas, you know, at least in financial advisor outlets, they have to get certified in those types of things. So, really a big reason is poor marketing from what we’ve seen when we audit accounts.
I would say the second is the wrong expectations, and this can be on both ends. This could be the company setting unrealistic expectations of what you’re going to get. You and I have all seen the ads, right? Get 20 cases in one day; otherwise, we’ll give you $10,000.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right.
Elliot Alicea: So, that’s an expectation out there that’s not realistic because they didn’t talk about the budget required or the infrastructure needed to close 20 cases in one day. And then, the attorneys themselves have, you know, somewhat warped expectations because of those ads, you know, that us companies have put forth, and also because they’re so used to working in a referral dynamic that they’re used to closing at 100%, and now all of a sudden they have to kind of work for their business a little bit, you know, you have to close a cold lead. So, you’re getting two sets of expectations that are butting heads which will ultimately lead to an unsatisfied person at the end of it.
And then, the third is, there’s not a lot of accountability between the company and the attorney themselves. And so, when you think of larger organizations, you see that there’s a sales team and there’s a marketing team, and there is a sales team. So, in the relationship that most attorneys have with their vendors, there’s definitely a marketing team, but there’s no sales team to take those leads, work those leads, turn them into clients, and then report back to the marketing team. And so, that is a big gap that, you know, a lot of companies need to bridge for attorneys to be more successful is accountability and the realization that there is a sales component to this whole thing.
Christopher T. Anderson: I think we’re going to break down a little bit of what that means why that’s sales component is important, because it’s not just, you know, “Hey, you buy our stuff”, but it’s that sales component is a continuum of services that bring someone from being a, as you described, cold lead to being a client with lots of pitfalls along the way. Erik, did you want to pitch it on any of that?
Erik Alicea: In the poor marketing because a lot of the lawyers out there are actually being ditched by agencies. And usually like Elliott and myself are the owner of the agency, there usually somewhat like an elite marketer they’ve, you know, made their way for their company, they’ve advertised for large companies before. And then, the issue of for most marketing agencies is as soon as you sign up with them, you get handed off to a very junior level account executive who makes the main decisions for you, who drives the at account. Again, you can have anybody implement changes in at account, but the person driving the strategy should be the person who has the business knowledge, has the understanding of the marketing campaigns that we have, has spent millions of dollars, and you just don’t get that out there. Big issue.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, that makes total, total sense, so.
Erik Alicea: The whole time you’ve been working with us, you still, you know, on a weekly basis, you work with Elliot and myself instead of, you know, just an account executive who is new to the company, is interim level and can’t make the calls that we can make to drive your performance.
Christopher T. Anderson: Which is absolutely key, right? Yeah, because a lot of, particularly, like in the paid search area, a lot of what is needed and what you guys do is real-time tweaking, right? Like, this stuff is changing, its dynamic. It’s not fire and forget. I mean, you know, not for nothing. When I first started my first law firm business, the biggest ad spend was Yellow Pages. Well, you know, you designed your ad, you made the best deal you could, which was none because they wouldn’t negotiate with you, and your ad goes up in the Yellow Pages and then, you know, see you next year because you can’t do anything about it. And you just, yeah, so you hope. But, so, you know, today, like you guys are talking about, a lot of folks are out there talking a lot of stuff, and I think one of the missing pieces indeed is sales. But what are some of the false teachings or myths around advertising your firm? What some of the wisdom out there that ain’t so wise?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, I would say one of the bigger ones that we see consistently is that, especially now with this AI stuff on the rise, is automating your firm or leveraging AI to shortcut. Ultimately, being a service provider, you know, a lot of industries we’ve worked in have tried to automate processes or even law firms have tried to automate, and at the end of the day, this is somebody who’s going through somewhat of a crisis. You know, if you think about your end client, either they’re going through a divorce or somebody has died or they’ve been in an accident, and they want to talk to a person, and it’s hard to automate so much of that experience, right? At the end of the day, you’re a service provider. And, generally, what happens on the marketing end when you try and shortcut things or automate things or gather information in a clinical sort of way, is your conversion rates drop off. And people will go do business with smaller firms who are hand holding them.
