John McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall, and I’m here today with Jonathan Fitzgarrald, chief marketing officer of Greenberg Glusker. Jon, how important is it that an attorney is an authority in their main practice area versus trying to be good at too many areas of the law?
Jonathan Fitzgarrald: I think this day and age, unless you’re a solo practitioner in small town USA, the days of being a general practitioner for an attorney, handling all types for all different clients are over.
Business is becoming more, and more segmented, and as a result law firms, and lawyers are trying to reflect what’s happening with their clients, so you start to see a move from a general practitioner on to attorneys that are starting to promote themselves, and market themselves as experts, or specialists in specific types of transactions, specific types of matters in specific industries, as opposed to being very generic.
For example, here at Greenberg we have a group of attorneys that specialize specifically in interactive gaming for video game publishers. It’s not all they’re capable of doing. They’re capable of doing much, much more than just interactive transactions, but we market them as interactive gaming attorneys because it’s much more memorable, it’s much more of a niche segment that they can very quickly become experts, and become well known for.
John McDougall: I think that’s great. Boy, what a niche huh? Interactive gaming.
Jonathan: Can you imagine being paid for playing video games every day. [laughs]
John: Oh, yeah. That’s great.
Jonathan: Especially what attorneys charge, that’s not a bad gig.
John: That’s awesome. The more niche you can go the better. The money is made in the niches. People appreciate the deep, and wide levels of expertise in their area, and that’s what it takes to stand out, and it’s a very good, honest thing to do when you really have a solid knowledge of a particular area where you can help so much more than someone that doesn’t really know that area. Big difference.
Jonathan: Big difference, yeah.
John: Do people generally hire based on a law firm’s brand, or individual attorneys, and how influence do attorneys of substance, and their website bio pages have on hiring decisions?
Jonathan: The running joke in the industry is clients hire lawyers, and they fire law firms.
John McDougall: [laughs] I like that. I have heard that.
Jonathan: I think why it is so on par is because clients hire an attorney for various reasons. Obviously there’s a need there, but they’ll hire someone because that attorney has a specific relationship with them, or a specific relationship with someone that, that individual who has the need knows, so reputation plays a major role in the hiring of outside counsel, and generally that outside counsel has a reputation in a specific area, or a specific type of matter, or transaction that the client is in need of.
The firm itself, wherever that attorney is practicing, also adds a layer of credibility to the attorney. You’ve got the attorney that has a specific expertise practicing at a law firm that has industry visibility, or visibility within a certain area of the law, which adds another layer of credibility, but I think more often than not attorneys are hired as a result of recommendations from those that have used them before, or those that know of them in the market.
John: Those are great thoughts. When you first look at an attorney website, how do you know if they, or their firm are credible, and can be trusted?
Jonathan: I think it’s difficult, if not almost impossible for a non human technology to communicate credibility, or to demonstrate credibility. I think that’s best done through, obviously relationships that are human, but attorneys can definitely do specific things to their website profiles to make them as helpful as a marketing tool as possible.
For example, keeping an up to date list of representative matters, or cases that the individual attorney has handled will help give those that are visiting that attorney’s web profile peace of mind that the attorney is credible in the area that the client would need, so keeping that list up to date.
We at Greenberg have started to post 30 second videos of attorneys on their profile pages just so that those that are visiting the page can not only see the attorney’s credentials, and the various awards, and speaking opportunities, and articles that have been published by that attorney, but they can also then click on the video and get a sense for the attorneys chemistry. What are they going to be like to work with day in and day out? Is there an emotional connection between the prospective client and the attorney?
Cognitive science tells us that most decisions are made first emotionally, and then they’re backed up second by reason. Obviously all of the credentials, the non‑static credentials, on an attorney’s website profile can give that second element that credentialing element, but the first element either has to be done in person or through video. We have found that video has been very helpful in creating that first touch point with a prospective client.
John McDougall: I couldn’t agree more. Recently we were doing AB testing on a landing page for a mesothelioma attorney. It was amazing, the user tests, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of usertesting.com, but it’s a great site where for about $50 a user, every 15 minutes they give you about 15 minutes and they speak into a microphone as they click through your website and take some tasks. Maybe give them five or six tasks to go do.
We did three user tests and two out of three, the user specified that the videos in particular were really what engaged them, but one person, you could just hear this woman in the tone of her voice, she said, “Oh, wow. Now that I can hear the attorney speaking in the video, I really think I could work with that person.” So I couldn’t agree more. Just that emotional connection, and then they can see all the stats, and facts, and figures. But if you can create that emotional connection, that’s really fantastic. I’m glad to hear you’re doing that.
Jonathan: Short of a video on a site too, is a really good head shot of the attorney. I’ve seen law firm websites where the head shots used are either 20 years old when the attorney was in their prime, or they thought they were in their prime, or the picture is so small and granular that it doesn’t look anything like the person you’re about ready to meet in person. So all of a sudden I’ve checked out the attorney as part of my due diligence on their website profile, I’ve connected with whatever head shot is there.
Again we’re talking about it in an area that lacks any kind of video whatsoever. In an event that I meet that attorney out at a first meeting, or I bump into them at a networking event, if the two images are not consistent I think subliminally it sends up a red flag. I wonder why is there the difference as a prospective client. This day and age with the competitive landscape as it is, I don’t think there are too many deals or matters that an attorney can pass and still stay alive. They’ve got to be hitting at almost 100 percent of the time. Why not do everything possible to make sure that you’ve got all tools working toward your goal of growing your clientele.
