Avvo’s Mark Britton on How AVVO Can Help Take Your Law Firm Marketing to the Next Level

John McDougall interview photoJohn McDougall: Hi, I’m John McDougall, president and founder of McDougall Interactive. I’m here today with Mark Britton, founder and CEO of Avvo. So Mark, what are the products and/or services that you’re most excited about with Avvo?

Mark Britton interviewMark Britton: Well, that’s, I feel kind of like a kid in a candy store with that question, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I mean, we offer many tools for lawyers to just get more business. I mean, that’s one of the goals of Avvo is, on the one hand, we’re very focused on helping people understand the legal profession and solve their legal issues. But through getting more information and guidance to consumers, we get great lawyers more business. I mean, that’s what we do.

Avvo.com, which I would encourage people to visit, Avvo, it’s alpha victor victor oscar, .com. That’s all about acquiring business out there in the web through Google, what have you, for the lawyers acquiring that business to bring that prospect into their conversion management system, if you will.

So as lawyers have gotten better at advertising, we’ve talked a lot about how you need to go out using some paid advertising, using some organic advertising, search engine optimization, all these different tools, and bring these prospects to you. Avvo is a fantastic tool for that.

However, we’ve gotten more aggressively into the business around converting those prospects. I think it’s something that’s been really missed in the legal profession, where everybody’s out there acquiring prospects, but they’re having a tough time converting them. In fact, lawyers across the board have horrible conversion statistics. They’ll bring in a bunch of business, but also leave a bunch of prospects just lying there on the floor.

So we have a newish product, it launched last November, called Avvo Ignite. You can visit that at ignite.avvo.com. You can see an explanatory video and read about the product at that URL.

But really, Avvo Ignite, it’s cloud-based software, and it gives attorneys various tools so that they can, whether online or offline, watch prospects. We wire, whether it’s your Facebook page or your website or your blog, online or a billboard or a bus ad or whatever it might be offline, we wire all of that into a central dashboard so that you can see which of your marketing channels, which of your marketing dollars and efforts, are actually driving business.

It allows it to come into this dashboard, and then the dashboard gives you all sorts of tools to manage the prospects, assign them within the firm, understand which of your channels are working better and also, close those prospects better. That’s that conversion that we’re talking about. There are a bunch of tools around emailing, et cetera, that allow you to amp up the effective communication between you and a prospective client, and it just works incredibly well.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: That’s amazing. Can you give me a specific example of some kind of offline advertising, how you would tie that into this system?

Mark Britton interviewMark: Sure. Everything is done either…so offline, it’s done through a tracking phone number, and online, it’s done through cookie-ing. Let’s say you’ve an advertisement and you’re a local immigration lawyer that focuses a lot on the Asian textile industry. You have a paid advertisement in the Asian textile trade magazine in the area. The phone number, or the URL that the lawyer asks them to visit them through, to call them or visit their website through, those are both tracked. They are a unique phone number or URL that is an identifier.

So when they actually take action, when they respond to that advertising, it immediately is flagged within the Avvo Ignite system as a prospect coming from the spend in that Chinese textile newspaper, magazine, what have you.

Also, what’s really cool about it is, the minute that’s flagged, you can set up Ignite so that if those types of customers tend to be very high-margin, they tend to be good, long-lasting customers with a long lifetime value, you can set it up so that sends an immediate notice to your phone. The minute that person hits your website or what have you, you can follow up with them to have a conversation about how you can help them out.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: That sounds great. It sounds a bit like Salesforce and some of the automated ways to get pinged about following up with people.

Mark Britton interviewMark: Yeah, there’s a little bit of Salesforce in it. The thing is, we’re trying to keep it…it’s the only piece of software out there, the only cloud-based system, PC-based system, whatever classification you want to put around it, that is really tailored for law firms. Many law firms have built this on their own, but it is too expensive for many of the mid-size law firms all the way down to the solo. Quite often, too, they just don’t have this level of software expertise. We built this Salesforce-y, I’ll call it, Salesforce-like type of system that is tailored for the law firm and has all sorts of actions that can be taken that are consistent with the work flow of attorneys.

