Dani Whitestone founded the Women’s Small Business and Leadership Network. As a business coach, Dani uses her nearly 30...
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business...
Good marketing should be all about the client, not you! Clients primarily want to know how you can solve their legal problem, and getting to know their lawyer is secondary. So, how does this translate into your marketing tactics? Jared Correia welcomes Dani Whitestone to discuss how to effectively resonate with clients and avoid common marketing missteps.
Check out Dani’s marketing book picks for lawyers:
Dani Whitestone founded the Women’s Small Business and Leadership Network.
The Legal Toolkit
Marketing Strategy Client-Centered Tactics that Bring You More Business
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm with your host Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit Podcast here on the Legal Talk Network.
If you are looking for your next dog breed, I am the last person to ask. Fun fact, I am allergic to all dogs, even those dogs that are supposed to have hair. I don’t know if that’s a lie or if then I am like super allergic.
But I digress, if you are a returning listener, welcome back. If you are a first time listener, hopefully you will become a longtime listener, and if you are the lead singer of Nickelback, you suck.
As always, I am your show host Jared Correia and in addition to casting this pod I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers chatbots, a first-to-market chatbot builder and predictive analytics engine created specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
You can also listen to my other, other podcast; yes, I have another one, it’s called The Lobby List, it’s a family travel show I host with my dear wife Jessica and it’s available on iTunes, so Subscribe, rate and comment. She is a really good travel agent.
But here on The Legal Toolkit we provide you with a new tool each episode to add to your own legal toolkit so that your practices will become more and more like best practices.
In this episode we are going to talk about how to avoid bad marketing tactics. But before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a listen to our sponsors.
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All right, now you have heard from our sponsors, thank you sponsors. Without you there would be no podcast. Without further ado, my guest today is Dani Whitestone, who along with her husband founded TurboLaw, a document automation company focused on legal, which was recently acquired. Now Dani does whatever the hell she wants.
Well, that’s not true exactly. She runs the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network. Dani and I have been friends for a really long time and that’s how you know she is cool. Dani, welcome to the big show.
Dani Whitestone: Hi Jared. Thank you so much for having me. It’s so exciting to be with you after, like I have known you so long, to actually be on your podcast. Thank you.
Jared Correia: It’s weird, right, and this is your first podcast.
Dani Whitestone: My first official podcast, yes.
Jared Correia: One of many I am sure that are about to come down, but you have been a public speaker for forever and we have had many, many, many high level conversations that now the public gets to share in.
Dani Whitestone: Absolutely.
Jared Correia: How exciting for them. All right, so I always do an icebreaker question, although this is more for the benefit of the listeners because I think we broke the ice with each other like in the 1990s. You were a trumpet player at one point, like a real live trumpet player who was making a living playing music. So was this more of like a Dizzy Gillespie situation or more of like a Bandcamp type thing?
Dani Whitestone: I would say somewhere in between like above Bandcamp, but not like anywhere near Dizzy Gillespie, probably I would put myself in there. If you went to like the park in the summertime, you would see like the bands I played in, but yes, people did technically pay me money to play and in my life it was like especially awesome because like when I was little and I really wanted to play the trumpet, they said no, you shouldn’t do that because I was a girl.
Jared Correia: Haters. That’s like every book I read to my kids now, the theme is like girls can do anything, which is good because it wasn’t like that back in the day, totally.
So what was like your hottest jam on the trumpet?
Dani Whitestone: Oh gosh, let’s see. I felt completely at home with like big bands like of the 1940s. So if you picture it, your typical like 16-year-old girl, I would go back and I would listen to Glenn Miller. If you haven’t already connected it, like I wasn’t one of the uber like popular people.
Jared Correia: I believe every 16-year-old girl in like the 90s was listening to Glenn Miller records. I think that was like a thing.
Dani Whitestone: It was. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I don’t know, for whatever reason like I loved the music and then I would go out and like hang out with 80-year-olds.
Jared Correia: I am seeing a theme here. I think this is probably a good time to transition out of this line of questioning. Let’s make the sponsors happy, let’s talk a little bit about legal.
So before, when you were running TurboLaw, you handled a little marketing for that company and you guys were very successful and you have this saying that like the client is the hero. Now, lawyers continually get that wrong right, because in all lawyer advertising I have seen for the most part the lawyer is the hero. So how can lawyers fix that?
Dani Whitestone: Oh, great question. So lawyers, but also just many companies get this wrong in general, but I definitely can see where this would be particularly challenging for lawyers. Like in all good marketing, like first and foremost, it’s all about the clients and not about you or your company and when you are designing something that might kind of seem counterintuitive because you figure someone is coming to you and they want to learn all about you.
