After leading marketing efforts for Avvo, Conrad Saam left and founded Mockingbird Marketing, an online marketing agency focused exclusively...
Christopher T. Anderson has authored numerous articles and speaks on a wide range of topics, including law firm management,...
Do you really have ultimate control over your law firm’s online presence? In this episode of the Un-Billable Hour, host Christopher Anderson talks to Conrad Saam about how lawyers can take full ownership of their firm’s marketing and website. They discuss how the decline of legal directories has reduced visibility for some lawyers, and offer strategies for lawyers to take charge of their online presence. They also outline the best practices for ownership and talk about the benefits of WordPress. Finally, they go on to discuss the differences between marketing vendors and agencies and advise lawyers to thoughtfully consider which will serve them best.
Conrad Saam is the founder and president of Mockingbird Marketing.
The Un-Billable Hour
Owning Your Marketing Future
Intro: 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 will get the information you need from expert guests and host Christopher Anderson, here on Legal Talk Network.
Christopher T. Anderson: Welcome to The Un-Billable Hour, the Law Practice Advisory Podcast helping attorneys achieve more success. We are glad you can listen today on the Legal Talk Network.
Today’s episode is about marketing. Now, marketing, as we have discussed in the past, but just to remind us and really focus us on what marketing does for a business, marketing is the gasoline. It is the fuel without which we go nowhere. Without the marketing we don’t really have to talk about all the other things that we talk about, so we come back to it from time to time.
And our title today is Owning Your Marketing Future. My guest is Conrad Saam. Now, Conrad is the President of Mockingbird Marketing. Now, Mockingbird Marketing is a full-service marketing agency focused solely on the legal industry. And today we are going to talk about how law firm owners should be thinking about their marketing, including their websites, mistakes to avoid, and how to own their marketing future.
I am your host Christopher Anderson. I am an attorney with a singular passion for helping other lawyers achieve success with their law firm businesses as they define success.
In The Un-Billable Hour each month we explore an area important to help you grow your revenues, get back more of your time and/or get more professional satisfaction from your business.
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And again, today’s episode of The Un-Billable Hour is Owning Your Marketing Future, and my guest is Conrad Saam, the President of Mockingbird Marketing.
First of all, Conrad, I would like to welcome you to The Un-Billable Hour.
Conrad Saam: Hey, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s fun.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, not a problem. I am really excited to have you. And traditionally and notoriously, I am horrible at introduction. So if you don’t mind, before we get started Conrad, just let the listeners know a little bit more about you, how did you become the President of Mockingbird Marketing and why is that a cool job for you.
Conrad Saam: Yeah. I mean it was really accidental. I started out — I was approached by a headhunter back in 2006 to run marketing for this thing called Avvo, which wasn’t a thing at the time. So that’s how I got into the legal marketing world. And one of the early things I did at Avvo, I found that both what I liked doing and what was most effective, the directory at the time, was teaching lawyers about this new thing called the Internet and how people were using the Internet to find lawyers. And so that kind of logically transitioned into me working directly with law firms and I have been doing that ever since.
Christopher T. Anderson: Excellent. And so I think one of the first places to start, because obviously that conversation about, and I remember it, right, that conversation about like it’s okay to market on the Internet, it’s okay to send emails. I mean all that is stuff that’s gone under the bridge, but I am not sure all my listeners are entirely clear on the concept. I think they have all encountered them, but what is the concept of a legal directory. So if you could just start there, like what is a legal directory, why are they important to law firms?
Conrad Saam: Yeah, so I mean it’s a very interesting evolution and I will go back to really basic stuff, let’s talk pre-Internet. The yellow pages were the ultimate legal directory, and you can go even further back and you look at the big leather-bound books that lawyers had in their offices that made them looked very lawyerly. Those are the early, early printed based legal directories, and then it moved online obviously.
And what happened early on, very, very early on, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, because most lawyers didn’t have an online presence, anyone who was looking for a lawyer specifically or starting from scratch was like hey, I need a divorce lawyer and those people who turned to the web instead, the only content out there were these directories, and so they were extremely, extremely effective back in the day.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right. It was one source, like the only place people could go.
