There's only one answer to this, a law firm should expect to make more money when doing online marketing. But, lets dive deeper.
First off, a law firm needs to be completely sure that online marketing is the right way to promote their services. We covered this in the "What Law Firms Need To Know" page. Number 1 rankings for the wrong practice area, say large corporate mergers, may never result in a client.
The timing of results depends on the tools used. If the firm is doing online advertising, the results should be fast. With online ads, the visibility and traffic to the site will be near instantaneous. If the firm is relying on search engine optimization for organic rankings the timing is much less predictable. Positive things can start happening in as little as a week or as long as six months depending on factors including:
This is the single most important metric. Return on investment is the amount spent divided into the profit earned. If a firm spends $1,500 in a month of advertising and brings in $22,000 in paying work from three clients then the net gain is $20,500. The return on investment is $20,500 divided by $1,500 which equals 13.66, or 1366% when expressed as a percentage. If this pattern holds over a period of months, the firm knows that for every dollar they put in, they'll get $13.66 dollars back in profit.
The goal of any online marketing campaign is to maximize ROI and leverage it as much as possible. The mix of services, the strategy of the campaign, the ad spend and the actions of a firm's competitors will all impact ROI.
Another important metric is tracking the cost of obtaining a client. In the previous example the expense was $1500 and that attracted 3 good paying clients. The cost to get those clients was $500 each. ($1500 expense divided by 3 clients). All in all, that was an amazing investment because it resulted in an ROI of 1366%. But, at $500/client an attorney may think of more affordable ways to gain clients.
Online marketing requires little attorney time when managed by a company like ours. It is also happening around the clock. On the flip side, $500 is a lot of money. This all factors into information attorneys need so that they can make good choices. An attorney might make a habit of taking 2 prospects out to lunch each week. For every 10 lunches (cost $30 each) they pick up a client. So the client acquisition cost there is $300, but it takes 10 lunches spread out over 5 weeks to make that happen. Lower dollar cost, but higher time commitment. If you consider an attorney's hourly rate, the cost of going out to lunch rather than doing billable work can drive the cost of acquiring those clients through the roof.
There are limits to everything. A lawyer can only take so many people out to lunch. There are only so many people looking for an attorney online at any given time. There's only so much that one can write about a particular topic. There's only so much work an attorney can handle.
When growing and promoting a law firm there will be limits that get hit. Successful law firms find ways to create multiple reliable and predictable sources of clients. Predictable client sources allow firms to know exactly how much investment they need to make to achieve the outcome they desire. Different forms of online marketing often provide very predictable sources of new clients.