But if people go to your website and it goes on and on about how amazing you are and how amazing your company is and like how many years you have been in business, most people really don’t care yet, because what they want first and foremost is to feel like you relate to them and understand where they are at in their struggle. Like once that’s established hearing all about you and the company is fine, because good marketing follows a script and it’s the same story that’s worked for thousands of years. It’s that classic tale of the hero looking for the guide to help them overcome their challenges because they can’t do it alone.
So if a client goes to your website, like they are the champion, they are reaching out to you as an attorney because they want to be the hero of their family, but they need that person, they need that guide to help them get to that next level, achieve their goals and solve whatever is going on.
And I discovered this formula by accident because with TurboLaw attorneys were always my hero since I was little. So when attorneys went to my website, they didn’t hear about how awesome my software was, they heard about how awesome they were and my software was just here to help them.
Jared Correia: Oh, that’s really cool, and I think this is backed up by statistics as well. So as of this recording the 2019 Clio Legal Trends Report just came out and one of the takeaways from that is that the first thing that clients want to know from attorneys is whether or not their problem can be solved. Then after that they are interested to know about the attorney’s expertise and experience level. So I think that’s totally true, like that’s how you hook people in, that may be the next question they have, but it doesn’t have to be upfront.
So you know a lot about attorneys, you have had attorneys as heroes, how can an attorney market in this way when they have to overcome this mindset issue, right, because they have always been told from other attorneys, from other professionals when they were in law school that like the way you get clients as a law firm is you have to continuously and overtly talk about your own expertise. Like that’s a big challenge to get over that hump I think and start marketing differently, right?
Dani Whitestone: Absolutely. There is a happy medium though, because obviously the expertise is important, so it really comes down to the order of the information that’s presented. It’s kind of like dating. For example, if you are going out on a — I always draw a lot of like parallels between marketing and sales and dating, because think of it as like you are going on a date, the first thing out of your mouth when you greet your new date is hey, I went to Harvard and you shake your hand or something like that. That’s really premature. They probably don’t care yet.
So, that first thing is to make that connection, show you understand them, show some empathy. Again, like to reference your point Jared, show that you have the ability to solve the challenge they are coming to you for, and then once that’s established, then you feature your expertise, it’s just the icing on the cake. It’s like okay, absolutely.
So connection first, do you have the ability to help me, yes. Okay, do you have the credentials, appropriate credentials, absolutely.
There is a great saying that I have carried with me for however long I have been doing this, like two decades, one of my first mentors used to say, all things being equal, people do business with people they like and trust. All things not being equal, people do business with people they like and trust. So that’s that first hurdle.
Jared Correia: Lawyer pickup lines, hello, I went to Harvard.
Dani Whitestone: Yeah, maybe hi.
Jared Correia: Success rate is probably low.
Dani Whitestone: Hi, nice to meet you, an authentic compliment, something along those lines.
And then I wanted — I could also add that showing your expertise, one way you can do it without like putting it all out there is a great way to make the connection even stronger is to do with your testimonials.
Jared Correia: Right, yeah. I think testimonials are really important for attorneys both online and offline. Do you have any tips for like gathering testimonials effectively?
Dani Whitestone: Ask for them.
Jared Correia: That’s a good start. So I think I could see like a bunch of lawyers going out after listening to your podcast and talking to people and having a conversation and they say, add authentic compliment, ask for review now. No, but you are right, these are all simple things that business people in general and attorneys in particular don’t do, like asking for a referral, asking for a review.
Dani Whitestone: Absolutely, don’t get in your own head about it, just have it be part of the process, so it takes the oh, well, I don’t want to approach or whatever, if you have some sort of message in your own head that says oh, I shouldn’t ask this person for a testimonial or whatever, just have it be part of the process so you don’t have to think about it and it’s just almost like automated, it’s a checkbox, it’s part of your client experience. And when you do that it will happen.
And also it’s good to do it — a lot of the things I have read, basically it’s good to do it close — just close to the experience before time goes past, so that’s the only other thing I could add.
Jared Correia: Well, right, and I think like the issue with a lot of business people, attorneys as well, is they assume that the client understands what the next step is, like you use a service provider, you are going to do a review, but not everybody understands the necessity for something like that, not everybody is a small business owner, so educating people on that I think is really important.
While we are blowing up marketing issues that lawyer face, let’s tackle another one. So any marketing person that an attorney is going to talk to will say like, figure out what your target market is. Is it more important to define and manage a target market and potentially get caught up on that or is it better to just figure out a way to resonate with people in general first and then figure that part of it out? Like somebody who has built a successful company I feel like you know the answer to this question.
