August 17th, 2018
Marketing is one of the few areas of society and business where the rules regarding political correctness, grammar, and imagery can be broken.
In early 2017, Sling TV began running a commercial featuring actor Danny Trejo. The spot is very simple. Trejo is sitting backward in a chair wearing a sleeveless black shirt. The background is black as well. The commercial opens with Trejo stating, “People say I’m scary.”
Whoa! Are you allowed to comment negatively on someone’s appearance in 2017? Apparently so, since there was no outrage about characterizing Trejo based on his looks. (I also assume he has no problem accepting money for the spot.)
If we are honest, Trejo is a little scary. He has lots of nasty tattoos and long, stringy hair. His facial skin is pitted and he has huge bags under his eyes. His voice is also deep and raspy — almost sinister. If a group of young children without verbal filters saw him in the park, they would probably say he is scary.
The above example illustrates an important point when it comes to marketing: Standard rules that apply everywhere else can be broken.
Below are three areas where law firms can typically get away with rule breaking:
PhotoShop: Pictures of people and offices should be “cleaned up” to enhance the way they look. For example, headshot photos should be professionally touched-up for stray hairs, wrinkled clothing, and eye circles. Exterior photos of office buildings should have power lines, garbage cans, and other “non-essentials” removed.
Grammar: Certainly slogans and taglines can break grammar rules, but even website content can bend what would be considered proper writing. For example, “their” can be used for his or her, even if the accompanying subject is singular. Lists don’t have to include every conceivable option or scenario, especially if doing so would make the content unreadable to the average client.
Political Correctness: Assume you are putting up a billboard that will feature an image of a group of people. If the community where the board is located is 85 percent black, there isn’t a need to have five different ethnicities represented. In marketing, you are allowed to speak to your desired audience.
- Marketing campaigns frequently break generally accepted rules regarding grammar, imagery, and sensitive subjects such as race and appearance.
- Be willing to experiment with different marketing messages and approaches, as long as they are tactful.
- There is a point at which advertising can become dishonest. Stay away from it. It’s not worth tarnishing your reputation or violating rules of professional responsibility.
March 2nd, 2018
There are a few big-picture questions that should be answered before investing in billboards to market your law practice. They involve your firm’s overall dollar allocation between branding and direct lead generation campaigns, whether you’re in a rural or metro area, and the types of cases you handle.
However, once you do decide to buy billboard space, there are some very specific steps that must be taken to ensure a strong ROI. The most important ones are below:
- Don’t buy just one board. Billboards fall on the branding side of the marketing strategy spectrum, which means they need repetition to build familiarity and produce returns. The only exception would be a very strategic location. For example, if you do DUI defense, having a billboard outside the city’s impound lot would be a great opportunity.
- Don’t trust the photos sent by the vendor. They are often outdated, taken at misleading angles, and photoshopped. Always visit a potential location in person. Look for trees, power lines, board condition, and anything else that could affect the success of your campaign.
- Consider changes in traffic volume due to construction or seasonal venues. A billboard on a road to a lake’s boat ramp may be a great investment in the summer and a loser in the winter.
- Take stock of things other than your billboard which may draw the vehicle occupants’ eyes. For example, if your billboard is on the left side of a very dangerous curve, it’s safe to assume most drivers will be paying attention to the road and not your marketing.
- Make the billboard vendor handle everything necessary to get the marketing up and running, including vinyl production and installation. When something goes wrong (i.e. damage to a vinyl due to improper installation), vendors like to blame others involved in the process. By keeping everything together, you eliminate their ability to push the blame for a mishap.
- Don’t stay on one board too long. Unless it’s a fantastic location, look to capture eyes in different parts of your geographic target. I typically recommend 4-6 month contracts.
Billboards can be an effective way to market a law practice. But like any investment, you need to know exactly what you’re getting and what your expectation is at the outset.
December 13th, 2017
I’m not much of a self-reflection guy. But I do make time each December to take stock of how my business performed over the past twelve months, and what my plan is for a successful new year.
For lawyers, it’s especially important to plan the upcoming year’s marketing strategies before the clock turns midnight on January 1st. Law firms should be creating marketing budgets which reflect key changes based on the previous year’s performance. And important decisions need to be made about what products to buy. (For law firm marketing product reviews, click here.)
But before getting too far into marketing budget allocation for 2018, attorneys should answer some important questions about themselves and the capabilities of their firms. Doing so will reduce the frustration associated with wasted time and dollars, while also providing peace of mind and ensuring strong returns on business development investments.
