A Conversation on Lawyer Marketing Between a Bar Member and Boomer Forging through the Social Media Age and Daniel Anzanello, Lawyer Marketer
CHARLIE: I’ve enjoyed collaborating with you since we randomly met at a ‘meet your legislator’ gathering. How did you first get involved in marketing for attorneys?
DAN: My agency started as an e-commerce agency. While we were focused on e-commerce and building campaigns which facilitated conversions, there was a very real lifestyle problem for me and my staff. During Black Friday and the holidays, those businesses needed a lot of extra attention on evenings and weekends, while our attorneys did not.
Legal marketing is a specialty in which most agencies will commit ‘marketing malpractice’. The rules and regulations for attorneys vary state to state and can be surprisingly restrictive. We made the strategic shift to become experts on law firm marketing. We’ve spent countless hours researching professional responsibility, FTC, regulations to protect our client firms from ethical problems in their marketing
CHARLIE: Dan, you once mentioned to me that you’ve written a book about attorney marketing. Remind me about that…
DAN: Ahhh, thanks for mentioning this. Yes, we found that hiring a full service agency does not make sense for all attorneys (e.g. cost). Further, since the marketing industry itself is largely unregulated, it’s very hard for the average attorney to know where they should focus their efforts to get the best results. I wrote a book to help both types of lawyers.
CHARLIE: I’ve noticed and we’ve discussed that you have put a lot of effort into learning attorney ethics as they relate to marketing.
How have you done that? How do you keep up with that and does that include marketing ethics as they apply to helping attorneys compete in the marketplace? Do you find that most lawyers have an awareness of the existence and implications of non-LPRB ethics and other marketing rules, such as FTC regulations, etc.? I know I haven’t been watching those with baited breath.
DAN: I started with the Jacksonville Bar association when I lived in Florida. We were brainstorming ideas with the Executive Director that would bring value to the membership on the topics of marketing and ethics CLEs came up. As we were preparing a course, it became very apparent this was content attorneys needed to know and have available for their staff to stay compliant.
CHARLIE: What do you find are helpful strategies for attorneys seeking to venture out with their own practice?
DAN: Except for a couple of practice areas, most firms we work with rely upon word of mouth and referrals for new business/cases. What they often miss is that the client will do a bit of research before they reach out; yes, even if they are a referral. This is, unfortunately, where a lot of smaller firms fall flat by having an outdated website, using a personal email address (gmail, hotmail) or having bad reviews or an online reputation that is lacking.
A good marketing agent works with firms to audit their online presence through the lens of a potential client and implement a plan to make sure they have an online reputation that matches their aspirations for growth. Once those ‘assets’ are in place, the next step is a custom marketing strategy that fits the firm’s needs and competitive realities of their practice areas.
CHARLIE: As a tail end and Boomer, even the computers were new when I was going to law school. I remember one fellow who was tapping on his laptop to the irritation of everybody in class, because virtually no one was doing that yet. The computer lab had almost no one there in my first year, became half full in my second year, and by year three, there was a line out the door.
DAN: I remember this in my undergraduate career as well. I was very frustrated by being forced to waste credits on Microsoft Office classes. Looking back, that was probably the most valuable class as so much of marketing involves metrics (calls, consultations, retainers etc).
What works for me – to keep me motivated and sharp – is the realization that every time there is a change in social media marketing and dynamics, there is a new opportunity. For those of us who remember telephone books, there was very often a lawyer on the front or back cover. The cost to be on that cover was prohibitive for most firms, as well as it was impossible to obtain, to the point that alternative telephone books eventually were published. The new telephone book was an opportunity.
Every time there is novel digital property, technology or experience, there is a new opportunity. The key is to identify the opportunities that have enough of your prospective clients to make it worth your time, money and resources to be present there.
CHARLIE: Are you still finding some attorneys are being left behind by the constant flux in the theory and practice of online marketing?
I think even most marketers are being left behind! There are so many new innovations out there that no single person can keep up.
In general, the most successful attorneys we work with tend to acknowledge (even if begrudgingly) that there is a necessary division of expertise between practicing law and the business of marketing a law firm.
In the same way that it makes zero sense for me to do the books for my agency (or certainly my own taxes) it also makes zero sense for most attorneys to do their own reputation management or marketing. As a rule of thumb and casually speaking, it is best to hire people who ‘play’ in what would be ‘work’ for you.
CHARLIE: How do you deal with a Boomer like me for whom computers are strange looking boxes we poke randomly, hoping for results while our blood pressure rises? 🙂
DAN: The same way I deal with you, what else? 🙂 The needed approach is to be slow, patient, forgiving, and I carry the ball (teaching you along the way) so you can eventually do a lot independently.
But for those who would rather remain dependent and value comfort over ambition on the computer and marketing fronts, I drive the boat – until it becomes a yacht. 🙂
CHARLIE: What does that mean?