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So I mean we talk about content, content, content from an SEO perspective; the volume of legal content that existed in the early 2000s was very, very low, and so it was very easy for these directories to have a really big place.
What’s happened since then is there is now way too much legal content. You guys are vomiting out blog posts ad nauseam. There is a new legal directory that crops up every single day. So you have got a mass growth of the directories.
And secondarily, the layout of the SERP pages, the Search Engine Result Pages has changed completely. It used to very much be, up top you would have the organic results and then you would have the ads on the right hand rail. It’s now where the organic results, which is the only place that directories can really cost-effectively show up, is under the ads and under the map, and so the importance of the directories themselves has really, really declined with, despite the fact that more and more people are getting online, but it’s really declined with the reshuffling of what those SERP pages look like.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. So I mean what the directories were able to do was really give you better visibility as an individual law firm through the directory by getting better placement, but now, since the ads have come in and the local has come in and the map has come in, that all the directories are able to do is get you top of the bottom, which isn’t nearly as powerful.
Conrad Saam: Yeah. And interestingly, some of the best of the top of the bottom are not legal directories at all, they are things that lawyers hate, like Yelp or things that lawyers are unaware of, like Thumbtack. And so it’s not just legal directories, the legal directories are now competing with all the other directories from which they originally took all of their traffic. And so it’s been this very, very interesting cycle.
Christopher T. Anderson: Right. So the legal directories have been really powerful and important in the past, less so maybe — or maybe they are at least facing a difficulty now.
You said that you were the CMO of Avvo for a while; you have been recruited in there. Avvo has obviously been one of the most powerful legal directories the past few years. What’s been going on there?
Conrad Saam: Well, so Avvo was purchased back in February by Internet Brands, and Internet Brands owns a bunch, I don’t think a lot of people know this, but they own a bunch of legal brands; Total Attorneys, Lawyers.com, I am going to bungle the exact list, but they have Ngage, for example, there’s a bunch of legal brands that Internet Brands owns.
And when Avvo sold, I was personally really happy, but I also thought, and it turns out I was incorrect, I thought what was going to happen is that they were going to take Britton, who led Avvo and was truly, whether you love or hate Avvo, or even the concept of someone raiding lawyers, and most of you guys — lots of you don’t love that, Britton really brought and really disrupted a very old industry. And even though there were already directories out there, the way that he used and saw the future of technology bringing access to everyday people, to the legal system was very visionary.
What I thought was going to happen is he would take over those six or seven brands and they could become a really, really tour de force on continued innovation; doesn’t seem to have happened. So he is gone. The entire leadership team at Avvo is gone. And again, whether you love or hate Avvo specifically, my bias really strongly is that the use of technology for more people to have access to lawyers is a net positive and I thought that trajectory would continue on and it hasn’t.
So we will see what happens. We will see what innovation comes out of legal, but it’s not, unless I am missing something really big here, and I don’t think I have heard anything big coming out of Avvo since they sold other than the fact that I think they changed their model, so they are no longer displaying your directory information unless you are paying them.
So that’s where it went.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And you mentioned that they own a lot, the Internet Brands, so they have actually got a couple; you said Lawyers.com, which is one of the directories and they have the Martindale brand as well. So they definitely have access to some of the directories, it is a big open question as to how they are going to — why acquiring those brands, what the strategic vision is behind that and how they are going to increase access.
Because I am 100% in agreement with you that increased access is the touchstone, like getting more people believing that they have access to the help they need for the problems they have got helps them and helps the legal industry. So again, indeed, that space to be watched.
Conrad Saam: There is a lot of innovation that’s still happening in legal; it’s just not where the technical innovation started. And so there is a lot of — you have had a lot of great podcasts and a lot of changes and I really thought Internet Brands might be at the forefront of that.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, and maybe they will, but that is yet to be proven.
What I would like to do now is shift our conversation, but we are going to take a break here in just a moment and when we come back I want to go back and talk about law firms and their control of their online presence, because I think as law firms are out there, directories have become less of a one-stop shop and they are really needed to make sure they have a presence through websites and like you said through blogs and content and all this other stuff, how they can own that.
But first we will hear a word from our sponsors and then we will come back and talk to you about that.
