In this episode, Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street identify two things lawyers should do in 2018 to make a big improvement in their online presence.
You can also download Gyi and Kelly’s guide to improving your Google My Business account here.
Gyi Tsakalakis & Kelly Street
Gyi Tsakalakis is the Director at AttorneySync, where he helps lawyers earn meaningful attention online because that’s where clients are looking. He tends to write about legal marketing technology. He misses coaching football and is happy to discuss various strategies and techniques of defensive front seven play.
Kelly Street is the Marketing Director at AttorneySync, joining the team in 2017. She is passionate about all things marketing and small business but is recently focused on content creation and social media advertising.
Thanks to Ruby Receptionists and Clio for sponsoring this episode!
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This transcript was prepared by Rev.com.
Speaker 1: Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: I’m Aaron Street. This is episode 156 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today, we’re talking with Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street about how to improve your marketing in 2018.
Aaron Street: Our guest today is my wife and I feel like I have some sort of conflict of interest about doing an intro to such an episode.
Sam Glover: You do and you don’t but this episode is all about her so …
Aaron Street: Are there conflicts of interest between podcast hosts and podcast guests?
Sam Glover: I don’t know, probably. Yeah, probably. She got on the podcast on her own merits so …
Aaron Street: See, that’s the part that’s easy to say.
Sam Glover: But nobody needs to believe me on that one, I guess.
Aaron Street: Okay. Can I assure people I had nothing to do with it? Did I have nothing to do with it?
Sam Glover: You had nothing to do with it.
Aaron Street: Cool.
Sam Glover: I’ll talk about what we’re going to talk about this time. Gyi and Kelly are going to talk about two concrete things that you can do this year to improve your marketing but the question that everyone is going to have in the back of their minds is does it work which is what lawyers love to ask about everything, does it work. I think it’s time to reiterate one of our soapbox mantras which is I don’t know, the answer is in the data. Aaron, how do you think about data when it comes to the question of how does it work or does it work?
Aaron Street: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s this common theme among lots of business people and even, weirdly, among lots of marketers of asking does a particular marketing technique work or not. The decision on whether or not something is working often, in these cases, is about either gut feel or perception or whether it got clients but isn’t about tracking conversion rates and data and ROI. I think building a system for data-driven marketing is probably the lowest hanging fruit for almost all small firm lawyers to improve their marketing. What that means is a couple of different things, one is tracking all of your activities, tracking how people are getting either to your website or calling you on the phone and where they came from and there are different techniques for that, call track numbers, asking people how they heard about you, et cetera, and then tracking the conversion rate of those people contacting you on your website, on the phone to becoming clients. Then if you build that as a tracking system either in a formal marketing tool or just in a spreadsheet, you can, then, backtrack to test which things are working and which things aren’t.
Sam Glover: Yeah. What’s frustrating for me, every time I see a lawyer ask that question, it’s does it work and what they’re asking is did it work for anyone else but what they’re missing is will it work for me. The only way to answer that is to try it and test it to figure out what the results are and then do it and to try it for real.
The other piece of it that frustrates me is when somebody posts will this work for me or does it work, the answer is usually, oh, I tried it for a few days and it didn’t work or I tried it for a week and I got nothing out of it or I spent $500 and I didn’t get anything. The thing is none of that means anything, it’s just out of context for that lawyer, it’s did you learn how to do it properly and implement it well and track it and the data still meant it didn’t work and then how relevant are your results to the results that I might expect from my firm because are we anything alike at all. As Gary V. likes to shout from the stage, everything fucking works, just may not work for you.
Aaron Street: Just might not work for you or it might not work given the techniques you used to use it. Right now, I’m a really big proponent of testing Facebook ads which is not boosting Facebook posts or trying to get likes to your pages, just buying ads on Facebook. I think savvy users of Facebook ads can get leads and law firm clients at really really underpriced rates right now but you have to use it right. I don’t have the answer for you on how to use it right, you both need to spend some time to learn how other people in your practice area or jurisdiction are using it and then you need to test things using data.