Dani Whitestone: Well, thank you. Let’s see here. So I would say if someone is hitting all their revenue — if an attorney is hitting all their revenue goals and their marketing in a general way, great, keep doing that. However, if that’s not the case one way to kind of cut through the clutter that’s out there is to define your target market, because if you do define your target market, your marketing is going to be more powerful because you are going to be able to speak specifically to your audience in a way that truly resonates with them.
This is because you are going to be able to speak their language and I mean this literally. Words are crucially important in marketing. You need to be able to speak your potential client’s language and this can vary drastically. You take into consideration the age, gender, education level, regional dialects and really write something that when people encounter your brand the potential client says ah, okay, this person gets me, this law firm gets me, this is the attorney for me. So that’s in terms of creating a target market and it can be really —
Jared Correia: Imagine billing day being the happiest day of the month.
Dani Whitestone: One of the things that can be intimidating for a small business owner who says oh gosh, if I don’t market to everyone I am losing out on money or revenue, whereas there is a real power and a strength in a niche, again, because you can cater all of your language there and it doesn’t mean that you do one niche you can’t expand to another one, or if you try one target market and for whatever reason you don’t like that.
In my experience with TurboLaw I got to see attorneys transition from different specific areas of practice all the time just because they kept looking for the thing that was the most rewarding to them and what worked best for their business. So I guess that’s what I would say in terms of target market.
Jared Correia: No, that’s really good. I think lawyers often think like every potential client in the world is their client and it’s just not true factually speaking because they are licensed in only certain jurisdictions, and even within their jurisdiction you are not going to get everybody and you don’t need to to run a successful business.
So I feel like we have had a good conversation to start. I have met all my metrics in terms of the first part of this podcast and so we are going to take a break. Here are some of the things that a reasonable lawyer might consider purchasing along with a Batmobile from the original Batman series. So more words from our sponsors and we will be right back.
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Jared Correia: Thanks for coming back. I am drunk, just kidding, as far as you know.
Let’s get back to our conversation with Dani Whitestone of the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network. We are talking about how you could stop sucking and marketing and how you won’t after you listen to this podcast.
So Dani, can we talk about law firm websites.
Dani Whitestone: Oh, absolutely.
Jared Correia: So in my experience law firm websites can sometimes be described as dumpster fires. What do law firms do poorly in terms of building websites and how can they remedy that?
Dani Whitestone: I can say not — the thing that really jumps to mind is not designing the website with the potential client in mind. You really need to get in the head of someone who is coming to your website, and this can be hard to do because we are in our business all day long and to really take a moment and to step outside of our business and look at it from the outside in is difficult. So you might want to get some friends to help you.
Let’s see, so for example, if your target market is one that’s not used to hiring attorneys, for example, that might feel really intimidated, so take a look at your website and for this particular example, do you look approachable, and is someone going to — they are already maybe intimidated, do you have a website so they are comfortable picking up the phone.
Also, do you have a really clear call to action so they know what the next step is to work with you. I can also add make sure your website looks good on mobile because more and more of us, we just live on our phones.
Jared Correia: No, those are all good points to make in terms of website design. And I think one of the things you talked about is important like if somebody has never accessed a lawyer before, they may not know what the next step to take is and how do you get outside of yourself to somebody who knows legal inside-out and take on the perspective of somebody who like doesn’t understand this or maybe has never been involved in the legal system previously.
So like what are some specific ways that lawyers can avoid confusion at a website, because we know that modern consumers are impatient, if they are confused in any way by a website they are going to bounce and go to the next website?
Dani Whitestone: Within a few seconds of someone hitting your website they definitely need to clearly understand what you do and who you do it for. If you want a fun way to test this, like take your website and show it; I don’t know if you have young kids or nephews, nieces, grandchildren, but go show it to some first graders and ask them, like can you tell me what I do, in terms of if you have actually cut through the clutter, because if a six, seven, eight-year-old understands that, you are golden.
Even if you have a highly educated target market, people don’t really read websites, they just scan them with their eyes. So if someone is pressed for time and they hit your website, they don’t immediately understand what you are about and they can’t almost in an instant determine whether or not you are the right fit for them, they are going to get frustrated and leave.
So having that super clear message written in a way that your target market will immediately understand, using short phrases and bullet points are great things to consider. And what I mean by this is if people get hit with overwhelm when they go onto your website, they are going to click away. So you have 50 milliseconds to make that first impression, so just make sure that first impression isn’t overwhelm because they will bounce.
