Gyi Tsakalakis is a former lawyer and the founder of AttorneySync, an online legal marketing agency, to help lawyers...
Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. is president of the digital forensics, managed information technology and cybersecurity firm Sensei Enterprises. Ms....
Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, Jim Calloway is a recognized speaker on legal technology issues,...
If your law firm’s digital marketing plan isn’t working for you, consider changing your tactics! In this episode of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk to Gyi Tsakalakis about how to be successful in digital marketing for small and solo firms. They also advise lawyers to have ownership for all of their online content, caution against being overly self-promotional, and encourage lawyers to track and measure their marketing efforts to effectively evaluate success.
Gyi Tsakalakis is a former lawyer and the founder of AttorneySync, an online legal marketing agency, to help lawyers be where their clients are looking.
The Digital Edge
Successful Digital Marketing Tips for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer
Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 135th edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We are glad to have you with us.
I am Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I am Jim Calloway, Director of The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is Successful Digital Marketing for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer.
Sharon D. Nelson: Before we get started we would like to thank our sponsors.
Jim Calloway: Thanks to Scorpion. Scorpion sets the standard for law firm online marketing with proven campaign strategies to get attorneys better cases from the Internet. Partner with Scorpion to get an award-winning website and ROI positive marketing programs today. Visit scorpionlegal.com/podcast.
Thanks to ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted prescreened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit serve-now.com to learn more.
We are very pleased to have as our guest our friend, Gyi Tsakalakis, who is the President of AttorneySync, a digital legal marketing agency launched in 2008 from the idea that attorneys would benefit from more effective, transparent, and accountable online marketing help. Its vision is to be the most trusted team in digital legal marketing.
Thanks for joining us today Gyi.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, thanks so much to you Jim and Sharon for having me, and congratulations, I feel honored to be lucky number 135, 135 episodes. That’s fantastic.
Sharon D. Nelson: Time to go buy a Powerball ticket.
Well, speaking of money, let’s start off with the $70,000 question Gyi, what’s the single most important digital marketing tactic for solo and small firm lawyers?
Gyi Tsakalakis: So I really wrestled with this one because there are so many different things available, but I am going to go with Google My Business, making sure that your information is up-cleaned and updated and accurate there, that you are sending happy clients there to sing your praises, that you are uploading videos and doing Google Posts. And the reason is because, like it or not, and for better and worse, Google is the place that people are going to go to look for information about you, regardless of how they hear about you, regardless of how they get your name, and your Google My Business profile is probably going to be near the top of those results, and the good news is it’s completely free.
Jim Calloway: Every lawyer’s favorite price, Gyi.
Sharon D. Nelson: Indeed, indeed.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s right, that’s right, especially solo and small firms; you have got to be budget conscious.
Sharon D. Nelson: Absolutely.
Jim Calloway: You really do. And there have been a lot of changes in this area over the years, what other digital marketing strategies are you seeing that are working for solo and small firm lawyers today?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, I think the thing that I keep coming back to, and this is — I am going to try to get a specific tactic, because I want this to be a tactical, but in some ways it’s a lot of the — thematically it’s stuff that’s been working for a long time; it’s finding ways to build relationships and demonstrate your knowledge, skill, and experience, your “reputation” on the web.
And so social networking, the lawyers that are active in social networking groups, their specific Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, but those that are having conversations there, that are networking there, that they are not selling, they are providing information and building these relationships, that’s really working well online.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I would certainly have to agree with that. I think that working with social media has been probably the most beneficial thing we have done. And you are right, you don’t sell, you do network and that’s really how the game is played well.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Absolutely. And it works. I mean this stuff works. I mean the great news is, is that you can now have a global network of friends and professional contacts from the comfort of your own home.
Sharon D. Nelson: Absolutely you can. And how much time and this is a very big question I get, how much time should solo, small firm lawyers spend on digital marketing? They feel overwhelmed as it is, so this to them is a very pressing question and they are always looking for a good answer.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Absolutely, we get this question all the time, and the answer is I don’t know, but this is my advice, find the small times. So you don’t have to spend all day on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn to have success with this stuff. If you are commuting, if you are in a train, not when you are driving, right, we don’t want to encourage people to be tweeting and driving, but when you are — if you have a train to work, or on your lunch break, or maybe you set aside five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening, find those small times.
And just five to ten minutes in those little sessions of staying top of mind, posting something of interest, commenting on something relevant, participating in a group conversation goes a really long way. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment.