Sam Glover: Well, I think that’s a really good jumping off point for, first, a brief sponsored interview with Bin Rii of Smokeball about KPIs and using data in your practice and then we’ll talk with Gyi and Kelly.
Bin Rii: Hi, I’m Bin Rii. I’m the product marketing manager and general consul at Smokeball. Smokeball is a complete legal practice management solution for small law firms. Firms that use Smokeball are empowered to get back to their passion and focus their energies on helping people and their clients and not to get bogged down on the administrative and non-billable tasks that many firms experienced.
Sam Glover: Thanks for meeting with us today, Bin. You’ve got a white paper coming out about small firm KPIs. Although more and more people are starting to understand what KPIs are and why they can be important, I think we should probably start by explaining that, what are they and why do they matter.
Bin Rii: Sure. KPIs, it is trendy, it’s a buzzword these days with small law firms. KPIs stands for key performance indicators and, really, KPIs is, basically, a measurable value that shows you how effectively your law firm is achieving its goals. Another synonym for KPIs might be metrics or even business intelligence.
Sam Glover: Measurables, things like that, yeah.
Bin Rii: Really, no matter what you call it, it’s really measuring how your firm’s health is or how your firm is performing.
Sam Glover: Give us an example of a key performance indicator that law firms should be tracking and what it means, what they can do with it, what it tells them and how they can take action on it.
Bin Rii: Of course, sure. One of the basic things that every firm should be tracking is how many new clients they have each month, quarter or even over a year. Without new clients, there’s no firm or no business, really. The reason you want to track new clients and you want to track not only how many you’re getting but where they’re coming from and what types of cases they’re bringing in. If you’re a small law firm that practices pretty much anything that walks in the door such as a general practice, you want to see if you’re getting more divorce cases at certain times of the month, maybe it’s real estate transactions and then you also want to be able to track that information along with your profitability and see is it more profitable to do divorce cases over real estate buyers and sellers.
Sam Glover: I think that’s an interesting example because somebody who ostensibly is a general practice that takes whatever comes in the door may end up finding that they’re not as general as they think and that it might pay off for them to just focus on a couple areas of practice but you won’t know that until you actually sit down and start looking at the information.
Bin Rii: Yes, that’s an incredible thing that a lot of our clients have realized. They thought they’re a real estate firm but then they saw that they’re really getting a lot of business incorporations or LLC type of clients or they’re even doing a state planning and something that they never plan to do but that happens to be their cash cow.
Sam Glover: Yeah. I mean, it seems crazy that you wouldn’t just notice that but it does happen all the time. Bin, how do you keep track of KPIs? I mean, it feels like, potentially, a lot of work to gather this data and report on it regularly and all that kind of stuff, is there an easy way to do it that you can do just on paper or with spreadsheets? Is there a best practice? How should people do it?
Bin Rii: Sure. That is one of the biggest obstacles for doing KPIs is collecting the data and it’s very difficult because it can be manual. One of the first things that we focus on and tell attorneys to do is track their time and activities. Regardless of whether they bill hourly, fixed or flat fee or even on contingency, they have to know how they’re spending every minute of their day. Now, the best practice is contemporary in its time keeping where you keep track of the time, what it’s for as you’re doing the tasks. Reality is a lot of people reconstruct their time at the end of the week or month but the best practice is to keep track of it either using a spreadsheet or paper or using certain systems like Smokeball.
Sam Glover: What makes Smokeball easier about that?
Bin Rii: Well, if you work through Smokeball, because it is a practice management system, we’re able to actually track everything that you do with absolutely no user interaction. If you start an email from Smokeball, we can track how long you’ve been in the email and that you’re editing it. Let’s say, you walk away from the email for more than 30 seconds, we actually stop a timer and then when you get back to it, we’ll record that time again and then have it automatically put into your case. That’s all done without even doing any work on your end.
Sam Glover: Got you. If listeners would like to learn more about KPIs, what they are or how to implement them especially how they work with Smokeball, you can go to smokeball.com/kpi, you can also call 855-668-3206 for more information about Smokeball. Bin, thanks so much for being with us today.