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Christopher T. Anderson: And we are back with Conrad Saam, the President of Mockingbird Marketing. And before we went to break we were talking about legal directories, but we are going to come back now and talk about, Conrad, I would like to ask you about law firms and their marketing presence online particularly and the issue of ownership.
What can a law firm do to ensure that they have control of their online presence and I think aren’t held hostage by someone else?
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So when we were putting this title together and you suggested Owning Your Marketing Future, I was like yes, you get it, you understand. This for me has been really, really fascinating. This has been a long evolving issue in legal and there are really two elements to this.
One is do you actually own, not just your website and your domain, which by the way, a lot of big firms are not doing that the right way, where you are kind of locked in with someone and you don’t actually own the content or you don’t own the domain of your website. So those are major problematic issues.
And then the second thing is what are you sharing that you shouldn’t be sharing and that’s something that I think people really are absolutely not thinking about at all. So I am going to cover two of those.
On the ownership side, you have got to own your domain, you have got to own, and if you don’t know if you own your domain, assume that you don’t and find someone who can tell you that you do or don’t, but that’s super important. Make sure it’s registered to you.
You need to own the content on your website. You need to own your website and you need to own all of the primary pieces of information about your website, and that is admin level ownership of Google Analytics, Google Search Console, your domain, your content and your website back end. Because if you don’t have the ownership of those things, it’s not really your site and you are really just renting it, which is problematic.
Like FindLaw was notorious for doing this. They would build a website for you and they would register it to themselves, right, and that’s been going on for a long time. Most people who are somewhat aware know about those types of shenanigans, but it extends to things like data, and if you don’t have ownership, admin level ownership of your Google Analytics, you are flying blind and you have to trust your agency’s reporting to tell you how good your agency is doing, which is really putting the fox in the henhouse.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, I was just going to say. I mean I had a client of ours call me recently upset with one of the larger website development companies out there and he thought he was cool because he owned his domain and he technically owned the content, but when he decided to leave them, they shipped up the content, put it into a SQL database and sent it to him, and he is like, I don’t even know what to do with this. So the back end was useless. I mean he lost so much.
What questions should people be asking to make sure they have got ownership?
Conrad Saam: So on the ownership thing, you should, and I am going to extend this to include Google Ads as well, you should have admin level access to all of those pieces and that means that you can add users and kick users out, which means you can kick your agency out.
We take it a little weirdly at Mockingbird, where like we actually kick ourselves out. So, we will set you up, we will set you up as the admin and then we kick ourselves out, because I don’t want to have that ownership problem. And so you need that admin level of ownership.
But the second thing and this is much more nuanced, it’s much more nefarious and it’s much more problematic for lawyers and you guys just don’t think about it, I was listening to one of your podcasts recently. I think her name was Sarah Schaaf, she was the CEO of Headnote, and you guys started talking about data breaches, and lawyers are all freaked out about data and privacy and they care about all this stuff, and yet when it comes to the — and they are all freaked out about marketing and sales, right, so these are two very, very important things for lawyers.
But when it comes to the data about their marketing and sales, they give it away all the time. And so I would be very, very proprietary about your data, your marketing data, your Google Analytics data and I would not want my agency or anyone working on my account to also be servicing everyone else in the industry, everyone else across the street from me. Because they have access to your data, and essentially these huge brands, these huge conglomerates that have multiple masters within the same market, they are there to make money and the best way they can make money is figure out where are the most profitable things that we could be doing from a marketing channel perspective and how can I squeeze as much of that profit into my company instead of our clients.
So I would be viciously proprietary about who has access to your data and I would never want someone who is working with a guy across the street having access to that information.
Christopher T. Anderson: So I mean by your data, you are specifically talking about your Google Analytics data, your performance data of the Google Ads, of your website’s SEO, that kind of stuff?
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So think about this. Let’s say — and we definitely have these cases, where you come up with this brilliant little marketing niche or this brilliant tactic or this — one thing that works and you are really smart, so you are tracking it in Google Analytics, so you are tracking the conversions in GA and you know how many form fields are being generated with this little marketing tactic or how many phone calls are being generated.