So that’s the way I tell people to think about it, find little times. But the other thing that I tell people is, put it on your calendar, because it’s just a matter of reminding yourself. Put it in your workflow, put it in your practice management, like hey, go participate in a conversation, it doesn’t have to take that much time, find the small times and make sure that you are disciplined in doing it.
Sharon D. Nelson: I think that’s really good advice, and I tell people the same thing, to chunk times, to calendar times, but I also try to give them some sense of how much I spend a day and I would say it’s about a half an hour in total. How about you Gyi?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, I think it varies. If I get carried away in a conversation, sometimes it’s a little bit more, but half hour is great. I think that if you can do — if you can be disciplined enough to do a half hour every day and think about that as your networking time, the key is the engagement, right? It’s not the number of posts that you post, it’s not to the number of followers you get, focus on the engagement “metrics”, focus on are people responding to your comments, are you responding to a comment, are you just broadcasting, and then listen to the feedback from your audience.
One of the really interesting things about the social networking platforms, they have built-in feedback, they are called these little likes, and so if people are liking and commenting and sharing what you are posting, you are going to find that you are much more effective in your networking efforts than if you focus on more vanity metrics or if you are spending all day posting needlessly.
Jim Calloway: One of the most interesting things about digital legal marketing assistance is the vast range of prices. If we were talking transportation, you can get a quote for a skateboard or a Ferrari it seems like, and I really wonder, for solo and small firm lawyers in particular, but really all lawyers, how do you build accountability into the digital market investments that you are making?
Gyi Tsakalakis: This is so important and the answer is, is that you have to define success in terms of a business objective from the start. So, marketing campaigns can have a variety of different objectives. The ones that we tend to focus on are, from a media spend, it’s return on ad spend, but return on investment.
Or if it’s an awareness campaign, then you have got to put some hard numbers in place, but put those numbers in place at the start and say things like, we are going to measure the success of this campaign through these metrics and by this date and then constantly assess that and see whether you are hitting that, and of course there might be some refinement. But the challenge is, is that if you are getting into engagements that are years long, that don’t clearly define success, that’s where folks run into challenges with, is any of this stuff working.
The great thing about the Internet is that you can measure just about everything. The key though is to measure the things that have meaning for your business and at the end of the day for most lawyers you have got to track that back to some kind of fee.
Jim Calloway: Well, I think that makes great sense and I think most lawyers are attuned to that goal as well.
Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Successful Digital Marketing for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer and our guest is Gyi Tsakalakis, our friend and the President of AttorneySync, a digital legal marketing agency.
Well, the next question that I am going to ask you is one I answer a lot, so I will be interested in your answer, Gyi. What are some of the biggest digital marketing mistakes made by solo and small firm lawyers?
Gyi Tsakalakis: So I have got three and I will be curious to hear yours as well. My top three are, the first one is what I call not owning it. So, so many lawyers license their content or their content management or their Google Ads accounts from some kind of vendor, and then if they decide to make a switch, they are held captive and we see this all the time and it’s so frustrating. Own your website, own your content management system, own your content, that’s number one.
Number two is what we talked about before, which is not defining success and objectives from the start. And so you have to have a plan in place that talks about what is valuable to your firm, what are the objectives you are trying to meet and how are you going to achieve those objectives. So some strategic planning with specific objectives relating to business metrics and not some kind of proxy metric, not followers and likes and re-tweets.
Those are the two I will stick with. I said I was going to do three; I lost my third one already. What’s yours?
Sharon D. Nelson: Okay. Well, I will go at least with a couple for myself. Number one is they sell themselves, which turns everybody off.
And number two is they don’t learn how to use the social media correctly. So for instance, they will put something out there, but where they have the opportunity to spend just a couple of more minutes and find hashtags or Twitter handles or whatever so that people actually see that they are being praised. And I much would rather praise someone else than I would praise myself and call them out for something great that they did, an article, a post or something. And people see that and they remember that you sent them to your followers, your friends on Facebook, whatever, but when they see themselves tagged, that is deeply meaningful to those people and they do not as a rule forget to return the favor.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I have no way to prove this to you, but my third one was stop being self-promotional.
Sharon D. Nelson: Shall we dance, Gyi.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yes, great minds.
Jim Calloway: Well, if everybody is going to jump in on this, I just want to add one more, which is the cliché of, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I had a lawyer talk to me who had used Google AdWords successfully for his consumer bankruptcy practice for several years and he finally just got priced out of the market and literally had no other properties.