Below are those questions along with some elaboration
1. How much of your budget will go toward direct lead generation strategies verses those designed to build brand awareness? You’re in for a tough road if you expect one type of marketing to do the job of another.
2. What is your tolerance for worthless leads? This is one of the most ignored factors in the marketing decision-making process. Yet, I’ve seen lawyers nearly go crazy because of the shear number of junk inquiries they receive from marketing campaigns. Worse yet, I’ve seen some of them cancel campaigns that produce well overall because they couldn’t see past the volume of unviable leads.
3. What is a realistic expectation of revenue generation? If you are expecting a 20 to 1 dollar return on your marketing, you better brace for disappointment. The legal market is too competitive for that type of success in all but the best-case scenarios.
4. How good is your intake process? If you haven’t reviewed – in detail – how prospective clients are handled from start to finish, there is no question you are losing money. Perhaps surprisingly, the most successful law firms tend to have the worst intake.
5. Is your online resume incredibly impressive? The best law firm clients are going to check multiple sources before making a hiring decision. The first page of Google search results for your name needs to make you shine brighter than all other options available to that prospect.
There are no guarantees when it comes to marketing investments, but you can greatly increase your chances of success with the right plan. And the end of the year is a great time to put your knowledge and experience to work on creating it.
November 21st, 2017
(This is an excerpt from my recently published book, The Lawyer Marketing Book.)
DEALING WITH NEGATIVE REVIEWS
“Looking good is the best revenge.”
Model & Business Woman
If you don’t have at least one negative online review, you will. It’s the world we live in today and every firm needs a strategy for dealing with bad reviews.
In late 2013, I was contacted by Tom, the managing partner of a 10-attorney litigation boutique, about helping his firm improve their overall marketing direction. I was a couple years out of my sales career and it showed, because I made a cardinal error early in our meeting. I showed Tom a negative review someone had posted about his firm on Google.
I spent the rest of the meeting trying to regain Tom’s attention. The negative review absolutely consumed him. He couldn’t understand why someone would possibly write a bad comment about his firm, and he was even more distraught that the person was allowed to do so anonymously. I could have helped Tom and his firm, but we never got that far.
Online reviews have become part of our social fabric. That have the potential for great good, and also great abuse. But the reality for business owners is that they must learn how to manage the issue. Below are key takeaways and tips for doing just that:
- Expect to get some negative reviews. I’ve seen everything from very legitimate ones, to ones where the reviewer actually had the wrong law firm because of a similar name. Certainly, competitors have posted negative reviews against other law firms in the past, and that won’t stop anytime soon.
- Don’t respond to negative reviews. Opinions vary quite a bit on this issue, with many marketers saying just the opposite. My opinion is based on four truths:
- When you respond, you invite the reviewer to post even more damaging stuff about you, exasperating the problem further.
- When you respond, you have shown the reviewer you care, which gives them an incentive to post bad comments on many other review sites.
- Most bad reviews are poorly written and ooze with irrationality which will cause future readers to dismiss them.
- It’s much more powerful to have your positive reviews fight your reputation battle.
- Don’t lose sleep over it. Whether it’s a valid critique or outlandishly false, it won’t help you to dwell on a negative review.
- Ask the review site to remove it. It is generally not easy to have any type of review taken down by the publishing website. However, some do have “community guidelines”, the violation of which will cause a review to be pulled down. Usually the language must be threatening or vulgar, but it does not hurt to submit a removal request. Keep in mind, however, that the publishing site will often contact the reviewer before removing it, which can trigger the additional problems in 2(a) and (b) above.
- Bury negative reviews in positive ones. If 37 out of 40 reviews about the TV you’re interested in are excellent, you will dismiss the 3 people who gave it low marks as being impossible to please. This psychology is no different for your law firm.
- Don’t have staff members post fake reviews. As soon as you have to let a person go, they will have something unethical you’ve done hanging over your head.
- Don’t post your own positive reviews. There are some cases where review sites have sued lawyers for posting bogus reviews. These cases are complicated, and often involve an initial lawsuit filed by the law firm, but you don’t want something like that coming out later, as unlikely as that would be.
February 25th, 2017
Creating a logo for your law firm should be a fun experience because it’s a positive step toward enhancing the way your practice is viewed by the public. It is also an area ripe for mistakes. Below are several considerations and tips for creating your perfect branding tool.
First, logos are important. While your law firm logo will never achieve the recognition of the Starbuck’s siren or McDonald’s golden arches, it is a very easy and inexpensive way to accomplish a number of goals.
