In this podcast, Dan Couvrette speaks with Chris Mullins, the Phone Sales Doctor, about how to create and build a marketing strategy that will enhance your brand and bring clients to your family law firm.
Hosted by: Chris Mullins, the “Phone Sales Doctor” and CEO of Intake Academy
Guest Speakers: Dan Couvrette, CEO of Divorce Marketing Group
Before you build a marketing strategy, it’s invaluable to know what people think of you and what they would say to somebody else if they are asked about you. You might also be surprised by some of the things that people may say – both positively surprised and negatively surprised. You may find out that there are some things that you need to work on. Whatever it is, you can use the positive feedback in the marketing and branding of yourself and your firm and negative feedback to decide what you should modify or change about your practice.
The complete transcript follows, below.
Hello everybody, it’s Chris Mullins, the Phone Sales Doctor, with another one of your weekly expert interviews. Our expert interview today is going to be with Dan Couvrette of Divorce Marketing Group. Dan, why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself?
Dan Couvrette: I’ve been in the marketing business for 45 years. I started in Ottawa, Canada. My company is based in Canada but 99% of our business is in the U.S. I started with a city magazine in Canada called Ottawa Magazine. Then I did a business magazine and was involved with a tourist magazine as well. Then I became involved in a wedding magazine.
I started Divorce Marketing Group 25 years ago by launching a magazine called Divorce Magazine. Over the past 25 years – almost 26 now – we’ve become a full-service marketing agency focused on the area of divorce and family law. We mainly work with family lawyers, but the information that I’m going to share today is appropriate for any lawyer. It’s appropriate for any business that’s looking at marketing themselves.
Back when I started in 1995, advertising and marketing were foreign to lawyers. There were just a few lawyers who were doing advertising in the yellow pages. Personal injury lawyers have always led the pack in terms of marketing. Some of them may have been doing billboards, some of them may have been doing late-night TV advertising, and a few of them may have been on the radio. The main way that lawyers marketed themselves 25 years ago was through word of mouth. The way they advertised was through the yellow pages. If people are interested in finding out more about my company or connecting with me, they can go to www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com. We only work with family lawyers, but if you’re another type of lawyer – like a criminal lawyer – please listen to what I have to say because it can be of value to you too.
Today I’m going to talk about how to build a marketing strategy, but before I get into the nitty-gritty about how to build a marketing strategy, I’m going to start with the steps you would take before you would create a marketing strategy. This is because these first few steps are what most companies are typically missing. I learned about how to create and build a marketing strategy from my time publishing Weddingbells Magazine back in the ’80s and ’90s. Weddingbells Magazine still exists, and it’s still successful. I sold my interest in that company about 25 years ago. It was developed as a national Canadian bridal magazine and we had regional editions of the magazine. We had editions for Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, etc. We were dealing with local retailers as well as national advertisers like bridal manufacturers, cosmetic firms, travel destinations, etc.
What I realized back almost 40 years ago was that, unlike lawyers, the businesses that we were dealing with at Weddingbells developed their businesses knowing that marketing was going to play an important role in the success of their business. So they looked at marketing much more as an investment than as an expense. I find that most lawyers look at advertising and marketing as an expense. They grudgingly spend the money only if they have to, rather than thinking about it as an investment that’s going to ensure the success of their business. The problem when you look at it as an expense rather than as an investment is that you tend to plan for investments, whereas you tend not to plan for expenses – you just react to them. For example, people who own condominiums know that you pay a condominium fee each month. Most people who don’t own them know that you do that as well. A portion of that fee goes towards the long-term care of the building so that when the roof eventually needs to be replaced, the fees cover the cost to replace it. Most people look at a condominium as an investment. It’s your home, or it’s an investment that you have somebody else living in and you’re getting rent from it. Nevertheless, it’s an investment, so you don’t mind putting that money aside, because you know that there’s going to eventually need to be repairs made to it.
When you don’t pay money for those kinds of things, when the roof starts to leak, you have to come up with lots of money to repair that roof. That’s an expense, and you grudgingly take the money out of your pocket. I’ve found with my 25 years of experience working with lawyers that they tend to tackle marketing from a reactive position rather than from a planned investment position. There are many downsides to treating marketing this way, including the fact that it’s going to cost you more in the long run. It’s also going to cost you more time. I know, for example, that lawyers are inundated with people trying to sell them marketing services. I include myself because I’m sending emails out to family lawyers all the time saying, ‘why don’t you use our services.’ I know that everybody’s selling website design, search engine optimization, advertising, and everything else. I know they are contacting these family lawyers. The problem is that if you don’t have a clear vision and don’t have a plan for your marketing, you’ll buy stuff that shouldn’t be part of your marketing plan. It’s also reactive. You’ll purchase or not purchase based on how good the sales rep is, how you feel that day, how your business has been, and whether it triggers something for you. But not having a strategy and a plan may not have as much value as it would have if you did have a plan. That’s why I want to use my time to talk about what it takes to build a marketing strategy and plan, and what the basic items are that you should be considering as you build a basic marketing strategy for your practice.