And so I think focus on one area, but spread your efforts across several platforms. Does that make sense to you, Gyi?
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s a great point. I always say treat marketing channels like a diversified investment portfolio. So you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket, you don’t want people holding to one specific channel, especially if that channel is an advertising channel. So to get into the buzzwords of this stuff, there’s earned versus owned versus paid media, focus on more earned media, that’s happening organically. That’s the stuff where people are sharing and you are getting your message in front of the right people at the right time, but you are not paying for advertising for that.
So great point, diversify your marketing efforts.
Jim Calloway: You mentioned content management system and some of our listeners may not be familiar with that label, what’s your preferred content management system and why?
Gyi Tsakalakis: So I am a just use WordPress person, and the answer is, is that it’s not proprietary. It’s released under the general use license. You have got a global community of developers and plug-in developers and designers. You can move it from host to host. So you can take — and I think we should back up for folks that aren’t familiar with what I mean when we are talking about content management system, it’s really just the software that manages your content.
So in this case it’s WordPress, but I see so many lawyers get on these proprietary systems, and look, some of them, they can work great and maybe they are the right fit in terms of, is there a non-legal specific one, like Squarespace is a great example of a proprietary content management system, but the problem is if you want to switch, if you ever want to change your software, you are stuck with some kind of migration process, where it’s going to cost you money and it makes people reluctant to leave.
And the reason that people do proprietary software is because it makes them stick. You are sticky. You can’t make the switch. If you haven’t investigated WordPress and managed WordPress hosting, most of the time, unless you have got some very sophisticated functionality you need, it’s hard to beat WordPress.
Now, on the other hand, it does take some technical chops to move around, and so for folks that really want a drag and drop content management system, check out things like Squarespace, but I am a huge WordPress person. New York Times is on WordPress. I think like a third of the Internet or something is on WordPress, tough to beat.
Sharon D. Nelson: That’s true, but from a cybersecurity standpoint, it’s an attack surface.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. No, and that’s a very good point and I think that if you don’t have either the support structure or a vendor that’s talking security out of the box, it’s very prone to being hacked, but there is a lot of things you can do to harden WordPress. WordPress has a whole bunch of documentation on it. And so in my experience with the proper protocols in place, you can get to a reasonable spot.
But that’s a very good point. I would caution folks, just out of the box, WordPress is very vulnerable.
Sharon D. Nelson: But I agree with you Gyi, and I use WordPress too and I have so far been lucky.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, smart and lucky.
Sharon D. Nelson: Yes, smart and lucky, some of both, and I hope that doesn’t feel like an engraved invitation anyone. I worry about that a lot.
Okay, what’s the one social networking strategy that lawyers could use better?
Gyi Tsakalakis: So I am going to go back to groups. I think that that’s an underutilized aspect to a lot of the social networks that people don’t focus on, and I will specifically focus on Facebook, just because that’s where people are at, but go out and find groups on Facebook, especially if you are a solo or small firm that serves your local community, I am sure you can find all sorts of local community Facebook groups.
And the difference is, and I think that people don’t realize this, but if you are in a group, you are not just broadcasting to the entire world, you are in a group setting of people that have similar interests or maybe there’s groups around like Youth Sports or groups around a specific nonprofit or groups around a specific topic or practice area. Don’t just get involved with lawyer groups. There is professional groups and networking groups, and these groups provide a setting for a lot of great networking that doesn’t happen in the wide open space of Facebook or LinkedIn; LinkedIn is another great place to look for groups.
So find groups. There is public groups, there is private groups, there is invite only groups, you will kind of get a sense of that, but talk to some of your friends, talk to other people in your community, ask them what groups they are in, try to get in those groups, because that’s where a lot of the great conversations are happening that I think a lot of lawyers don’t realize.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I actually have a follow-up question there, because I tried the group thing and I kept finding groups getting taken over by marketers and people who were self-promoting, and so I got discouraged by that, and I also got discouraged by the fact that it really didn’t seem to be returning — I wasn’t getting ROI from the groups. I was getting much better ROI from doing the other stuff.
So you must have found some really great groups because my experience with groups has not been good.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And that’s the key. Obviously the quality of the group is going to depend on who is in the group and also who the group admins are. And this might be an argument for maybe starting your own group, but the moderators or the admins for the group can adjust the settings, so that they can — it’s invite only or you have to go through — a lot of the groups have like approval process where it prompts you to answer questions.