- It shows you care about the business. Every time you improve the appearance of your practice, it shows prospective clients you take pride in your work. People will rarely hire a person or important personal affairs who they don’t believe care about their own.
- Include more than just the firm name. In other words, always have a graphic or symbol along with the member names. This is important for two reasons. First, it’s nearly impossible to get people to remember a name, but they will remember and identify with symbols. Second, from a practical standpoint, there are times when you can’t use the entire firm name. For example, social media profiles usually give you a small square or circle for a profile photo, and then show your business name in a larger image. If your logo only consists of a five-person firm name, you don’t have much to put in that area designed for small images.
- Be careful of gradients. Gradients are when you have fading or shading in your design. These often look great electronically, but you can’t reproduce them on apparel and other giveaway items. If you choose a gradient for your main design, be sure you also like the non-gradient version.
- Create different versions. Choose a design that will accommodate the graphic on the left or above the firm name. This will allow you the flexibility to fit the logo into both horizontal and vertical spaces.
- Put it everywhere. Your logo should go on:
- Road signs, building signs, suite signs
- Office items such as glasses, mugs, coasters, pens, and bathroom towels
- Printed material like business cards, letterhead, envelopes, and brochures
- Electronic material, including email signatures, websites, social media properties, and online business directories
- Don’t overpay. A good logo shouldn’t cost more than $450.
- Get the right files. Probably the biggest mistake in logo creation, getting a wide variety of files types is almost always overlooked. This leaves firms scrambling to meet the requirements of a printer with a deadline. You want to have different files types (.ai, .jpg, .psd, .pdf), as well as different file sizes. Of course, you will want these for all your design versions as discussed in #4 above. (Apparel manufacturers will often require a “digitized” version of the logo, but can easily create it from the files above.)
- Store them online. Store the files online so you can simply send a link as needed along with a .jpg of the version you want used.
- Creation time. It shouldn’t take any more than 10 days for the entire process.
- Number of designs to evaluate. You should see at least 10 designs initially, maybe more depending on how much feedback you provided the designer at the project start. Narrow it down to 5, then 2, and then choose the final one.
- Asking for opinions. Don’t ask for non-decision maker opinions until you’ve determined the final two options. It doesn’t help to have 10 people like 7 different versions.
- The right expectation. Recognize going in that no two people will agree on the best version. Because of this, only have critical decision-makers involved in the process. Strive for a logo that the most important person really likes… and everyone else can live with.
Good luck on your law firm logo!
February 18th, 2017
I had the pleasure of working with one of the Southeast’s premier personal injury plaintiff firms. These lawyers were the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to trial attorneys… capable of delivering massive results for clients. Notwithstanding, they were looking to reduce the millions in referral fees they paid each year and, to their credit, were willing to spend just over $16,000 per month to originate cases.
Unfortunately, their sole intake person, Allison, was responsible for way too many things at the firm. She answered phones, sent out settlement packets, reviewed medical records, scheduled appointments, and did just about every task the firm could find for her to do. She was also my contact for marketing strategy.
One day, after going on for more than five minutes about how overworked and underpaid she was, Allison bluntly said “Matt, I’m so busy with all the work they pile on me that I treat potential new clients bad just to get off the phone.” Wow! This was one of the most shocking things I’ve heard in my 18 years working with law firms. Her employer was spending nearly $200,000 a year to bring in huge cases… and she was single-handedly sabotaging the effort.
From the perspective of an hourly employee, it is much more important to take care of the interrogatories for existing client, Mr. Johnson, than it is to talk on the phone with a prospective client no one at the firm knows.
Yet, that prospective client call is critically important and needs to receive the absolute undivided attention of the intake person. Educating those responsible for screening new business leads is critical, and in particular the necessity that they drop everything else when new business is on the phone or email. It’s also a very good idea to structure their workload so they have plenty of time to do an excellent job converting prospects into clients.
November 28th, 2016
The more marketing strategies a law firm implements, the more difficult it is to determine the success of individual campaigns. For example, a firm that has strong organic search engine rankings, runs a paid ad program, and utilizes lawyer directory top spots will find it challenging to determine the true source of an “internet client.”
Skilled intake personnel can certainly add a layer of accuracy uncommon is most firms, but lead tracking is never an exact science. There are, however, some mistakes to avoid. One is using incomplete data to assess ROI.
A short story will illustrate.