And so, I would say that that is probably the biggest myth is that you can completely automate your firm and live on a beach and live happily ever after. I think it’s more of you have to work the process, you have to be a good service provider, and really try and help the client, and that’s seen through, you know, answering the phone, following up, calling back, you know, ultimately trying to help them. So, that’s a big myth is, you can just get some magic system or one funnel hack that will take you to millions of dollars, and we just really haven’t seen that in all of our advertising. We’ve worked in radio. We’ve worked in TV. We’ve worked in PBC. There hasn’t been a single hack or campaign that has gone from zero to millions of dollars without spending the appropriate amount and tweaking it.
Erik Alicea: And to double down on that, especially for the legal industry, is when you look at how people search for legal services regardless of what it is, and people are trying to implement for like estate planning, like e-commerce, or same thing like DIY courses for family law immigration, all these things. But, if you look at the way people are searching, the market is not ready because they usually append in some way, shape or form a near me to their search term or a local city. And because of that, that clearly shows that they want to work with someone who’s local, a service provider. So, even Google with the introduction of local service ads, treats Google as just as they would a plumber, any local service business. So, that just shows there is a local component, a dynamic where people want to talk to somebody, work with a real person and not a completely automated funnel online where they do everything themselves.
Christopher T. Anderson: The personal touch is key and the near me, I mean, I think that I’d like to talk a little bit about strategies towards that. But before we do that, I want to let our sponsors have a word. And so, we’re going to take a break, listen to our sponsors. When we come back, we’ll going to be back with Erik and Elliot Alicea and Empirical360. We’re going to talk a little bit about marketing channels because you guys are ready, just scatter shot and some out there. We talked about paid search, we talked about SEO. You even threw in there some radios, television, I then said Yellow Pages So, I want to talk about the channels out there because it’s daunting, right, for a small law firm. What do you do? What do you pick first? So, when we’re back, we’ll talk about that.
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All right, we’re back we’re talking with Elliot and Erik Alicea. We’ve been talking about — we started the conversation with myths and why a lot of attorney marketing fails and what some of the causes are about that. And I don’t like to start on such a down note, but I think it’s important to kind of get that stuff out of the way so we can talk about what we should be doing. So, the first thing, as I said, I wanted to talk about is, we got a lot of marketing channels as attorneys. There’s so much we can do. There’s so many people willing to take our money and waste it and blow it on poor ROI activities. But, you know, there are. There still are actual physical directories, and then there’s online directories, and then there’s paid search, and then there’s SEO, and then there’s television and radio and print and newsletters, like so many channels. And I think, you know, there’s a real risk of diluting one’s efforts and picking the wrong thing for the phase of the law firm. So how does a law firm choose what to prioritize in beginning to really get serious about marketing?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, I like to break it down, you know, I like to break marketing down into two channels just so it’s simple, and this is an evergreen concept. There is an interruption-based channel, which is generally most marketing, like when you think of you’re watching TV, there’s a commercial that interrupt your show and you’re not happy to watch it unless it’s a Super Bowl. If you’re driving, it’s a billboard. And generally, interruption-based channels are not the lowest hanging fruit. You’re trying to build a brand, you’re trying to go after the longer-term play, and it’s very expensive to do that and generally, smaller firms can’t compete with that. Versus, there are channels out there where you’re just simply meeting a demand, and that is typically done on like a Google or a listing or buying leads. And generally, when you’re meeting a demand, it means that somebody is already raising their hand and they’re coming to you with a need and you just simply have to be there to meet that need versus generating a demand.
