It would be entirely inappropriate to say that the internet is the future, because that is a claim that would have been true in 1996. The internet has been a dominating force for almost 20 years, and continues to reshape the advertising industry thorough the accessibility and unique cost model it provides. It is up to you to determine how to handle your marketing and when to enter the legal marketing game, but there is plenty of evidence suggesting that people are taking to their computers to find legal aid.
Computer literacy is at an all-time high. Most youth of the economically-developed world are now raised on computers, and as they come of age, they will be even more susceptible to the pervasiveness of online resources. Thus, you would be hard-pressed to concoct an excuse not to enter the internet marketing arena, as the efforts you extend on this front will help your firm benefit from evolving case acquisition strategies.
If you consider the way in which technology has enhanced people’s perceptions, your traditional methods of advertising may be going unnoticed at this point. Many people are using computers or smart phones while they watch television, relegating your pricey television or radio spot to monotonous background noise. Similarly, if they are searching for an attorney, they prefer Google to the Yellow Pages. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as you recognize the ramifications on legal advertising.
At this point, you should recognize the immense preparation required for success with internet leads. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The more that your firm is prepared, the better results you will obtain with online lead generation. Implementing an effective lead processing procedure and having a trained intake staff will not only render your effort more productive, but also increase your profit margins. By utilizing the suggested changes discussed throughout the book, we believe that your signed rates and cost-per-signed case for all marketing mediums will improve.
Once you have formulated a strategy for augmenting your caseload, you can then focus your attention on the specific form of lead generation you wish to pursue. Many forms of lead generation exist, including print, radio, television, web, and more. While each method possesses distinct advantages and drawbacks, internet lead generation offers an ideal combination of low upfront cost and tremendous volume potential. PPC advertising allows you to modify budgets, geographic targeting, and keywords with a few clicks. Further, apart from the search engines, no intermediary forces (e.g., ad agencies, networks, etc.) are at play, thereby bestowing complete control on the advertisers themselves. But before wasting your hard-earned money, familiarize yourself with the interface, choose appropriate keywords and match types, and construct your ad text carefully. If you are seeking a more long-term investment, consider organic optimization strategies for your website, such as content addition and link building, but be especially wary of pricy SEO consultants promising quick results through “black hat” strategies.
If you wish to pursue web lead generation but have neither the time nor the resources, a third-party lead generator may be a viable option. Competent lead generation companies can remove the headaches from the process and provide a steady stream of quality leads to your firm. If you do outsource all of your lead generation to a third-party, realize that your entire business is dependent upon that company’s ability to deliver leads cost-effectively. To decrease your risk, experiment with in-house lead generation to supplement that of the third-party. Nevertheless, if you follow the tips in Chapter 3 and choose a quality company, you can increase your caseload exponentially and gain a competitive advantage over other disability firms.
Just as vital as generating the leads will be the effectiveness of your follow-up procedure. Demonstrating courtesy is one of the most essential principles in business, so extending kindness to claimants and providing education about the disability claim process will correlate with higher signed rates and greater client satisfaction. Also, maintaining a professional demeanor for the duration of the call will exude confidence and underscore your knowledge of Social Security law. Politeness, persistence, and patience will form the foundation of most successful lead follow-up efforts.
Keeping accurate stats is the final piece required to build a profitable web campaign. Without solid record keeping and statistical analysis, you could end up wasting money on inefficient advertising and shoddy leads. If you retain nothing else from this book, remember this: Cost-per-signed case (CPS) is almost always a superior indicator of a marketing medium than signed rate alone. Lawyers often assume that the best lead sources are those producing the highest signed rates. This is not true and will lead to poor marketing decisions. Do your homework and frequently update your CPS for each lead source. If you feel overwhelmed by managing employees and processing massive amounts of data, case management and lead management software may prove beneficial.
