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Most law practices focus on delivering great service to their clients. The challenge with this approach is that it focuses on just one aspect of a broader concept: the client experience. Great service is a must, but the client experience extends broadly to each and every interaction that not only clients but also prospects have with your business. And it all starts with intake.

Active, engaged intake facilitates the conversion of opportunities into clients. How you manage your intake process will either make or break the relationship with your leads. No matter how the prospective client has reached your business – whether through live chat, an inbound call, a referral, or another form of outreach – it’s important to establish your business as a helpful resource to prospective clients.

The Role of the Intake Team

“If everything goes right, we get a good experience. If everything goes wrong, we get a good story.”

– Simon Sinek, author “Start with Why”

Mom and Dad (and maybe a television commercial) were right – you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. It’s the initial experience that sets the tone for the future attorney/client relationship. Whether you are handling all of the intake personally or you have an intake person or team, this touchpoint will be the first direct contact most prospects have with your firm. Cultivating a friendly, helpful relationship with your potential clients shows them you are working with their benefit in mind.

When selecting employees to handle client intake, make sure you choose team members who can represent your firm in the best possible light. Develop an intake plan that achieves objectives and identifies the desired prospect profile. Build and follow a standardized list of questions to gather data, making allowances for prospects with special or complicated circumstances (life is rarely a “one size fits all” situation). Training them to engage in active listening during the intake process will save your team time, effort and frustration further down the sales process.

Even if intake is not part of an employee’s day-to-day activities, ensuring everyone on your team is familiar with the intake process helps them deliver a positive experience to potential clients and sets the stage for an ongoing, beneficial relationship.

Use Intake to Set Expectations

Understanding and taking note of your potential clients’ situations will help you understand if you can move forward with them professionally.  Through the intake process, your team should also be on the lookout for how serious the prospect is about retaining your services.

In addition to determining how viable a lead is, your intake team can set some basic expectations and give a clear idea of what your business may be able to accomplish, as well as set clear boundaries for limitations. Intake is a great way to introduce information like consultation fees, payment plans, and other practicalities that the client should know at the outset.

Adjust Your Intake Method to Fit the Opportunity

Because opportunities can come from a variety of places, it’s worth considering how your business will perform intake for each scenario, including:

  •    Walk-ins
  •    Inbound Calls
  •    Inbound emails/form submissions
  •    Inbound Chats
  •    Referrals

Each of these lead types may reach you with different levels of vetting. If a prospect calls your office directly or walks in the door, your intake process may be vastly different from the process established for referred leads or inbound chat. Understanding how to adjust your intake style based on the type of lead and the type of customer will save your business time and turn your meaningful opportunities into clients more efficiently.

By scaling your intake strategy to accommodate a variety of prospect traffic, new business areas and products, you’re doing important work in addressing what your prospects need and how to help them. The use of a client resource management team is a useful tool for companies to keep their prospects and clients information organized and updated. Your business may choose to use a CRM system to manage client records, or you may keep records across multiple platforms.

Make the Most of Missed Opportunities

Establishing yourself as a helpful resource for prospects means knowing when you can’t help him or her. If a prospective client needs services that your business doesn’t perform, you can still keep a good rapport with them and open the possibility of working together in the future. Refer these leads to partners that are better suited to help them this time around. By giving them suitable options, you are still providing an essential service to them and gaining trust in the process.

How you execute on the prospect intake process can make or break the experience. A seamless system of preparedness can speak volumes to a prospect – they are likely to deepen his or her view that the practice is highly professional, helpful and competent as team members follow through on commitments established by an effective intake process.

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Martindale-Hubbell is proud to announce that the following attorneys have achieved a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating, awarded to only those lawyers with the highest ethical standards and professional ability.

Congratulations to:

Only approximately 10% of attorneys have achieved this prestigious honor. For more information on Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, visit our Ratings and Reviews page. Attorneys who are interested in starting their own peer review process can submit the form below.

Martindale-Hubbell conducts secure online Peer Review Ratings surveys of lawyers across multiple jurisdictions and geographic locations, in similar areas of practice as the lawyer being rated. Reviewers are instructed to assess their colleagues’ general ethical standards and legal ability in a specific area of practice.  