So, when you think of channels and when you just think of this concept, it’s much easier to break down where to prioritize, because generally meeting a demand is going to equal faster cash flow and a lot less money to put out and a lot less testing. So, whatever I tell law firms, you know, how to prioritize, think of it in that term like, if you need a plumber, what do you do? Generally, most law firms have the urgency of a plumber-type dynamic. They need to solve a problem and they need to solve it pretty quickly, versus, you know, if you see a billboard, you know, it may take three years for you to get in a car accident, and then you might not even remember that guy’s name. So, that’s kind of the dynamics that you want to take into account. And so, I always liked the lower hanging fruit because you can get very far on low-hanging fruit. And when I say very far, or revenue-wise, you know, millions of dollars a year before you have to worry about the, you know, the sexier channels that most people are attracted to, like videos or ebooks or lead magnets.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, that makes a bunch of sense. And then, those are some of the things that people jump to right away. They’re just FYI, like, the real thing that happens when you need a plumber is first to go to Lowe’s, you buy the equipment to make the repair, you make the repair, and then when water is spraying all over the house, then you call the plumber. Then, you do have that urgent need, and that’s how a lot of people look for legal services, too.
Erik Alicea: I hear it in our weekly calls all the time with our clients, so that’s how a lot of people start. They’re doing their own estate plan, doing their own divorce, mess it all up, the probate, whatever it is. And then, now, it’s time to get a lawyer involved, and those make the best clients. So, there you go there. They don’t know how hard it is. To also talk about those points and where to start, to actually define interruption-based channels versus demand-based channels. For the interruption-based, a lot of that will be like your social media ads, YouTube, display, anything where someone’s not specifically searching. And then, the demand-based channels would your Google search, whether that’s paid or organic, you know, other search engines as well. Before, it would have been to your Yellow Pages. So, you know, if you’re looking where to start, that’s where you start as far as this channel.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, that’s exactly, actually, what I was going to ask you is like. So, when we’re talking about demand-based, like the place to start really is paid search, right? Is that what we’re basically saying?
Elliot Alicea: I would say is paid search, if you’re looking for a more transactional relationship. Lead vendors are generally going to use their organic listings to sell you leads because they get them for free. And so, it’s still ultimately going to be an organic-type search lead. Now, they will dilute the quality of those leads over time by bringing in cheaper leads, which are going to be like Display or Facebook and things like that. But, when you first start with lead vendors, it’s a very easy relationship to get on board with and you’re going to get leads immediately and they’re generally going to be somewhat search-based. So, those two channels would be my advice to people if they’re looking to kind of test the waters.
Erik Alicea: Yeah, and paid search can be broken into two different categories now for attorneys. You have the local service ads, which are very similar to a lead vendor. I mean, you’re buying leads from Google, that’s what it is. And then, you have the paid search where you have to do a little bit of creative with the ads in the landing pages and stuff.
Christopher T. Anderson: Okay. All right. So, yeah. So, there already are even multiple things there. So, it’s a great place to get started. All right. I named the episode “Marketing Is Metrics”. For anybody that hasn’t watched Ted Lasso, I kind of stole it from that. You know, the football is life. Well, marketing is metrics. And I’m a metrics guy. I’m a numbers guy, and if you can’t show me the numbers, I can’t understand why I should do it.
So, in the context of what we’ve been talking about, paid search, about interruption-based about demand-based, what are some of the metrics that law firms should be using to measure themselves in regards to figuring out what they should be paying for marketing, what they should be charging for their services, their closing rate, their lead costs? Are there benchmarks out there that, and I get this a lot, like, okay, what is a good cost per click? What is a good lead cost for me? What is a good cost of acquisition? Do you have any metrics you can share that law firms can kind of hang their hats on?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah. So, in terms of acquisition, right, client acquisition cost is a nice equalizer because it takes into account any channel, really. But, if you’re doing paid channels, if you can afford a cost per acquisition between $500 and $1,000, you can almost advertise on any channel there is out there as long as your efficiencies are in place, and that goes into sales. But, a $500 cost per acquisition is almost doable across any practice area other than PI and in some cases DUI, depending on what part of the country you’re in. If you’re in, like Colorado or Arizona, it’s a little more expensive for you. But $500 to acquire your client is extremely realistic and once you have efficiencies in place, you can do that.
