John McDougall: Hi. I’m John McDougall. I’m here today with Jim Matsoukas, the Director of Marketing at Pierce Atwood. Today, we’re going to be talking about how to impress the general counsel of a company that you might like as a client. What are the top ways a general counsel evaluates a law firm or attorney?
Jim Matsoukas: It’s very simple, as far as the top ways. I call it “the what and the who.” They want to know what you’ve done and who you’ve done it for. People who need you have a particular service in mind or particular need.
The first thing they look at is have you done something like this before. The second thing they look at is have you done it for people like me. Those are the first two hurdles. After that, it goes to referrals. So they’re satisfied that you have the experience and knowledge of their industry, then they try to find people who know something about you.
Then, the rates come into play. Some people think, I mean rates are more important than they used to be. But people still don’t get to the rate part unless they already are convinced that they have the what and the who and the third party validity down, then the rates come in.
I guess lastly would be the firm. So they say, “Well, what firm are you with? Is it a firm that I respect and is it a firm that has respect?”
John: How important is it to have a blog to show thought leadership?
Jim: Well, I guess as part of a marketing plan. I mean I don’t think it’s essential, but I think if you update it frequently with significant information, it can be a good thing. If you begin to develop a following and people can depend on you to update it frequently with things that are worth spending their time on, then it can be a very important part of your marketing plan.
What I find it it’s one of those things where don’t do it unless you can really do it. I find that people that dabble in it or aren’t posting too frequently, fall off the map, fall of the radar and people don’t really pay attention to them anyway. You really have to commit yourself to doing it.
John: Absolutely, that’s why we developed a program using podcasting, like this, where we can transcribe the text of the interviews with attorneys, and we post them to their blog for them. In one hour a month, we can do four 15‑minute podcasts, even 10‑minute podcasts, and generate between 1,500 and 2,000 words per every 15 minutes. So the attorney just has to spend an hour a month. That’s a great way to keep the blog going.
Because I agree with you, it becomes more essential and more powerful if you’re doing it, even if it’s once a week, at least you look alive. If you want serious search engine traffic, you may be posting several times a day.
The big companies, the big websites, like Mashable and Huffington Post. They’re posting potentially up to 50 or more blog posts a day. I don’t have the exact numbers, but there’s certainly not one or two a day.
Then they get millions of visitors a month. That is where, not only can you impress the general council, but you can get more traffic. I definitely agree, that if you’re going to impress people, whether it’s general council, or anyone, it should be consistent, maybe a post a week minimum.
What are some of the key things to add to each attorney bio, such as verdicts and settlements, or how to connect with them on social media, to make sure that if a general council goes to your website of your firm, they’re most likely going to check‑out your bio page. What can you do to spruce that up?
Jim: The answer to this is consistent with the answer to how the general council evaluates a law firm or attorney. The most important thing you can have on your bio is the what and the who. What you want, you have very little time to capture somebody’s attention.
What you’re competing with is people’s ability to click on a mouse or move their finger on a screen. You have maybe five seconds. Somebody goes to your bio, what they want to see right away is, “Can I see quickly what this person does and who they’ve done it for?”
I’ve actually counseled people to have two sentences in their engagement list, and say, “Blah, blah, blah. For BXY company I have done…For PSP company I have done…” have the same format all the way down, so someone can absorb that very quickly, and know exactly what you do, and who you’ve done it for.
We also, we always have LinkedIn and Twitter handles for those attorneys that use them effectively. I guess the last part of that would be what I call third‑party validation parts of a bio. You have to have things on there. Publications that have been refereed or important speeches that you’ve been invited to give, or panels to be on that normally people wouldn’t be on unless they had something significant to say certain accolades from some of the recognition organizations, some testimonials. At least there’s something on your bio where somebody’s talking about you aside from yourself.
John: Absolutely, social proof, definitely one of the most persuasive things in marketing. Testimonials are great. We are strong believers in video testimonials, as well. Do you think getting testimonials for attorneys is harder than other industries, or should that be relatively straightforward?
Jim: It is one of the hardest industries. I don’t know if it’s at the top or not, but it is hard because, a couple of things, the clients that you do work for, sometimes, they don’t want people to know that you did the work for them. Because a lot of the work is relatively sensitive, or there are high stakes involved, or there are PR issues involved. Things like that.
Clients are very sensitive about giving testimonials. Then testimonials have, sometimes, a short shelf‑life with the law, because your relationship with a client changes. Some of the work you do for the client changes. You might do similar work for other clients that are slightly different, or might be less successful, or even more successful, what have you.
