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Lawyer blogs : What’s the ROI?

Another question we get peppered with at LexBlog is ‘What’s the ROI for a law blog?’

Like on a lot of things, I’m pretty cavalier in my response. I just throw back questions. What’s the ROI for taking exec’s to a Celtics’ game? What’s the ROI for speaking at industry conference? Do you have to give reports on returning to the office as to when you’ll be getting the prospective client’s work?

Kevin McKeown, our VP of Client Development and who is working with a ton of large firms, understandably wanted to offer firms something more on the ROI front. Plus, in addition to being a lawyer, he’s got 20 plus years developing business strategies and plans that drive companies – offers a different perspective than me.

Kevin’s been providing the summary to law firms and I thought it worthwhile to share with you. What follows is Kevin’s take on the ROI on law blogs.

Simple ROI compares hard dollar cost to hard dollar profit. This strict ROI construct does not answer the question asked—better to focus on the strategic  return on investment. That analysis is as much qualitative as it is quantitative. This integrated approach to ROI goes behind solely financial return.  

The rewards of blogging are measurable in numerous ways. How each dimension is valued depends upon a law firm’s perspective and position in the legal marketplace.  

The single most important factor that contributes to a law firm’s success is attracting and retaining paying clients and lawyers need to spend time each week marketing with this goal in mind. Today, LexBlog has 850 lawyer authors posting to over 350 blogs. Our client retention rate exceeds 96% into our fifth year. Our clients teach us that blogging effectively does build long-term value that helps attract and retain those clients.

 

The checklist that follows encapsulates the benefits of blogging as reported by LexBlog’s clients:

Market Growth (increasing market share)

  • Increases firm’s brand recognition in the right places with the desired audience: executives, thought leaders, journalists, etc. (70% of business executives and in-house counsel research lawyers online during the hiring process).    
  • Results in new client acquisition (nearly 70% of people research online before selecting a service or product) and greater retention (higher affinity).
  • Viral—leads to more referrals from other firms and influencers (blog posts regularly cited by amplifiers—bloggers and reporters).

Organizational Capability (not just number of lawyers)

  • Enables firm to showcase law talent and specialized legal capabilities.
  • Blog posts, resources and links are easily searchable by readers, in contrast to the intellectual capital buried deep within static websites.
  • Regular posts and RSS feeds offer dynamic exposure helping clients and influencers appreciate the firm’s broad, deep knowledge and responsiveness by giving lawyers a prompt way to publish in response to legal developments.

Innovative capacity (more than technical)

  • Blog platform is a superior delivery mechanism for sharing and extending reach of firm’s intellectual capital (legal alerts, email newsletters, etc.) when compared to a static website.
  • Blogging professionally leaves positive impressions with clients and influencers that the firm is fresh and innovative.
  • Ability to leverage the firm’s intellectual capital enhances information sharing among clients and staff in a timelier fashion increasing communication and satisfaction.

Competitive advantage (strategy is relative to how a competitor responds)

  • The dynamic nature of blogs creates a solid Internet presence that enhances the firm’s brand recognition and reputation. Clients are seeing their content being syndicated to Forbes, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Harvard Business publications via RSS feeds.  
  • Focused blogs enable firm to enter a new legal market quickly and monitor a legal niche more easily.
  • Blog helps the firm maintain influence and status as thought leader (best of breed). 75% of journalists use blogs and RSS to locate experts and to obtain story ideas. Reporters monitor keywords and phrases from RSS aggregators such as Google Blog Search and Technorati.

Financial gain (assess with a broader concept of gain not just return)

  • Effective blogging results in more clients and referrals over time.
  • LexBlog’s turnkey blog solution is an insignificant marketing cost compared to the benefits returned.
  • At a minimum, re-purposing email newsletters and legal alerts lowers costs and improves return on marketing dollars spent.

As the above illustrates, because the primary purpose of a blog is strategic, the rewards of a blog are more than financial. Consider these three statements from LexBlog’s AmLaw 200 clients:

 “Although the revenue generated from my blog exceeds my investment in my blog, the most meaningful ROI may be that which is less readily measured. For example, the relationships with experts in my field, and the positive feedback from lawyers and clients around the country that were made possible through my blog, as well as the format allowing for an organized way to summarize cases and have them available via search terms, would make it worthwhile, for me, even if it did not generate any revenue.”

 “The cost of blogging is an insignificant marketing cost compared to the benefits we are realizing over time.”

 “I would ask what is the ROI for a law firm’s website or for their distribution of client alerts? What’s the baseline? Is there ROI for conferences and speaking engagements? Client communications?  All of this requires attorney time.”

The first year cost of LexBlog’s turnkey solution is $4,900. Thereafter, the cost drops to $2,400/year. How many clients does a firm need to acquire to turn $7,300 ($4,900 + $2,400) into a huge ROI? The strategic ROI is much greater than just looking at the financial ROI. Under either scenario, the total blog life cycle profit is much greater than the cost.

Peter Drucker talks about the two key functions of a business: marketing and innovation. The business of law is no different. The effective use of professional law blogs is innovative marketing at its best and would suit Mr. Drucker just fine.

  • http://www.GreatLegalMarketing.com Ben Glass

    Kevin, I still say the the primary purpose of a blog is to help your business be profitable. Getting on the first page of Google, being interesting enough to attract attention, and then making an irresistible offer that starts folks down a multi-step, multi-media marketing funnel that fully establishes that you are the wise man/woman at the top of the mountain is what its all about.
    I don’t disagree with what you’ve listed above but the absolute top and bottom line, is does it help you generate a profit.
    Now, having said that, I totally agree with you. A well positioned, well-thought out blog that places on the first page of Google can be a gold mine.Plus, done well, you can, with some work, dominate major portions of the first page of Google.
    how cool is that? so much better than dumb money spent on double truck yellow page ads!

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Ben, I agree that search engine placement is important but being totally obsessed with it as you appear to be is misguided.
    Of course the number one reason for having a law blog is to grow your business. There’s just a lot of ways to do that and they do not all begin and end with the search engines.
    My company dominates the search engines as a result of my blog. We’re also getting a lot of new business. But 90% of our new business comes in via word of mouth and referrals, not because of the search engines. The same is true for a lot of my clients.
    Effective blogs do so much more for a lawyer’s career than being able to boust I am on the first page of Google. I think if you experienced the results of such blogging you would not have such a narrow view.