Solo and small law firm owners spend plenty of time and money marketing their services each year, whether online, through networking, or offline advertising. But many lawyers are not seeing the return on investment that they would like. So with over 600 thousand solo and small firms in the U.S. today, what does it take...
Marc Cerniglia is the co-founder of Spotlight Branding, an internet marketing and branding firm for lawyers. Marc is passionate...
Christopher T. Anderson has authored numerous articles and speaks on a wide range of topics, including law firm management,...
Solo and small law firm owners spend plenty of time and money marketing their services each year, whether online, through networking, or offline advertising. But many lawyers are not seeing the return on investment that they would like. So with over 600 thousand solo and small firms in the U.S. today, what does it take to stand out among the crowd?
In this episode of The Un-Billable Hour, Christopher Anderson interviews Mark Cerniglia from Spotlight Branding, an internet marketing and branding firm for lawyers, about the practical steps attorneys can take to manage their brands and market online successfully.
Marc Cerniglia is the co-founder of Spotlight Branding, an internet marketing and branding firm for lawyers. Marc is passionate about helping lawyers realize the full scope of what the internet can do for their practice and how branding and content are often overlooked. He lives in the downtown Miami area, serving clients locally and across the country.
Advertiser: Managing your law practice can be challenging. Marketing, time management, attracting clients and all the things besides the cases that you need to do that aren’t billable. Welcome to this edition of the Un-Billable Hour, the law practice advisory podcast. This is where you’ll get the information you’ll need from expert guests, and host Christopher Anderson. Here, on Legal Talk Network.
Christopher Anderson: Welcome to the Un-Billable Hour, the law practice advisory podcast, helping attorneys improve their businesses. We’re glad you can listen today on the Legal Talk Network. I’m your host, Christopher Anderson. I am an attorney with a singular passion for helping other lawyers be more successful with their law firm businesses. I work directly with lawyers across the country to help them achieve success as they define it. In the Un-Billable Hour, each month we explore an area important to growing revenues, giving you back more of your time and or improving your professional satisfaction in one of the key areas of your business. As an attorney who has built and managed law firms in Georgia and New York City, created an innovative software for lawyers at LexisNexis, and helped many other attorneys grow professionally and personally, your law firm business should exist to provide for the financial, personal, and professional needs of you, its owner. In this program, I have a chance to speak to you as I do in presentations across the country about what it takes to build and operate your law firm like the business that it is. I have the chance to introduce you to a new guest each month to talk about how to make that business work for you instead of the other way around. Today’s episode of the Un-Billable Hour is Managing Your Brand. My guest today is Marc Cerniglia. Marc is the co-founder of Spotlight Branding; this an internet marketing and branding firm for lawyers. Marc is passionate about helping lawyers realize the full scope of what the internet can do for their practice and how branding and content are often overlooked. He lives in the flourishing downtown Miami area, and he serves local clients as well as clients across the country. So now that you know Marc, let’s welcome him to the show. We’re calling this managing your brand. Marc Cerniglia, welcome to the Un-Billable Hour.
Marc Cerniglia: Hey, Chris, I’m super glad to be here; thanks so much.
Christopher Anderson: First of all, you’re welcome and we’re super glad to have you because this is an area where marketing is sort of a bugaboo for lawyers. Everybody knows they have to do it. A lot of lawyers spend a lot of money doing it and don’t get the results they’re looking for or don’t know if they’re getting the results they’re looking for. And first of all, my introduction of you was very brief. You’re the co founder of Spotlight Branding. Just to kick off, what does your business actually do for law firm owners?
Marc Cerniglia: Yeah, absolutely, Chris, thanks for asking. In short, we create the internet presence for a lot of law firms. We like to call it the internet foundation, but all we really mean by that are some of the really basic things that we think lawyers should be doing on the internet. So the obvious one’s going to be building a website for the law firm. But we think there’s a couple of components that really need to go with that. Things like a monthly email newsletter, blogs, social media, maybe even some videos like video FAQ’s. So we really take care of those core components and I’m sure as we talk today, it’ll kind of bring to light how we really see those components as branding based elements. You’ll notice that I didn’t really bring up Google or SEO because that’s not what we do. While those things are important, I think today we’re going to talk a bit about how there’s more to internet than just some of those things.