Bin Rii: Thank you.
Kelly Street: Hi, I’m Kelly Street, marketing director at AttorneySync. I’ve been in the marketing industry for around nine years but I’m really excited to have joined the exclusive legal marketing world over the last few months.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I’m Gyi Tsakalakis. First and foremost, a huge fan of Lawyerist. Also, the founder of AttorneySync and a former lawyer and I help lawyers put their best foot forward online.
Sam Glover: Hi, Gyi and Kelly, thanks for being on the podcast today. Full disclosure, I should say that one of the other owners of Lawyerist has the good fortune to have married Kelly who is a marketing and sales genius that we’re having on the podcast so for what that’s worth, now all of our listeners know. Gyi and Kelly, we’re going to try and give our listeners two concrete marketing activities that they can do and if they complete them in 2018, they will move their practice forward. What’s number one?
Kelly Street: First and foremost, you need to claim your Google My Business account. That means signing up for Google My Business, completing your listing and then, of course, managing it. You’re going to want to do this because it allows you to show up for searches and to be in the local search pack.
Sam Glover: It is so awkward to talk about that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Sam Glover: Claiming My Google My Business profile. Where do I even go to do that? What is that?
Gyi Tsakalakis: You can just go to google.com/business. You know, Google has changed the name of this brick-and-mortar, local offering [crosstalk 00: 11: 03] … Yeah. In fact, I was just looking at some old posts that we talked about this in the past and it’s gone through so many iterations. Google knows that their users want to find local businesses and local business information and they want to serve that up. That’s why it’s so important is that if you search on your name, if you search on your firm’s name, no matter how people hear about you and they go look you up online, it’s likely that Google is going to give prominence to this Google My Business listing and so really really important that you completely fill it out, make sure you get all your categories correct.
I, typically, recommend people pick their primary category, you know, this is one of the areas where the Google world doesn’t match the real world. Attorneys that practice multiple practice area will try to fill out all the categories but that tends to have a diluted effect so pick one category, make sure all the detailed information got to be right, you want that to be consistent. I mean, I think that that’s kind of a no-brainer if you haven’t done it at this point. It’s free, simple to set up but really spend some time thoroughly filling out ad images, don’t just fill it out halfway, get it verified, get it right.
Sam Glover: I listen to the first episode of your podcast and, hey, I skip right over this but back up, congratulations on launching your own podcast.
Kelly Street: [crosstalk 00: 12: 15] we’re so excited.
Sam Glover: I’ve listened to the first episode which will be out by the time this podcast airs but I got a sneak peek. The podcast is called Clienting. I understand from listening, Gyi, that you just sort of walk around town Googling lawyer’s practice areas and things and try to see what pops up. You’ve experienced that on opposite sides of the street, you will get different search results primarily because of Google My Business listings, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah. Definitely, the Google My Business listings were showing up. The reasons why I’m getting different ones is because Google, really, is getting good at knowing where we are, what we’re doing online through a variety of ways but that’s a conversation for another day. I mean, your next clients will expect to be able to find information about you online and for those clients and prospective clients, they go to Google, Google My Business is where it’s at, that’s what’s going to show up, you’re going to see testimonials there, you’re going to see driving directions, you’re going to see imagery, eventually, I think, your Google is going to add video. The other thing I always like to say too is when you’re thinking about prioritizing stuff especially when it comes to online marketing, go to where the platforms are investing. Google My Business is a place that Google has rolled out a whole bunch of new updates recently so it’s likely that when they’re committed to something, they’re going to give it prominence and right now this is the place to be for small businesses online including law firms.
Sam Glover: Guys, one of the things that always comes up for me when I think about this is proximity is not necessarily relevant when people are searching for lawyers, right? Like I don’t actually care if I’m hiring an IP lawyer … actually, I don’t even care if I’m hiring an IP lawyer in my state but Google My Business is set up on the assumption that it does matter. Is that why we should claim it? Even if you don’t think proximity matters, Google does and so if you want to show up in listings, you should be taking advantage of that, is that the strategy?