I know some of the groups that want to make sure that they are lawyer specific, you actually have to enter your Bar registration number and they go validate that with State Bars, and so those kind of things help filter out a lot of the marketing types and self-promotional folks.
And look at the group — the terms of the group rules, like if the group rules are wide open, get ready for the spammers to come in. On the other hand, if the groups have it on much more tight and they are talking about no self-promotion, no pitching allowed, you are going to find a higher quality group.
So look at those terms, look at the group visibility, whether it’s an open group or a private group, but at the end of the day if the groups are like you, I think of the experience, it totally comes down to who is in the group and who they are letting in and who is moderating the content in there.
Sharon D. Nelson: Okay, you are just better at that than I am. That’s my conclusion.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Maybe I am not, we will see. Maybe I will try to find some groups for you to make some recommendations.
Sharon D. Nelson: Thank you Gyi.
Jim Calloway: So back to marketing campaigns, how do you define a successful digital marketing campaign?
Gyi Tsakalakis: So we talked a little bit about this, but the simplest way and the most universal way is to define it in terms of meeting an objective, which means you have got to have an objective in the first place; it might be return on investment, it might be return on ad spend, it might be some kind of top of mind awareness, but to find those objectives at the start and then see if you met them over a period of time.
And you might not — depending on what kind of practice you are in, client matriculation might take a while from the first time that someone hears about you, to the time that they need your services and actually hire you. And so you have got to look at some of the stuff over longer periods of time.
But if it’s a direct response, Google Ads Campaign, ad is going to go up, phone calls should be coming in, and then you should get a good sense of whether those phone calls are qualified right off the bat. And so if you are in a consumer-facing practice, there is bankruptcy or criminal defense, and those potential clients have that need right now, you can measure the effectiveness on a pretty short timeline.
If you are not seeing results — if you are not seeing phone calls, qualified calls and the right people in your potential client set within those first couple of months, you are probably going to have to make some adjustments.
Now, that doesn’t mean you are going to see return on ad spend in that first month, because again, the thing about personal injury, like you are going to get a lot of people, even if you are targeted, that for whatever reason aren’t the right target client for you, whether there is a liability issue or a damages issue, but that’s the idea is, is that measure success based on its ability to achieve some kind of specific marketing objective.
Sharon D. Nelson: Okay, so I have a follow-up there, and my follow-up is that most of the solo and smalls that I know who have tried Google Ads say that it’s pouring money down a rat hole. It’s expensive and it doesn’t have a lot of return. Are you hearing that?
Gyi Tsakalakis: So this is the — yeah. So this is one of the issues; there is a lot of issues here, but let’s get into the Google Ads conversation. One of the issues is, is that Google, sorry Google, I am throwing you under the bus here, they make it very easy for you, for any advertiser to open an account, enter your credit card information, guide you through the bit on some keywords, write some ad copy, send people to a landing page, they don’t give you any guidance — they give you some guidance, that’s not fair, they give you some guidance on how to try to achieve return on ad spend.
For a lot of lawyers, when we open their AdWords accounts, we see things like broad matching on lawyer, geographic targeting in a place where they don’t even take clients, driving to landing pages that aren’t mobile friendly and responsive. And so if you add up all of these little small things and you are just paying for clicks, for untargeted terms, with an ad copy that’s not specific, to landing pages that aren’t designed to convert, and you are not actually measuring what’s happening when people land on that landing page, it’s really easy to spend a lot of money and conclude that hey, Google AdWords just doesn’t work.
Now, I am going to give you my counterpoint and I do think there are a lot of lawyers that are probably still right now spending money they shouldn’t be spending on Google Ads, but I have been doing this now for ten years and still law remains one of the top spending categories on Google. And so you have got to either reason to yourself that no lawyers are making any money and everybody is flushing money down the toilet, or some lawyers have figured it out and that’s what helps them persistent stay there over time, so they are finding success.
So my quick tips on Google Ads, if you are going to manage your own Google Ads, spend the time to go through the Google Ad certification. It’s very easy to spend money, it’s very difficult to manage successfully. That’s why there are businesses that do this stuff for lawyers. But make sure that you know what you are doing, don’t just conclude like, oh hey, I am broad match bidding on lawyer, I have got free consultation in my ad copy, and I am sending you to a landing page that doesn’t work on a smartphone and then be surprised that you are not seeing return on ad spend.
Sharon D. Nelson: Fair enough.