Christopher Anderson: You’ve shown in some of what you’ve written that there are more than 1.2 million lawyers in the United States, and I know that small firms from my own research account for well more than half of that. There’s well over 600,000 lawyers in single, duo, up to five lawyer law firms. What does it take, really? Everybody wants to market, everybody wants a piece of what’s out there. What does it take for these guys to stand out?
Marc Cerniglia: I think there’s a lot of answers to that question, of course. But I think that one of them is actually branding. While we all know what that means, in the legal world it often gets overlooked. But what I often say when it comes to lawyers is, “What comes to mind when you think of branding?” And maybe they think of something like Nike. Nike does a lot of branding because Nike wants you to think that when it comes to basketball shoes, they’re the absolute best at basketball shoes; that’s branding. So when we look at it that way, how could we not think that’s really important for lawyers? Because there are so many lawyers out there, as you just mentioned, more than half of those 1.2 million are solos in small law firms. So standing out and being seen as quote unquote one of the best or an expert or a leader in what you do is super important because that is how you stand out, to answer your question. And in my world, in the marketing world, that’s what we call branding. So one of the ways to stand out is to build a brand as being one of the go to lawyers for what you do. Because at the end of the day, as a lawyer, you’re solving somebody’s problem. And when somebody has a problem, they want the best of the best, and that’s essentially what branding is.
Christopher Anderson: And you just turned your own focus on your own business, actually. You recently rebranded yourself, right?
Marc Cerniglia: We did. We took our own advice. We were under the name of One Marketing, which was what we beget as when we started. And one day we got to the point where we said our name doesn’t actually make as much sense as something else might. So we underwent a brand change and switched over to Spotlight Branding. And real short, the reason for that is essentially, how you make a law firm stand out is by shining the spotlight on them. We have a little story we like to say where imagine you’re on stage with a bunch of other lawyers but the lights are off. No one can tell you apart from the other lawyers, but then a spotlight shines on you and now you really stand out. That’s essentially branding, that’s what we do for lawyers, and I think that will come to light during our conversation. But that is the value of content on the internet is it helps you stand out. And so that’s why we underwent our own rebranding because we wanted a name and a story that more reflects what we do and what we’re about.
Christopher Anderson: And you mentioned it as sort of your core mission statement. One of the things you talk about and one of the things that branding is really important for is that as a baseline, the people who are looking to hire us, the potential clients for law firms are actually afraid to speak to us. Do you believe that?
Marc Cerniglia: Yeah. I do and I can say that one because I’m not a lawyer, I’m a consumer of lawyers. But yeah, I think there’s a general consensus out there and I know that this isn’t only true, okay, I’m speaking in general terms here. But lawyers can be kind of a cold, confusing, hard to understand, are they really in this for my interest or are they just trying to make money. And so yeah, I think that people might either feel afraid, they might feel small compared to talking to you because you’re a lot more educated than them. They might just be wondering if you’re in it for their best interest or if you just want another client and another paycheck. So yeah, I think there’s kind of a general feeling out there about lawyers. It’s in jokes, it’s played out on TV, and it’s really important to combat that to a certain degree and help people see that you really care about them and you’re really looking out for their interest and that you really are one of the best at what you do.
Christopher Anderson: Are there effective elements of a branding of managing your brand for an attorney or for a small law firm that should be aimed at overcoming that fear?
Marc Cerniglia: Absolutely. Do you want me to comment on a few of them right now?
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, sure.
Marc Cerniglia: Again, my expertise is going to be the internet, and I should definitely say to the audience listening that I know that there’s much more to your brand, to your marketing, to how people perceive you as an individual as well as your firm. There’s much more that goes into all of that other than just the internet, but you can’t ignore the fact that the internet is a huge part of what goes into somebody’s perception of your firm. And we’re not just talking about people that might find your law firm online, but even people that you network with or when someone’s referred to you or colleagues that you meet. They’re also going to check out your website. They’re also going to interact with your internet presence depending on how much of an internet presence that you have. So with that in mind, the answer to your question is what you’re doing with that internet presence. A really simple example to answer your question, Chris, is the more information and answers you provide to people’s problems, so AKA blogs, video FAQs. When you put these things out there in a way that answers questions or solves a problem or it sheds light on somebody’s legal situation, well then the receiver of that information begins to see you as a resource. They begin to see you as someone who can provide value, answer their questions, and potentially solve their problem. What that does when any one of us in any industry sees another person as a resource to something, that creates credibility and trust. So when we think about your website and some of the peripherals that go with it like blogs and videos and things like that. One of the primary aims should be to answer questions to provide insight to problems, et cetera, et cetera, and that’s a great way to kind of overcome that trust issue because it does the opposite, it creates credibility.