Kelly Street: Well, actually, Sam, you might be in the minority there for not caring about where your lawyer is located because most people do. Most people, when they are searching for a service or service as a lawyer, they will go with the lawyer that’s closest to them. They’ll look at reviews, they’ll look at all their information but first and foremost, people want a lawyer who is close to them, easy for them to get to and they don’t have to worry about driving across town or into a different area that’s unfamiliar for them.
Sam Glover: You said that that listing has room for photographs and all that kind of stuff, I assume that, A, Google probably does care if you have a more robust listing than if you don’t but, B, clients obviously care, if they can see pictures of the firm or your lawyers or both, they might be. Is this a great time to finally hire a professional to take some pictures of your firm and your team?
Gyi Tsakalakis: That time is long passed, yes, you should definitely have pictures. I mean, professional, sure, I even tend to think a good production quality of the photos, absolutely, good lighting, sure but I think some of the candid photos, some of just the around the office photos, some of the more effective ones, if you got clients who are willing to do it that show you interacting with clients, showing some emotion even because clients are dealing with some really emotional life issues when dealing with a lawyer and so letting some of that show through in the imagery and the pictures and the videos that you use is extremely powerful and Google My Business is definitely a place to be doing that. I think the other thing too that I like to say to lawyers is don’t get [inaudible 00: 15: 59] down with having to find a professional photographer. The phones are amazing, the cameras on the phones are amazing, go read a blog post about setting up lighting, take a picture …
Sam Glover: Yet, people take such shitty pictures with them.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I know, it’s crazy. I don’t want people to feel like they got paralysis, that they got to do all the scheduling and machinery for photos, go take a picture. There’s best, good, horrible, best, take some professional pictures, some candid around the office, good, a step back, use your iPhone. People are so inclined to put their logos everywhere, they want to see the lawyers, they’re hiring a lawyer, they’re interacting with the lawyer, the lawyer is going to be the shoulder they’re going to be crying on when they’re dealing with these serious issues, no one cares about the logo.
Sam Glover: Kelly, I’ve seen you take some beautiful pictures, do you have tips for getting good results out of an iPhone or, whatever, out of a smartphone camera?
Kelly Street: Yeah, a few. I do have an iPhone and I really prefer it for the photos although I’ve heard the Google phone is amazing for photos. Take your time, set up a shot, make sure the background is great, make sure that you have enough light is really important so turning on lights, turning on extra lamps and then also being aware of what your wearing and what you have around your office as well. If somebody is taking a photo of you at your desk and you have papers out on your desk, just make sure that if somebody were to zoom in, they wouldn’t see any inappropriate information on the desk or on your computer. There have been some interesting situations where people have either shared a screenshot or have their computer open and people zoomed in to their browser to see what was up on their browser and they saw some things that they maybe wouldn’t want to share publicly.
Sam Glover: One thing I’ve noticed is people usually take photos from too far away and getting in tighter can be a really good thing. We run this How Lawyers Work series and we ask lawyers to take pictures of their offices and Lindsay is amazing at giving them tips and things. Also, empty offices look really sad.
Kelly Street: Yes.
Sam Glover: If you can, put pictures in them. Then use the magic wand tool on your camera’s editor. Don’t go crazy with Instagram filters but try that magic wand tool to just brighten up the picture and balance the colors and the exposure a little bit because it usually makes your photo better and more lively and it will look better on your profile.
Gyi Tsakalakis: If you have an iPhone X, use portrait mode and you can automatically blur out the background.
Sam Glover: That’s true, it’s great and it zooms in a bit so you’re less likely to have that problem with having a far away photo with no real focal point and empty of people.
Kelly Street: Yes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: iPhone affiliate link.
Sam Glover: There you go. We need to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors, we’ll be back in a few minutes to talk about thing number two, how to create a system for collecting client feedback. We’ll be right back.