This book is replete with information ranging from understanding the proverbial ropes of online lead generation in Part I to processing and signing leads effectively in Part II. At this point, we will presume that you wish either to purchase or to generate your own internet leads. Thus, we wanted to highlight the ten most important takeaways to maximize success with internet leads.
1) Prompt and Persistent Lead Follow-up
This is arguably the most essential prerequisite for succeeding with internet leads. We recommend contacting a lead within 1-2 minutes of initial receipt in your inbox. If contact is not established, 15-20 outbound calls over the course of 2-3 weeks is not uncommon in the industry. Before starting any online lead generation campaign, you must first commit to this level of follow-up. Third-party call centers may be beneficial for fielding after-hours and weekend leads.
Many report that the claimants submitting online forms for disability claim assistance are often not the most proactive individuals. Thus, leaving 1-2 voicemails and expecting a callback is neither realistic nor advised. Even the highest quality leads are unlikely to yield an attractive return without prompt and persistent follow-up.
2) Respect Sample Size
Making statistical judgments on inadequate samples is a common fallacy witnessed in this space. Ensure that you have received a sufficient sample size of leads before attributing success or failure to a campaign.
For example, assume that a particular lead source consistently delivers a 10% singed rate. After a test of 200 leads, the probability that the signed rate is between 8% and 12% is 71.2%. With a sample of 10 leads, the probability that the signed rate is between 8% and 12% drops to 38.7%. Similarly, the probability of receiving a 50/50 split of heads and tails after flipping a coin 10 times is much smaller than receiving the same split after 100,000 flips.
3) Quantify Performance
In addition to grasping the concept of sample size, you should understand how to quantify lead quality. We instruct our clients to monitor three principal metrics: contact rate, desired rate, and signed rate. Contact rate reflects how many leads are reachable, desired rate how many leads are sent retainer agreements, and signed rate how many leads are actually signed with fee agreements on file.
Evaluating these metrics offers insight into the three most common obstacles encountered with online case acquisition. Contact rate sheds light on the promptness and persistence of your staff’s follow-up effort. A high contact rate but low desired rate may indicate an issue with lead quality or warrant experimentation with a different lead package. Lastly, a low signed rate in the presence of high contact and signed rates points to a problem with signing the desired cases. Frequently, this is ascribed to lackluster follow-up. After sending a fee agreement to a claimant, you must maintain the same degree follow-up mentioned in Tip 1 to attain the highest possible return rate.
4) Educate Claimants and Sell Your Firm
Many claimants for disability benefits find themselves in financial and/or personal hardship. In desperation, they may visit multiple websites to seek help from any available avenue. Consequently, when filling out an online evaluation form, some may believe they are contacting the Social Security Administration or even completing an application for benefits. Even with clear and transparent landing pages, claimants do not always read the information on a site before submitting their information.
Surprisingly, these are not always bad leads. Since the federal government funds the SSDI and SSI programs, many claimants expect that they will start receiving checks from the government after completing a few forms. Once apprised of the fact that approximately two-thirds of initial applications are denied and that the best opportunity for approval occurs at the hearing stage, many claimants suddenly become more responsive to the idea of receiving a free case evaluation from an attorney or advocate. Further, underscoring the benefits of your firm’s services (e.g., document preparation, representation at hearing, etc.) and emphasizing that you will not receive compensation unless the claimant is awarded benefits will only help you close more leads that may have been apprehensive at the outset of the process.
5) Handle Initial Claimants
In our experience, the vast majority of leads generated through online mediums involve claimants seeking to apply for Social Security disability benefits for the first time. While you may prefer claimants at the Reconsideration or Hearing stages, refusal to assist those filing Initial applications will create a nearly insurmountable hurdle to your online lead generation campaign.
Many of our clients prefer to handle cases from the Initial stage, since initial applications will frequently reach resolution at the Hearing stage. In this way, the attorney can ensure that the claimant will continue medical treatment, thereby building the strongest possible case to present at hearing.