Jared Correia: So I am going to call myself out here, like I feel like if I took my website to a first grade class they would think I sold watches and that I was boring, so maybe I have some work to do on my own.
Any effective marketing channel as we talked about is going to require some kind of call to action, right? There has got to be a trigger or a next step that a consumer should take. So assuming your website is not confusing, how can law firms build websites with better calls to action to actually get leads or consumers to do something to engage them?
Dani Whitestone: I would say the first thing to consider is what your potential client is most likely to do. Are they more like pick up the phone people, they email or do they want to engage in chat? So building a call to action with that in mind is a great first step.
After that’s been considered I would also say consider what’s going to be the best call to action for you and your law firm. If you do a free consult, is it easier for your law firm to handle like perhaps having an integrated calendar on your website or is it better for someone to pick up the phone and call you.
I remember talking to so many people, they would be so bogged down in voicemails that they would feel behind and stressed because they had so many calls to return. So maybe investing in having something integrated might be the best call to action, because then the client can actually take forward action versus maybe having to wait a couple of days for a call back.
I would also say like whatever you choose just make sure it’s really clear so they know what to do. So they don’t have to decide, oh gosh, okay, am I going to email, do I fill a little contact, should I pick up the phone, anything that we can do, talking with websites, but anything we can do to take like the cognitive load off of them and just make it really clear, like call now is going to help that process.
And I can also mention that it’s really about experimenting and like making best guesses with the information that you have. If you are doing something and it works, that’s great, do more of that, and if it doesn’t work, just stop doing that and try something new.
Jared Correia: Right. I love that. Like a lot of people don’t view it this way, but like a lot of business, a lot of marketing is a game, you are making educated guesses and I think people feel very uncomfortable with that. But if you want like concrete answers, like running your own businesses are not the place to find those.
This is a great start to the show, but we are already at our second break, believe it or not, so we are going to take that right now. So while I try to figure out which of the guys from the Game of Thrones show is the most emo, listen to these words from our sponsors.
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Jared Correia: All right, thanks for sticking with us. I didn’t have anything better to do either. We are still here talking with Dani Whitestone of the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network and she has been educating us on how to avoid costly marketing mistakes which you definitely want to do. So let’s find out more.
So Dani, on the topic of costly marketing mistakes, what are some of the most expensive marketing mistakes you have seen people make?
Dani Whitestone: I think the most costly is actually the long-term consequences of an amazing attorney not effectively communicating their value to their target market.
I have been into probably thousands of law firms by this point in my life and met with so many like talented brilliant attorneys and they are struggling for business, just because their marketing doesn’t seem to represent them well, and it’s not just their fault, because kind of what you alluded to earlier in the podcast Jared, there is a lot of pressure and some bad advice out there.
I have a friend, she owns her own law firm and her website is really easy to understand, there is simple language and it features her dog, but she gets a lot of feedback from her colleagues saying oh, you know, you need to really look more like “a lawyer”, but like her phone rings off the hook and she is like flooded with business.
So if she had — especially when she was starting out, if she had followed all like the well-meaning advice that was out there, she might be one of those attorneys that I had met with that is struggling, and she is not, she is doing amazing and she is thriving.
So other than like obviously having like a really nice looking — like a nice looking website and making sure it’s not like hideously offensive or something like that, I would say that this would be the most costly mistake — the long-term costly mistake I would see.
Jared Correia: What does the lawyer look like anyway? Does the lawyer have a pocket watch and wear a Dickey, I don’t know. Is Mr. Jaggers from like Great Expectations?
Dani Whitestone: Well, you know what, you see it a lot. And I never want to speak in absolutes, because there are so many different target markets out there, because there may be a target market that wants to hit a website and see the very severe looking attorney in the suit, with the arms crossed using really big words.
But if your target market is an average consumer of law, and again not everyone is, so again you have to consider your target market, then using really big like legal terms on your website again comes back to maybe someone being intimidated or uncomfortable calling you. And I can say this, no matter who your target market is, when it comes to websites, most of these rules always apply, because no matter who that person is, your target market, at the end of the day we are all human, so all the same psychological rules are still in play.
Jared Correia: Okay. Tell me why you are actually not selling what you are selling and how that’s not contradicting in any way?
Dani Whitestone: Okay. Yeah, a lot of people think they are selling what they are selling and by that I mean they are selling solutions to external problems, but at their core we buy because of internal and emotional problems, like you don’t just go out and buy a car, you buy a way to keep your family safe when traveling or to feel accomplished driving around in a shiny BMW.
