Time to open up Evernote and give you a rundown of all the happenings of Day 2 at the 2012 Avvocating Conference. It’s hard to know where to being. The amount of information that was disseminated today will likely take a while to digest. The quality of speakers and presenters at the conference (sans myself) was nothing other than top notch. I am really impressed with the people that Avvo brought in for this particular conference. So, without further adieu, here are some of my notes from today’s proceedings.
Josh King (@joshuamking) is General Counsel for Avvo. Of all the presenters, I think Josh did the most to assuage concerns that lawyers have about using social media as marketing tools. The key take away from Josh’s presentation was “Attorney advertising rules apply to advertising, not to posts or information about attorneys.” Josh pointed out four areas of potential concern: (1) testimonials; (2) client solicitation; (3) promising results; and (4) bureaucratic requirements. Testimonials are in their early stages and various bar organizations are trying to figure out how to deal with them. Bottom line, you really don’t need to worry about them (unless you have a specific bar rule prohibiting them). But client solicitation was an interesting discussion.
Josh and I spoke after his presentation and I agree with him–the in-person solicitation rules are designed to prevent lawyers from pitching clients on the spot–essentially, situations where the potential client has no choice but to respond. Since us crafty and charismatic lawyers work all sorts of magic, obviously in-person solicitation is problematic because no one can resist us. I agree that bar organizations will have a hard time applying these “in-person” solicitation rules to social media discussions. After all, the potential client can simply stop participating in the conversation. Our wily ways don’t work over the Interwebs. A few other tips from a presentation designed to make lawyers more comfortable with social media and the review process:
- State bars can only regulate commercial speech. Definition of commercial speech: “that which does not more than propose a commercial transaction.” Even then, the regulation on commercial speech must be narrowly tailored and advance a government interest.
- Don’t overstate your qualifications. Don’t lie. If you are going to talk about your cases, do it in a way that does not imply future results.
- Always be professional.
Follow these tips and it is unlikely that you will ever have any problem with your local bar. If you do, call Josh (and he’ll solve it haha). Always remember that clients can say whatever they want–a client testimonial is not an advertisement.
Sachia Bhatia (@sachbhat), Director of Product Management at Avvo, discussed four basic things that every Avvo user should do and then identified three new opportunities to take advantage of. First, the four necessities: (1) Keep your profile up to date–there are few things worse than an outdated, stale profile. (2) Solicit reviews from current and past clients–these reviews are important to your Avvo ranking and also have impact in search engine results. (3) Build out your endorsement network. Find attorneys you can legitimately endorse and request legitimate endorsements in return–the “I endorse this lawyer” line simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Endorsements need to be detailed and descriptive. (4) Answer questions to showcase expertise. Again, answering questions on Avvo helps your Avvo score and it also increases your exposure by exponential factors. Not all of us can be level 20 contributors (some of us have to actually bill hours after all–I’m only a level 10 contributor and no, I don’t have an Avvo rating of 10–who can fix that for me?). But answer questions when you can. Subscribe to immediate email updates for questions in your practice areas and your localities so that you can be a first responder. This will be more important as Avvo rolls out some new features.
Sachia also discussed three “new” opportunities that more Avvo lawyers should be using: (1) Avvo on the go–start getting Avvo updates wherever you are (see the discussion above about “immediate” subscriptions to questions); (2) Bring Avvo Home–make sure that all of the work you do on Avvo and other sites, such as answering questions or publishing guides, pushes users back to your Core Web Presence. Use Avvo to help bring your potential clients to your home turf; and (3) Bring answers back to your site. This is something I plan on implementing immediately. When you answer a question on Avvo, publish that question and answer on your own site. Increase your footprint and show the visitors to your homepage the knowledge you have (and hopefully answer some of their questions along the way).
Panel Discussion: Kelly H. Zinser (@kellyzinser), Linda M. Callahan (@DUIAttyCallahan), Peter Gonzalez (linkedin.com/in/peterjgonzales), Rich Sierra (businesslawyer.biz). As was the case yesterday, it was hard to take notes on the panel discussion–to much conversation going back and forth. The panel continued on the theme established by Sachia and discussed how to best use Avvo and how it was working in their respective practices. I hope the panel discussions make their way onto a Avvo / Lawyernomics video post. The information exchanged in the panels was invaluable.
Ari Kaplan (@AriKaplan), President/Owner of Ari Kaplan Advisors. Ari’s presentation was one of my favorites. His creativity in building networks and a working referral base is unmatched. He spent most of his time focusing on how you should be making efforts to help your network increase their personal business and success. For example, Ari scours the web, including sites such as http://www.helpareporterout.com, and then forwards links to those in his network to follow up on. “Self promotion has very little to do with promoting yourself. It really has to do with helping to promote others.” Absolutely brilliant.
He is creating an extremely loyal network by helping his network succeed. His focus is on his connections, not himself. And my personal favorite tip was to do quick video interviews with “important” people as an icebreaker or a way to open that networking door. I was really impressed by this idea. I think it is brilliant. So I went “Ari” on “Ari” and here is the result (it will play upright, I promise):
Thanks for the interview Ari. Hopefully it will be the first of many more. For whatever reason, this really resonated with me. What a great way to build a network, especially with those who otherwise might not give you the time of day. I was so impressed, I got Ari’s book.
Vanessa Fox (@vanessafox) is a search guru. While her presentation was entitled “Marketing in the Age of Google,” it quickly became apparent that the subject de jure was “How do I convince people to hire me.” According to Vanessa, “Search is valuable for figuring out what people really want.” And figuring out what people want is extremely important because these three steps are necessary to convince people to hire you:
- Know who your audience is.