The ratings help buyers of legal services identify, evaluate and select the most appropriate lawyer for a specific task at hand. The confidentiality, objectivity and complete independence of the ratings process are what has made the program a unique and credible evaluation tool for members of the legal profession.  The legal community values the accuracy of lawyer peer review ratings because they are determined by their peers – the people who are best suited to assess the legal ability and professional ethics of their colleagues.

Peer Review Rating award status can go up or down based on subsequent reviews. Please click on an attorney’s profile link to determine current award status.

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You invested in a strong digital marketing platform. You built an eye-catching website, write compelling blog posts and employed live chat. As a result, your site visits and lead volumes are skyrocketing.

Congratulations! Having an influx of opportunities is an encouraging indication that your marketing efforts are working. Yet, in spite of this success, you’re not seeing an increase in new clients into your practice. It’s frustrating to realize, but closing the prospect – even interested leads who are screaming for your attention – still requires considerable effort. And sometimes the fix is as simple as perfecting your response and intake processes.

Start by Following Up

Prospects move on if you don’t follow up. Which means, if you’re not following up on your prospects, you’re losing business.

For many businesses, the main problem is lacking an organized plan for how to process and reach out to your leads. And one of the key components of building a successful, next-generation practice is knowing you can’t do everything all of the time. Instead, maximize your human capital. If the volume of your leads is too overwhelming for you to handle, train one or more employees in your firm to quickly respond to leads and reach out to potential clients in a timely manner.

If you are struggling to sort through the number of contacts that you receive, you may want to rethink your digital strategy and, maybe, engage outside resources to help. Many live chat programs employ operators to collect information from your site visitors during their chat, which will quickly give you a clear idea if this is a contact that you can turn into a client. By doing some important fact finding, you may save valuable time in vetting your prospects and offer your leads better response times.

Commit to Rapid Response Times

In a recent blog post (“Why Lead Response Time Matters”), we discussed the five-minute rule. The optimal time for getting your prospect’s business is calling back within the first five minutes because every minute matters – waiting even 30 minutes can negatively impact prospect conversion. Following up with your prospects as soon as you can gives you a much better chance of establishing a relationship with them. If they have gone to the trouble to find you online and seek out your business, show them why they chose you and make sure you aren’t giving them time to change their mind. You haven’t secured their business just because they decided to reach out to you; they are still very much in the shopping phase.

Improve Your Intake Practices

Response time will only take you so far if your intake team lacks the proper disposition or isn’t equipped to handle the volume of your prospects. A skilled intake team will establish your company as a trusted resource for the client. If you have an intake team that can’t meet your prospect’s needs or have a team with the wrong attitude to represent your company positively and effectively, then the money that you are putting into marketing is wasted. If you are investing heavily in digital marketing, you can’t afford to be bad at intake.

Create a written intake plan and work with your team to implement it – ensure the plan contains clearly established client acquisition goals (number of new clients, ideal client profile, etc.) as well as team-focused expectations. A written plan in which everyone participates helps your firm to deliver a consistently superior experience and increases your credibility with prospective clients.

Be Available Regardless of Device

The best time to reach your prospects is when they’re trying to find you, so give them the ability to make contact no matter how or when they choose to access your site. In fact, almost 40% of contact by prospects occur outside of standard business hours. Features like live chat, click-to-call and text messaging allow people to reach you instantly and share information, reinforcing their decision to engage your firm. And, you can also receive information and respond to prospects right from your mobile device, ensuring immediate contact regardless of your location.

By crafting a solid intake process, training a dedicated response team and reaching out to prospects quickly and confidently, you promote a positive client experience by building the solution around the client. You still have to do some work to convert them, but demonstrating that you value their needs is a step to building the trust that will help prospects become clients in your practice.

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You’ve taken the step to build a next-generation practice – investing in a digital marketing strategy of a quality website and digital advertising to grow your business. And you have employed live chat, allowing your potential clients a low-pressure way to make contact while sharing some information about themselves. While live chat is a good way to turn your website visitors into leads, it doesn’t automatically turn them into clients. How you handle those leads determines who becomes a member of your client base and who remains just a visitor to your site.

The First Five Minutes

We all know the saying “timing is everything,” and it couldn’t be truer when it comes to lead response. Lead quality is highest at the time potential clients are looking for a trusted advisor. This is the case whether your leads come from a website, live chat or even a pay-per-lead program. The longer you wait to follow up on leads, the less likely you are to make them your clients.

