Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens
Most of you know I am a technology junkie. If something new comes out, I want to be the first to try it. Over the years, there have been a few hits and a lot of misses. This month I am writing about a few services you may not know about, but which I have found to be invaluable and they are a few of my favorite things.
Automated Client Communication Software
I have been in practice over 20 years. That’s a lot of clients. How many of those clients I represented 20 years ago remember who I am? How about clients five years ago? No matter how great a lawyer you are, some clients will forget who you are or how to contact you. There is an expression that a new client costs five times as much than an existing client.
The key is keeping in communication with past clients so they remember who you are and how to reach you. In the past, keeping in touch with clients required regular mail, a birthday card, newsletter, etc. These cost money to print and to mail. Today, we communicate with e-mail. With e-mail, there is no printing or postage. E-mail is essentially free. You can send an e-mail to former clients which will keep you in their mind (and hopefully in their Contacts).
Now for the magic. You can automate sending e-mails using an automated client communication service. For example, you can program the service to automatically send a birthday e-mail to your clients. If you won a big case or if there is a new legal development, you can automate the service to send an e-mail out to clients. However, the best use of automated client communication services is in a regular newsletter. It will require a bit of thought as to what goes into the newsletter, but there are services which will put the whole newsletter together for you, or you can spend the time to do it yourself.
There are many companies which offer this service, such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and Vertical Response. We use InfusionSoft. Just as a tracking number (see below) tracks phone calls, automated client communication services can track who opens your e-mail, who responds to your e-mail and who unsubscribes. The key to this is automation. It takes awhile to get it set up but it is well worthwhile. I have found a large increase in client referrals since adopting automated client communication software.
Call Tracking Software
If you do any advertising, you must use a call tracking number. A tracking number is a phone number which records every time someone calls it and forwards the call directly to your office. A tracking number tracks how many people call and from what source. It will give you details as to the phone number calling (Caller ID) and can even record the entire phone call. I use a different tracking number on my web site, my electronic newsletter, my calender magnets, yellow pages and several other sources. But you do not need to get that complicated. If you send out birthday cards or Christmas cards to clients, include a tracking number to see if anyone calls as a result. If you present a seminar, display a tracking number in your presentation as well as any written materials you pass out. You’ll know exactly who called and why and how successful your presentation was at the goal of increasing business. You must be able to tell whether your advertising dollars and marketing efforts are paying off.
You can also use tracking numbers to add a new prefix to your practice. If you have a 312 prefix for a downtown office, you can add a suburban 708 prefix which forwards to your main number. Our web site shows a different local area code depending on where the client is searching. So, if someone searches our web site from the western suburbs, a 630 prefix appears on our web site. Potential clients are more likely to contact you if you have a phone number with the same prefix.
If you never used tracking numbers, you probably think they are expensive. We use the basic package from CallFire which costs $3/month and 5¢/minute. Unless you have a high volume of calls to a tracking number, it may run $10/month. Our CallFire monthly bill is under $100 and we use a lot of tracking numbers. But, I can tell you exactly how many calls I received from my calendar magnet I sent out, and I can tell you I make ten times as much in fees as it costs me to mail them out. Without a tracking number, I would have no idea whether I was making a return on my investment (ROI).
Electronic Document Signing
We constantly need documents signed by clients. The alternatives are to have the client come to the office, mail the papers to the client or perhaps fax or e-mail them. Fax and e-mail is fast, but it requires the client to print the paper, sign it, then scan or fax it back to us. Most of our clients use e-mail, but few have a fax or scanner at home. Enter electronic document signing. We use DocuSign, but others include Adobe and Right Signture. They all work similarly. You scan the documents and save them as a .pdf file. Next, you upload the document to the web site. The site then allows you to indicate where the client is to sign or what information needs to be filled in. The site asks you to enter the e-mail of the person you are sending the document to as well as a message. Your client receives a message that they have a document to sign and a secure link. They go to the web site and the site walks them through exactly what information is needed and where to sign. The client has the option to adopt a signature, use a digital signature or even sign their name using a mouse. They click “send” and you receive the signed document in your e-mail. Just like automated client communication software, it notifies you when someone signs a document and even follows up with them (on a schedule you determine) if they fail to sign the document. Each of these electronic document signing web sites have a great video showing how easy it is to use this service. My description does not do it justice.
We are finding more companies we do business with are using electronic document signing. For example, some of our clients request loans from settlement advance companies. Their forms are done using electronic document signing. I recently re-financed my house and all the documents were e-mailed to me and required a digital signature, with the exception of the actual mortgage and note. There are certainly documents which you will want an original signature, like in my re-finance. However, electronic document signature is a service which will become more and more prevalent.
I have only scratched the service of these great services. I encourage you to investigate further. I would be happy to talk to anyone about my experiences. I believe that they services can be applied in any type of practice with a firm of any size. Don’t believe me? I’ll pay for your first month for any of these services to prove how helpful they can be, regardless of your practice.