Intake and Marketing: Two Sides of the Same Coin
By Kelli Coggin Williford
Director of Marketing & Strategy
Richard Schwartz & Associates, P.A.
Whether you have a large firm or a small practice, marketing and intake are often viewed as two separate entities of the business. Although they serve different roles, the two are more integrated than you would think.
During new hire training at our firm, I explain to new team members that marketing is responsible for making the phones ring. Given we spend so much time and money to make the phone ring, we need to better track and analyze what happens after that call gets answered. Beyond whether the call converted to a case, what was the experience of the caller and what factors, within our control, can be improved?
From the marketing side, we spend so much of our time and energy honing in on what our brand is and why people should hire us in an oversaturated industry. If someone does decide to call us, some attorneys think that the marketing campaign was a success. Not necessarily.
Thanks to technology, consumers have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. Anyone can do a quick Google search and find out anything they want to know when it comes to hiring an attorney. For years, we advertised the necessity of hiring an attorney, but now it’s more about the necessity of hiring your team over your competitors.
What’s amped up the game even more is the messaging attorneys are advertising to educate the public on their options. Advertisements will say, “Did you know you can fire your attorney at any time?” or “You have options!” when it comes to choosing an attorney. As we all know, those are all accurate statements.
These advertisements have educated the public to know what questions to ask during the intake process. Some of these may be:
- What is your attorney’s fee if we go to trial?
- Your competitor told me they take a 33% fee. Can you match it or beat that?
- I read your Google reviews, and it says this process takes a long time. How can I know your team will do everything you can to make this process go by faster?
- If I need an advance during the case, can you help?
- Does your firm help with property damage? What if I need a rental car?
- What is my case worth?
- Why should I choose your firm over another?
Does your intake department really know how to respond to these questions? Most firms train their staff to have an attorney handle the harder questions when it comes to reeling a client in, but that might not always be possible when the potential client immediately fires off the tough questions.
With multiple law firms to choose from, consumers know they have options. They’ve been informed of their right to choose another firm at any time, and they are more comfortable than ever exercising that right.
What does this tell us? MARKETING DOESN’T END AT SIGN-UP. The client isn’t truly yours until that case settles. Not only do you need to play defense in protecting your brand, but you must play offense in preserving the sale. Here are a few ways you can accomplish this.
If you advertise it, your entire team should reflect it. If someone called your firm stating they saw a video online or a commercial on TV, it wouldn’t look good if your intake specialist had no idea what they were talking about. Upon hire, you train your intake team on what your brand represents. However, are you consistently retraining those team members to keep them abreast of what branding elements are currently most relevant?
The importance of data:
First and foremost, if you’re not utilizing a robust CMS or CRM to house your intakes, I would highly recommend finding the right system for your firm and implementing that as soon as possible. Data will be the single most important part of your firm year after year. At our firm, we live by two rules when it comes to data.
- If you didn’t note it, it didn’t happen.
- If you put bad data in, you’ll get bad data out.
What does that mean? If you’re spending all of this money to make the phone ring, you want to ensure your team is documenting each call. Even if you’re getting calls unrelated to your practice areas, you always want to capture that information. If anything, you hope the person will remember you from the great experience they had with your team and hire you in the future if needed.
Secondly, with various ways to communicate with people, it is easy for attempted contacts to slip through the cracks. This is critical data to track. Whether it’s a text, voicemail, call back – always document it. Even if your team attempted to call the person back, it should be noted. What if that intake agent didn’t notate that attempted call back on a million-dollar case, and the lead sits for a few days? The probability of losing that client to a competitor increases. Studies show U.S. companies lose $1.6 trillion because of customers jumping to competitors due to poor customer service. (Accenture)
Another important aspect of data entry is training your intake team to ask potential clients how they heard about you. This exercise will be easier as long as you’re using a CRM to house this information. Furthermore, a CRM that has an open API to integrate your tracking numbers from your marketing campaigns so you can have exact attribution is a huge plus. With proper data, you’ll be able to make better decisions on your marketing budget and strategy. Additionally, with these integrations, intake documentation will be easier and more streamlined.
Rejecting with Love:
Most often, your intake team is responsible for dealing with complaint calls, as well as telling a potential client their case doesn’t qualify. We refer to this as “rejecting with love” during our training process. No matter the situation, no one wants to hear that their potential case doesn’t qualify. Consumers see your advertisements; they call you for legal help just for you to turn them away and that is hard to accept for most. We’ve all received negative Google reviews that state “they wouldn’t take my case” or a complaint about their case not meeting our criteria. While you can’t always prevent these types of reviews, you can ensure your intake team is trained on how to properly handle those tough situations. Negative reviews not only hurt your overall ranking but can hurt your chances of a future client reading it and choosing not to hire you for that reason.
Marketing decisions can be loosely broken down into how your brand faces the public, the internal data tracking the response from the public, the study of that data, and making cogent decisions based on that. Within a personal injury law firm, the intake process is strikingly similar. When firms recognize the interconnectedness of intake and marketing, they can optimize the power of both of these vital departments and truly create brand ambassadors. With marketing and intake working together seamlessly, budgets are maximized, brand authenticity is strengthened, and the client experience journey is world class.
About Kelli Coggin Williford:
Kelli Coggin Williford is the Director of Marketing and Strategy for Mississippi’s largest personal injury law firm, Richard Schwartz and Associates, which has more than 40 years of legal experience and billions of dollars recovered on behalf of their clients. Since starting in 2016, Williford has built a marketing and operations apparatus that has led to exponential growth for the firm, with her tenure marking the largest number of sign-ups in the firm’s history.
The firm initially hired Williford for her marketing and public relations skills, and soon realized new gains from her marketing efforts. The problem solving and efficiency she implemented quickly led to her promotion to Director of Marketing & Strategy. Williford now manages the firm’s marketing, intake, analytics, telecommunications, and growth and development.
Through these accomplishments, Williford strategically builds the firm’s client base and reinforces the Schwartz and Associates message of compassionate personalized legal assistance and the firm’s philanthropic efforts. Williford’s high performance standards and results driven approach will continue to grow Schwartz and Associates as one of the premier law firms in the nation.