Christopher Anderson: We were talking at first about the fear of talking to you, so also it seems that providing that kind of information would start to level the playing field with the potential consumer of your services giving them enough information so they feel like they could have an intelligent conversation with you rather than coming in cold.
Marc Cerniglia: Right. One thing that’s the beauty of it is you’re solving both at the same time. If you believe there’s any sort of lack of trust or consumers are afraid to speak to you or whatever wording you might want to use, whatever level of uncomfort their might be in a prospect, you don’t overcome that by saying, “Hey! Don’t worry, you can trust me,” or, “Hey! You should feel comfortable around me.” You overcome that be establishing the opposite by establishing credibility and establishing rapport and you are essentially killing two birds with one stone because you should be wanting to build credibility, trust, rapport and all of that anyway. And let me add to video – I think we were going to dive into this later, I’m not sure, but hey, now’s a good a time as any. When we talk about video, since we’re kind of talking about trust and all of that right now, one of the best forms of video you can do is just look at the camera, make eye contact with the camera, and provide a natural conversational answer to a question that people often ask you. You don’t need a fancy video company, you don’t need all of this extra footage of you working in your office, you don’t need music in the background. That stuff’s cool, don’t get me wrong. There can be a place for that stuff on your website. But that should be in addition to and separate from just having some video. Because here’s what happens, Chris. Somebody can watch you. They can see your face, they can hear you talk, and it’s like they’re sitting in the room across from you getting a question they have answered. And talk about creating an instant sense of rapport and familiarity. So now imagine when that person comes in to your office and sits down with you, it’s just a much different interaction because through a video, you’ve already built a connection with them. And that’s just a great example of how you can overcome some of the objections or concerns that people might have before you maybe even sit down with them.
Christopher Anderson: I think this is a really important point that you brought up, Marc, because I think what a lot of lawyers think about when they hear you’ve got to build a brand or you’ve got to do a video for their website, they’re thinking about “Oh my goodness, I’ve got to build the opening credits for this brand new lawyer show that’s coming on television.” And pictures of lawyers working and arguing in a courtroom, all of this stuff, and what you’re saying is no, the brand is you. Or in a small law firm, the brand is just a couple of people that establish trust, but establish that they actually care about solving the problem and are able to do that. Does that summarize what you’re saying?
Marc Cerniglia: 100 perfect, absolutely. Put yourself in their shows. You’re not a lawyer and you need one. Are you really going to choose a lawyer based off this fancy video that they have with this music and their lawyers parading around? Of course you’re not, that doesn’t establish any value for you.
Christopher Anderson: And I’ll ask you towards the end of today about some of the things that you’ve seen in lawyer websites that you haven’t been involved with that may be some of the errors that some of our listeners might be making and could do better. But I just want to keep heading a little bit on this trust issue because you’ve also written that you’ve found a study from the American Bar Association that 69 percent of consumers surveyed believe that lawyers are more interested in making money than in serving their clients. Is this something that lawyers need to overcome in building their brand?
Marc Cerniglia: Yeah, exactly, and I kind of alluded to it earlier and I think that a lot of at least what you can do on the internet falls into some of the things we just talk about. But I think it falls into the same category of what we were just speaking about.
Christopher Anderson: You mentioned video and that it is as simple as sitting down, sometimes just in front of your own webcam? Is that what you’re saying? And delivering a couple of minutes about a topic that your potential clients should be interested in?
Marc Cerniglia: This is a hard one for me to comment on, because as the owner of a firm that does this for lawyers, I absolutely care about quality. There’s a big argument out there between what is good enough. Some people say getting it done is good enough, you know what I mean? Some other people say getting it done but not looking at it very good kind of reflects, shooting the wrong light. I think everyone has to use their own level of judgement. If you set up your video cam and you do it and you watch it, do you feel okay with other people seeing it? And actually, I’m going to crack that. Show it to a few people and ask them what they think, because I found that lawyers are sometimes their own worst critic. And that’s okay but you’ve got to understand that your market is not a lawyer so they’re not critiquing everything you said. But if the lighting’s bad, the audio’s bad, if there’s something awkward in the background, as silly as it sounds, those little things are going to throw someone off and you just don’t want to seem not professional. So I think you could do some of this on your own, you just need to have a good sense of is putting this out there actually going to add value to me and the people who read it or watch it or whatever we’re talking about? Or should I put this in my back pocket and wait until I can do it a little bit better, whether that means I get better equipment or hire someone. But you can do this stuff on your own, I don’t want to discourage anyone.
