Chapter 5 - Tracking, Stats, and Lead Quality (continued)

The next question resounding might be: “If it is that easy, why doesn’t everyone do it?” Well, a lot do. You would be surprised how many Social Security attorneys across the country gross millions of dollars per year. For an extremely niche market, Social Security law does not attract much attention, and most cannot believe its profitability potential. Understandably, the ones that do want to keep it quiet. The skill rests in leveraging the most cost-effective lead sources and creating an efficient, scalable framework to process the leads and handle the actual cases.

In terms of identifying effective lead sources, always pay attention to CPS over signed rate alone. Most attorneys opt for web leads on account of flexibility and low upfront cost in comparison to other advertising mediums. If you decide to purchase leads from a third-party lead generator, don’t be fooled by those promising superior signed rates for a higher cost. At the end of the day, the service with the lowest CPS often wins.

Don’t Forget About Sample Size

When performing lead analysis, you must understand how sample size affects the reliability of results. For example, if a lead source is expected to deliver a signed rate of 10%, judging the efficacy of the campaign based on a sample of 10 leads would be misguided, as one more or less signed case would create a swing of 10 percentage points.

Managing and Training Staff

Apart from generating leads, staffing comprises the other significant expense in growing your Social Security practice. Lead processing, 1696 follow-up, application filing, hearings, and general support represent the major duties of a full-scale Social Security law staff. How much should you pay? How much work should you expect? How can you monitor progress? These are some valid questions to answer before undertaking a new marketing effort.

While salaries will vary by region, it is fair to say that intake processing, 1696 follow-up, application filing and general staff support should be considered entry-level tasks. While the jobs require some level of training and a college degree would be preferred, no graduate degree or previous experience is a prerequisite for performing them. Consequently, annual salaries may fall in the $25,000-$35,000 range.

With both new and existing staff, establish benchmarks to evaluate performance. You should supply every employee with evaluation criteria and progress indicators. Social Security law is very quantitatively oriented. An efficiently built practice runs like a well-oiled machine, which handles everything ranging from calling leads to receiving checks from the SSA. Therefore, without goals and oversight, your staff runs the risk of “flying blind,” nullifying your marketing effort and wasting your money along the way. We are not suggesting that you impose a draconian regime upon your office, but understanding how this “machine” functions and identifying the kinks will increase overall efficiency and profitability.

In terms of staff, the average person can “process” 20-25 leads per day. By “process” we mean resolve, that is, make contact with the lead and decide whether the case is desirable. You must remember that you will not be able to make contact with every lead. Disconnected phone numbers, prepaid cell phones, and ordinary typos are just some of the obstacles that will hinder your intake staff. However, resolving 20-25 leads per day is an attainable goal for someone calling leads full-time. Assuming that the average employee earns about $125/day, it will cost about $5 ($125/25 leads) to process each lead. For example, if you generated 200 leads per week, it would take approximately two full-time employees and $1000 (in addition to the lead cost) to process them.

Even if you are blessed with a great intake staff, the 1696 form is a Social Security lawyer’s most coveted item in this process. You may “desire” (i.e., send out representation packets) up to 50% of your leads, but if only 2% of claimants actually sign the forms, your CPS will skyrocket. It is therefore necessary to devote some of your workforce to what we call “1696 follow-up.” This means monitoring all client packets returned to your firm and calling those who have yet to send them on a daily basis. It can sometimes take 5-6 calls to remind a claimant to mail back the packet. But the reward is well worth the effort, for even a superior marketing program will fail without high 1696 return rates. National firms typically strive for a packet return rate of at least 70%, but local firms should shoot for 80-90%.

Case and Lead Management Software

As your firm grows, you may want to investigate software and technologies to enhance productivity even further. Case management and lead management software can facilitate data tracking, lead follow-up, and document generation. While the price point may be a little high for sole practitioners, case management software is a necessity for any growing Social Security practice. In fact, some lead generation companies offer complimentary software to any customer who purchases leads. This software allows easier lead processing and report generation, automatic document generation for SSA forms, and electronic signature applications. Since many companies permeate the software space, be sure to investigate all the options thoroughly before making any purchase. Feedback and reviews from other attorneys already using case management products will aid your search invaluably.

Tracking Results and Managing Cash Flow

It is scary how many attorneys do not monitor their lead campaigns. Sometimes years elapse before an attorney will perform a thorough analysis of a marketing service. This is simply unacceptable. In addition to costing you thousands of dollars, you also squandered money by paying your staff to contact these leads. Again, building a profitable Social Security practice is akin to creating an optimized assembly line. Social Security law is a volume business, so you must process your cases as quickly as possible and with the least amount of resources. Calculating your CPS on a weekly basis will ensure that you generate leads in a cost-effective manner. Further, monitoring your intake staff and increasing your 1696 return rate will result in lower staffing costs and higher revenue.

When purchasing online leads, beware of committing too much upfront advertising capital before receiving fees on the cases signed from the leads. Too often, lead buyers “bite off more than they can chew,” that is, after witnessing the attractive cost-per-signed that online leads can deliver, progressively increase the budget month after month to sign as many cases as quickly as possible. Not accounting for the fact that a couple years will elapse before most of the signed cases produce fees, many attorneys and advocates soon find themselves in a precarious cash flow situation. While the unrealized fees have increased the value and size of the caseload, unbalanced advertising purchases can create a situation where even a firm possessing tremendous on paper value can struggle to pay monthly expenses.

Even when attorneys and advocates report fantastic results with our service, we frequently recommend slow, steady spending increases as opposed to larger, more aggressive ones that could lead to the eventual cessation of all advertising for several months. Ultimately, be patient, methodical, and always strive to improve your operation. Such constant self-analysis will create an efficient, scalable practice that your peers will seek to emulate.