Legal Marketing 101

How to Build Automated Intake

March 25, 2024 Rosen Advertising Season 3 Episode 10
Legal Marketing 101
How to Build Automated Intake
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What should I look for in my email marketing software?

Join our host, Toby Rosen, as we take you through a six-step process guaranteed to streamline client interactions and supercharge your operational efficiency. Your law firm's client intake process might be the last thing on your mind, but it's the first experience your clients have—and it should be flawless.

Embracing the future doesn't have to mean overhauling your systems overnight. In this episode, I reveal the magic of pacing your firm's transition to automation, highlighting how a gradual approach minimizes risk and maximizes impact.

But what's innovation without instruction? I dive into the often-neglected realm of training within legal marketing, revealing how a robust onboarding process can be the difference between a firm that fumbles and one that flourishes. Join me for an episode that promises not just to inform but to transform the way you think about legal marketing and client intake.

From the episode:
SetApp
ActiveCampaign
Clio 

EmailToolTester: Email Marketing for Lawyers

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For more, visit rosenadvertising.com

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Speaker 1:

This episode of Legal Marketing 101 is brought to you by Thumbs Up Survey. Build better online surveys faster with Thumbs Up Survey Mention Legal Marketing 101 when you request access to the beta at thumbsupsurveycom to get access to features and discounts first. Thank you to our partners at thumbsupsurveycom. Welcome to Legal Marketing 101. I'm Toby Rosen. Today we are taking on a big topic and that's automating intake. This is probably going to end up being a multi-part series at some point in the future, but I want to take a stab now and see if I can share some of the interesting things I've learned from a few recent automation builds and sort of sink this down to a few easy steps. Now we all know that streamlining the intake process is important. Making it easier for clients to become clients is the first way that we make money. If they're a good lead and they agree to become a client and they drop out along the way without making a payment, you are the only one losing in that situation. So keeping things relatively tight in the intake process is really really critical when it comes to revenue. We quite literally cannot afford to be dropping the ball here Now, because this is a big topic.

Speaker 1:

As usual, I've simplified things down to a few bullet points, but that doesn't mean you're not getting the whole story. Yes, in some places I am going to skip over the specifics of setup. That's because, one, it would make this episode 14 hours long and two, because every system has specific requirements and every firm has specific requirements. I've built intake systems in at least 25 or 30 different platforms in the past five or so years, and while most of them follow the same theory, the specifics do matter and they are often different from platform to platform. So instead of wasting your time with the specifics of one platform versus another, let's just start with step one and we're going to work our way down to step six and hopefully you'll still be awake. So first we need to design our system, and you might think but Toby, I don't even know what software I'm going to use for this or which practice area or areas I'm going to build this for. How can I design the system? But if you're already in business, you already have a system, and the problem we're solving here is not that your system is fundamentally broken even though maybe it does break sometimes it's that it doesn't allow for scale and it needs to be restructured so that it won't break when the load on the system gets too intense. We need to improve efficiency and that doesn't mean replacing anyone or changing the way things are for clients, but it does mean changing how things are done and optimizing those processes.

Speaker 1:

So I suggest opening up a mind map tool and start plotting out your client's current path to becoming a client. I use diagrams from SetApp, for which there is a link in the show notes, but there are plenty of tools that will work. Even a Word document is fine. You could just make some little boxes. So I just start on the left side of the page.

Speaker 1:

When the user clicks on an ad or sees a social media post and you know or clicks on something on Google, whatever it is, and they enter our orbit, as it were. Then, if you're operating with just forms that output to email, or maybe no forms at all, then the user will submit a form or call the office and we can make that our in-contact stage and once we're in touch with the user, we can start that real sales process. If you don't have an email set up, you might have almost no outreach at all at this point, other than following up with clients by phone. But if you do have an email system, you could have maybe an auto responder sequence that sends one or a few emails to the client and tries to urge them into a sale, but regardless of your setup, after you're in contact with the potential client, you're going to have some more phone calls, maybe a meeting in person or on Zoom, and you're going to send them some documents and probably something for them to make a payment, and then they're going to send some of those documents back to you, perhaps with some additional documents attached after they make the payment. That's really, kind of technically, the end of the intake process, but you get the point. How far you need to map things out into that process is really just based on that how broadly you define your intake process, and that's something that does really vary a lot from practice area to practice area and firm to firm, so your answer there is kind of the right answer, even though usually the right answer means it's around the time they make a payment.