For example, quite often, for a lot of attorneys, they’ll be contacted by someone who still has a very long research time regarding hiring a lawyer. Divorce is a great example. Someone will call someone because they’re contemplating divorce three months from now. They’ll chat with the lawyer. They’ll get an initial consultation to think through what they should be thinking about over the next three months. They’ll also talk to some other attorneys. Staying in touch with them during those three months is critical.

So Avvo not only has this dashboard, but you can tag that you had this call with this potential customer, and that every month, or maybe every six weeks or whatever’s appropriate within your practice, you send them a follow-up email, that is automated through Ignite, that explains to them, “Here are some issues. Here’s some additional things. Here’s an article.” Whatever it may be. “Here’s some information related to the divorce process. Wanted you to know I’m still thinking about you. If you decide to go forward with this, I’m happy to help you.”

Again, it’s just you think through the work flow of the different types of lawyers, and Ignite captures that beautifully.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: And that’s a very common trend now, with marketing automation, with tools like Eloqua and Marketo, and HubSpot even does that. But we’re seeing a lot of customers, they’re so worried about the tactics of Internet marketing or any of their marketing, or business development in general, but they might not even understand that they could increase conversions significantly by using some marketing automation to send these triggered emails to nurture people along the funnel, from a top-of-the-funnel person down to where they’re ready to buy, so that you get a much more qualified prospect that your salespeople can then go and be much more effective with. That’s part of the goal, right?

Mark Britton interviewMark: It’s all about communication, right? Automated marketing, which is only a portion of Ignite. Ignite’s mostly about intelligence, right? It’s being smart about what’s working for you, on or offline, and allocating your resources there. But also, on the converting of the prospects, nobody says that you need to send automated anything through Ignite ‑‑ you can be picking up the phone. The problem, for most lawyers, is that they spend a lot of time in meetings or in court or whatever it is. They cannot simply be a customer resource center 24/7.

So the idea behind automation, if it’s automated, it doesn’t mean it has to be sleazy. There’s a lot of sleazy automated marketing out there. I mean, we all watch our inboxes just fill up with crap that we never signed up for.

However, if you have had an actual interaction with a person or with a firm, and they follow up with helpful information, letting you know they care, letting you know they think of you, you’re never thrown off by that. You’re never bothered by that.

You think, “Wow. This is somebody who really cares about me, understands my situation.” It’s communicating in a way that says, “Hey, we still have a connection.” As opposed to communicating that says, “Hire me! Hire me! Hire me!”

John McDougall interview photoJohn: Right, and that’s part of the whole new mode of marketing that’s more creating interesting information and being highly relevant, so that they don’t ignore your message. Because as long as you’re relevant, they’re not going to mind getting those emails.

Mark Britton interviewMark: That’s right. That’s where the concept on inbound marketing comes in. I think, John, when we met, I was speaking in Boston, with a big theme around inbound marketing and money. Today, at least a portion of my day is going to be taken up writing an article for ABA Law Practice Management magazine about the inbound marketing concept. I think the reason we’re speaking about this and writing articles is lawyers are starting to realize that, “Hey! This is a very classy way to interact with my target audience, with prospects.”

And that is delivering something that is valuable to them so that they gain the impression that you’re a great lawyer, and have a positive brand impression, as opposed to just hammering them with what I call outbound marketing, which is, “Hire me. I’m the best.” Yellow pages type of content, which everybody is pretty much tired of. Inside or outside of law, everybody is tired of that type of marketing.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: And so Avvo Ignite lets you refine your quality content messages, but really store the data around how many times people have come to your website, how many times you’re following up with them, so you can make much more informed decisions and be more productive and ultimately make people happier.

Mark Britton interviewMark: Well, I think there’s a short term and long term. Any time that you are marketing as a firm, there’s a short term and a long term goal that you have. In the short term, anyone that comes out of your firm, comes to your firm that comes out of that marketing that you’re spending on, you want to make sure that you convert them into a client. Avvo Ignite gives you all sorts of tools to better convert them into clients. To continue that conversation, both in an active and in an automated way. Also, over time, as you’re spending on different channels, if you don’t know how much your website, or your blog, or that billboard, or any of the ‑‑ Chinese textile magazine ad ‑‑ if you don’t know how the return on your investment, coming from each one of those channels, then you’re just burning money, right?

I have so many lawyers that have said to me, “I know half of my marketing is working. I just don’t know which half.” Can you imagine me, as a CEO of Avvo or any size company, dealing with a board of directors, and saying, “Yeah, you know, I know some of our marketing is working. We just don’t know which half.” I’d be fired that day!