As soon as your agency has access to your Google Analytics data, and by the way, it’s your Google Analytics data, it’s not theirs, they can replicate that tactic for the guy across the street and then they raise their prices on you, because they know that you — right, it’s just super nefarious.
And if you have any illusions that there are data scientists in these big firms that aren’t doing that, you are naive. So it’s this another layer of privacy and protection that I would be absolutely paranoid about.
Christopher T. Anderson: Cool. So keep your Google Analytics data close and as far as like pay-per-click and ad performance, just be careful of who your — who else the vendor you choose is working with.
Conrad Saam: Yeah, 100%.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. And then actually protect yourself, like you said, contractually, and not only am I going to be aware of who you are working with, but you can’t work with somebody in my practice area within such a distance from me as part of our contract.
Conrad Saam: Yeah. And by the way, my whole comment here is going to sound super self-serving, because I believe — so I have a small boutique, I am kind of leading you to the water that I want you to drink, but like the water is really good to drink here. You should be paranoid about who your agency is working with, you should demand exclusivity and therefore you should in my very, very biased and self-serving opinion, you should only ever work with a boutique who will provide you with both.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot that makes sense about that, and if anybody has been burned by one of the bigger companies, as some people — some of my listeners I am sure have, they have lived this, and for those who haven’t, I think it’s good caution.
While we are on the topic of ownership, one of the things that I think has come up as far as I am concerned, even in the example I just told you, where the law firm owner got back his website but couldn’t do anything with it. I wanted to talk to you about the difference between WordPress and I guess not WordPress, but a lot of vendors have their own proprietary software that they build their websites in.
Is having a WordPress site important as part of this ownership perspective?
Conrad Saam: So on the ownership side, the beauty of WordPress, and this cuts both ways for me as an agency owner, but the beauty of WordPress means that because it is so — there are so many practitioners of WordPress, so many developers, it’s so easy to use, there are so many places. Any major city you can find a thousand people who know WordPress and that puts the control in the law firm’s hands, because you can fire your agency, you can have someone work on something, you can get a plug in for this, that or the other thing. It puts you completely in control of your website, which is the only way it ever should be.
On the flip side, if I have to go back to my vendor because I want to make this change, or if I have to go back to my vendor because I want to implement this call tracking system, or if I have to go back to my vendor to make sure that they are compressing images the right way or implementing canonical tags, like none of that works easily and I am reliant on that vendor.
So if you are running anything, and I am sure there are exceptions and people will point out that you can use Drupal or something like that, but if you are running anything other than WordPress, you are really not in control of your site.
And I use this for me, the reason I like WordPress is every now and then, this may surprise you, every now and then we run into a client, we are like two months into the engagement and we are like whoa, we are done here, or you have a client who is not paying you, right? So if I have a client who is not paying me, it’s super easy, like they might be on hard times, whatever it is, we can keep their site live because all I have to pay is hosting and I don’t have them over a barrel. I can fire that client. I can move them on. I can get them onto a host. And we are done. The control of the site is not dependent on the platform and when you are not controlling the platform — when you are controlling the platform, you control everything, and so for me, in order to control that site, you have to be on WordPress.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, great. Well, I think that’s really, really important in this whole giant concept of ownership. If ownership is control and control is ownership. But I thought it was a really interesting point that you made that also as a vendor you are able to walk away from a client more easily if circumstances demand it without hurting them. You put them on a hosting site and they are up and running and you can deal with whatever disagreements you had, but you are not in a position where you are not hurting them or they are being hurt, I think that’s great. I mean it keeps honesty in the relationship and that’s kind of what all this control is about too.
Conrad Saam: WordPress is like having a prenuptial agreement. You can break up easily and it’s okay. Like we proactively fire clients for — it doesn’t happen all the time, but we do it, and I don’t want to hurt them. I want it to be very easy for them to walk away from us when we want to part ways or the other way around. And so, again, I am going to use the divorce analogy, the more you are stuck in a bad marriage, the more difficult it is. You want to be able to get out of that as seamlessly as possible.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. Now that we are talking about marriage and dating and all that kind of thing, I think some definitions are important, because we have used the word — you have used the word agency, I have repeated it a few times, but I have got to tell you, I mean even a — it’s not a word that I was familiar with until recently, and I know that lawyers, if they go to the Lawyernomics Show that doesn’t seem to be happening this year, if they go to ABA TECHSHOW, if they go to Legaltech, if they go to one of their bar events, they are inundated with marketing vendors, with people who are doing websites, with people who are doing SEO, with people who are doing video, with people who are doing chat, with people who are doing all sorts of things, and I don’t think it’s really clear to them when they are talking to an agency versus a vendor. Can you help clarify that?