Speaker 1:

The core idea here, though, is to map out your existing flow, and you should absolutely be talking to your intake and reception staff about this. How many calls do they field? How many calls do they make? How many emails do they receive? How many do they make? What documents do they send back to the client that never even make it to your desk because they haven't been edited properly? These are all things our automations are going to have to learn to filter through and to deal with. So we need to know what the flow looks like and where the client touchpoints are and where the potential for automation is and where the potential to break things is.

Speaker 1:

Frankly, now, with our map of our existing system, we're going to take that and build our dream system. You can create different variations of the flow for clients who sign up directly from the web, from your new contact forms, and can join the automation immediately. And then maybe a variation for clients who need increased nurturing and go through an extra e-course or a monthly newsletter, and maybe even the law firm equivalent of something like an abandoned cart email sequence. That's a thing from the e-commerce world that's very common, but in law firms we don't use it a lot. But the point is to really push the limits in what your dream sequence looks like, even if some things may seem a little complex to build. You probably are going to skip some things, but having this long-term plan will help ease integration down the road so you can know what things are going to look like for your system later on, and that foresight can really be a big cost saver for this kind of thing.

Speaker 1:

Now, with our reality and our dreams in hand, you're probably thinking it's time to choose our software, start building some automations, start pumping some clients through and while there's a dad joke incoming, it's actually time to pump the brakes. Actually, next up is creating the content for your system and technically, yeah, yeah, you could go ahead and choose your software, because that is step three, that's next. But because most people skip from step one to step three and then they start building, but the content creation is overwhelming and then the project stalls and never gets finished because of that horrible run on sentence there, I recommend creating the content first, and I can hear all of you saying this is hard because I can't picture what it's going to look like. And yes, yes, I know I also think it's easier to create email content within the email system. I agree, but I guarantee you that it isn't. As I write this podcast episode in my dedicated word processor, kraft from Set Up again link in the show notes, I am able to block out distractions, keep my tone consistent, even do some formatting the same way I would want to in an email builder.

Speaker 1:

So, once you have your system map in hand, start by first creating a list of the emails you need to create and then write the catchy subject lines and then write the bodies of the emails. Yes, you can use AI to help you with all of this. It's not SEO, so it's a little less risky, but it is still important that you review and everything and edit all of it, so that is really really your voice. But, yes, you can use AI for this, but just keep in mind that you do still want this to sound like you, so that the clients who are coming to the office are going to recognize the person that they have had previous contact with, and it isn't weird.

Speaker 1:

For the majority of you, though, this isn't really that hard. You might need to create 20 or 30 emails maximum for a very long intake process for one case type, and many of those emails will overlap with other case types and you can reuse a lot of the ones that don't overlap. If you're like me and you look for anything there is to distract you from long form writing tasks. It'll probably take a good weekend of writing If you actually write quickly, then maybe an afternoon, because, remember again, we're not writing for SEO or for a website. Sometimes emails only need to be a couple of lines. Brevity is not always an enemy once someone is further along in the sales process.

Speaker 1:

The big thing you can do to save time at this stage, though, is to start integrating some variables into your emails. You can absolutely copy emails you've sent to clients in the past, but then replace the names in those emails with bracketed variables that you'll be able to quickly identify later and switch out for the variables provided by your email system. Obviously, the fewer variables you have in the email, the easier it will be to integrate with your system, but really it's just a best practice in general. The fewer variables you have, the fewer opportunities there are for something to break and for a client to get an email with an empty or incorrect line of text With all of your content nice and crisp. We are now ready to move on to the fun part, and that is, yes, choosing software.