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Sam Glover: Okay, so we’re back. I guess I spoiled it right before the break but what’s number two on our list.
Kelly Street: Number two is creating a system for collecting and using your client feedback in your marketing. This can be really tricky, I know that sometimes lawyers are a little afraid of asking for the review, asking for that public feedback because they know that sometimes clients are afraid to say that they use a particular lawyer or service because of the nature. This is something you can overcome by using a wider variety of review platforms and, also, just making sure that you’re only asking clients who did truly have a really good experience with you and not asking too many times and kind of annoying people in getting them to maybe not leave such a favorable review by you bugging them.
Sam Glover: I mean, item number one is very discreet, go claim your profile, fill it out completely, use good photos, you’re good. This one is less about a specific tool and more about building a system, although the reality is we’re going to be, probably, putting together a template in email, right?
Kelly Street: Yes, I definitely recommend that you would want to have a template in your email that will be an easy system to ask for a review, having a clickable image link that goes to your page on Yelp or your Google account to easily navigate people to where you want to get a review.
Sam Glover: Basically, the task that you need to do is sit down and come up with an email that asks for reviews and has links to the places where people will go to make those reviews and it’s basically a copying and pasting operation after that. The part that you said that is really key and maybe a little bit harder is, actually, making sure you’re asking the people who are more likely to give you a good review. How do you figure that out and how do you segment those people out?
Kelly Street: You can tell that someone’s had a good or favorable experience with you if you achieved the outcome they were looking for, if they have thanked you and told you that they appreciate the work you did for them. Generally, if your interactions with them were positive and if at the end of the day, everything took the appropriate amount of time and, like I said, the outcome was achieved, that everyone was happy with.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I think for me, the way I look at it is this, one, a short answer is there are tools also that can help you with this so there are things like AskNicely and GetFiveStars [inaudible 00: 23: 48], you can use SurveyMonkey but, basically, you’re pulling your clients, you’re submitting a client feedback survey periodically to task. To me, it’s the starting point for all of this is thinking about how you can make your practice more client-centric. Sam, you and I talked about this on a previous podcast and I encourage people to go back and listen to that, briefly, you’ve got to have the mindset of I want to actually ask clients how they want to be communicated with, ask them how they think you’re doing, ask them for feedback, ask them for regular feedback. There’s timing issues whether you do that on a more regular basis depending on your practice, depending on the nature of the representation or if you do it at the end but the answer to that is you got to ask. If you don’t know, you got to ask.
There are tools that can help you identify that in advance. Some of these tools will do things like at the close of a file, it’ll fire off, you know, on a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or family member, eights, nines and 10s get directed to some kind of review profile, one, two and threes might send an email back to you saying, “Hey, this is an unhappy client, I need to reach out to them and understand more about why they’re unhappy.” It’s really about listening and putting the client first and finding ways that you can solicit their feedback because these are some of the best ways not only just to get positive testimonials but also to identify where you can improve your service.
Kelly Street: Yeah.
Sam Glover: There’s two things going on here. Kelly points out like for those lawyers who do have a good relationship with their clients and actually have a relationship, I think that’s great like you know the ones to talk to, to ask for reviews but also you can sense when somebody is unhappy and be proactive about getting feedback and try to find out why they’re unhappy and if there’s anything you can do about that.
Gyi points out that there’s a lot of tools that you can use. If you have volume and so you don’t have a relationship with every client or, as I suggested, I think a lot of lawyers are wrong when they think about having the relationships they have with their clients, I think most lawyers don’t have the kinds of relationships that they think they do have, it can help to do some objective and less personal surveying to find out what they actually think which gives you the option to, A, ask for feedback from the people who have good things to say and, B, they don’t have good things to say, you want to know why and it lets you follow up.