Now, as I mentioned, I deal with family lawyers, so when I say the words “marketing strategy” to potential clients, most of them think: “Oh, I already have a website, so that’s my marketing strategy.” I can’t say if every criminal lawyer, personal injury lawyer, or any other type of lawyer thinks the same way, but I suspect that most of them think that their marketing is their website. They might also then go on and tell me that they get most of their business from referrals, or they might say to me that they have a listing on Avvo or FindLaw, which some say works for them. Some of them, on the other hand, say that it doesn’t work for them. Some lawyers may tell me that they’ve done a bit of Google advertising, or that they have a few listings on other websites, but they don’t know what the websites are. That’s their marketing strategy. Sometimes they feel that what they are doing works, while sometimes they feel it doesn’t work. When they feel that it works or doesn’t work it’s going to be based on whether they think they got a client from it.
Let’s say they did Google AdWords. If listeners don’t know what Google AdWords is, if you went on Google and typed in “Chicago personal injury attorney” in the search bar at the top, you would see results come up. At the top of the page, there are ads. Those would be the first things that come up. Below the ads would be the map, and below that map would be the organic search results that come up. Companies could be advertising on Google and doing a bad job of doing it if they don’t know what they’re doing. They could go through their money very quickly and not get a single client from it. That’s not Google’s fault: it’s the fault of the person who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
In the same way, if I wanted to get a divorce, I could go and get an online divorce form. Or I could go to a lawyer who’s got 20 years of experience and knows what the heck they’re doing. Downloading a form will neither complete my divorce nor tell me about pitfalls or opportunities to watch out for. Because I don’t know what I’m doing, choosing DIY divorce would be my fault. That’s why it’s important to seek professional help. If anybody is ever considering doing Google AdWords, I highly recommend that you get somebody to help you. It’s important to get a professional to help you determine what vehicles you should use based on a clear plan.
Before you build a marketing strategy, it’s invaluable to know what people think of you and what they would say to somebody else if they were asked about you.
Your marketing should include knowing who would recommend you and why. It’s also important to know why people wouldn’t recommend you. This can start to give you some ideas as to what to think about even before you start to think about creating a marketing strategy. You should be thinking about how clients feel about you with the feedback that you get from them about your services. If you rated yourself one to 10, how good of a job would you say you did for your last 10 clients? You can rate yourself, ask your partners to rate you, or even get paralegals involved. I also recommend that you do an exit survey with every one of your clients so that you get personal feedback from your clients.
Before you build a marketing strategy, it’s invaluable to know what people think of you and what they would say to somebody else if they were asked about you. You might also be surprised by some of the things that people may say – both positively surprised and negatively surprised. You may find out that there are some things that you need to work on. Maybe your manner with people is condescending and that’s the way you come across. Or maybe you’re very compassionate and that’s the way you come across. Whatever it is, you can use the good things in the marketing and branding of yourself and your firm and use negative feedback to decide if you need to change something. Everything comes into play before you start marketing yourself. You might need to clean up some things or enhance/highlight what already exists depending on the feedback you received. You should ask yourself: are past and current clients willing to recommend you? Why are they willing to recommend you or why are they not willing to recommend you? You may have to talk with clients to get that sort of information. What about your legal peers? Are they willing to recommend you often?
Here’s an example: let’s say one family lawyer works in northern New Jersey and another family lawyer works in southern New Jersey. They will refer clients back and forth to each other. If you have a situation where you’ve got lawyers recommending clients to you, call them up and ask them why they recommended you. You might also talk to other professionals. In the family law area, lawyers deal with a lot of financial professionals. They also deal with mental health professionals. So you can call those people and find out why they recommend you.
Let me just throw something in, Dan. Right now with the pandemic, some law firms have lower call volume. What you could do is have your intake specialist who typically handles inbound phone calls make those outreach phone calls and do some research on the why.
Exactly. Sometimes just being in touch with people can end up with a referral coming your way. By doing this, you may also find out things that can help you get more clients from people who you already know. I’m in the marketing and advertising business, I own www.DivorceMag.com, www.DivorcedMoms.com, and www.FamilyLawyerMagazine.com. Before I ever recommend advertising on my own websites – which get roughly 5 million visitors a year – I always recommend being in touch with people who refer business to you or can refer business to you. If you get a referral from somebody, they’re more likely to show up for the appointment, they’re more likely to hire you, they’re more likely to pay you, and they’re more likely to recommend you after their case is completed.