Speaker 1:

If you really still don't know which email platform you should be using and you've already listened to all of our email marketing episodes, then you need to know about email tool tester. Email tool tester is the place to start the email marketing journey for your legal practice and right now you can check out their guide to email marketing for lawyers. You'll find that link in the show notes. Email tool tester is the place to start building your email list, with its reviews and tutorials of email marketing services like active campaign, mailerlite, GetResponse and many, many more. So you can take the ideas we talk about here on Legal Marketing 101, and email tool tester will give you the guidance you need to implement those strategies for your firm. They even dig into topics like how to get more people to subscribe to your list and what types of emails will work best for your audience. So be sure to check out the guide down in the show notes.

Speaker 1:

I have talked quite a bit on Legal Marketing 101 about email management software and practice management software and CRM stuff in general, and if you've been following along, you can probably guess what I'm going to say next. There are a lot of good options. It really does come down to your firm, your practice and your needs. We're not going to go into my opinions on particular programs today, but you already have a map of what you want to do and by doing some investigation and maybe just some free trials, you'll be able to figure out which platform is the best fit for automating intake for your firm. We're going to move on now, but if you have trouble deciding what software is best for your particular situation be it automated intake or really anything else shoot me an email at contact at rosanadvertisingcom and I'll do my best to help.

Speaker 1:

Now we arrive at the main event, step 4, engineering and implementing your automations. Now we do have to acknowledge the specifics of this step are significantly ultra by Step 3 and what system we've chosen to build our intake system. Some programs are more focused on digital interaction and some are more geared towards a hybrid of online and offline client touchpoints. Where the system you've chosen falls on that spectrum is going to impact how your implementation looks, what the challenges are and basically just how much it's going to cost and how long it's going to take to build it. So we're not going to walk through a particular platform step by step, but I am going to share my strategy for building intake in any platform with you and you're going to see why it's easier to build your automated system based on the system you use in the office.

Speaker 1:

There are plenty of consultants who focus on particular systems like HubSpot or Salesforce or ActiveCam, payne or MailChimp or whatever. They're all fine, some of them are actually really good, and if you're working with one of them or if you're using one of them, or if you're using one of those platforms, I do suggest looking for a consultant who specifically focuses on the platform you're looking to build with when you actually get started or, more realistically, when you get in and over your head. Because I also focus quite a bit on marketing and I guess I just never was attracted to the business model of only working with one platform or one set of platforms. I've had to get an understanding of the theory of these platforms so I can quickly adapt to whichever one a particular firm needs me to work on. So typically I'm going to work with a structure first approach, but we are also going to build in as many stages or as many phases as we can.

Speaker 1:

Replacing an entire intake system with a brand new automated system is generally a recipe for some type of disaster. So making the switch a little bit more gradually generally isolates issues and helps us roll things out a bit just smoother. If we're currently only fielding phone calls and we have no forms or integration of email, I'll start there. We'll create a form, we'll put it on the website and feed that into the email system. We don't even have to create an autoresponder. We can, but we don't have to. All we really need to do is start collecting emails and if our system has a tracking pixel that we can install on our website, we'll start collecting some interesting data about our users as well. After that, we'll move right on that initial client map we created and we'll build an autoresponder to reply to potential clients immediately, ensuring them we'll respond to their inquiry soon. Maybe we can go a step further if we're in, say, active campaign, and then we'll create a pipeline for the users and we'll use an automation to create a deal for new users so we can track their progress. Then we can create more emails and trigger them based on when someone moves further along in the pipeline and that triggers more emails, and so on and so on. You get the point.

Speaker 1:

The concept here is to work piece by piece, process by process, until everything is as automated as it can be, by starting with the structure of the operations and building that structure out piece by piece first, and then activating it within your intake process, again piece by piece. We minimize the damage from incorrect configurations, issues with data, human error, unexpected entry, the list goes on. Imaginations can, and usually will, break at some point. So, again, slow and steady wins the race here and when it comes to things breaking. That is why we have step number five, testing. This is so, so easy to just skip over and it's so easy to say, well, let's just get some data flowing through the system and we'll assess things in a couple of weeks.