A study by LeadResponseManagement.Org suggests you are more likely to turn a lead into a client if you contact them within the first five minutes. They examined data collected over a three-year period from six businesses, focusing on one question: when should companies call web-generated leads for optimal contact and qualification? The results were interesting: when a team member followed up on leads within the first five minutes – as opposed to the first 30 minutes – they were 100 times likelier to make contact with the lead. What’s even more striking is they were 21 times more likely to convert the lead.

Creating an effective lead follow-up structure can help you connect to your leads quickly, allowing you to offer solutions and turn them into clients.

Build a Follow-Up System that Works for You

Good leads only help grow your business if you know what to do with them. And the first step in turning your leads into clients is to build a solid road map for following up.

Start by determining who needs to be contacted first. Prioritizing and categorizing your leads will help you decide who has the greatest potential and who is just browsing. Some variables factoring into how you make this determination, and how you build your follow-up plan, may include some of the following:

  • Site traffic
  • Incoming lead volume
  • Incoming lead quality
  • Size and availability of intake team

Involve your office team in your follow-up plan as they will partner with you to handle intake and build client relationships. Rely on your customer-relationship management software (CRM) to help manage your leads – feed your chats directly into your client records so you can apply your existing intake system to your live-chat lead prospects.

The last point is especially important – even outside of office hours, a responsive live chat system can grab potential clients on your site and facilitate communications with them. You’ll want to retain chat details to assist with follow-up during office hours.

Stay Competitive

When you fail to follow up quickly, you make it easy for your competition to close in on your prospects. Keep in mind, your potential clients have done their research and formed a strong opinion about the attorney with whom they would like to work. There’s a good chance they may focus on three or more attorneys before making the decision to commit. Staying accessible to potential clients shows them you are serious about getting – and keeping – their business. And it may give you that edge to grab the clients your competitors didn’t reach in the first 5 minutes.

When you understand the drivers that increase or decrease lead conversion, you can build a solid plan to move your practice forward and capitalize on your smart investment in a strong, functional and comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

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Martindale-Hubbell is proud to announce that the following attorneys have achieved a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating, awarded to only those lawyers with the highest ethical standards and professional ability.

Congratulations to:

Only approximately 10% of attorneys have achieved this prestigious honor. For more information on Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, visit our Ratings and Reviews page. Attorneys who are interested in starting their own peer review process can submit the form below.

Martindale-Hubbell conducts secure online Peer Review Ratings surveys of lawyers across multiple jurisdictions and geographic locations, in similar areas of practice as the lawyer being rated. Reviewers are instructed to assess their colleagues’ general ethical standards and legal ability in a specific area of practice.  

The ratings help buyers of legal services identify, evaluate and select the most appropriate lawyer for a specific task at hand. The confidentiality, objectivity and complete independence of the ratings process are what has made the program a unique and credible evaluation tool for members of the legal profession.  The legal community values the accuracy of lawyer peer review ratings because they are determined by their peers – the people who are best suited to assess the legal ability and professional ethics of their colleagues.

Peer Review Rating award status can go up or down based on subsequent reviews. Please click on an attorney’s profile link to determine current award status.

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Most people know the best way to get high quality leads is through existing referrals and the existing client base. For this reason, you always want to keep in contact with your current or former clients and actively try to become a resource and someone who is trusted. You want to be a trusted ally with these clients so they will keep you in mind when someone is looking for a lawyer to hire.

You should also have a presence on well-known legal directory sites like Avvo or Lawyers.com. It can also be beneficial for your website to have a live chat to ensure you convert as many leads as possible.

As much as people focus on online presence, I think just as much focus should be put on more local community events or sponsors. People in your community will see you as someone who is out and about, and part of the community.

You also want to make sure your website sends a clear and correct message. You want your firm to look professional, but you also want it to look approachable.

An easy thing to do is make sure you are actively encouraging clients to leave positive reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, wherever. I always encourage that because everyone looks at those websites and make decisions, whether they believe it or not, based on how many stars a firm might have.