- Know where your audience is.
- Know what your audience wants.
Figure out what your audience is searching for and make sure that you are found there. Speak their language. Enough with the “Environmental Remediation Litigation Specialist.” How about “environmental cleanup lawyer” or some other layman term that might actually get searched. “Remember to talk about things in the same way that your audience talks about them.” Also remember that SEO “is about solving people’s problems.”
Two bits of invaluable advice: (1) Every page of your site is the home page–you never know where a user is going to land so make sure your important information is available on all of your pages; (2) How to rank well in search engines: Have great content that people love.
Mark Kelly (@chair10 / @mkelly7777), President and Founder of Chair 10 Marketing. I am going to be honest here. Mark gave one of the best PPC presentations I have seen (and I have seen a lot). I’ve requested his slides and I am going to do a full post on PPC once I have a chance to distill all that information. If you missed Mark, you missed out. (I was also fortunate to have Mark help critique my “elevator pitch” at the Avvo social hour on Thursday night.) This is one bright, bright guy. A quick tip for now (and plenty to come later): “Make sure your page headings match your PPC or search terms; when someone searches a key phrase, they want to see that key phrase listed in the page’s title so that they know that clicking the link will likely get them the information they want and need.”
Duane Forrester (@duaneforrester / web: http://www.bing.com/webmaster). Look, when your web address is “Bing Webmaster,” I’m pretty sure you are going to have some important things to say. Similar to Mike Blumenthal’s presentation from Day 1, Duane presented explicit details about the Bing algorithm, particularly how Bing includes social media in its search rankings and results. It is too complex for me to describe here but how about some statistics:
- 1/4 searches deliver successful results.
- 42% of sessions require refining.
- 44% of sessions are lasting more than a day.
- 90% ask family / friends before making a decision.
- 80% will delay making a decision online.
- People use friends: 2.5x more of than city guides; 4x more often than online reviews; 10x more than check-in sites.
- 2nd most expensive area in your law firm (after payroll).
- Never ending process.
- Need to continually produce more and more leads.
- #1 reason you’re not getting more referrals is lack of your clients’ education. Failed to educate them what a good referral looks like.
- Explain why you value and depend on referrals.
- Explain what a great referral looks like.
- Explain how to make a referral to your office.
- Lunch appointment?
- Explain how are you going to treat the referral.
- Explain what to tell referrals about you and your firm
- Explain what information they [your clients] can give:
- Business card
- White paper, special report, etc.
- #2 reason you’re not getting more referrals is lack of client communication.
- One tip (very cost effective): newsletter.
- Keeps you connected
- Builds credibility
- Adds fresh content to your website
- Helps cross-market your services
- Generates more referrals
- Works 24/7
- Promote website and blog.
CPL (Cost Per Lead)
- How many leads are produced in a given time frame.
- How much money did the firm invest in marketing during the same time frame?
- Divide $$$ by # needs.
- Compare month v. quarter v. annual
- Running average
- How many clients retained during that time period.
- How much money did you invest in marketing during the same time frame.
- Divide $$$ by # clients.
- Compare month v. quarter v. annual
- Establishing a running average.
How much is each of your clients worth? Does the worth of your client justify the amount of money you are spending on obtaining leads that actually turn into clients? Although there is much, much more to Stephen’s presentations (including a multi-day seminar put on by The Rainmaker Institute), here are some final parting thoughts on lead conversion:
Five stages of conversion:
- Number of leads in the top of the funnel.
- How many leads turn into appointments.
- How many appointments actually show up.
- Number of appointments sign up at the IC.
- Number of appointments who sign up later.
- Cloud Drives – Dropbox, Skydrive, GoogleDrive, Box
- Ultrabook – Samsung Series 9
- iAnnotate App
- Tripit.com – consolidate itineraries into one.
- Dragon Dictation
- Bloomberg Law
- Pico Projector – small, battery powered projector
- Kindle Fire
- Instapaper App
- ithoughts App (mind-mapping app)
- fastcase (legal research)
- Ruby Receptionists
- Penultimate App
- Rocket Matter / Clio
- Jelly Fish Art
I recently published a blog post over on Avvo’s Lawyernomics Blog on the topic of whether lawyer rankings on sites such as Avvo or Martindale Hubbell really matter. So that there is no confusion, I am a regular blogger on Avvo’s Lawyernomics Blog and will be presenting at Avvo’s 2012 Avvocating Conference in Seattle.
But let me get to the nuts and the bolts of it. Yes, your Avvo (or similar rating) does matter. The post describes our attempt at finding local counsel in Colorado and how one of my associates “choose” between to seemingly equally qualified lawyers based on their Avvo numbers. I found this significant because this particular associate did not know that I was a guest blogger for Avvo or that I was going to be speaking at one of their events.
I merely asked the associate to find some potential attorneys to serve as local counsel for us. He brought back several and then recommended a particular attorney because that lawyer had a much higher rating on Avvo than the others. It was enough to convince me. We retained that lawyer as local counsel and he has been great to work with.
So, returning to the ultimate question, do these types of ratings and rankings actually matter? Yes. They do. At least to some (myself and my associate included).
And, as a final note, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of having client testimonials and peer endorsements. Not only do people looking for lawyers read these, but lawyers looking for lawyers read them too. That reminds me, I need to send out some more requests to clients and peers to provide testimonials and endorsements on Avvo and LinkedIn. Any press may be good press; but good press is good press.