DAN: Remember when I met you at a political meeting and we started working together? You were barely a dinghy in the social media world! I’ve watched you set up sophisticated features on your website and even develop your own YouTube Channel and TikTok account! Let your kids try calling you “Boomer” now!
CHARLIE: Excuse me Dan, they called me “Mr. Boomer”, no respect intended, I think. :))
DAN: Don’t take it too hard – you will shock and awe them and they won’t know what happened or if Martians came and transformed you! Tell them Dan sent you. 🙂
CHARLIE: Dan, how much study do you suggest an attorney do of the whole social media structure before engaging in it?
A few years ago, I purchased “Social Media Marketing for Dummies”. I have been told it has become totally antiquated in a few short years. In fact, you even told me that by the time a book goes to press, the social media marketing processes and strategies have likely evolved enough to make the strategies suggested nearly obsolete!
DAN: For the most part, I worry about attorneys that try to be experts at marketing. They can certainly figure it out if they make the mistake of diverting substantial attention away from their day to day law practice, but it’s rarely the best use of their time.
But, to answer your question, I think the attorney would do best to understand the fundamentals of marketing before they point their attention to social media, SEO or anything else.
The marketing fundamentals are understanding who your ideal client is and where they are both geographically as well as in their life experience. This is so that you can create content that is valuable to them. One of the keys is to create a budget and a funnel (‘customer journey’ as we marketing gurus like to call it) based on what the average case value is, so that you can track the profitability and success of your efforts. Once you have this in place you can move on to spend time on other tactics.
What about Google? I could learn their systems in a few YouTubes, could I not? (laughs)
DAN: (laughs, but not at Charlie, with him!) It’s kind of like getting legal advice from YouTube. A lawyer who hires himself to do his own marketing has a you know what for a client. 🙂
CHARLIE: What approach does your lawyer marketing book take?
The approach in the book is educational. Every firm and practice area has specific needs that will determine and drive the paths taken. Once the attorney has a base of knowledge and some level of common language with their marketing consultant (which they will have by reviewing the book), it is much easier to have a conversation about strategies and tactics to drive the desired results.
CHARLIE: Do you focus your marketing efforts on behalf of lawyers to certain practice areas or firm sizes?
DAN: Yes, this is an example of us eating our own ‘dog food’. We have identified an ‘avatar’ of the type of firm that it makes the most sense for us to serve. While there are outliers, in general we have found that venturing outside of our target market is a less than profitable effort for all concerned.
CHARLIE: In your opinion, does an attorney later in their career have a chance in the social media world if they have been captive in a firm and wish to venture out into solo practice?
DAN: I do! I feel an attorney has a better opportunity than they did 20 years ago because there are so many more ways to reach potential clients. There is certainly a learning curve, but that is where partnering with a specialist makes sense. Charlie, you’ve become a prime example- I am very proud of how your firm is taking off in the social media world now.
CHARLIE: It’s rather uncertain and I would venture to say even scary to hang out a shingle, especially late in a career. Any message for such an attorney?
DAN: Yes, but I don’t know if it is as much marketing philosophy as it is business advice. It comes back to what we were talking about before; practicing law and the business of marketing a law firm are two very different things.
Most attorneys are pretty smart and are therefore tempted to learn and do everything themselves. This makes them their own worst enemy in terms of growing their practice and in their overall happiness.
My advice is to systematize everything and hire out the repetitive tasks that keep them away from the practice of law.
CHARLIE: What if an attorney decides to change practice areas, for reduction of stress in an area like family law and trade it in for employment law for the passion of it, not to mention the change? Is that possible or even advisable?
DAN: It’s not only possible, you’ve done it, former Boomer! Your plaintiff’s employment law webpage AdvocateAtWork now has.
And your client centered philosophy for doing employment law is now getting the traction it deserves. Your videos on YouTube and other sites are giving you an almost real life presence to explain how you focus on other elements besides the typical damage reward focus that often breeds false hope instead of real solutions.
And you told me that your Son hasn’t been calling you Boomer lately. They can call us the boomer, busting free, dream Team!
CHARLIE: Not really, Dan. Let’s not be modest. This arrangement has brought results beyond my wildest imagination. How about we call ourselves the Tenacious Legal Marketing Duo!
I do have to give special credit to my Son, Asa, at BrandshineCreative.com. He created the website for my practice and did a great job, both in constructing the site and forming the brand for my employment practice.
Charlie Goldstein has been practicing law since 1987 after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School. His employment law practice consists of representing employees in a variety of matters, with special emphasis upon discrimination, terminations, severance packages, non-competition agreements, and age related issues in the employment arena. His focuses upon facilitating resolutions that are employee-focused. His website is AdvocateAtWork.com.
Daniel Anzanello is a top performing, results-driven and energetic Marketing professional with 20+ years of experience planning, managing and executing marketing projects that enable profitable business growth. He is currently the Co-Founder and VP of Marketing for OneThing Strategic Marketing Group, which specializes in marketing for attorneys and law firms.