As a funding company, your business relies on finding and attracting consumers interested in receiving funding and then converting them into actual clients. In internet marketing speak, the process of optimizing your sponsored search ads, landing pages, and overall website design to raise your conversion rate is called CRO, or conversion rate optimization.
CRO is all about getting more of the right type of customers to maximize profits.
To bring in customers, many funding companies utilize convenient online capture forms that interested parties can fill out in order to apply for funding. It's no surprise that having both a strong online presence and optimized landing page on your website can be extremely valuable in driving originations.
If you have a website and haven't optimized it for conversion rates, you're probably leaving money on the table. This article describes common practices around CRO and how you can apply it to your legal funding business to get more, high quality deal flow.
There are generally two situations where an interested plaintiff would find and fill out your form to apply for funding.
The first is when an attorney refers a client to your site. Their instructions are usually as simple as "why don't you check out this company and fill out their form if interested." In many cases, attorneys will provide the names of several funding companies. Competition is healthy, right?
If you haven't taken the time to optimize your website and forms, you risk losing high quality deals to your competitors who are! Anecdotally, we've seen legal funders with broken forms, outdated phone numbers that lead nowhere or, worse, a website that looks like this when you click their link from Google:
The second way a plaintiff will find your website is when she independently finds your company online and fills out your online form. How often this occurs is highly dependent on your efforts to improve your online presence, namely with SEO and internet advertising/SEM. You can check out The Legal Funder's Handbook for valuable tips on these concepts (and a lot more), but to give you a brief background:
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving your business's search engine ranking to ensure you're found on the web. A higher search engine ranking is directly correlated with more website traffic and funding leads.
Internet advertising, which is part of an SEM (search engine marketing) strategy, involves buying advertising online through internet companies like Google and Facebook. It can drive leads by generating direct responses from interested potential clients.
If you are interested in these topics, there are a plethora of and resources studies out there dedicated to analyzing conversion rates and other online metrics. This data from WordStream (graphic reproduced below) shows the average conversion rate across various industries. As you can see, relative to other industries the finance and legal industries both do quite well.
For most funding companies, when a consumer searches for your company online or clicks on your digital ad, it leads them the your website's "landing page." This landing page should contain your online form. This is likely to be the first impression a consumer has of your company, and we all know how important first impressions are. So what makes for a good landing page?
If you think about you own online experiences (and frustrations), you would not be surprised to hear that the quality of your individual landing pages can have a dramatic effect on conversion rates.
When a prospective customer stumbles across your page as the result of a specific search query, if the content and offering of that page are not relevant to what they were looking for or expecting to find, they will return to their search and you will lose that lead. You should have a compelling page, containing your form, that is concise and easy to read.
Don’t bury your form under a ton of text explaining everything about your company — keep it clearly visible “above the fold,” i.e. near the top of your page. Funders often make the mistake of thinking consumers deeply care about what their company has to say.
You may be relieved to hear this is generally not true; most plaintiffs simply want to know that you are a legitimate company offer the product they are looking. Once that’s established, they will want to figure out how to apply, whether by phone or form, so don’t distract them with too much information about how great you are!
QUICK TIP: Although we may not love blocks of text, marketing studies show that humans do like seeing photos of people on webpages, so long as they are not cheesy (e.g. a man flipping a pile of money in his hands) or off base! Consider using such photos on your own.
Some applicant’s prefer to speak on the phone when seeking funding, so your landing page must also clearly display your company’s phone number in a conspicuous place. We alluded to it earlier, and it sounds obvious, but make sure this number is in working order! Calls should go to human, during working hours, or a working voicemail system.
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to leave a voicemail, but hearing an automated message that the mailbox is full! As tech providers for the legal funding industry, we call a lot of funders. We cringe when we hear: “This voicemail box is full.” It shows a lack of sophistication and, quite frankly, effort. What do you think happens when a potential client hears it?
Don't forget, with Google responsible for 25% of the traffic delivered to websites in the U.S., visitors may end up landing on pages of your website besides your designated landing page or homepage. Therefore, you should strive to try to drive traffic to your actual landing page and online form, ideally from the initial search but also from any other page on your site.
Better forms can increase the amount of funding requests you get, it's that simple. Remember to keep your form user-friendly: easy to read and easy to fill out (even if you have to hire a web designer!). The question is where you want to add friction into the process.
This is mostly common sense. On the lower end of potential form design, if you only have 2 or 3 fields (i.e. first name, last name and phone number) you will have minimized friction. There are pros and cons with having such a simple version for applicants to fill out.
The main benefit here is that a lot of potential clients will fill out your form simply because it's so easy to do. But that's not always a good thing!
You may receive a lot of unqualified people applying, such as plaintiffs without attorneys, without qualified cases, or with a stack of rejections from other companies already under their belts. Accordingly, your team will spend unnecessary time and resources following up on dead-ends and problematic applicants. After all, 20% of plaintiffs will cause 80% of your problems and suck up 80% of your time.
As you add more fields, you increase friction and the dynamics shift. Consider a form with additional fields for the attorney's full name and phone number.
With these extra fields, you will get fewer applications. But you will also tend to get more motivated, qualified applicants (i.e. those with representation) from the get-go that you can expect to convert.
Although it may require a slightly more robust website, we have a great "best practices" tip gleaned from experience: use multiple forms! The first form, with just basic contact information, will be extremely low friction. Once an applicant submits that info, it can lead directly to a second, and even third, form with more fields.
The first form should have fields for the applicant's name, phone and email address. When an applicant hits "submit," have it direct them to the next form. Check out the following chart for potential fields of helpful data to collect:
The more information an applicant fills out, the more likely you are to have a qualified lead that you can convert. There is a high correlation between breadth of information filled out and high quality leads. The best part, however, is that even if people decide not to fill out the second (and/or third) form, you will have every applicant's basic information and can pursue every lead!
QUICK TIP: With any forms, you generally should not require non-basic information (i.e. besides name, phone and email) in order to submit it. For example, some funders have a field for the name of the attorney's law firm in their main form, but you'd be surprised at how many plaintiffs can't remember the name of the firm they've hired! If your form requires this information to submit, you may lose a lead if an applicant can't fully fill it out.
You should play around with your own form(s) to see what works best for your company - just make sure you have procedures in place to track your conversion rate over time so you can make continue to make educated design decisions.
You may have a great website and form that drives a lot of qualified applicants, but don't stop there. To increase efficiency and save on resources, it is extremely valuable to also connect this form to your company's customer management system.
Once connected, applicants who submit forms should have their data automatically entered into your system. This both saves your staff time and effort of having to enter this data manually themselves and it can automatically queue up the list of applicants to contact that day or week.
Let's put all of these concepts together. The preliminary first step, of course, is to ensure your website is live and works! When designing your user-friendly landing page, clearly explain (without extraneous text) what your company provides and how it matches with what your target consumers are looking for. Your (functional) phone number will also be clearly listed, and you will have human operators taking the calls or quickly returning voicemail.
Your online form(s) must appear conspicuously on that perfect landing page. As you design your forms, consider how you want to gather information and make sure the forms connect to your content management system.
Using multiple forms should help drive more high quality applicants and organize applicant data in informative ways - it lets you capture the most people but also provides insight on the strength of applicants. As you track your conversion rate, you will learn what works best for your company over time.
There is a lot of value in thoughtfully working to optimize your webpage and forms - taking the time to do so is a great way to immediately improve your business! With a well-designed form, and a smart content management system in place, you are sure to increase your conversion rate and overall profits.
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