To mix metaphors, as a small business owner, you're used to juggling all of the hats: keeping the books balanced, handling your paperwork or court dates, and managing everything else it takes to make your firm run smoothly. It may often seem just on the border of out-of-control, and it can take an immense effort to do it all while keeping your clients happy.
Until it gets quiet.
A steady stream of clients is essential to keeping your office moving, and when the calls slow down the silence is noticeable. While we all pine for some quiet moments, a prolonged downturn in volume can leave you scrambling for options. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect against these downsides and get your revenue back up where you need it.
It's very common for our team to hear about feast-and-famine amongst our clients. Here is the cycle:
With calls and clients coming in left and right, it's a struggle for you to keep up with anything on the business development side of things. You certainly don't have time to add to your workload by focusing on your marketing.
Then your current work dries up, and the funnel is empty. Finding yourself with more time, you go back to work on your law firm website, writing articles and boosting your marketing efforts until your client list is full again. And then you forget about your marketing ...
While some of this is the natural ebb and flow for a business, the boom-and-bust approach to marketing can make it difficult to plan and manage your time.
Ideally, you would have a slow growth in your ability to manage your clients:
Marketing work is very easy to push down the to-do list when you're busy. Ensure that you're sticking to your own plan, or have a marketing team assist your efforts. Indeed, you may think that you can handle it all, but you will most likely need help as you continue to grow. Whether it's generating reviews for your firm, adding content to your site, or doing some link-building, when you start to reduce your effort on the marketing side it will eventually be reflected in a lower call volume. And marketing tasks most often slip when you're busiest — right when you need marketing most to build up prospects for when the current boom busts.
An evolutionary biology class stuck a hypothesis in my head that I've been turning over for business use ever since.
Red Queen Hypothesis: The idea that a species has to evolve just to remain in the SAME PLACE as its competition.
The name comes from Alice in Wonderland. Alice begins chasing the Red Queen only to hear "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place."
Marketing is much like this. It's not a set-it-and-forget-it business practice. To keep up the same flow, you must work harder and harder as the competition increases. By not considering your website an asset that you monitor continuously, you can let it fall behind the competition and it will take that much more work to catch up. Make sure you or your marketing company is handling your efforts while the calls are rolling in so it stays that way.
To market your website, you can engage in the following:
... and so on. There is a never-ending list of things you can do to increase your rankings and bring in new clients. If you're only focusing on one, it's possible that you've maximized that option and it's limited by the neglect of everything else.
Let's say you're writing a ton of content for your site, sticking to your content plan and answering questions for your clients every single day. After a while, your traffic is up, but not as much as you thought given the work you're putting in. What gives?
It's a common example. Per Google directly, the top two ranking factors are content and links. Even though you're crushing the former, without the authority that comes from links it's possible that few people will ever see your beautifully written articles.
Make sure that you're managing the balance of your marketing well, and a slower time in your business is a good time to reassess your efforts across all options.
Your former clients represent your best avenue to new clients. When your incoming calls go silent, it can be a great time to reverse the flow, pick up your phone, and start dialing. A quick outreach to check in on your former clients' well-being is a great business practice and will keep you top of mind when people they know need your services.
A slow time is the best time to engage in this practice because you never know where cold calls are going to take you and your day. You don't want to cut a potential lead source short and leave a bad taste in their mouth with a rushed call.
Reaching out is also a great way to generate reviews that are crucial to your rankings and success. Remind your former clients what a professional you are and reap the rewards of future clients for years to come.
Sometimes there is little you can do when the volume of calls decline due to the nature of the business. Almost every industry has a seasonal cycle according to which you can reliably predict the market each month. For example, family law tends to slow down in the last 3 months of the year, the common wisdom being that the kids are going back to school and the family will give it another shot before the holidays (or maybe it's the holiday pressure that causes the problems that tend to lead to divorce proceedings early in the new year).
Plan for this seasonality, and use the time to reset for the upcoming year. One thing that we haven't discussed is the option that a slow time might be beneficial to your business — if you're ready for it. If each year you notice the quality and quantity of calls go down in the last couple of months the year, use the extra time to prepare for the next cycle. With a well-executed plan, the quiet months won't be a surprise for you and you will be in a better position to have a rock-solid foundation for the next crazy period.
Additionally, by following all of the steps above, you'll be in a better position to gather leads during quieter times because you were continuing your marketing during the busier times of the year.
It is tempting to push off thinking about your marketing when your client book is full. However, that is just the time to ensure that your sales funnel is full so there aren't any major gaps in your year. Our marketing team can help you reduce the slow times by handling your marketing so you can focus on what you do best: practicing law. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss your current efforts and go over options.