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So for me, and this is to be honest somewhat philosophical, but I think it’s a very important philosophical point that has very, very pragmatic undertones. To me a vendor does a thing, and I will use the overworn analogy, when you are a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. If I sell websites, I think you need websites. If I sell chat, I think you need chat. If I sell PPC, you should be upping your advertising spend.
And a lot of them are very good at those individual things. To me, an agency may do those things, they may do parts of those things, they may do all of those things, but ultimately they are a business partner who is looking out for, not just trying to sell you more websites, if you want websites or blogs, but they are really trying to figure out — and by the way, the lawyers are somewhere between in general terrible and very bad at this, how am I looking at my marketing as a business?
And so if you do have that vendor who is pushing chat, you have to ask yourself, does this make business sense, and an agency should, a good agency does make the leap from here is a bunch of stuff that we do that we do very, very well, to here is a bunch of stuff, it works really, really well for you. And not every law firm should be doing chat. Not every law firm needs another 25 websites.
And so it’s the difference between here is what we do and we do it really, really well, with here is what you need, here is how we are monitoring that it’s actually being effective and here is how we are strategically laying out what the tactical plan for the next three, six, nine months is. That’s fundamentally a business consulting role as opposed to like a technical coding, design, advertising role, and it’s a mind shift change that is — it’s getting better in legal, but it is in most part missing.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. So the agent puts it altogether, but also make, I think the best words that you used in that explanation were, that they serve as a business partner, that they understand your business goals and that they try to get you the best ROI for your investment in your marketing.
Conrad Saam: Exactly. And the interesting thing is if you look at — so for me where the real evolution, and I need a better term, hotness of the market, they are the big business consulting firms that are getting involved in the business of running a law firm. That is a complete separate shift.
So you have got these big old established consultancies that when I got out of undergraduate in the 90sm all of my econ and finance buddies wanted to go work at these strategic management consultants. They are moving into legal, because there’s, A, so much money there; and B, it’s so poorly done.
And so what you have is you have got these big business focused firms moving into legal who don’t frankly know much about A, legal; and B, technology, and then you have the tech or creative people trying to understand the business side of it. So there is this middle ground that if you can nail it, you win, and that’s where the firms who have really done well and really grown well have a handle on the business implications of what they are doing technically.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. So let me flip it around then. We talked about what makes an agency — what is an agency, first of all, and what kind of makes an agency work well. How can a law firm get the most out of their agency? If a law firm has made the decision, as it sounds like from this conversation they really should to work with an agency, how do they then get the most out of that relationship?
Conrad Saam: So this is caveated with it depends on the agency, but there are two really important factors here. One is be deeply involved in what they are doing, and I can’t tell you, and Christopher, you have probably heard this over and over again, I have this marketing firm, I don’t know what they are doing, and I hear this over and over and over again, and to some extent it’s the agency’s fault, to some extent it’s the law firm’s fault.
Get involved, right? If your responsibility is to grow your firm, you need to get involved. And that doesn’t mean you need to know how to code an H1 or the difference between a website or a blog or which directories are hot or not, like none of that matters. What being involved is like, at a minimum, on a monthly basis are we sitting down to talk about what we are doing, how it’s working and is it moving forward.
We talk about content a lot and we talk about link building a lot from an SEO perspective. If you are not involved in the content and link building, you — so my agency arrogantly is very, very good at everything we do, okay? Let’s even assume that that’s accurate, which is probably not, but let’s just assume that that’s accurate. Even if I am amazing, I am never going to do more than a B- at content development for a specific law firm, in a specific location, with a specific positioning, that does a specific thing, I am never going to be very good at that. So the more involved you are as a client with us, the better off the results are. So be very, very involved, and that’s kind of step one.
