The independent legal marketing collective, First4 Lawyers, recently published a white paper following research into what drives consumers when choosing a lawyer.
It appears firms do not understand how consumers decide which firm to use for their legal problem, and it revealed some notable trends, with a notable divergence when it comes to personal injury firms.
The research was carried out in June and July 2020 by telephone, involving 48 solicitors working in PI and 52 solicitors in other areas of consumer law. The report also took into account the results of the Legal Services Consumer Panel annual survey of users of legal services in the last two years.
The research found that only half of all the firms surveyed analyse the performance of their marketing. It also revealed that 17 per cent of PI firms increased their marketing spend during the pandemic compared to only half of other firms.
Interestingly, 81 per cent of PI solicitors put a trusted brand as an important factor for consumers choosing a solicitor. However, a comparatively low 57 per cent of PI clients actually a trusted brand was very important – suggesting that solicitors place too much value in their own firm brand.
A further misconception among PI lawyers apparently relates to shopping around: although 68 per cent of solicitors imagined that consumers shop around before deciding on a solicitor, only a quarter of PI clients said they did.
So how do clients choose a PI solicitor? They are not too bothered, it appears, at firms having a local office (just 31 per cent compared to 65 per cent of general consumer clients who DO want a local solicitor). Neither do recommendations from family and friends nor having a quality mark rank as highly with clients as lawyers might like to think.
It emerged that solicitors are under rather a misapprehension that online searches are not that important – yet clients are going to increasingly use web searches to make their final decisions. Even before the pandemic, consumers were spending more time and money online than ever before. With the combination of lockdown and more relaxed restrictions in place throughout 2020 and beyond, the time and money consumers spend online have increased. Solicitors must not underestimate the power and persuasive value of online search results to potential clients.
A key warning from the report authors is that PI firms are wasting their marketing budgets because they fail to understand what potential clients are looking for. Andy Cullwick is the head of marketing at First4Lawyers and says: “[Online searches are] the best-quality enquiry out there. Our own statistics show that a contact that’s come from search engine marketing activity is more likely to convert into a live lead than from any other form of marketing.”
PI marketing budgets
The report notes that law firms do spend a lot of money on marketing, but it is clear firms may want to re-evaluate their marketing budgets and ensure they are properly and efficiently targeted.
PI firms were found to be “significantly more likely” than consumer firms to have changed their marketing tactics in recent months, focusing on more coronavirus-related marketing. They are also focused on increased specialist digital content and marketing new ways to deliver services, such as virtual consultations.
The report declares the fear that, as a result of the lack of analysis by firms of the performance of their marketing, too many are “making decisions based on gut instinct or anecdote, rather than data and hard evidence”. As it points out, ‘data is king’ and firms need to closely monitor that data.
The white paper can be downloaded here