Yet, I see so many lawyers employing this kind of thinking for themselves. The other thing they do, is they simply market where they see their competitors market, and their competitors don’t know what they’re doing either! And so being smart, using data ‑‑ we’re not talking about massive amounts of data and government-sized computers. We’re talking about a very simple PC ‑‑ your PC, or your tablet, or whatever the device is, going to cloud-based software, so it’s accessible from any device from anywhere.

Tapping into that, to help that tell you, “Hey! You should be spending here, and you shouldn’t be spending there.” When you think about that short and long term, you’re converting more clients. Then you’re looking over a quarter, or over six months, or over a year, where you’re spending your money and what’s working best for you. I mean, it turns the very average lawyer marketer almost into a marketing assassin, because they’re using that data to really target where they want to shoot.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: No, that makes a lot of sense, and I am fascinated by how many people get into Internet marketing, and yet they think that the tracking of it is just going to happen on its own. They think that maybe they have Google Analytics installed, so that everything is just perfectly set up, and that if they’re not getting enough sales out of SEO or social media, that it’s, “Well, we just didn’t do that right.” But they don’t understand the full loop that has to happen, where you have to track your leads. What’s the quality of each lead? You need to get back to people right away. I’m sure you’ve heard…

Mark Britton interviewMark: Exactly.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: …there are different stats that say that if you get back to people within 15 minutes of them contacting you from a website, a Google Adwords ad, or going to your website through SEO, if you get back to them in 15 minutes, there’s something like a 14x better rate of conversion. Yet, a lot of law firms will say, “You know, I’m not sure the SEO or the social media is working.” But when you dig deeper into it, they don’t have an Avvo Ignite, or a tool like that, to help them nurture people, get back to people right away, give feedback to the web marketing firm to say, “Hey, these leads are good. These leads aren’t good.” Like you said, it’s not rocket science, necessarily. You have a simple piece of software in the cloud, but you just have to use it.

That’s what we try and help people understand is, there are great tools out there, but they don’t just come out of the box like, “Oh, I have Google Analytics. I don’t need anything else. I’m going to have complete visibility on my online marketing.” You have to dig up products like Avvo Ignite and go use them to get the full benefit, I think.

Mark Britton interviewMark: I couldn’t agree more. I also think ‑‑ you brought up an interesting point ‑‑ I think this is a web marketer’s, web consultant’s, just marketing consultant’s dream in a lot of ways because I think the hardest thing, when nothing is measured, is for the client to come back and say, “I just don’t feel like my marketing’s working.” When, quite often, what’s going on is it’s a conversion issue. Being able to see the amount of leads that are coming in from different channels allows that marketer to be more efficient for the firm. On top of that, it can quickly shift the conversation from one which is, “Man. Anything you’re doing for me is not working,” to one of, “No, it is working, but once these prospects come in your door…”

As I talked about, a bunch getting left on the cutting room floor, but they’re just not ‑‑ you don’t have a system in place for, as you mentioned, getting back to these people quickly. Staying in communication with them, the type of communication that you have as to what you’re doing and how quickly you’ll get back to them, etc. These are really important things for converting prospects into clients.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: Yeah, and as I said, that’s a major issue for us, where we’re driving people to the top of the funnel, driving them in to people’s websites. Again, sometimes people get frustrated. “Hey, this isn’t working exactly,” again, when we scratch below the surface, we see that the sales people are dropping the ball. There’s nothing even like a Salesforce to keep track of how people are following up. There’s no lead scoring or nurturing.

Mark Britton interviewMark: There you go.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: Yeah, I think I’d like to share this product with more of our customers because it’s essential to get the most out of all the marketing you’re doing. You’re putting all that money in. It’s a shame to just drop them on the cutting room floor after you get them in the door.

Mark Britton interviewMark: Yeah, yes. We’re preaching to our mutual choirs.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: Absolutely. Well, thank you Mark for speaking about Avvo Ignite and Avvo, in general. I highly recommend that people go check out your website at Avvo.com and I look forward to talking with you soon.

Mark Britton interviewMark: Thank you so much, John. Keep up the good work.

John McDougall interview photoJohn: Likewise.

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