Step number two and there is two other sides to this is, be grateful when they are awesome. This sounds so basic, but there is nothing better, and you guys — like law firms get this all the time. Hey, thank you, I really appreciate you got me out of this situation, like you guys get the feedback and there is nothing more important from — within an agency to get really, really grateful feedback from a customer.
We throw these around. We have got — on our Slack Channel, we have got a section called Humblebrag and everyone is posting stuff when a client is grateful. We are really, really public about that, and you have no idea how much that will have an agency eager to work on your account. It’s a human thing, but it’s important.
The flip side is, and this represents 5-10% of the law firms out there, if you have the profile of what we call the alpha jerk, if you have gotten by life and you believe that your success is based on kind of bullying people around and pushing people around. Well, let me rephrase this, don’t be that, don’t be that person, because no one likes that person.
That profile can work well with that long-term relationship, where the squeaky wheel gets the oil, so there are some agencies that ignore clients until they start complaining, that’s a bad agency, but if you find yourself struggling with an agency, maybe you just need to squeak a little more as well.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, yeah, more motivation with thank yous than with complaints.
Conrad Saam: Yeah, be a great person.
Christopher T. Anderson: Good advice. Yeah. So we are talking with Conrad Saam. He is the President of Mockingbird Marketing. We have been talking about legal directories first of all and then we talked about ownership of your marketing and ownership of your website, and then the last thing we have been talking about is how to work well with an agency.
We are going to take a break here. We will hear a word from our sponsors. When we come back Conrad, I want to ask you in our closing segment here about mistakes you are seeing. So we have I think set up some really great tools, but I want to talk about some of the most common mistakes you are seeing in marketing and/or post marketing with law firms when we are back.
Conrad Saam: Sounds great.
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Christopher T. Anderson: And we are back with The Un-Billable Hour and my guest is Conrad Saam, the President of Mockingbird Marketing. And we have been talking about all sorts of great things about how law firms should have the relationship with their agency and about how they should be thinking about legal directories and the ownership of their website.
But I wanted to like end this Conrad, if I can, with some cautionary words, just ways for law firms and law firm owners to really start thinking about their marketing. I love some of what you have said, for instance, about being involved. I don’t have it in front of me, Seth Godin recently wrote a piece, but basically the upshot of it was, you can’t outsource CMO. Your agency can get a lot done for you, but you can’t just say go do my marketing and report back. Because like you said, even if you do everything extraordinarily well, the best you are going to do is a B- and that’s not what most law firms should be looking for.
So other than abdicating the role, what’s the most common mistake you see in marketing with law firms?
Conrad Saam: Yeah. I think the biggest deal, marketing for law firms — so I am going to give you two tactical things. One is the intake is awful. I talk to, and you probably get this too, I talk to more legal front desks than almost anyone in their life ever should, and even though it is marketing, this is the tail end of marketing, but the intake is awful, and they can be as dumb as this. We see this all the time. You are advertising when you are closed. So don’t advertise when you are not open. Don’t try and get those phone calls when you are not available to take the call. So the intake can be terrible and that whole experience leaves a lot to be desired.
So what I recommend for law firms is go to Nordstrom, go buy a pair of shoes, go buy a pair of shoes, and then go mystery call your firm on a Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Now compare that experience. Now, at Nordstrom you are looking at a $200 pair of shoes, I don’t know, I am not a shoe person, but compare the value of the sale at Nordstrom’s with the value of the sale at your law firm and then have a, oh my gosh moment.
I would really, really implement. This is basic. I would make sure if it’s legal where you are that your front desk is recorded and I would review those calls on a regular basis, and even if you don’t even do the second step, having your front desk know that they are being recorded is going to improve performance by 10%. But mystery shop yourself on a regular basis and record.
Christopher T. Anderson: I think that’s great advice. I mean before I let you go, on that first one, I mean I just think — what I hear, like I 100% agree with you, like intake is the biggest weakness, and then they turn to you guys, they turn to their marketing agencies or their marketing vendors and they say, more leads. You are not getting me enough leads. And you are like you are pouring — I am bringing you buckets and you are pouring them out before you bring them in.