Christopher Anderson: And to demystify what it actually takes to get done with high quality and with professional content, a lot of people would think that they have to go to this big studio and spend days and days on production. What does it actually take?
Marc Cerniglia: That is a great question. So it takes a camera, and if possible, I always like to recommend a separate audio source. And honestly, that can be done on your own. You can get a little mic that you wear on your shirt and there is some equipment out there that I know is not too expensive to get. So you can do some of that stuff on your own and then it just takes good lighting. Sometimes you find the right room and the lighting’s fine or you find the right angle with the camera and it’s fine. Now if you hire a crew to come out and do this, you should expect they’re going to bring all of these things. They’ll bring extra lighting, they’ll bring the right camera and the right mic. But the bottom line is if you find decent lighting and you’ve got a camera that’s going to record audio and not make you sound like you’re in a basement or something like that, then yeah, that’s going to be good. Because at least right now, where we stand in the industry, what you have is going to be better than most. Five or ten years from now that might change, because it is relatively matters here. Comparing to others is what relatively matters whether we like it or not.
Christopher Anderson: So in addition to video, we spent a lot of time on that, I think it’s a really, really great tip for folks. That’s one way to really make yourself seem approachable. There are other things to round out the trustable brand that could go along with the video. One of them that you’ve written about is using social media. How can lawyers use social media to do this?
Marc Cerniglia: Great question. I think there’s a couple of things with social media and one of the things I want to say first, Chris, just because I have conversations with lawyers every day about this so I feel like, hey, I’m on the microphone so maybe I can get the message out to a few at once. You can’t approach social media as a lead generation tool. And I’m not saying you can’t get leads from it, I’m just saying that can’t be the reason you’re on social media. It really is more of a brand building tool. So I think number one to answer your question is your approach matters, what your perspective is of why you’re on social media matters. But to go a little bit further into that, our philosophy is that across all mediums and all channels, the question you should be asking yourself is how am I providing helpful information, how am I providing value, what’s going to make somebody actually want to pay attention to what I’m doing here, whether it’s video, social media, blog, whatever it might be. I think on social media, talking about some of the same things. Provide links to articles might be helpful to your audience. Provide value and content that’s going to be interesting to them and as silly as it might sound, if every now and then you have to throw a quote or just a cool little nugget in there, people like that stuff. And that’s still okay, you’re still providing value even though it’s a little bit different. So I think that what you post about what’s important. But, Chris, I also think it’s important to identify there’s a difference between your firm social media and your personal social media. If you want to use your personal social media for business, that’s great, no problem. But then what you want to do with it is you really want to create relationships with it, because that’s what social media is. Social media exists so we could all have more relationships. But there’s a difference between an individual having a relationship with your firm and an individual having a relationship with you. So you use your personal social media to connect with people, engage with them in conversation, and not necessarily even prospects. It might be strategic people, centers of influence, things like that. But for your firm’s social media, you might be able to do some of that relational stuff, but I think the approach should really just be put out valuable content, make it clear what you do, make it clear how you help people, and give them something worth paying attention to. Does that difference make sense?
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, it does, totally.So, Marc, we’re going to take a moment here to hear from our sponsors and we’ll come right back and talk about a couple more things around building trust. You’ve written about video and social media but also about newsletters, blog entries, and also what language you use. We’ll talk about marketing funnels and then we’ll wrap things up, so we’ll back back in just a moment.
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Christopher Anderson: And we’re back with Marc Cerniglia talking about managing your brand. And when we left off, we were talking about building trust because one of the key issues that lawyers have to deal with that have been identified is that our prospect of customers don’t trust us. 69% of consumers believe that lawyers are more interested in making money than in serving them. And Marc has told us about how to build that trust in video and social media so I just wanted to ask him about a couple of other avenues including newsletters. How can newsletters as part of an overall marketing strategy help with this?
