The Folly of Lead Generation Companies: What Law Firms Need to Know

The lead generation market seems intent on taking advantage of lawyers who have an overabundance of money and not enough knowledge to make the right choices for their marketing. Attorneys are the perfect pray for one of these schemes. We're busy people, working hard in court on behalf of our clients. We want more business, but we don't have the time to truly learn the ins and outs of lead generation and search engine optimization. We're also stubbornly sure that as titans of the legal world, we know more about everything than anyone around us. When you add it all together, it comes out to a pretty clear equation. Lead generation companies are able to peddle useless leads for big dollars to law firms that don't know any better.

The sales pitches used by these companies sound the same. You'll now who you're dealing with when you hear them at legal conferences talking about the need for just one good client out of the leads you buy. If you can just get one, they'll tell you, it will all pay for itself. These companies never tell you that their leads will allow you to maximize your profitability. They don't make any claims about their ability to impact your long-term revenue as a firm or even a solo practitioner. There's a good reason they can't make these claims. It's because their leads won't give you that long-term boost you're looking for.

With this in mind, more and more firms are choosing to push aside the lead generation companies in favor of other options. As the trusted source for lawyer and law firm marketing, we have seen time and again how firms have grown tired of dealing with people who make big promises but fail to deliver. When a law firm can ditch a lead generation company and do better on its own without them, this is a good sign that the lead generation companies are like junk bond salesmen. They're targeting only the people who don't know any better. If you're trying to make decisions on the way forward, here is what you need to know about lead generation companies.

Owned Properties and Lead Generation Deception

Many of the leaders that you'll get from these companies come from owned properties. You'll be getting a substantial portion of your leads from those properties that the lead generation company owns. More than that, most companies won't be willing to tell you where your leads will be coming from. If you ask them to produce a list of domains, they'll likely advise you that the process is a trade secret that they're unable or unwilling to give to you. They'll even use the word "proprietary," as if they would be giving away the secret to the industry if they told you. The truth is that nothing is proprietary. There are not secrets on how to market online that will change the game. This is a diversion tactic to get you asking different questions.

The problem with owned properties is simple. Many of those owned properties will be far down the list on Google and won't do you any good in the first place. Should you really be paying for leads from the back pages of Google? It's a known fact in the world of SEO that consumers will not click past the first page of Google. If your leads are coming from farther back, then you're being sold something that just won't help you.

The Common Tricks of Affiliate Services

While owned property leads can be tricky and difficult for you to navigate, there are other tricks that these companies use to entice you into making a deal. The real problem comes when you start talking about affiliate leads. The majority of the lead generation companies you'll be working with use affiliates to get the bulk of their leads. While it might be possible for you to find a lead company that does not, you'll be getting lucky in that case. It's best to be straight up with potential lead generation partners about whether or not they use affiliate leads.

Affiliate services are easy to understand. They allow any of the lead generation company's affiliate partners to send their leads into a company's mix. If it works perfectly, the affiliate partner is producing great leads and sending them over to the lead generation company so they can be resold. In truth, affiliate partners are only sending over the leads they perceive to be junk. What this means in the big picture sense is that you'll be acquiring leads that are severely diluted. When you buy a fine bottle of scotch, you expect for it to be 100-percent scotch. You'd be upset if it was diluted with cheap water or with a cheaper brand of scotch. That's what's happening the affiliate context. In some cases, you're even paying for affiliate leads that have been re-purposed and sold multiple times. These sometimes come from off-shore companies that have no legitimacy and no accountability. For small firms and medium-sized firms alike, it's a great way to burn money on something that just won't help. This isn't even the last of the problems, either. You may also receive awful leads from social media sites.

How Lead Companies Use Social Media

You've probably figured out by now that social media sites are popular choices for advertising among firms and other business alike. You can target specific demographics while intensifying connection to your brand. If you'd like to get super narrow with your targeting, you can choose to market to people in very specific parts of an overall demographic. What if you're a DUI firm that specializes in rural areas? You can target men between 40 and 45 who make $75,000 to $100,000 and have been shopping for new cars. You might think that all of the targeting data through Facebook and other sites would allow for the best leads to come out of social media. You shouldn't be so sure about that, though.

The problem is the conflict of interest that exists between that lead generation company and you as an esteem firm. The company is going to charge you based on how many leads they send. This means, quite obviously, that the company is going to want to send as many leads as they can. If social media lead generation is done properly, a company would spend far more time on every lead than with other methods. This doesn't work when a company is getting paid on a per-lead basis. Instead of doing that, they stop using the targeting that makes social media leads so valuable. They start using other quick-lead tactics like spamming. The goal becomes sending you as many leads as possible before you catch on that you're getting bad leads.

Better Understanding the Conflict in Data

The goals of most firms and most lead generation companies are not aligned. As a firm, you work hard to improve your performance. You may measure your firm's success with a host of metrics. You have incentives to provide better representation, to lower your costs and to take other measures. The lead generation marketers have no incentive whatsoever to do things that benefit your bottom line. They receive the same amount of money from you whether their leads are quality or whether they are just leads. This lack of coherence between the two visions can make for some difficulty.

To better understand what you are getting from leader marketers, it's important to track your revenue results from each service you use. Figure out how many cases you're getting from your various paid referral services and even from those organic advertising services you do not pay for. This will give you the ability to make better and more efficient choices as you move forward.

So What's the Next Step?

The big question with all of this is what you should do next. If lead generation companies are so bad, then where does that leave you? Your best bet is to find a digital service that you can properly vet and that has a vision that is aligned to yours. The biggest problem with lead generation companies is that they lack transparency in the sketchy services they are providing. Having a season company that can be properly vetted and does not mind answering your questions is a good first step toward getting more out of your budget each year.

There are many things that you can do for yourself in order to enhance your online reputation and generate more clients. It's still true that most people in the legal field don't have the knowledge or time to get much out of this, though. While they might come with a strong plan to enhance their profile through AdWords and other tools, they end up being too busy. Clients come first whether you're a criminal defense warrior or working medical malpractice. Give us a call if you'd like to get more out of your online efforts. If you're an attorney who would just like to figure out where to start, we're happy to talk with you. We understand how to help legal clients get leads that turn into actual cases, and our vision for helping the legal field is aligned with the goals of the professionals we serve.

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