Conrad Saam: So the reason I focus on this intake, we have this client. This is a true story. This is in April, okay? So we are with this client. I fly out. We are up in this big conference room, I have got 25 lawyers. They start the conference off. I am there for a day. They start out with this guy, his name is Jason, I still remember at this moment, where he says, thanks for coming out to Michigan, can you tell us why we shouldn’t fire you? I was like okay, this is going to be a bumpy day.
And so we ended up ending that agreement, and I know we are driving a ton of business to these guys because we have got all the tracking and it’s all accurate. And we walk through this and they keep saying, we don’t care, we think this is all garbage. So, all right, fine.
So we talked them into letting us do a three-month study of their intakes. So we record stuff for three months. I hire some poor intern who is going to spend the entire summer listening to three months of inbound calls to law firms, cataloging them, identifying where the problems are, how they are being responded to.
So we do this whole set up, this whole study takes days to set this thing up, and she goes off to a cubicle somewhere and I expect to hear from her in August. She walks back like 30 minutes later and she is like, Conrad, you have got to hear this. I am like what are you talking about? She is like you have got to hear this.
So I go back and she is like this is the very first call that I listen to, and it was a woman who had called four times to the law firm, during business hours, was struggling with their phone tree, finally got to a voicemail and the voicemail says, hi, you have reached the firm. Sorry we are closed until January 3 for the Christmas holidays. We will get back to you on the 4. This is in April, right?
And so after that we did this study for the American Bar Association on intake for law firms and here is an interesting piece of data. Actually this has been brought up on your show earlier. It’s a study that I did. I think you had the guys from Lexicata on and they referenced this study. Three days on average for people to get back to a law firm, to a prospect, three days, okay? So that’s data point number one.
Data point number two, when I am calling into a law firm, I want to talk to a lawyer. Less than 9% of people talk to a lawyer when they want. And by the way, those lawyers who think that they are above this and that their job at the front desk is to be the gatekeeper to their time, get over yourselves, especially if you are in a small firm. Get on the phone, talk to the prospects, because that’s what they want.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. I think the best — I love the listening to the recorded ones. I mean I think it’s so funny that she is like listen, I could do this for three months, but I think I found the problem.
Conrad Saam: Yeah, yeah, yeah, totally, totally. Yeah. It was hard to charge them a lot of money for that when it’s like here you go.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah.
Conrad Saam: Yeah, update your voicemail or answer the phone, one or the other.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. But also just paying attention to what the clients want and listening to them, when they say I want to talk to the lawyer, I want to do this. Just paying attention and giving them, I think the word you used most important was from Nordstrom’s, you said the experience, right?
And when I was with LexisNexis, I was building software, one of the things we focused on tremendously is user experience, and this is customer experience or this is pre-customer experience, like you have really got to nail this. And like you said, I mean these law firms are selling 3,000, 4,000, 10,000, sometimes $20,000, $30,000 product and Nordstrom is kicking their ass with $200 shoe, not shoes I am afraid, but yeah, $500 pair of shoes.
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So the inbound — and by the way, here is the other thing, don’t assume just because you are outsourcing your intake that it’s being done very, very well. And I would monitor it, especially if you are outsourcing. If you have a third party who answers the phone at your law firm, like right off the bat you are saying I don’t even care enough to tell you my name, who we are.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, unfortunately, actual law firms do this, not even the third party answering services.
Conrad Saam: I know, law firm.
Christopher T. Anderson: Law firm. Yeah, I was just doing my nails and you interrupted me.
Conrad Saam: I was just thinking the same thing. You almost have that image of someone doing their nails saying law firm, right, like why do I have to talk to you? It’s like my cousin Vinnie all over again.
Christopher T. Anderson: All right. I have got so much more I want to talk to you about, but we are almost out of time. So I would like to end this with an on and up note a little bit, but I want to talk about the biggest challenge that law firms are facing. We have talked about intake, and I think it’s a huge one, but what’s the biggest challenge in legal marketing and how should they think about it in a positive, we can overcome this kind of way?