One of the easiest ways to avoid “tire kickers” is not necessarily a good fit for all lawyers but enforcing a consultation fee will get rid of a lot of people merely seeking free advice. If they know they have to pay something up front, it has an effect.

Being specific with the type of AdWords and SEO strategies will help your overall conversion. Something that we see with Engage is lawyers will often ask us if we can answer specific questions that a prospect might have or give out specific information, which is counterintuitive and counterproductive.

Instead, we train our operators to ask questions and get the most information from the visitor. I think the same can apply to an attorney having an initial consultation as well. If you are giving out free advice, that prospect might get that answer they are seeking and be satisfied by that while you might be losing out on an opportunity to convert them.

When a prospect calls us or emails us and is just asking upfront about pricing and nothing else, it might be tempting to answer their question directly. Usually, it is a pretty good sign that they are price shopping and could end up being a tire kicker because there might be some cheaper alternatives out there. If you give them the exact information they are looking for without engaging them and asking them questions and qualifying them, you will miss out on an excellent opportunity.

Another important step you always want to do with every prospect you have is in any correspondence you have with them, be it by phone call or email, always end it by having a clear and direct next step in place. Those are just some of the ways that we avoid tire kickers here at Engage that I think can always apply to the way law firms operate.

The content a lawyer should have on their website depends on what sort of prospects they are targeting. You want to gear your content towards that.

I have seen a lot of attorneys with the mindset that any content is good content, and it is good to have an active blog. But publishing blog posts about practice areas you do not necessarily handle or want to deal with will lead to people finding the blogs and inquiring about those specific practice areas.

Having a disclaimer or just indicating that there is a fee for consultation can be a put off that can then cost you viable leads, but I think if a law firm is running into that issue a lot and it is becoming a problem, I think introducing a consultation fee can work. Usually, the way that you want to explain the consultation fee is that that fee will go towards any associated fees.

Most of the time this would be for family law or divorce attorney, not necessarily a personal injury type of law firm, but I think you can target people who are serious about hiring an attorney by having a consultation fee. You are at risk of potentially scaring some people off who may not be as serious but could be a potentially good prospect.

Author: Erik Pyykonen, Director, Ngage Live Chat
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Martindale-Hubbell is proud to announce that the following attorneys have achieved a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating, awarded to only those lawyers with the highest ethical standards and professional ability.

Congratulations to:

Only approximately 10% of attorneys have achieved this prestigious honor. For more information on Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, visit our Ratings and Reviews page. Attorneys who are interested in starting their own peer review process can submit the form below.

Martindale-Hubbell conducts secure online Peer Review Ratings surveys of lawyers across multiple jurisdictions and geographic locations, in similar areas of practice as the lawyer being rated. Reviewers are instructed to assess their colleagues’ general ethical standards and legal ability in a specific area of practice.  

The ratings help buyers of legal services identify, evaluate and select the most appropriate lawyer for a specific task at hand. The confidentiality, objectivity and complete independence of the ratings process are what has made the program a unique and credible evaluation tool for members of the legal profession.  The legal community values the accuracy of lawyer peer review ratings because they are determined by their peers – the people who are best suited to assess the legal ability and professional ethics of their colleagues.

Peer Review Rating award status can go up or down based on subsequent reviews. Please click on an attorney’s profile link to determine current award status.

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The legal system can be complicated, and when people need to hire an attorney, that process can seem daunting. For those who haven’t dealt with a legal situation before, it can be especially overwhelming.

To better understand how people choose a lawyer, Avvo conducted a survey of more than 500 of its website visitors and asked them about what factored into their decision-making process.

Download our infographic here

Out of 12 options, the four that mattered most to people when hiring an attorney were:

  • Skill and practice areas
  • Cost and pricing
  • Legal matters and outcomes
  • Client reviews

As a part of Martindale-Avvo, Avvo makes it easier for people to get the quality legal help they deserve.

With 10 million page visits every month, Avvo can help you attract new clients. Use the guide below to help you optimize the parts of your profile that potential clients care about the most.

Learn more about Avvo or optimize your profile here.

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Earlier this year, the Martindale Legal Marketing Network and Avvo joined forces to better serve the legal community. We’re excited to continue bringing together our strong history and innovative spirit under a new name: Martindale-Avvo.

