I first became involved in the personal injury market in the 1990s through working with APIL. Since then this market – perhaps more than any other area of law – has been through significant change and has generated a lot of (mostly) negative PR. Many firms have wasted money trying to generate or “buy” leads and a lot have dispensed with their personal injury departments altogether when it proved so difficult to generate a steady flow of profitable work.
So I was delighted when Ian Powell, Business Development & Communications Director at Irwin Mitchell – one of the UK’s largest national law firms and a market leader within the personal injury market – agreed to tell me about its strategic and integrated multi-channel PI advertising campaigns.
“We first began to explore the opportunities that the web offered in creating a ‘direct’ capture or DR channel more than ten years ago when we began to understand that the web offered the potential to be much more than a simple ‘online brochure’ for the firm. It became apparent – by studying buyer behaviour in mainstream consumer markets – that our clients were comfortable using this emerging channel for personal shopping, banking, finance and insurance services and that legal services would go the same way. The demand for services to be available when the public wanted them, often on a 24/7 basis blew away the notion that lawyers could expect clients to stick to office hours and the intranet offered a channel to deliver our services right into the homes of clients at a time which suited them.
From this notion, we have developed and defined our strategy. Building on our early success, we have invested significantly in our on-line capabilities over the last 5 years, building a strong in-house specialist team to manage our e-business strategy. Today, the web is one of our most effective direct channels while also creating an effective portal through which we can engage with our clients.
Our in-house e-business team consists of over a dozen specialists from web development and front end web designers, to SEO and promotional experts, planners and data analysts as well as account management teams who provide an interface between the e-bus team and the business.
The strategy is defined into three core areas:
1. Online promotion and lead generation
2. Adding value to clients through online services (client engagement and creating loyalty)
3. Transacting business on line
Such is the success of our on-line offerings that, at present, a significant proportion of our personal injury business flows through irwinmitchell.com, whether that is due to the client looking for reassurance, confirmation, seeking contact details or to initiate a telephone call or email enquiry”.
Analytics – measuring success of our campaigns
All marketing and promotional campaigns should be able to be measured. However in many sectors, and especially law, the ability to measure the ROI from marketing and advertising expenditure remains the Holy Grail! However our e-business ‘direct’ operation is measureable and transparent. Through a variety of on-line tracking tools, we know exactly how many hits, visits, click throughs and enquiries we receive. As a result, we are able to calculate the CPE (Cost Per Enquiry) and CPA (Cost Per Acceptance) for different types and value of cases we receive.
A new dynamic content management system (CMS) called SiteCore has ensured that we remain at the forefront of legal on-line activity. Indeed, our approach is to look at how we can mirror leading retail online operations rather than the approach of traditional law firms. Today we are able to make changes very quickly in response to market developments and new opportunities. It also allows us to implement ongoing AB split testing – a test in a ‘live environment’ that enables us to measure the impact of making small changes to a specific page.
This approach allows us to measure the different response rates and how clients react to a change (such as tweaking the position of the click boxes or modifying the message or colours slightly). Such small changes can have a significant impact on the number of enquiries and ensures that are site is consistently evolving – all based on user interaction.
SEO vs PPC
“We use a combination of on-line promotional activities, using a mix of SEO and PPC as well as some banner advertising as they do different jobs. PPC allows us to have an immediate impact with a new development. It’s obviously cheaper to use SEO – although it requires a lot of knowledge and time – but it takes a while for changes to work their way through the search engines. And we keep a close watch over the changes to the way in which search engines rank sites through their algorithms. We monitor our results on a daily basis and make changes as required”.
Combining DR TV, on-line and brand
“Our product led campaign mixed DR TV and radio with on-line promotion as well as making significant use of social media – Twitter, Facebook and other platforms – the aim was to ensure a consistent message was pushed out across all channels, each supporting each other.
Our television adverts are carefully designed to include the firm’s overall brand messages and to distinguish the firm from the many claims management companies or other law firms that ‘hard sell’ PI claims. A conscious decision was taken to balance DR against brand and the focus is very much on the impact of injuries and accidents on the family and the need for rehabilitation.
The word “solicitor” was used to leverage the positive associations of professional, expert and knowledge whilst guarding against possible negative perceptions by stressing the ease of access, openness and approachability of Irwin Mitchell.
And we also ran a public affairs campaign that called for better rehabilitation facilities throughout the country. This was fact based – we showed that improved rehabilitation enabled people to get back to work more quickly – and used a mix of PR tools including used social media to promote it. The theme was supported through including articles and videos of occupational health and rehabilitation specialists as well as doctors and lawyers discussing the benefits of rehabilitation on the campaign brand web pages.
The firm also conducted research into brand awareness and propensity to buy (known as consideration) before and after the campaign. The campaign led to a significant improvement in both as well as increasing awareness of the other private client services that the firm offers”.
Communicating with all stakeholders
“Naturally, before we embarked on the campaign we had to reassure all stakeholders that we would not harm or bias the firm’s brand or reputation with the campaign. So we had a separate engagement campaign which included emails, links to the advertisements and briefings to allay any potential concerns”.
The way forward
Despite the changes in the market – including powerful new entrants – Irwin Mitchell has achieved sustained profitable growth. As well as the significant investment in the online space, Powell believes that the firm’s brand has played a key role in this success.
“Today’s society has consumers who are constantly interacting in a multi-level and multi-platform way. Whether they come to us directly through the online route or it is simply one of the many touch points on their journey we have to ensure that the positioning and messages are consistent throughout, including television, literature, the web site, the public affairs programme, media relations and even what’s happening in our network of offices. It has to be truly integrated”.
COMMENT by Kim Tasso: Whilst the significant resources and investment of Irwin Mitchell may be beyond what most law firms can afford, it is possible for all marketing campaigns to be carefully integrated across communications platforms and supportive of an overall brand strategy. And as the analytics tools are free, every firm can commit time to understanding what is working well (and not so well) for them and make the necessary adjustments to maximise the results.
* Kim Tasso is a management and marketing consultant specialising in the professions, a freelance journalist and author www.kimtasso.com/blog2 Twitter: @RedStarKim