John: Those are great tips. A little quick recap is, having a video if you have one, and if you don’t, probably make one because it’s so powerful to have that emotional connection. Have a bio photo and update it. Update the legal jobs that you’ve been doing, so that you just keep it up to date. Those are some good, practical tips that often get overlooked. People think, “Well, the website was updated a few years ago, it should be fine.” But yeah, keeping up to date.
All right, good. What are a few of the most important thought leadership activities for attorneys such as blogging, public relations, being an author, bio pages, client alerts, newsletters, and/or social media, et cetera.
Jonathan: I think it definitely depends on number one, the attorney’s business objective. What are they looking to accomplish? Are they actually looking to develop business or are all of these activities there to increase the attorney’s profile? First off, what’s the objective? Then second‑off, what does the attorney like to do? What are their preferences?
For example, if I suggest to an attorney that they should be speaking more in the business community, and that attorney hates to speak, they’re going to see that activity as a chore, and they’re probably not going to be very great at it. Versus, saying to the attorney, “If you like to surf, use your marketing time in the morning to go out and surf and meet other general counsel who also like to surf.”
Maybe you want to join a book club, because it’s a passion of yours and you’re going to find other people who can hire you, that are also in that book club or linked to the club. Maybe it’s a specific networking group in town, an industry group, a business group. But at the end of the day I steer my attorneys to find some kind of an activity that gets them out of the office regularly. Weekly is best if not monthly. It’s something they enjoy doing so they don’t look at it as a chore, and then finally it gets them in front of people who can either hire them or refer them business.
So one who is looking to develop a practice, or to grow their practice, or to grow their practice or to increase their visibility.
Now, you’ll also find that to be able to augment that with speaking engagements, publishing opportunities, there are attorneys, particularly the Gen X and Gen Y here at Greenberg Glusker, that are familiar with social media. They grew up on the web. They’d much rather use that as outlet for promoting themselves, for looking for new opportunities.
Again, it comes down to the preference and what they’re good at and that’s what we have them do.
John: That’s a great point about making sure that what you’re trying to get someone to do is aligned with what they’re more maybe naturally inclined to do. So, excellent point.
If a law firm comes up frequently in the natural search results versus ads, does that say something to some degree about their authority and how important is Google in general to attorneys?
Jonathan: I’m always amazed at business professionals who I meet that claim to be the go to person for their industry or for their area of law and I go back to the office and I Google them and Google doesn’t know who they are. How can they on one hand position themselves as the go to person yet you Google them and nothing comes up?
I think it’s critical that, as part of the attorney mix of promotional and marketing activities, that there are on like activities that get them recognized by the various search engines so that when someone, a perspective client, does their due diligence on the attorney and enters them into Google as we all do as we’re trying to learn more about someone or something, there’s something positive that comes up.
It could be a LinkedIn profile, it could be an article they’ve published, it could be an engagement where they spoke, but there’s got to be something otherwise I think it sends up a red flag. In the mind of the perspective buyer you want as few red flags as possible in the hopes of closing that deal.
In terms of ad sales versus SEO, I think it’s going to depend on the type of practice. A business‑to‑business practice, which is what Greenberg Glusker is, I think is less interested in ad sales because that’s not generally how we bring in work, whereas a business to consumer firm like a personal injury firm or something of that nature could be much more interested in taking out ads and in search engine optimization tools and techniques.
John: Yeah, that makes sense. The thought leadership and having the good content and coming up in the search results is definitely a bigger part of B2B for sure.
Jonathan: At the end of the day I think you have to look at first off how much time you have to devote to all of this and then which channels are going to get you the biggest bang for your buck. Depending on your preferences, depending on your practice or what you’re looking to promote, will help to guide you as to what activities you pursue. And, what works for one attorney or business professional may not work for another and vice versa.
It’s really from a strategy level, taking a look at the individual, taking a look at their practice and what they’re looking to accomplish and then building a plan specifically for them and something simple enough that they can get their head around so that come December 26 or 27 when you’re ready to wrap up the year, they’re not asking you for a copy of their business plan.
John: That’s great. Are you aware that Google, with its authorship program and various social media sites like klout.com, have patented algorithms to determine if someone is a trusted author and influential person?
Jonathan: I’m on Klout myself and it’s no surprise that when my score goes up, I kind of laugh inside not only because it makes me happy but also because I think with a lot of at least B2B professionals the jury is still kind of out as to how accurate those algorithms are. I would love nothing more than my Klout score to be higher although I think compared to some of the other people that I follow it’s trending just fine.
But at the end of the day, I think what those organizations are tending to do is to measure one’s influence on the web. As a chief marketing office myself, I’m always looking for those metrics to try to demonstrate return on investment and I think Klout and other services that are like it are at least great first steps in trying to monetize to a certain extent what someone’s influence is on the web.
Hopefully, they will get more accurate, they’ll get better as technology evolves, but to dismiss them altogether I think would be a mistake.
John: I like how you put that. They are not perfect tools, but whether it’s Klout or Google or Facebook or Bing, they all need to figure out who the real thought leaders are and who the people who are faking it are.
John: Good. Well, that’s the first segment. We’re going to take just a 10 second musical interlude here and then we’re going to come back with part two.