Marc Cerniglia: Right. So the real benefit of a newsletter is staying top of mind and I think we might get to that a little bit later, I’m not sure. But top of mind awareness is part of branding, and all that is is the idea of staying connected with people, staying top of mind. We all kind of understand that the more top of mind something or someone is, the more likely we are to use that thing or refer to that person because they’ve stayed top of mind. So one of the real values of an email newsletter to a firm is doing that, especially when most lawyers still rely heavily on referrals. But what that’s also going to do to your database is it’s going to continue to build rapport with them. It’s going to remind them that you’re here, it’s going to remind them of what you do, which not only might help with referrals, but it’s going to continue to solidify in their mind that you’re someone who’s good at what they do and someone they can trust. To some people, that might sound silly, like really? Just getting an email newsletter is going begin to create that? But yeah, absolutely. It’s self conscious, but the more top of mind that certain professionals are and the more that what they put out there is impressive. So if your email newsletter looks good, provides good content, is interesting, then the more you’re going to continue to solidify yourself in your recipient’s minds that you’re a go to leader in what you do.
Christopher Anderson: Excellent ,very cool. And then how do blogs fit into all of this?
Marc Cerniglia: This is an interesting conversation because we have a pretty particular approach to blogs we like to take, and it’s not that there’s necessarily a right or wrong here. But our approach that we typically recommend and that we like to do for our clients when they want us to is to focus on what we’ve kind of said so far: answer questions that people have, provide value. Let’s just say you’re coming up with a defense attorney. One of the obvious ones might be a blog about what to do when you get pulled over for a DUI. But maybe you’re a white collar criminal attorney. Maybe you deal with financial crimes, things like that. So what are your rights if you’re being questions by the FBI. That’s going to be interesting, that’s going to be relevant to the individuals or the family members of the individuals in that situation. All the way over to if you’re an estate planning attorney. What are the benefits of a living will or five reason an estate plan is important for your future. So think about the questions and situations that your clients find themselves in and write about that. The reason I said that there are some other options out there, I do talk to lawyers from time to time that like to write about current events. I’m a criminal defense attorney, recently there was an NFL player being charged for a crime. That was obviously national news, and so his thoughts were why don’t we write some legal analysis of that. I’m going to be honest with the listeners. I’m not going to tell you one way or another if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. What I am going to tell you is that blogging about what I previously shared, I know that that works because that answers people’s questions, provides value to them, solidifies that you are someone who can solve their problem. Providing analysis about a current event might be interesting, but how does it relate to my situation, and I think that’s the key. If you can find that link, then I think that can be cool because you can seem current and up to date, but it’s got to tie back in to how does it help the reader or the family members of the reader.
Christopher Anderson: Just to emphasis what you said that I think the audience really can learn on is a lot of lawyers spend a lot of time in a lot of their marketing efforts making themselves look good or thinking of making themselves look good instead of answering that key question of what can you do for me. I think that’s what you’re talking about.
Marc Cerniglia: It is, and the funny thing is is that it ends up making you look good.
Christopher Anderson: You’ve been talking about top of mind, you’ve been talking about this need to be out there and provide value in all of these things. I want to ask you to just speak real quickly to the question that I think is on some folks’ minds which sounds like you’re saying to give away a lot of the milk and I’m worried they’re not going to come by the cow.
Marc Cerniglia: I mean, that’s a great point but what are you really giving away? If you’re an estate planning attorney are you actually telling them how to create an estate plan? I mean maybe. But for the most part, I don’t know that you are actually giving away the cow here.
Christopher Anderson: You’re basically giving people enough value so that they know that you can give them more. But obviously, their marketing can’t speak to their specific problem, right?
Marc Cerniglia: That’s a fair point. I think with some degree it could. Let’s look at my situation. I own a company that does some of the things we’re talking about for lawyers, but I speak at Bar associations and do things all the time where I’m educating lawyers on how to do this stuff on their own. It’s pretty simple. Eventually in life you get to a point and realize either A, I don’t want to spend time doing this myself, or B, I know that someone else can do this better than me. And the truth is when you reach either of those points in life, you’re going to go to the person who probably taught you how to do that stuff or who you feel like is the best at doing it. So I think that you find people who try to do things on their own, yes, but I would argue that they probably were going to anyway. And when they do reach a point of realizing that they should reach out to you, it’s a done deal. Because in their minds, you’re an allstar.
Christopher Anderson: Yes, that makes total sense. And you also were talking about in doing that that part of the marketing that needs to be done and newsletters help to accomplish is to remain top of mind. I think a lot of lawyers understand the need to get referral sources and to cultivate referral sources, but they don’t do the things that they need to do to stay, as you referred to it, top of mind. So, first of all, what would you describe as a good referral source?