Again, if you can afford the upper echelon there of $1,000, most people think of being able to afford a higher cost per acquisition is a bad thing. It’s actually like Dan Kennedy’s thing is, whoever can afford to pay the most to acquire client wins because now you can dominate every channel. So, if you can afford $1,000 because your price higher or you have a higher lifetime value per client, then great, you could dominate any channel there is out there as far as digital is concerned. But, a $500 benchmark is a good place to start for most practice areas.
And then, that kind of leads into your pricing metrics, right? If it’s going to cost you $500 to acquire your client, well what does it cost you to fulfill that client and how much profit is left on the table? And so, you can back into your pricing models based on a client acquisition cost of $500. And when I’m talking about that, I’m talking about media spend, not necessarily paying a vendor. So, if you factor in the vendor relationship there, you want to make sure that that’s a part of your equation or some part of your overhead. But that would lead into your pricing and generally, like for most practice here, that’s a bigger conversation, right? If you want me to go into practice areas and what I generally here across the nation, I can, but that that’s how you could back into your own pricing.
Christopher T. Anderson: And, Erik, before you pipe in, I just want to make certain to clarify. You’ve talked about the cost of acquiring client. I bet a lot of folks listening are like, I don’t know what it cost me to acquire a client. How do you figure out what it cost you acquire a client?
Erik Alicea: Yeah. So, that’s actually, you know, pretty easy. Generally, the best way to do it is you take how much money you spent on ads, and this would be media cost. So, if you go to your Google Ads platforms or your Facebook Ads, how much money did you pay Facebook for the year and then how many clients did you get, and you divide that cost by the number of clients, and that’s your cost of acquisition. And, like you said, Chris, a lot of people don’t know that number and it’s a very important number because that’s how you back into how much money do I want to make? How much do I need to spend? Who do I choose a vendor, etc.
Getting to spend is, of course, really easy because you can log into the advertising platform or get it from your marketing company. But, also, internally, you should have some sort of lead management system or CRM where you have every lead and once they convert to a client, you’re tracking that so you can quickly pull those numbers at any given time.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s a key concept. And so, I kind of interrupted to clarify that, Erik, before you were going to jump in on the baseline metrics.
Erik Alicea: Yeah. And then, also, because people always ask us, you know, what should we pay per lead? What should our cost per click be? And they figure out your lead cost and what you can afford. Because like Elliott said, like a lot of times, and I know it may seem self-serving since we’re a marketing company, you always want to be able to afford the highest cost per acquisition because, again, like Elliot said, you can go on Facebook, billboards, pretty much any channel. But to figure that out, you have to look at your closing rate, which again, if you don’t know your closing rate, that’s just another reason to have your CRM. You take your cases, divide it by your leads for the month, and you can figure out that number. But, like the bottom closing rate that, you know, we see that you need to be profitable is around 10%. And again, people always say they close at 50, 80%. But when you actually look at the total number of inquiries by your cases, usually it fall somewhere around 10%. And so, if you look at your cost per acquisition, so if you’re spending, you know, if you have $1,000 cost per acquisition, you’re closing at 10%, the lead cost needs to be $100.00. And if it’s a $500 cost per acquisition, you’re closing at 10%, your lead cost needs to be $50 and, you know, so on and so forth as those as those ratios change.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. That should be clear. This rate that you’re talking about is from lead that comes in to client. Because there’s lots of conversion rates right out there. But so, yeah. I just don’t anybody come and go away like, “Wow. So, if I have a sales conversion rate or 10%, I’m good?” Like, no. No, you’re not.
Erik Alicea: Yeah. That’s what I like to refer to as the raw closing rate. So, all leads and then sales. Of course, a lot of people will break it down into a number of appointments booked, number of people have shown, and then if people actually attended, and that’s what most people measure their closing rate on. But, raw closing rate is the easiest like equalizer.