A long-time client of mine was recently reviewing dashboard statistics from one of the top 4 lawyer directories. This included a list of phone calls via a call tracking number as well as emails that came directly from the directory website. Unfortunately, only a portion of the phone calls included the caller’s name. My client said, “looking through here, I haven’t gotten anything and want to cancel.”
His analysis missed the mark in two ways. First, he did not consider that the calls without identification info could have produced a client. More importantly however, he failed to consider the hundreds of visitors that the vendor’s directory was sending to his website, a number we could verify independently through Google Analytics. i.e. a potential client who started on the vendor’s website but ended up calling from the firm’s website would not be included in the vendor’s caller data. (The number of visitors in this case was 1,200+ for the year… very significant.)
Rather than assume a program is under-performing based on some data, it’s important to recognize where tracking tools fall short. In this instance, the client was receiving a high enough volume of visitors from the third party web property to conclude that some would result in new clients for the firm.
October 30th, 2016
Law firm support staff often believe their attorneys walk on water. And it’s not difficult to understand why. The receptionist at a law firm has a front row seat to her boss’ expensive car, first class vacations to exotic places, second home on the lake, and cost of tuition at his kid’s private school. She sees him take two hour lunches with important people similarly dressed in expensive clothes, and he sounds incredibly smart when he’s on the phone.
The last thing your staff thinks is that you need more business. In fact, they probably believe they are doing you a favor by reducing your workload!
A true story will illustrate this point.
In my previous job, I once made a cold call on a law firm in Roswell, Georgia that focused on high end DUI defense. When I explained to the receptionist that I wanted to speak with the attorney about “growing the practice” she simply said, “Oh lord, Pete has more business than he knows what to do with and actually just hired a new lawyer to handle some of it.” I thanked her and left my card.
I hadn’t made it to the intersection outside Pete’s office when my phone rang. On the other end is Pete, asking if I had a few minutes to chat. It turned out that the receptionist was correct. Pete was forced to hire another attorney because there was too much business for him handle. However… there wasn’t quite enough business to keep the new attorney busy full-time, and part of the agreement between Pete and his new hire was that he would increase the clientele over the next year.
Of course, this situation happens all the time in law firms. But it illustrates how an intake person and business owner can view the same situation very differently. If that intake person believes the firm doesn’t need business, they aren’t going to do a very good job with prospective clients who contact the office looking for representation.
My next post will discuss how to educate law firm staff about the importance of new business.
October 4th, 2016
A well-written website bio is a critical piece of a powerful online resume. Even the most highly referred prospective client is going to check you out online, and one of the best places to find information is on your law firm’s website. It’s also understood that the attorney controls this information, so it better be good. Below is a piece I put together for a presentation that provides tips and examples for writing the best narrative.
Remember: A prospective client is initially interested in only one thing…
Are you the best lawyer to represent him or her today?
Impactful bios start with who you are and what you do. (But those openings really are telling the prospect what you can do for them.) Examples…
Dale is a trial attorney with over 30 years of courtroom experience.
Karen represents small, medium and large businesses in complex real estate transactions.
Tom has earned a national reputation for producing strong results for clients in serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.
For more than two decades, Jennifer has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with clients facing incredibly challenging circumstances.
Bill represents insurance companies and corporations in complex cases involving coverage limitations, errors and omissions, and third party liability.
Examples of ineffective opening bio statements…
Dan graduated from the Cumberland School of Law in 2000 and joined the firm shortly after.
Sue grew up in Philadelphia and earned her undergraduate degree in journalism from Penn State, before studying law at Rutgers.
Prior to joining the firm, Sam worked at a large Dallas law firm known for handling complex real estate deals.
Important items to cover in your bio…
- Experience (two decades, more than 15 years)
- Awards (AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, named to Georgia’s list of Legal Elites)
- Dollar Figures (completed acquisitions totaling more than $16 million, recovered over $50M in compensation for clients)
- Speaking Engagements (frequent speaker at national and local conferences)
- Unique Knowledge (Prior to starting her career as a lawyer, Joan was a Registered Nurse for 8 years at the Emory University Health Care System.)
- Approach (handles each case with incredible attention to detail)
- Education (NEVER first… unless Harvard, Yale, Stanford. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Reba works with…)
- Clerking Experience
- Significant Cases or Matters
- Quote (what does helping clients mean to you)
Key Point: Revisit your bio at least every 6 months. It can always be improved and the chances are you have something significant to add.
Key Point II: Keep in mind that sometimes a prospect must sell you to another person in their organization or family. Make that task very easy for them.
Strong Bio Example: http://algatlanta.com/our-team/pat-anagnostakis/