I think of this when your apps on your phone ask you for reviews, they ask you to review in the app what star rating you would give it. If you give it a four or five, they say, “Great. Will you go leave a review in the app store?” If you give one, two or three, they send you to a contact form that asks you to tell them why you aren’t happy. Or maybe it just says, “Do you like it or not?” If you say, “Yes,” then it asks you to leave a review. If you said, “No,” then it asks you to tell them why. That’s exactly what’s going on there, A, they’re trying to get good reviews out in public but, B, they’re trying to get feedback so they can improve in private.
Kelly Street: I think what also matters is what you do after you get the reviews whether they are positive or negative, reaching out or sending a message and saying, “Hey, thank you so much for your positive review,” or, “I’m so sorry you had a negative experience with me, what can I do to help?” or, “I’m taking your feedback and I’m learning from it.”
Sam Glover: Good point. The only reason to ask for reviews is if you’re going to do something with them. Fluffing your public profile is great and all but the whole point is to take that feedback that you get seriously and then improve your practice from it.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Exactly and in the context of marketing, to highlight the great service that you’re giving. A lot of times, it’s obvious that the outcome of the representation, everybody agrees, was great, that doesn’t always happen and so a lot of times it’s … I think we’ve talked about this before as well but the thing that people know is they know what good service feels like, they know what it feels like to be treated with respect, they know what it feels like to be treated with dignity and highlighting that stuff whether you’re doing it through them leaving a review or they volunteer to do a video testimonial or hosting reviews on your own site. Those are the things that help you distinguish yourself from the crowd because now you’re saying, “Hey, look, this is actual positive client feedback that I’m putting to work to demonstrate my, whatever you call it, unique selling proposition,” or what helps you stand out from all of the other legal marketing that just reads like we’re super aggressive, we fight really hard, we have 500 years of experience and we went to the best law school.
Kelly Street: Yes. The reviews are so much more or what you say about yourself as a lawyer is so much more effective if it comes from other people rather than just what you say about yourself.
Sam Glover: The to-do list here for lawyers is, basically, it has three elements. One, ask people if they’re happy or not in a way that is a little bit more nuanced than that but ask people if they’re satisfied with the work that they’ve got from you or not. You can do that with something as good as net promoter score and sophisticated as that or you can do that just with the blunt force asking and it can be you, it can be an email, whatever, but you need to ask that first of all. That’s piece number one.
The second piece is for people who are satisfied, want them to put their feedback in a public place to help your marketing. For people who aren’t satisfied, you want to follow up and find out why not and what you could have done to improve. At least how I like to ask it is how could we have improved so you’re asking for a suggestion. You may get people that are just complaining and those complaints might be helpful and you can turn them around and make them constructive but you want to try and get constructive feedback. You can do this with phone calls, you can do it with emails, there are lots of software systems that you can sign up for that will do it automatically for you. You need to do this. That’s piece number two.
We got number one, Google My Business, number two, create a system for collecting client feedback and either plugging it in to your marketing or plugging it back into the way you build your client service model. Now, we’ve talked about your podcast Clienting and where can people go to find out more about that and subscribe to it.
Kelly Street: You can either go to attorneysync.com, we do have the podcast on our website. You can also find it on iTunes, just like every other professional podcast.
Sam Glover: Cool. Say, if claiming your Google My Business profile, you’ve already done that, if you’ve already got a client feedback system and you feel like you’re ahead of this game, then listen to episode one because you guys talk about the trends that will be shaping marketing in 2018. You talk about responsive websites, you talk about a bunch of other stuff, search trends, marketing trends, inbound, client service. If you want the next level stuff, I think it’s a good idea to go and listen to that podcast. In addition, check the show notes for this and we’re going to have a white paper, 10 things you can do to improve your Google My Business profile from Gyi and Kelly. Lawyerist insiders can get that for free, you’ll find the link in the show notes. Gyi and Kelly, thanks so much for being with us today.
Kelly Street: Thanks so much for having us.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Thanks, Sam, really happy to be here. If anybody has questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re always happy to help.
Sam Glover: At attorneysync.com. Thanks, guys.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of The Lawyerist Podcast by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast app and please leave a rating to help other people find our show. You can find the notes for today’s episode on lawyerist.com/podcast.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.