I will use an example from my life. So I had a software company but I never sold software, I sold a way for attorneys to avoid feeling guilty being like the last parent to pick their kid up from school or to get home in time for dinner so it didn’t turn into a giant fight. Like that stuff is interesting, that stuff has meaning and to me like software is just software.
Jared Correia: That’s a great example, I love that. All right, so I have a — can I confess something to you Dani, which you probably already know?
Dani Whitestone: Of course, always.
Jared Correia: I hate business books. I think they are god-awful, like I would read almost anything other than business books, but lawyers like them and you read a lot of business books. So before we end here, can you recommend to our listeners out there some good marketing books that they can read?
Dani Whitestone: Absolutely, yes, I do and I read them all the time. I love them. Let’s see, let me recommend ‘StoryBrand‘ by Donald Miller. This is going to help more crafting that story about how your client is the hero and helping craft your marketing messages so it fits in line with that.
In terms of simplifying and demystifying marketing because people go to school to become lawyers not marketing experts, so ‘The 1-Page Marketing Plan‘ by Allan Dibb is awesome. It really breaks it down really just simply with easy to accomplish tasks.
And the last one, just because it kind of goes to target market and why you do what you do is ‘Find Your Why‘ by Simon Sinek. If you have any kind of confusion like oh, who should my target be, what areas of law should I focus in, that might be able to help you define that more clearly.
Jared Correia: So read those and when you are done may I recommend ‘Jude the Obscure‘ by Thomas Hardy, which is perhaps the most depressing book ever written.
Dani, you are like a kung fu expert. Can you tell people why you were recently in Taiwan doing jujitsu like things?
Dani Whitestone: Well, not quite expert, but I keep showing up.
Jared Correia: I am going to call you an expert. Can I bestow upon you a black belt of some kind?
Dani Whitestone: So last October I went to Taiwan to compete in Tai Chi World Cup for broadsword. Now, I have to put it out there, originally I just signed up to go on vacation and hang out with my friends who were competing, but they somehow talked me into actually competing and put a sword in my hand, which I still don’t understand like how they thought this was a good idea, but it was awesome.
My only goal over there was to — I love how people when they hear it, like oh wow, in terms of lofty ambitions of coming in first, like my only goals over there were not to die, since I have severe food allergy and not to forget my form and not to stab any of the judges by accident. So I managed to do all of that, including surviving my first earthquake.
Jared Correia: Oh wow. There was an earthquake while you were out there too, I didn’t know that.
Dani Whitestone: Yes.
Jared Correia: What a crazy trip.
Dani Whitestone: It was insane. After obviously going from Massachusetts, where I am at now, to go to Taiwan, it’s a lot of travel; it’s over 20 hours, including a 14 hour layover because of maintenance issues. So when I walked into the hotel, it was the moment I got into this hotel, opened my door to get into my room and the whole entire place just started shaking and it was — honest to God, I was just so exhausted from travel I almost didn’t care. I wandered into the bathroom and I am like oh no, shoot, that’s for tornadoes, and I like wandered out into the hallway and I took the stairs and I am like, that was probably a better option.
But thankfully the alarms like went off in the building, stop moving and we were all set.
Jared Correia: I like how you were in an earthquake and you are like let me take the stairs as my first thought.
Well, at least you didn’t accidentally kill anyone.
Dani Whitestone: Yeah, so that was great too.
Jared Correia: So on the plus side. I feel like we could podcast for another hour, but sadly we have reached the end of yet another episode of The Legal Toolkit Podcast, which is award-winning, I don’t know if I mentioned that before.
This was a podcast about marketing mistakes to avoid and we have been talking with Dani Whitestone of the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network, who is amazing.
Now, I will be back on future shows with further insights into my soul, the soul of America and the legal market. If you are feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones however, you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com.
So thanks again to Dani Whitestone of the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network for making an appearance as my guest today.
All right Dani, now is your time to shine. Can you tell everybody how they can find out more about you and about the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network, which I never get tired of talking about?
Dani Whitestone: Oh, thank you Jared. You have been such an unbelievable supporter of this too.
Well, for right now you can go to www.wsbln.us and you can follow that link to join our Facebook group. We have a lot of great things going on there and join our mailing list so that you can hear all about different events and different webinars and learn more about marketing and all this kind of fun stuff that we have coming.
Jared Correia: Thanks again. That’s Dani Whitestone of the Women’s Small Business & Leadership Network. Go ahead and join that today.
Finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. This has been The Legal Toolkit Podcast where everybody was fast as lightning, oh and send Rolos.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Legal Toolkit, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join host Jared Correia for his next podcast covering the current business trends for law firms.
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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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