Marc Cerniglia: When we talk about referral sources, we mean in the really traditional sense, so we mean somebody that you know. Another professional, friend, whatever it might be, that sends you business. There are other places that generates lead like the internet, but hopefully this answers your question but Google’s not a referral source. Google is a lead generation tool. But when we talk about referrals, we mean in the traditional sense of somebody referring business your way. Does that answer your question?
Christopher Anderson: Yeah, I think so. So what can you do? There’s a lot of people out there who I think know about me, know about what I do, but I don’t get the referral levels that I’d like to or perhaps I should just believe I could do better. What can I do to encourage referral sources to do a better job for me?
Marc Cerniglia: Absolutely. And you know what, Chris? Let’s set this up too with a statistic that really I think proves the significance of your question. We often quote a Texas Tech marketing survey that says about 83% of your satisfied clients, colleagues, et cetera, are willing to refer to you. But check this out: only 29% of them actually are. So to set another way for those who aren’t doing the quick math there, what that means is you’re only getting about one third of the referrals you could be getting from people you already know who are willing to refer to you. One third. The really scary part is that most lawyers I talk to, Chris, are still getting a high majority of their business through referrals. Meaning that if they maximize their referral sources, they could potentially double or triple their business without going out and running a big advertising campaign if they could just maximize their referral sources. So I think we have to start there because I can tell you a lot of lawyers kind of skip over that. They don’t realize that they’re not maximizing their referral sources and they jump right into, “I need to be number one on Google, I need to get more leads, I need to get more phone calls.” To answer your question, it does come back to top of mind awareness, and that can mean a lot of things both on the internet and not. So what are you doing to stay in front of people? The non internet stuff that most lawyers are probably familiar with or heard of is everything from the annual Christmas card you might send out to every now and then reaching out to your clients in a phone call or an email and just checking in and seeing how they’re doing. You do that whether you realize it or not because you recognize that staying top of mind and staying connected ultimately is beneficial to you and could create more referrals. I think on the internet, here’s the key: we already talked about the tools. We talked about video, social media, blogs, and email newsletters. So the real answer to your question, as simple as it is, is those things have to be ongoing. They have to be consistent. You need to send out the newsletter at least once a month. When we do videos, Chris, we like to film them all at once but then we release them monthly. It’s like a video series. Put out a new blog every month or every week, whatever makes sense to you. Post on social media daily because the key to top of mind awareness is that it’s consistent and it happens on a certain regularity. So ongoing content would be the key answer to your question of how to create more top of mind awareness.
Christopher Anderson: You talked about social media before but if I hear you correctly, what you’re saying is yes, be engaged in social media, but be out there providing something on a regular basis so that people are looking for it when they think about that topic, they think of you because you’re the one giving out that information time and time again. Is that what you’re saying?
Marc Cerniglia: That’s exactly what I’m saying. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t even open up their email newsletter but they see it in their inbox every time it goes out and then they’re the ones sending me to a referral. And some of these people, I haven’t even spoken to in over a year. And just to clarify, it’s not that I don’t want to, but we all have growing databases and we only have so much time in a day to stay connected with people. So when you can actually put out content on a consistent basis, that content works for you. Oh, they have a new blog. Oh, they have a new email newsletter. Oh, look, their new video just came out. These are all reasons for people to check back in, remember you, it’s kind of poking them like, “Hey, don’t forget we’re here.” But it happens for you, that’s the value of ongoing content.
Christopher Anderson: And you’re doing it in a way that you’re not asking so much for anything, you’re just continuing to provide value in this variety of different ways that we’ve talked about.
Marc Cerniglia: Correct, exactly. We talk all the time about how I wouldn’t necessarily do a blog that’s titled why you should hire an attorney in such and such situation. There’s nothing wrong with that but that becomes really clear that this blog is about convincing me to hire you or why someone else should. So I think that when you do the things we’ve already talked about, you come across as someone who wants to help, who wants to provide answers, provide value, and I think that’s how you do it the right way.
