What to Look for in a Marketing Partner

by NIB Direct Staff

NIB Direct Contributing Editor

Law firms want the same things from their marketing partners that everyone does. The difference lies in their intolerance for subpar results and unwillingness to continue relationships with vendors that don’t deliver on their promises. If your law firm’s vendor manager has to spend much time reviewing service providers’ performance, you will probably be looking for new marketing professionals to work with. 

Law firms are becoming increasingly aware that smart business practices provide enormous growth opportunities. With enhanced attention to best practices, firms will be looking to control costs and gain efficiency and value from their marketing partners. When establishing a new business relationship with a marketing agency, make sure it promises transparency, efficiency, and accountability. 

Building trust through transparency 

Marketing firms should know that if they want to retain their clients, they should focus on building relationships; trust is absolutely essential. While establishing trust takes time, transparency from the outset plants the seed for a healthy business relationship. Your marketing partners should set reasonable expectations when you hire them of what their services will cost and the results they will provide. 

Trust and transparency open the door to strategic partnerships with law firm clients. “Finding the right marketing vendor requires a relationship with an agency that accepts lead returns, negotiates price, and supplies quality cases,” explains Edward Lake, CEO of Leaders in Mass Torts. “If your vendor doesn’t offer these benefits, you are just spinning your wheels.”  

The goal in law firm-vendor relationships is partnership. The best way marketing firms can partner with you is by cultivating transparency through consistent communication, reporting, and results. Set clear expectations from the outset on how often you would like to hear from your marketing provider and hold them to it. If you know what to expect, you won’t be left to wonder what they’re doing with your advertising dollars and assume the worst. 

Regular reporting is a best practice for marketing agencies under any circumstances because they have to review what’s working and tweak their tactics when necessary. Chances are, if they aren’t consistently running reports on their ad campaigns, they will drop the ball on providing satisfactory results. Transparency through consistent communications will eliminate risks and ensure confidence. 

Delivering efficiency 

Effective risk management is essential to law firms. Because your law firm is held to strict ethical standards, you expect the same from your vendors. If your marketing partner is handling confidential client data, you must be assured of their strict adherence to protocols that maintain confidentiality. 

Look for a marketing firm that is open to feedback on its deliverables. The last thing a law firm wants to do is argue with its vendors over contract terms and conditions. Ideally, your vendors will expedite cases and improve outcomes for the firm and its clients. If they can accept constructive criticism and provide credible assurance that they’ll get it right next time, you can establish a flourishing partnership where everyone wins. 

Lawyers know better than anyone that practice makes perfect. When you hire a vendor, you’re relying on their expertise to outperform what you could do in house. Your marketing partner should make it easy for you to rely on them so you can focus on what you’re good at — practicing law. When your law firm chooses to hire a vendor instead of performing those functions in house, you’re looking for a professional to take ownership of those tasks and provide accurate, reliable results. Don’t hesitate to communicate that expectation to your marketing partner.

Demanding accountability 

Firms want partnerships with vendors that don’t need micromanaging. Your marketing vendor should set realistic expectations in the beginning and deliver on its promises. Demand honesty. If your advertising campaign was a dud, your marketing partner should admit that it didn’t work out. If you can at least agree on what didn’t work in the past, you can troubleshoot problems and move forward to the next campaign. 

Law firms are increasingly cognizant of key business metrics and continually onboarding new vendors is bad for business. Weeding out incompetent service providers is costly and time-consuming. Your firm is pressured every day to provide transparency, efficiency, and accountability to your clients, and you’re going to expect the same from your vendors. The practice of law is a daily grind of antagonism with the opposition. The last thing law firms want is another battle. If your vendors can add value and make your business run smoothly, you can commit to your business relationship. 

Whether through lack of oversight or laziness, some vendors aren’t as thorough as they should be when intaking new cases. For example, if intake personnel are compensated per call or per signed retainer, they have no incentive to focus on the quality of the cases they’re signing. Getting a quality result requires accountability for the vendor’s employees as well. One solution is to incentivize intake staff upon receipt of medical records rather than signed retainers so staff is more likely to ask critical questions on the first call. One red flag when intaking cases is when the potential client is already represented by counsel on the claim in question. If this issue isn’t vetted from the outset, law firms end up with dually represented clients. Additionally, intake departments should ask as many open-ended questions as possible instead of steering potential clients toward signing a retainer using only yes or no questions.

These are often symbiotic relationships where the vendor relies on its law firm clients for survival. Having the ability to engage in a long-term, ongoing relationship based on both trust and productive results ensures that the awkward issues that often arise are addressed quickly and to the benefit of both parties. This type of fluidity enables law firms to provide their best legal services to their clients and the vendor to provide its best services to its law firm clients. Although law firm-vendor business relationships are often dictated by emerging and ending dockets and complex litigation nuances, having a strong relationship with your business partners can ensure that the unique peaks and valleys in mass torts are handled in a mutually beneficial way.

Law firms value predictability because lawyers expend tremendous effort anticipating and neutralizing unfavorable outcomes in their cases. If your marketing partner can provide consistent results, your efficiency will naturally increase and they will earn your loyalty.