Speaker 1:

And then you forget about the assessment part. If you're not keeping someone on staff whose job it is to keep an eye on these numbers, it is very, very likely that something will be forgotten and the finer points of how the automations are performing are going to be missed. And that's partly because you know we're just we're all busy people and this is something that kind of can seem like a little bit of a lower priority and it can get pushed to the back burner, but this is actually one of the most important parts of the entire product that you're selling and not staying on top of the data for your intake automation is really critical. I'm not talking about the number of leads, the number of qualified leads, retentions, et cetera. I'm talking about going one level deeper. Things like how many emails a retained client opens versus a client who is qualified and interested but doesn't retain. Where do they drop off? Do they open an email, read it and then just ghost you. Is there a phone call between the email and losing the client? And do we know who placed that phone call or who received that phone call?

Speaker 1:

At this point in our build, we are going to start looking for specific issues in the system that could be leading to a dip in sales. Yes, we do aim to minimize that by recreating the existing system and, in theory, there should be zero dip. But we are going to see this data for the first time when we get the system set up and we're going to realize what gaps there are in the system and, frankly, we're just going to feel dumb about it and it's easier to blame the newly implemented system than it is to admit that the thing we've been doing for three or five or 10 years is actually flawed and costing us money. So, regardless of the dissonance there, it is now time to figure out what parts of the system can be optimized.

Speaker 1:

Testing doesn't just help us improve the performance of the system from a marketing perspective, though. When we're doing initial testing for the rollout of our platform, we're making sure users get this through the system without flaws, making sure things appear as they should in the back end, so that our intake staff can then take appropriate action. We're also learning the system ourselves, and if you're not building it yourself, then hopefully your engineer is sharing some updates with you and we're preparing for if and when things do actually break. A dip in sales is a breakdown in the system yes, but having this understanding of the system is your insurance in the event that something actually literally breaks. And consistent testing yes. While primarily for the purposes of improving and optimizing our marketing efforts, consistent testing is really great for avoiding these big system failures too. You're in the program, testing things out, you're creating new things and creating variations of things and pushing the boundaries, and by knowing it and by being in there more often, you'll be able to more quickly catch and fix any problems that come up, pretty much regardless of their nature.

Speaker 1:

And finally, we have made our way to step six, which is definitely worth an entire episode in and of itself, and I'm sorry it took us so long to get here in this episode, so we're not going to go into a huge amount of detail here, but I do need to mention this and I'm going to mention it strongly, because without this your system will not work, and that is training. Yes, it is boring, you don't want to do it, your staff won't want to do it and sometimes they can even feel threatened by doing it because of the implementation of the new system that they might think threatens their job. But training is really the thing that, even more than testing, actually more than knowing what software you, more than anything, if you don't know how it works and your team doesn't know how to use it, then not only have you wasted whatever you spent on your implementation and whatever you spent on the software itself, plus all the time for all of that, but you've also wasted however much time it takes to listen to this episode of the podcast, because if you don't get this, then you're clearly not listening. So I'll reiterate a little bit and I'll try to be just a little clearer. You need a training program for the software that your firm uses.

Speaker 1:

I create training programs and videos for firms almost every week, both on specific processes and on some more general processes that I'll be sharing on the Rosen Advertising YouTube channel soon. So make sure to go subscribe to that and turn on your notifications. But I create these training programs. I know that almost nobody in the firm watches them. I know this because I have tracking on the videos and I'm alerted when somebody watches the video and nobody watches the videos. About 50% of people watch the videos in general and if a team of people is supposed to all watch the video, usually about 25% of them do so.

Speaker 1:

I know that you don't take training seriously because I know you're not watching my training videos. And I know that you don't take training seriously because in more than 10 years I've run into probably 20 law firms of the hundreds that I've worked with that have an actual onboarding process and materials for their staff, and probably the same number that provide anything other than on-the-job training for the positions that administrative staff typically fill. And these people are running your law firm. Most staff are expected to hit the ground running and I don't think the majority of attorneys realize how big the gap in understanding may be. Here is so because I know I am starting to sound pretty angry. I will leave it at this. Training is the key to everything in this idea. You can do steps one through five better than anyone in the game, but if you don't nail step six, you might as well go back to your spreadsheet and roll it X. That's it for Legal Marketing 101. Check out rosenavertisingcom for more Thanks.

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