Christopher Anderson: What that leads me to want to ask you about is – because you sort of referred to this in talking about referral sources and that you said you’ve got this Texas study that said 83% of satisfied previous customers are willing to refer, but only 29% do. So lawyers are losing like two thirds of those. But lawyers also struggle with seeing their whole marketing effort as an educational funnel, if you will, to help people understand what they do and when and why they would be of service to them. And seeing it as a funnel where a sale like you said, sometimes people might be getting your newsletter for a year where a sale’s made over a period of time. And you’ve written a little bit about holes in that funnel that lawyers don’t pay enough attention to. So can you just first of all do a better job than I just did at describing what a marketing funnel looks like for a small law firm?
Marc Cerniglia: I think it’s just identifying how everything’s connected. I often also talk to lawyers who say, “I don’t know if I’m getting any business from my website,” and that phrase shows a misunderstanding of your marketing funnel because wait a second, your website doesn’t create business for you. Your website is a marketing and sales tool that helps people get answers to their questions and get more information about you. But what got them to your website? Because that’s part of your marketing funnel, what got them there. Maybe it was Google, but like we talked about earlier, who else is going to your website? People that are referred to you, your referral sources, your colleagues, your friends, everyone you hand a business card to. It’s really important to understand how everything’s connected. When you send out an email newsletter, who’s that going to? That’s not going to people who found you on Google, unless they found you on Google and then signed up for the newsletter. But more often than not, that email newsletter is going to people you’ve already met before, people that are already in your database. So it’s really important to understand that there’s a link between your website, your internet presence, and really all of your marketing efforts. Everything from networking to relationship building all the way to the other side of the spectrum which is advertising. Google and things like that. So it’s important to understand that all of that stuff funnels people into a sales funnel, a sales process. We think the internet is part of that sales funnel, or that sales process every time.
Christopher Anderson: You mentioned in one of your articles that Lexisnexis did a study about how consumers use the internet while searching for a lawyer.
Marc Cerniglia: Exactly, and that’s just it. I think that they found that something more than like three fourths of people do that. And when we hear that term, we often think that means they’re going to Google. No, it doesn’t mean that necessarily. It just means that they use the internet as part of that process. So sure, a handful of people are searching for a lawyer on Google, but a lot of them are also looking you up when they’re referred to you, and they want to get more information about you whether it’s looking at your website, your Avvo profile, whatever it might be. But the point is is that we spend time on the internet trying to get more information either finding a lawyer or learning more about the lawyer that we’re thinking about working with.
Christopher Anderson: In doing that, the fact that three fourths of people are already using the internet while searching for a lawyer and one of the places that they most frequently end up is the lawyer’s website. And like you said, they could be doing it as a first search, whether they looked on Avvo, whether they looked on Google or they looked on one of the other search engines and were driven to your website, or they can be looking it up as a verification. Hey, this guy referred a lawyer to me. I’m going to check their website because I believe that I’ll learn something that’ll help me make a decision. What does an attorney’s website need to accomplish when someone lands there?
Marc Cerniglia: It needs to accomplish a few things. I think that one, it needs to communicate to that visitor that they’re in the right place, so it needs to be really clear what you do. And just by the way, as a side note, this also helps you save time because if they’re in the wrong place, you want them to know that. You don’t want them to come in and waste both their time and your time. So it needs to really clearly communicate what you do, how you help people, and then once you solidify that, you need to have some things on the website that help that person get a sense that you are now the right person to solve their problem. And the truth is that it comes back to some of the things we already talked about. Put those video FAQ’s in a video library and make it very clear somewhere on your homepage or your main menu that you have a video FAQ. Do the same thing with your blog, maybe feature the latest blog article on your homepage that makes it real clear you have a blog and how to get to it. If your state Bar allows you to have testimonials, find a way to feature some of those so people can actually see what past clients have had to say. If you can have a free resources somebody can download, offer that. I think that the more tools you can have on your website for people to engage in or interact with other than your practice area’s page that talks about what you do – which everybody else has – I think the more tools you can have like that that just enrich things for somebody is going to work for you because what it’s ultimately doing is helping them say to themselves, “Wow, this is the person or firm that’s really going to help me with this problem.”
Christopher Anderson: And I’ve seen people fail to do this sometimes, but the website should help the visitors to that website then actually get in touch with the law firm.
Marc Cerniglia: Absolutely. Everyone’s got a slightly different philosophy on this. Some people like to have a compact form on every page. Some people are good with just the phone number or the email address. It needs to be one of those, if not all of them. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to sit here and say you have to have the content on every page, but absolutely. It even amazes me how often just in any business where I’m trying to find the phone number for somebody and I can’t. So whatever form of contact you want people to contact you in, make it obvious, as in at the top of the website.