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So for me, and this is — so by the way, this is not strategic, this is not like mind-blowing, there is no insight here, it’s just information. This is tactical. Depending on what you do and where you are, the volume of spam in the local results is mind-boggling.
So what do I mean by spam in the local results? It comes in a variety of different flavors. One, you have a local law firm who is pretending to be in multiple locations when they are really only in one, okay? Totally against Google guidelines and the lengths to which people will go to fake these offices is pretty extreme, so that’s one.
Number two, you have out of state law firms pretending to be in state law firms, routing it through their call center and then selling that lead back to the local and state law firm. We dealt with, I am dead serious, we dealt with a law firm who had a lead generation service that they were buying leads from, they contacted us about a competitor who was pretending to be in their office space.
Christopher T. Anderson: Like in their actual doors?
Conrad Saam: Yeah.
Christopher T. Anderson: Oh my goodness.
Conrad Saam: But the thing is they were paying these guys and they had called us to find out who the firm was that was pretending to be there and how to burn that office. And so this happens all the time.
And the third thing that happens, and this is happening much more aggressively, and we have seen gross examples of this too, but non-law firms pretending to be law firms and then selling leads to law firms. And this is another example of where as an agency, like we don’t have the on the boots local knowledge of what’s going on and what the geographies are, so being involved in what’s showing up in local results, looking at the things that are like hey, I don’t really think these guys are on Main Street, working with your law firm to get those offices burned out of the local results.
So just to date stamp this, this is March of 2019, this is the biggest thing, and it’s just — it’s out of control.
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah, yeah. But your advice to getting it under control is kind of the same, which is like — and it’s different — and I think this is a great place to end it, because it’s a different sense of ownership. We talked at the beginning of the show today about owning your website, owning your data, in the traditional sense of owning, like not letting someone else hold you hostage with it, about owning it, having proprietary interest in it.
This is about ownership, like a business owner, this is about owning the problem, owning the solution, being a boss, just saying I am going to be involved. I am going to be looking at the results. I am going to see the anomalies and I am going to get with my agency and say this is not right, what can you do to help me, and then like you said, you don’t have boots on the ground, but once they tell you, you probably can help them.
Conrad Saam: And that’s the key. So you are 100%, the ownership is like — and this is very much a territorial thing, right, it’s literally boots on the ground, how is my market, literally my city broken up, who is in there and who is pretending to be there. That really helps and we work with clients closely on that.
And then actually fixing these problems is very, very difficult, right? So working with an agency to actually get these offices, the fake offices burned, working with someone who has the clout to make that happen, working with someone who is going to go through the steps that need to make that happen, that is a great example of where agencies and law firms should be working really, really closely together on the ownership. It’s the ownership and the solution, right?
Christopher T. Anderson: Yeah. Fantastic. All right, that does wrap up this edition of The Un-Billable Hour, the Law Business Advisory Podcast. And our guest today has been Conrad Saam. He is the President of Mockingbird Marketing. I will just give out, the website is www.mockingbirdmarketing.com.
Conrad, is there any other way that folks that — because we — gosh, there’s so much more we could talk about. If they want to know more, how else can they get in touch with you other than your website?
Conrad Saam: Yeah. So I am on Twitter, @ConradSaam on Twitter. I think the best thing for people who want to get a hold of me, just write on the site, I am happy to chat. I am fairly easy to find, because I have got a unique name, which is another SEO challenge that we haven’t talked about, so you can find me fairly easily.
But I would encourage your listeners to just keep learning some of this stuff, keep listening, keep learning. The more informed you are, the better off you are, and it helps, and break up those things where you don’t need to get involved, but for the big business side of this, understand the business. And Christopher, that’s what you are doing, right, you help people understand this from a business perspective and that’s the whole point here.
Christopher T. Anderson: And that’s what we try to do. That is fantastic advice. Thank you so much Conrad. And just to, since you said your name is a different spelling, I will just give it to people, it’s C-O-N-R-A-D, last name S-A-A-M.
And this of course is Christopher Anderson and I look forward to seeing you next month with another great guest as we learn more about topics that help us build the law firm business that works for you.
Remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes. Thanks for joining us. We will see you again soon.
Outro: 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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