“War is 90 per cent information” – Napoleon Bonaparte
With the legal sector continuing to go through a period of unprecedented change, law firms are increasingly looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.
Law firm decision makers throughout the country will be busy developing and implementing business plans, setting objectives, goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), ie important metrics. However, when applied in an online environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and get distracted by the sheer volume of metrics delivered by analytics tools which can easily confuse rather than inform.
The following tips are designed to help you see the wood through the trees and highlight some of the most important tools and techniques to help your law firm succeed online.
1. Define success for your law firm – don’t start with data
Before looking at any data or at any of the main analytics tools, it is crucial to work out your law firm’s definition of online success. In other words, what are your business objectives, and how can the internet be leveraged to help you meet your objectives? Such an important and high level discussion requires input from your firm’s most senior partners and consultants and is not just the remit of the marketing department.
One of the most prominent web analytics thought-leaders, Avinash Kaushik explains the importance of this approach:
“A data-first strategy … is nuts. It will only slow down your progress and allow your competitors to crush you like a bug (even if you are a top player in your market today!). You should reject data-first. You should accept data-with strategies.”
The following example was one of the key initial objectives of one of our best performing clients, illustrating how ambitious you can be:-
“To establish X as the most prominent online High Street legal firm and legal brand in the Y area and surrounding areas.”
2. Set up your online strategy and measurement plan; set targets and ask the right questions
Once your main business objectives are set up, it’s time to set out a solid plan for your online strategy and measurement. Avinash Kaushik recommends a five step model:
1) Identify your business objectives (as above).
2) Identify goals for each objective.
3) Identify KPIs for each goal.
4) Identify targets for each KPI.
5) Identify valuable Segments for analysis.
It’s strongly recommended that you read the guide linked above itself – if you take the time to work with the relevant stakeholders in your firm and complete these steps, you’ll be in a much stronger position to implement your online strategy and to analyse, measure and report on its success.
3. Implement sophisticated call tracking software
Our experience tells us that clients of your firm are between 5 and 10 times more likely to call you than they are to get in touch by a written online enquiry or email address on your site. And on this basis, we would highly recommend implementing call tracking software for your website and other online channels.
What is call tracking? Essentially, it’s a technology that can be implemented into your website that allows for the tracking of phone calls to be associated with your online advertising, whether through Google organic search engine optimisation, Google Adwords, Bing, direct traffic or traffic from another site (such as LinkedIn or Twitter).
What analytics benefits can this deliver? Not only can you find out the source of each call (such as through those channels listed above), but also which keywords people used when searching Google, which page on your site they’ve called from, where they are based and much more. Ultimately, this will provide you with a much better understanding of which online channels that are most effective at delivering enquiries for your firm. Using this information, you can then develop your online marketing strategy to put more investment into the areas that are delivering the best returns for you on an ongoing basis and provide a massive amount of transparency and visibility for reporting.
4. Set up a custom Google Analytics dashboard
Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet (with over 80% market share) for several reasons – it’s powerful, it’s user friendly and it’s free. As a result, many law firms should consider it to be the de facto hub for their online analytics. If you’re relatively new to the service, the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers has (back in January 2015) already published a useful beginner’s guide to Google Analytics by Catherine Bailey.
We would recommend setting up a custom Google Analytics dashboard. This is a collection of widgets that give you a quick overview of the main metrics you should be concentrating on the most, such as numbers of online enquiries. To get started, you can use template Google Analytics dashboards provided by the former Editor of Econsultancy, Graham Charlton.
With some further tailoring, you should be able to monitor at a glance your firm’s online strategy KPIs. Just make sure that your KPIs are in line with your goals – if numbers of written online enquiries or phone calls via your website are your main KPIs, then these should be implemented into Google Analytics as Goals and made prominent within such a dashboard. So often, law firm partners have a tendency to look only at some of the easiest metrics to understand, or those that are more superficial in nature. One of the most common examples of this is amount of web ‘traffic’. For example, you could be getting thousands of monthly visits to a really interesting blog you’ve published on a new legal subject but no enquiries because your readers to that blog aren’t going to buy from you.
5. Use complementary analytics tools for specific channels
In addition to Google Analytics, depending on your goals, you should use relevant analytics tools for other specific channels. If Google rank tracking is important to your firm, there is now a plethora of rank tracking tools on the market, including Moz, Raven or SEOProfiler to name just a few. If paid search is important to your firm, Google Adwords (as with Google Analytics) has excellent built-in analytics functionality. If social media is important to your firm, make use of the analytics platforms within Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. or from analytics within social media management software like Hootsuite or Buffer.
You could take it one step further by integrating your Google Analytics account and other online analytics accounts with all-in-one business dashboard software, like Klipfolio, Cyfe or DashThis, to help give you a broader overview of all relevant metrics.
6. Create automated reports for your partners
Most online analytics tools should have a way for you to have automated, regular reporting set up that you can have sent to you and your partners. The key is to ensure that such a report provides quick, useful insights and actionable information.
7. Always be testing
With all online activities, you should always be testing – the more often and the faster you can test and trial different techniques, the more likely you are to succeed in the long term.
To roll out new tests for your online strategy as part of a successful analytics plan, you should consider a process like the following:
1) Hypothesise – by changing x we can increase y.
2) Identify, collect and analyse relevant data.
3) Draw and report on conclusions.
4) Iterate, revise your hypotheses and repeat.
8. Close the loop
Finally, it’s one thing being able to track online metrics such as online enquiry volumes; but it’s another to be able to match that up with how many of those enquiries are converting into new clients. And not only that, but also being able to work out what the average fee value of such a client is, both for their initial instruction for you and for their annual or lifetime value for your firm.
There is a great deal of effort required upfront in terms of thinking about your analytics strategy and there are many tools out there which are designed to help you, but which, when not used strategically, can easily cause undue confusion and provide misleading data.
With reference to the Napoleon quote from the start of this piece, it’s important to think about today’s rapidly evolving legal sector landscape as more of a warzone than a friendly, fraternal environment. Each year law firms are either winning or losing. And effective use of information gleamed from a robust analytics strategy has a significant role to play in determining success or failure.
Gavin Ward is the Operations Director at Moore Legal Technology, helping law firms succeed within the confines of overarching growth strategies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @GavWard.
Gavin would like to thank Douglas Millar, Head of Analytics & Performance at Moore Legal Technology, for his assistance in the production of this article.