Christopher Anderson: A pet peeve of mine are folks that believe that everybody’s visiting their website on a big, giant desktop computer with a big, giant screen which just isn’t true anymore.
Marc Cerniglia: Yeah, well now we’re getting into website lingo. You want to make sure your website is mobile-friendly, mobile-optimized. A lot of people are looking on their phones.
Christopher Anderson: Which in plain English means looks good on a phone.
Marc Cerniglia: Yes, which is very easy to test. If you’re listening right now, pull out your phone and go to your website and see what it looks like. It’s a very easy thing to test. And I will also say it’s a very easy thing for website people to do to make your website look good on mobile. This isn’t five years ago when it was like, “Oh my gosh, you can make me a mobile website? That’s amazing.” It’s kind of standard these days. That’s something that any web person should do and do with these.
Christopher Anderson: So as we close for wrapping up, we talked a lot about all the things that lawyers should be doing. I thought it would be fun just to wrap up by maybe mentioning a couple of things without calling out any specific firms, of course. Some things that lawyers do on the web or in their internet presence that they really shouldn’t be doing.
Marc Cerniglia: Wow. The truth is I had more exciting things here, Chris, but I often tend to ignore anything I see like that. Maybe you have some anecdotes here, but I think the couple of things I see are number one, inconsistency in some of this stuff. I go to your website and the last time you blogged was 2013. I’m wondering if your firm’s still opened. So same thing with social media, your last post was 6 months ago or whatever it might be. So I think that trying some of these things but not doing it inconsistently, and I just have to say now that I’ve said that, don’t let that stop you from starting. Because consistent doesn’t have to be every day, you can blog once a month. You can post on social media even once or twice a week. Just have some regularity to it. Nobody’s going, “Oh my gosh, your last social media post was four days ago. You must be irrelevant.” Nobody’s thinking that I think when I see that lack of consistency, another thing I see are email newsletters that are just way too long. People aren’t going t o just sit there. If they’re going through their email, they’ve probably got another twenty emails to power through. So keep it relevant to what you do, keep the focus on what’s helpful. You can’t have four or five paragraphs telling a story about something that happened in your law firm. People just aren’t going to probably spend the time to read that. You might get that one person that reads it and emails you back and says, “Wow, that was such a cool story, thank you for sharing,” and so you take that as everybody loved it. And it’s like no, that’s just the one person that read it. So I don’t have anything terribly funny. I wish I did, but I just think be consistent, be sensible. I don’t know, Chris, what have you seen?
Christopher Anderson: You can tell me how affective this is, but a lot of law firm websites – other than being dated or look like they were done in a web design software from ten years ago – is this infatuation with talking about themselves. Law firm and lawyers websites that talk about, “I belong to this and this and this and I got my degree from here and I kicked a few people’s butts in these cases and me, me, me,” and that’s it. They don’t communicate anything about what they can do for the person that’s looking at them.
Marc Cerniglia: That’s well said and another thing that plays really well into what we’ve been talking about with all these mediums and channels that you should be communicating content and information that answers questions or solves problems or lends some advice or insight to their problem. I usually do recommend going on your about page or your bio page. Sure, list off your credentials, have that on there. If the other guy has it and you don’t, it does create some sort of dissention for the viewer. But your whole website shouldn’t be one big promotion of how great you are. You can communicate your value to people by giving them value. That’s the key.
Christopher Anderson: Awesome. Marc, thanks so much. This has been a really great time talking to you, I really appreciated you coming on the show.
Marc Cerniglia: Yeah, this was awesome, Chris. I really hope your listeners get some value out of it.
Christopher Anderson: I do too, I believe they will. And that wraps up this edition of the Un-Billable Hour, the law business advisory podcast. Our guest today has been Marc Cerniglia of Spotlight Branding, and you can learn more about him at [email protected]. His website is SpotlightBranding.com and his Twitter is @MarcCerniglia, and also Linked in at Marc Cerniglia. And this, of course, is Christopher Anderson. I look forward to seeing you next month with another great guest as we explore online reviews and how come they’re important to you. And as we learn more about topics every month that help us build a law firm business that works for you. Rememeber that you can subscribe to all of the editions of this podcast at LegalTalkNetwork.com or on iTunes. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again soon.
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