When attorneys ask me about advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) and other advanced avenues for getting business I’m often curious to hear what they have been doing so far. As there are so many misconceptions around marketing, namely that generating new leads… isn’t always the answer.

Law firm marketing has changed dramatically since my early days at Total Attorneys, one of the first and largest consumer lead generation providers to date. Back then it was pretty much the wild, wild, west. At that time buying traffic, purchasing leads and having a website that converts was just a matter of how much money you were willing to spend. Today, things are much different.

Consumers search for law firms online. And in turn, all law firms need to adapt their marketing to accommodate the consumers’ preferred method of access. The higher the client acquisition goal of the firm, the more adjusting and management is needed, which can be accomplished by hiring search engine marketing and optimization experts.

But, what about the everyday lawyer who relies on word of mouth by doing great work?

What about a lawyer who has built their business based on referrals for the last five, ten or twenty years? Only now… the referrals are starting to dry up. You hear a client or colleague say they told someone about you, but the phone never rings. What is really happening there?

Many attorneys don’t understand that internet marketing is more than just pay per click, creating a website and claiming your Avvo profile. Its purpose is also to protect your business from what is known as ‘lead loss.’

Lead loss, in the corporate world is one of the most concerning situations in business. A lot of time and money is put into getting leads to a business, but then lost by a website performing poorly, internal processes breaking down or disengaged staff who don’t follow up. The consequences are no less severe for attorneys, but unfortunately go unnoticed or are ignored.

You may not even know you’re losing referrals, it happens gradually over time. Mainly driven by a lack of presence online, or negative search results that you don’t even know about. ‘Googling yourself’ used to be a joking matter, today it has become a best practice, a practice which is almost always the first action taken when speaking to a marketing agency. The results of a quick search will provide telltale signs of a lack of presence or attention to protecting the law firm from referral loss.

At GNGF, their team has spent years working only with law firms on full-service digital marketing efforts. But, over the past year has begun providing some services to a niche of lawyers who, quite frankly, need to work on the basics. How they found this segment is also interesting. One of my favorite books I have in my library is GNGF’s work: Online Law Practice Strategies. It was given to me at a CLE Session led by their team during my time at the Chicago Bar Association. One of the company’s tenants is education. Given that you can only reach so many lawyers in a physical CLE room, they converted their core-marketing curriculum into a book, I just heard that their newest edition is being released soon.

The team found one consistent theme with law firms attending their sessions: many law firms were consistently saying that referrals were drying up. It turned out that most of them just needed some basic online marketing presence to protect these referrals that were fueling their practice. Many ask about PPC, running ads on Facebook and other avenues, but often it turned out that they don’t even have the essentials in place to ensure that the referrals that are looking for them can find their information online. Many even had wrong phone numbers on some of the Google search return listings.

This is a pattern that may come as a shock to most but doesn’t surprise me at all! The number of times I as a legal-consumer have looked for a law firm by name only to wind up in a dead end online search is astonishing. I know who I’m looking for, the lawyer was referred to me through my legal network, and no matter what I type in, I cannot for the life of me, find this law firm! SO FRUSTRATING!

Then, what do I do? Turn to the usual avenues: Google, Avvo, Rocket Lawyer, Nolo, or just call the law firm who’s on Avvo advertising above the unclaimed blank listing of the lawyer I was supposed to speak to because I have no idea if it’s them or not. There has been times when I’ve even noticed a negative review there, which the lawyer probably doesn’t even know exists!

Now, this may sound dramatic but as a consumer, when you need a lawyer, you really, really, want to talk to that person right away. We can all relate to being busy, finally finding an hour to make that phone call to handle something you’ve most likely been putting off only to feel like your time is being wasted by scouring the internet to find that person your friend told you about. Ugh!

Ok… rant over.

The good news is that GNGF has created one of the most affordable service offerings in legal marketing to fix this very problem, helping law firms build a strong online foundation, clean up unknown issues, and protect the incoming referrals they rely upon to survive. This option starts at $500 per month, which is crazy when you think about the cost of one lost referral client!

Instead of encouraging law firms to begin investing in aggressive advertising plans for which they are not ready, GNGF takes a step back and first makes sure the firm has the right foundation to protect their referrals. Only then should a paid advertising campaign or advanced SEO strategy be added to garner the true value of the investment.

As Co-Founder and CEO, Mark Homer explains, “Clients fall into one of two categories; Protecting Referrals or Growing Leads.” Their new lower priced service offering focuses on referral protection, then their clients gradually move into other service offerings, such as creating new content, search engine optimization, paid advertising, and social media campaigns to generate new inquiries. I understand that they also take over and optimize law firms’ existing paid advertising campaigns that are underperforming.

One fact all lawyers need to know is that a marketing strategy and agency relationship is a multi-year commitment. Regardless of your provider any marketing effort takes at least ninety days to measure and if you are investing in search engine optimization it can take almost a year to see a strong return on investment. I would also caution lawyers that marketing specialists, who do not have experience in the legal marketing world, may not have the knowledge necessary to effectively compete on their behalf. There is value in working with a team who has helped thousands of law firms in a variety of practice areas, because it gives them real data to compare your efforts against.

Overall, I have a lot of respect for the team at GNGF because of their commitment to education. Which they still provide by teaching CLE’s and giving free webinars – they currently have one on growing leads with paid advertising outside of Google which you can register for here: http://www2.gngf.com/online-paid-ads-webinar. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of their book when the new edition comes out. It is a great way to educate yourself and identify ways to protect the referrals that are so vital to a law firm of any size.