Christopher T. Anderson: So, it sounds like, if, so if an attorney is working on a case, so how much do I allocate to spend? Well, you basically said, you’re saying back into that number. So, how many clients do you want, what’s your cost of acquisition, look at it historically, talk to your marketing team about, “Hey, can I get this cost of acquisition down a little bit?”, and then, “Okay. Well, if I want this many clients, let’s say, if I’m going to start at $500 per client, I need ten clients this month? Well, then I need to spend $5,000, right?” And, you know, when people buck at that number I’m just like, if there was an ATM and you can go, put your card in and say I’m going to spend $500 and out will spit a client guaranteed, would you do that? Yeah, like, maybe, like, yeah, of course, I would do that. You know, my average case value is $5,000, $10,000. Sure, I’ll do that. But when you’ve got a lot of moving pieces in here before we get there, and so that’s I think what could be daunting. But, I think if you first think about it that way, it starts to make a lot more sense and it makes you pay a lot more attention to some of the metrics that you’ve been talking about.
All right. So, what I want to do now is, first, really what I want to do more than anything else is hear another word from our sponsors. And then, I want to come back and we’ll talk a little bit about how — so, we’ve kind of teased talking about the other stuff, sales and how to deal with the leads once they arrive, which isn’t all sales. There’s a lot of moving pieces there. So, that’s where I like to focus on is, what do we do with those leads once we get them, to make sure that that 10% or more is what actually happens. But first, a word from our sponsors.
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All right. We are still talking with Erik and Elliot Alicea and Empirical360. We’ve been talking about what’s wrong with attorney marketing and why is it fail? We’ve been talking about some baseline metrics so you know how to measure what you’re doing. But, it’s come up several times during our conversation, that part of where we fall down as attorneys is what happens when we get a lead. It’s like this little, nice little egg that could become a client and what do we have to do to keep it and incubate it and make sure that enough of these eggs turn into clients, and let’s just start with it. Like, you know, I would just say that word. So, we got this client. What should we do? Follow up, right? What should we be doing with the client? I think, you know, Elliot, you spoke a little bit earlier about don’t over automate this stuff, like some automation is good. But, so talk about that. Like, what is automation? What should we do? What shouldn’t we do?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah. So, from an automation standpoint, what I like to use automations for is for that initial touch point. So, as soon as someone submits a form, as soon as, you know, someone calls, well, someone calls in, you can’t really automate the answering of that call, you technically could, but, at least when someone submits a form, they should be getting emails, text messages, and you can even automate the dial of a phone call. I’ve actually done a study of a very large PI firm of their dialing systems, their automations, and they have an automated dialer, texting and e-mailing automations all go out on the first touch point. And then, to your point not to over automate it, once someone has engaged with the company, it’s nice to put a little personal touch on the communication. So, now you’re talking about something that may have come up in the consultation or a note that they’ve said and now they know that you’re actually listening to them and it’s not just a robot on the other end.
So, at the very least in an automation sense, emails, text messages on the initial touch point is very easy to accomplish and will go a long way.
Erik Alicea: And then, also going back to, you know, what Elliott mentioned earlier of over automating or just automating too early. Always call the leads. You know, I can’t tell you how many times attorneys will have automatic text messages, emails in place and just think that’s enough. It’s not because people will price shop. They will look at other attorneys and if they’re calling, they’re going to beat you.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. So, you’re saying reach out, human being reach out.
Erik Alicea: And automated. Yeah. You have to pretty much do it all.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yep, that totally makes sense. So, and how much, right? So, one and done, called, left a voice mail, sent an email, sent a text, done? Or what should we really be thinking here?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, so, you know, we have a call center background. So, the call center background in me says do it until you start getting complaints. But that can also, you know, start to reflect poorly on the firm. The firm that I’ve actually analyzed, they actually did 23 phone calls every single day for 23 days, mirror that with texts and emails. I think that’s excessive. You’ll start to irritate people at that point. But you can start with a number that you think is decent and start to test it. Really, the ultimate answer there is test your cadence, test your follow-up. For us, what we do for text messages and emails is we do five in a row every day for five days because generally, we’re using channels that are very hot. If you don’t get that person engaged very quickly, the lead dies pretty quickly. It ages out very quickly. So, we try to be aggressive on the initial follow up and then it’ll drop off after that.