Jim Calloway: Gyi, I also talk to our members a lot about Facebook. It seems like if you are trying to target a city or a county or even a region of a state, it’s really easy for the non-technical lawyer to do targeted ads on Facebook. Am I off base on that or does that make sense to you?
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, I think it’s easier. I think that Facebook’s ad platform, I am going to regret, someone is going to call me and be like, I can’t believe you said that, but Facebook’s ad platform in some ways is more intuitive, and I think that they break down things like demographic targeting and geographic targeting in ways that are easier to use.
So I don’t know if you want to go too deep down the technical rabbit hole. The major difference between Facebook and Google is Google’s search engines have intent, people are going and looking for stuff, where Facebook, people are mostly there to network and see pictures of their friends and their friend’s cats. And so the ads are still what we would call interruption base. So you are still advertising to an audience that doesn’t necessarily — they are not looking for your services.
And that’s why if you are going to do Facebook ads, my suggestion is to make them very informational, very social in nature, boost content on your sites. That’s another thing too that folks don’t realize, but Facebook is a publicly traded company, they have shareholders, and so one of the things that they do to motivate people to advertise with them is to dial back the organic reach, especially of the business pages.
So if you have a Facebook front page and you are seeing only four people saw this, it’s because Facebook is dialing back that reach. But the good news is, is that visibility in ads on Facebook are way less expensive than per clicks are on Google, and so if you get a message that works, if you get a message that’s social, if you have got some content that you think is worth sharing, if you boost that on your page, you can really get that in front of a targeted audience for lot less money per view or per click.
Jim Calloway: Thank you very much. Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Successful Digital Marketing for the Solo and Small Firm Lawyer and our guest is Gyi Tsakalakis, the President of AttorneySync, a digital legal marketing agency.
So Gyi, what resources would you recommend to solo and small firm lawyers who want to learn more about digital marketing, because there is so much out there and people really want to know what’s worth taking my time to read or view?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Totally. So the first is moz.com. I still to this day am very grateful that they have put out so much great information about search engine optimization and really what they call inbound marketing in general. Some of that might not be applicable to lawyers, but I think a lot of it is.
The second thing is I always say go to the horse’s mouth. Like if you want to learn about Google, go to Google’s documentation on Google Ads, go to their documentation on how search engines work; same thing for Facebook, same thing for LinkedIn and then ask people that you know are having success.
So it’s going to be hard to try to get information from your competitors, but maybe you go to another friend who is a lawyer and ask them what they are doing, what they are seeing is working.
And then finally, of course, just to give my plug, check out some of the podcasts that are out there on digital legal marketing, specifically Legal Talk Network; we do Lunch Hour Legal Marketing that we are very proud of. But finding, identifying the sources is the challenge. Like you said, there’s so much information out there, but if you go to the platform sources, if you ask people that you know are having success, just like anything else, I think that’s a good way — that’s some of that stuff is going to people that you know and trust.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I have to give you some wonderful feedback. My youngest daughter is also our Assistant Business Development Director at Sensei and I asked her to tell me what her favorite legal resource was and she said it was that Lunch Hour that you did.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I am blushing over here. Tell her thank you very much.
Sharon D. Nelson: And she did not know that I knew you and she told me that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Wow, that is great. That is excellent. I am glad to hear that.
Jim Calloway: That’s great news.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Thank you.
Jim Calloway: Gyi, you have already started a little down the self-promotion rabbit hole, but we are going to give you one more chance, are there other venues that solo and small firm lawyers can hear more from you and get advice?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Twitter is where I like to hang out online. So at my long weird name, @gyitsakalakis on Twitter, and of course you can go to attorneysync.com. Otherwise, yeah, I mean I think that folks that want to learn, seek out resources from people that you know what’s working. Don’t take experts’ like me word for it, test things yourself, talk to people that you know and trust and good luck.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, this has been so much fun Gyi. Thank you for joining us today. We really had a rollicking conversation and we went all over the place that wasn’t in our original script, so that’s great, and you were very flexible about that. So we really want to say thanks for bringing all this great information to our listeners.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, thank you so much for having me. Always a pleasure to speak with you. I have a lot of fun every time I do this and hope to see you both soon.
Sharon D. Nelson: And that does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. And remember, you can subscribe to all of the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on Apple Podcasts. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us in Apple Podcasts.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.
Thanks for listening to The Digital Edge, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway for their next podcast covering the latest topic related to lawyers and technology. Subscribe to the RSS feed on legaltalknetwork.com or in iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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