Our new family of brands includes Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, Nolo and Ngage Live Chat—all market leaders that help you grow your practice through cutting-edge tools and access to proprietary information. Our commitment remains the same: making legal easier for everyone, consumers and attorneys alike.

Martindale-Avvo brings you greater opportunities:

  • Access to more than 25 million consumers monthly.
  • Engagement with potential clients through forums that receive more than 70,000 questions monthly.
  • Tools designed for interaction including live chat, our leads manager app, and personalized websites.

And that’s just the beginning.

From enhanced legal forums to in-depth research, we are continually pushing forward and addressing the latest consumer needs and trends. We’ll keep you apprised of the many enhancements and new offerings we’ll have in the future, which are all designed to engage potential clients and connect them with you.

Finally, while our name is new, we haven’t changed how our business operates on a day-to-day basis. You may still rely on the same people and processes you have in the past, and our teams look forward to continuing to serve you.

From everyone here at Martindale-Avvo, we appreciate the opportunity to be your marketing partner and to help you achieve your firm’s growth objectives.

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Just as no two attorneys are the same, neither are any two clients. Each person is going to have their own unique needs they will want to have satisfied when looking for legal counsel.

To appeal to these prospects, it is essential for a lawyer to have a website that appeals to all sorts of different buyers. We have determined that there are four types of buyers that a good legal site needs to appeal to the:

Competitive Buyer — These prospects are the type of people who make quick and logical decisions. Competitive buyers simply want “the best.” When visiting your website, a competitive buyer wants to know, “What separates you from your competitor?” They generally want an attorney to show what they’ve done to distinguish themselves as a top level attorney. For this type of client, a lawyer will want to show what they have done in the courtroom. High dollar cases can be advantageous in appealing to competitive buyers.

Spontaneous Buyer — A spontaneous buyer is also quick and emotional with their decisions. They deliberately seek contact information and often look immediately for a live chat or a phone number to call. Spontaneous buyers want an immediate response, feedback, a way to contact an attorney right away. A spontaneous buyer might be in a more desperate situation than other types of buyers, so it is essential to make sure that these kinds of people have the necessary way to make that initial contact with you. In many cases, merely being there to talk to a spontaneous buyer will ultimately lead to them becoming a client.

Methodical Buyer — The methodical buyer tends to be slow and logistical rather than being quick and emotional with their decisions. In other words, these buyers are going to be reviewing all the practice information and the attorneys’ bios. In effect, they are seeking more of a long-term relationship with the attorney. A methodical buyer views a lawyer as more of a long-term, almost business partner rather than someone that will take care of their legal need immediately. Make sure that the information on your website contains information that conveys how often clients return to you for assistance with legal needs and make mention of the importance of relationships to your firm.

Humanistic Buyer — A humanistic buyer is also slow, but they are more emotional with their decisions. Whereas the methodical buyer might pay more attention to professional qualifications, the primary focus of a humanistic buyer is going to be seeking to relate personally to the attorney. They want an attorney-client relationship on a more personal level. These buyers will respond, again, to the personal side of their life in the attorney’s biography more than the decisions they have won for clients. To appeal to a humanistic buyer, you want to make sure that your website includes information about yourself that has nothing to do with the law. Talk about your pets, your hobbies, your favorite professional sports team. Humanistic buyers want to know that a lawyer is human, and too many websites fail to do that.

I find that most firm websites do a great job whenever it comes to showing their success in the courtroom, whether it’s dollar figures won or the number of cases they have won. They also succeed in establishing their qualifications such as the college they went to or just different recognitions that they have earned throughout the years.

Where the majority of attorneys fall short is with the humanistic and spontaneous buyers. While a live chat does a good job offering the spontaneous buyer precisely what they want, firms often leave out things like their hobbies, information about their family, and things such as pictures of the attorney doing activities outside of the office such as fishing or spending time with their family.

Creating a legal website that appeals to all four of these types of buyers is by no means an easy task, but it is also not impossible. When an attorney tries to approach their website from the perspective of each of these kinds of buyers, many answers seem to come rather quickly for implementing solutions or improvements.

If you feel that you should be hearing more often from one of these types of buyers, you should not hesitate to take a more compelling look at your existing website and try to consider how each buyer would view it if visiting for the first time.  

Author: Thomas Paci, Director, Ngage Live Chat

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