Erik Alicea: And then, also having follow-up sequences in place after the initial touchpoint. Like, most people, once somebody had a consult and they’re quoted, they’re just like sitting out there. Like, they need to also receive very urgent responses to get them to the next step, which would be coming, you know, assigned and pay client.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, you need to do this. So, the follow up isn’t just about lead to get me into a conversation. Now, I’ve had the conversation, follow up, maybe you sent the fee agreement or something like that, follow up, follow up, follow up until it’s closed, like just never say die. And it’s funny, you know, to your point, it’s hard, right? Because if you’re doing it right, I think what I hear you say, Elliot, is if you’re doing it right, you should be getting a couple of complaints. Because if you’re not getting any, you’re probably leaving it out there.
Am I hearing that right?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, you’re pretty much, you know, you’re leaving money on the table at that point. And, to circle back, when we worked in a call center, we would test these cadences and we would test the response time of when the lead is submitted to when it actually got a phone call. And when we’re in a call center, we have an automated dialer. And so, that number was like three seconds. When someone submitted a form to the actual phone call, it was three seconds because the dialer did it. And when that number would creep up to a minute or two minutes, the call center is closing rate for that day would drop substantially. And we can measure that because we had such large datasets, we would get hundreds of sales a day that we would be able to see that in real time in one day. And so, whenever we would see the drop in closing rate, me and Erik would go and test the website. We’d submit a form. And if we didn’t get a call in three seconds, we would record how much time it took and we report that to the sales manager. And all of a sudden, closing rate will go right back up.
So, like speed to lead is very important, which is why automations can help because an attorney, you’re busy, it’s hard to call it lead right away. But then, like you said, kind of find your sweet spot to where like people are like, “Oh my gosh, leave me alone” or your closing rate is now in the 20% range or even 25% range on raw leads. Now, you’re hitting very, very good benchmarks to where you’re going to be very profitable with anything you do.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and I think, you point outed just to make the point to the listeners too about making a personal touch. I’ll just share a little anecdote that happened this week. Someone submitted a form on a Friday night after closing time. And so, they got the automated email. And they wrote back a pretty nasty email back just like, “What kind of email is this? This sucks, you suck.” And I happened to see it. And so, I immediately reached out with a personal email and just said, hey, you know. And what I did is, I explained. It was like, “Listen, yeah it does. I know it was impersonal, and you reached out after hours and fast is important. And so, we got back to you fast, but, you know, we’re also human beings back here. Just, you know, there is personal and there’s fast and the two sometimes can’t be done.” And the, I said, “So, you know, let me know what’s going on.” And he said, “Well, it’s just a divorce and I really want to — I really wanted a personal response.” And I said, “Well, you know, now you’ve got one and let me tell you a little bit about how we work.” And after that email, he sent back to me and he said, “Thank you. That last response felt like a hug.” And it’s like, but I mean to me, that was a whole thing. It was like the whole arc, right? Automation is good. Hey, you know what it did? He emailed back, right? And then we stuck the personal in there, and now it’s as good as that lead is going to close.
Erik Alicea: One more metric to measure all firms because, again, we’re talking a lot about form leads here, which again is a lot of the leads, people fill out forms. But when a phone call comes in, the most important thing you can do, and I can’t tell you how many firms we audit. It’s like the first thing they’re doing wrong at this stage is miss the calls. And I always our attorneys that if you view every phone call not as a missed call but a missed sales appointment, it immediately changes the urgency, the priority to get those answered. You know, calling someone back, it’s great for a referral. It’s not great when someone’s on a listing like Google. Just something to consider. And that’s always like whenever I see somebody’s closing rates dropped, I look in their call tracking software. All the calls are blown in a minute or, you know, specifically missed. If we have call recording, I know what the problem is right away. So, that’s one thing, you know, you can quickly solve. There are so many cheap options out there to get the phone answered to, you know, patch that hole and then put it the more permanent solution in place.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. You got to pick up. Yeah, calling them back’s not going to work there. As soon as they hung up, they dialed a number, like they’re just gone. And, yeah, you got to pick up the phone. I think that’s a great point. All right, as we get close to the end, if you were new to this game and you had one channel to rely on for the rest of your law firm and you couldn’t go to any others, what would you choose?