It’s a moving target. We’ve been successful getting testimonials, but we’re very conscious of looking at those very frequently, and making sure that they’re still significant, that the client still tolerates having that testimonial up there, and that relationship with the client hasn’t changed in any significant way.
John: What about getting testimonials where you don’t even put the person’s full name, like Joe M from Boston? Is that too weak do you think?
Jim: We tend to think that’s too weak, because we think that the power of the testimonial is the ability of the person to either know the person that’s giving it, or if they don’t, to be able to recognize the situation of the industry that the person’s talking about, in a fairly specific way.
Otherwise, they tend to be rather bland. In the law, you sometimes lose respect by being too bland and a little too showy.
John: Absolutely, the more specific you can make them, and as I said, if you can get video testimonials, as well, I think it deepens it even more. How important do you think it is to have a clear, unique value proposition or a clear understanding of why you’re different from the next firm or attorney, for each attorney and practice area on your website?
Jim: I think that’s important to the extent that it’s possible. For example, if you have, going back to when we talked about like the ability to market legal services electronically, which some general council are looking for. Then I think it’ very important that those material are very clear and very convincing about what the value proposition is for any legal service that you’re promoting.
When you think about the attorneys in the firm in general, the problem with that, not that it’s not a good idea, but the problem is that it’s still a market where the person, the personality, the conversational ability, are really crucial, really key components of the value proposition.
A lot of the value proposition is meeting that person and seeing what kind of person they are, whether there’s a personality chemistry with that person, whether the person’s ability to tell you what they do, and how they do it is articulate and convincing. Those are all crucial aspects. Those are hard to get across without a conversation.
John: That is the nature of the web. People are going to use that website, maybe seeing you for the first time. From our perspective, having a way to differential yourselves from other attorneys or firms, which goes back to one of our earlier segments that we did, where you talked about how the middle‑size firms are struggling a bit because the smaller boutiques and the larger companies, morphing into more smaller and larger firms. If you can say what your value proposition is on the web, you’re more likely to draw people.
For example, if you’re focused on mesothelioma as your area ‑‑ or immigration law ‑‑ the blog is all about immigration law, and you’ve been published for certain things. Your value proposition goes up the more you specialize. Websites, the more they’re good at having little, concise statements and making it clear when you just scan and skim the website, make it clear what the value proposition is. That is a big part of what makes a website effective.
The conversation is so critical. Sometimes you don’t have that ability, and you’re not going to get the lead, because people didn’t feel compelled to push forward from your site. More clear value propositions and to your point about conversation, while video’s not a two‑way thing, people seeing you on video. If that’s so important, your ability to talk, and express yourself, and sell yourself, and be personable, if that’s really important, do you think video would be a good way to push up your value on your upside?
Jim: Yes, I agree with you very strongly. I think you’re right. Being as concise as you can be on what your proposition is or how you differentiate yourself is important. We try to do that to the maximum extent that we can, both for the firm and for the bios themselves. We hope we do that well. What we’ve started doing, in answer to your point, we’ve started posting videos on each person’s bio, so when we draw them in, they’re convinced that we do have a good value proposition.
We have a brief bio they can click on and see the person actually talking about themselves, which layers on top of that the personality and the ability to converse and everything I was mentioning before.
John: That sounds really persuasive. How will things continue to change moving forward in terms of what general councils are influenced by? Will the web continue to be more and more influential? What are some things that will be on the minds of general council in 2014 and moving forward?
Jim: That’s a good question. What’s becoming more important is the ability for attorneys to prove their business acumen in terms of project estimates, and pricing, and understanding. What they do, how long it takes them to do it, what the crucial aspects are of what they do. The activities involved so the client or the prospect is convinced the person is running their practice like a business. Has really thought it through and doesn’t just plow ahead and provide above the excellent legal service and keep doing. I think that’s important.
Acceptance of risk is also important, which may be part of the same thing. AGCs would like attorneys to accept risk more in terms of how much time a project might take. You’ll find more deals if a project takes longer, the attorney takes a hit. If it takes shorter, they get rewarded. AGCs are looking to be convinced the attorney knows their way around hardware and software and uses it effective. It is always accessible. All those things are important. They will become more important.
John: That’s really good advice, Jim, and I appreciate the chat today. We look forward to talking to you again soon.
Jim: Yeah, so do I. Thank you.
John: Talk to you later.