6) Prioritize Leads, But Don’t “Cherry Pick”
When devising an effective follow-up strategy, it is acceptable and even recommended to prioritize your outbound calls. If you receive two leads at the same time, one for a disabled individual who is 52 years old and one for a disabled individual who is 25 years old, it makes more sense to call the 52-year-old first, as the over-50 guidelines would likely render a stronger case for the latter.
However, you should call every lead, unless you recognize it as clearly fraudulent or spam. For example, the average visitor spends just a couple minutes on our websites. A claimant could have a condition meritorious of disability benefits but not mention it on the web form. Therefore, the best way to gain a clear picture of a claimant’s situation is with an actual phone conversation.
7) 1696 Follow-Up
We mentioned the importance of prompt and persistent lead follow-up in Tip 1, but wanted to distinguish between lead follow-up and 1696 follow-up. Lead follow-up denotes contacting the leads to identify the highest potential prospects, while 1696 follow-up refers to increasing the return rate on fee agreements sent to qualified claimants.
Sometimes clients report a high desired rate but low signed rate. They also indicate that a packet return rate of 70-80% should be feasible with internet leads. Low return rates almost always correlate with poor follow-up. Thus, your staff should continue prompt and persistent contact to create a sense of urgency for the claimants to return the documents required for representation. Our clients have also employed various strategies to improve packet return rate, such as sending out documents in bright-colored envelopes or certified mail, visiting claimants’ homes for local cases, and utilizing electronic signature for certain documents.
8) Track Employee Performance
In addition to the cost of generating leads, labor and overhead will contribute to your total campaign expenditure. You can instruct your intake staff to be prompt and persistent, but establish clear benchmarks for measuring performance.
Expect a full-staff member to resolve, that is, accept or reject, about 20 leads per day. Bearing this in mind, set realistic, quantifiable goals for your staff. Some items to track may include phone time, lead resolution rate, and the rate at which staff members send out fee agreements. Without strict staff oversight, costs could spiral out of control and erode much or all your margin.
9) Optimize Campaign
If your results do not fall within your expectations, try making optimizations before simply abandoning the entire campaign. Segment your conversions to detect any trends in the data. You may notice that conversion rates vary based on certain parameters, such as day of week, lead source, hours of the day, geographic area, and more.
If your conversion rate is higher in a certain geographic area, you may consider removing all areas from the campaign except the one that delivers conversions. Some lead generation companies offer software that allows you to generate conversion reports quite seamlessly. They may even be able to make adjustments to your campaign based on the information in these reports or even to devise a custom lead package that the data indicates would result in the lowest cost-per-signed case.
10) Test Different Sources
Whether you elect to generate internet leads internally or through a third-party, it is recommended to test different lead sources and to compare the cost-per-signed case that each produces. Exhaust optimization options before testing a new source prematurely. Further, when pitting different internet sources against each other, create an environment that simulates the best A/B test. If you purchase a high-cost, high-screened lead from one lead provider, attempt to test an identical lead package with another provider to arrive at the best “apples to apples” comparison.
Regardless of medium (e.g., television, radio, web), the recommended metric to compare among lead sources is cost-per-signed case. Since lead prices differ among providers, the leads delivering the highest signed rate do not always deliver the lowest cost-per-signed case. Focus on cost-per-signed case to standardize your analysis.
We hope that we have offered some useful information about how web lead generation can augment your Social Security practice. We have countless years of combined experience in Social Security Disability lead generation and have established ourselves as a premier lead generator for attorneys and disability advocates across the country. But this is not a sales pitch. We decided to write this book because we noticed such inequity in how disability attorneys grow their practices. Many attorneys have no idea where to begin and waste a lot of money trying to figure out the process. Whether you wish to buy leads or not, we can help. We genuinely believe that we possess a thorough understanding of this industry and will gladly offer our advice and perspective. As always, we encourage you to send us any feedback or criticism using the contact information located in the front of the book. In short, persistence, creativity, and the ability to adapt to an evolving market will dictate your long-term success with online case acquisition.