Elliot Alicea: So I like to tell people, like, what would I tell my mom to do, because you know I’m not going to lie to her. I’m not going to, you know sidestep her. I personally would choose Google Ads, search marketing specifically because, you know, we’ve been at this game now for about 10 years, I’m aging Erik myself, and it’s been extremely consistent for 10 years. It’s funny because we actually get a lot of our leads from Facebook, and I hate relying on Facebook because it’s so finicky, it’s buggy, the algorithm takes control. So, personally, I would have to choose Google Ads because of the consistency and the ability to plan and project what I could get without actually spending the money. So you get a lot of tools with Google and a lot of reliability with Google versus every other platform.
Erik Alicea: Yeah. Again, initially, whenever I think about that question, Chris, I always think SEO because it’s free, you know, free once you start getting leads, of course, and the traffic is great. But the thing with SEO and social media changes is the algorithm changes can just ruin all your, you know, all your progress. You know, Google all of a sudden, when they introduced local service ads and made the maps more prominent, people’s listings dropped down. So, people who are relying on SEO now they’re getting less leads because so much of the impression share are going to their paid efforts. And, when you do rely on paid search versus organic search, you’re aligned with Google’s mission. So, Google mission, of course, is get everyone the best answer possible, but it’s also to make as much money as possible while doing that, and paid search will always be a part of their business because of that.
So, again, organic is great. But, if I had to choose one, like Elliot said, if I had to tell my mom that, you know, this one, you know, the recession-proof channel, that would be the one that I would go with.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. Because, I guess, in a sense, I’ve never thought about it this way. But what you just said is that SEO for better or worse, in a sense, is in competition with Google and they’ve been doing this longer and better. Don’t just — it’s okay to do it, and it’s probably smart to do SEO, and it makes everything else work well, but don’t rely on competing with Google.
Erik Alicea: Yeah. I mean, every single update that Google makes, they make like an update a big update every quarter, the paid component of search listings is larger and larger. Now, it’s getting to the point where you had to scroll down the first folder of your browser to get to the organic listings.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Elliot Alicea: Yeah. Google built its reputation on having the best answer with organic results and then monetize it with Google Ads. And like Erik said, their second mission is to make as much money as possible. And if you align yourself with that, you know, you’re not going to go anywhere. So, it’s an easy way to be consistent because consistency is all you really want as a business owner.
Christopher T. Anderson: And that will have to be the last word on that because we are ready to wrap up this edition of the Un-Billable Hour. So, I thank all of our listeners for listing. And of course, I thank our guests. Our guests today have been Erik Alicea and Elliot Alicea. They are the co-founders of Empirical360. Elliot, Erik, if people want to — like this was a short conversation about, a lot of deep stuff. That folks here want to learn more from you, ow can they reach out to you?
Erik Alicea: Yeah. They can hit our website, book a call, and we can talk about anything you want relating to these topics. It could be a fun chat. You’ll get metrics more based on your practice area. So, you have the knowledge to go forward in a confident way. So, it’s truly just the chat.
Christopher T. Anderson: And what’s that address?
Erik Alicea: Empirical360.com.
Christopher T. Anderson: And also, I’m going to put you guys on the spot. Would you be willing to come and be guest hosts on the Community Table to answer questions live from our audience?
Elliot Alicea: Yeah, I would love to.
Christopher T. Anderson: Awesome. So, folks, remember. Third Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Every third Thursday of every month at 3:00 Eastern Time, 12 o’clock Pacific Time, 1:00 Mountain Time, 2:00 Central Time, we have the Un-Billable Hour Community Table where our audience becomes the show and they get to come on, ask live questions of me and my guest hosts, of which Erik and Elliot have agreed to participate. So, we’ll see you at an upcoming Community Table soon and we’ll see all of our guests, or our listeners, I should say here soon as well. And, of course, this is Christopher T. Anderson, and I look forward to seeing all of you listeners, because I can see you through there, next month with another great guest as we learn more about topics that help us build the law firm business that works for you. Remember that you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes. Thanks for joining us. We’ll speak again soon.
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