With advertising, you’re throwing yourself out to compete with everybody else in the marketplace, and that’s not the position you ideally want to be in. Before you ever advertise, nurture, develop, and grow your referral sources. Part of that for me is finding out what your referral sources think of you. Would they recommend you? Would they not recommend you? Why would they recommend you? Why wouldn’t they recommend you? You should have a database and you should be working with that database.
I call the first part of this conversation “Upgrading your foundation.” If you were going to build a home, you wouldn’t start by buying windows, you would figure out the design of the home. The foundation has to be solid. In terms of marketing and advertising, you need to take an inward look at your firm before you take an outward look at how you’re going to market your firm. It’s all tied together.
The next part of what I’m going to talk about is creating your marketing plan. As you’re looking at the branding of your firm, part of your branding is going to be about the type of clients you are trying to attract to your practice. That should be one thing you’re looking at in your branding. If you’re trying to attract business owners and professionals to your practice, you need to take a look at your office. Is it in the right area of town? Do you have a nice reception area? Do you have something as simple as the right magazines in your reception area? Are they 10 years old and have nothing to do with the people who are coming to your office? Do you have to have the right staff? Is the person who’s going to greet the people the right person? Do they have the right temperament, the right personality? Do you offer people coffee? Are there piles of boxes all over the place? What about your conference room? Is it nice and pleasant and welcoming?
Before you go out and start marketing yourself, make sure you have this foundation. This also includes your level of knowledge in your area of practice. Are you interested in your practice? People don’t want to hire a lawyer who’s just doing it because that’s what they do. They want to hire a lawyer who’s staying on the leading-edge and is constantly doing CLE (continuing legal education).
It’s good to let people who would recommend business to you know that you’re constantly involved in CLE. They want to know that you’re involved in the Bar Association and they also want to know that you’re involved in your own community and that you’re making a contribution to your community, whether it be supporting non-profit organizations or anything else. They also want to know that staff is well taken care of in your firm.
Once you’ve done the foundational work, you can start working on your marketing strategy.
You need to take a good hard look at all of that to make sure that you’re doing as good a job as you can possibly do before you go out to the world. We used to say in marketing that the best way to put a bad business out of business is to do great marketing, because they’ll get lots of clients, and then those clients will be disappointed. Then the word gets out. And when word gets out today, it gets out faster than ever before. If someone says something at noon, the whole world knows about it at 12:15 – whether it be through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, you name it. This is why it is so important to upgrade your foundation before you do anything else.
So you’ve taken care of housekeeping, you’ve improved the look, feel, smell, and the touch of your office, you’ve improved the technology, and you’ve improved your legal expertise. If that was lacking you worked on networking. If that was lacking, you created a client system.
Next, we’ll talk about a contact system like MailChimp Constant Contact. These contact systems keep you in touch with your referral sources. At Divorce Marketing Group, we provide clients with things like a monthly newsletter to keep them in touch with their referral sources. We do podcasts with our clients that they send out to the referral sources and we also do videos with our clients that they send out to the referral sources. You’ll need to work on a strategy and your area of practice. Work on something that is going to provide information to people who can refer business to you. Make sure that it is something that resonates with them.
Once you’ve done the foundational work, you can start working on your marketing strategy. You’re going to start working on your overall branding and marketing message. Branding starts with clarifying your business objectives, which includes the type of clients that you want to attract, and the type of cases you want to attract. How complicated are the cases? Are you happy being solo? Do you want to grow and expand your business? Are you in a time of growth? Are you just trying to maintain?
In family law, a lot of family lawyers do mediation, they’re also involved in collaborative divorce, and some just do litigation. Where does your practice fit in? Whatever you’re practicing is a part of your message. Next, you’re going to establish your firm’s marketing positioning statement. This statement is about who you are, what you do, why you do it, and what makes you different and better than anybody else at what you do. If you want more information about this, go to www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com. Whether you’re a family lawyer or not, you can visit our website and download our Marketing Guide for Family Lawyers. For all intents and purposes, you could change the title to Marketing Guide for Criminal Lawyers, or Personal Injury Lawyers, etc. Most of the information in there is going to have the same focus that we would recommend for any lawyer.
There’s a whole section in that guide about branding, so I’m not going to go too deep into that. But typically when we work with clients to figure out a branding message for them, we do what’s called a SWOT analysis, which stands for looking at the firm’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. From there, we come up with a marketing positioning statement which then informs us what their marketing strategy and website should look like. Should it look calm and peaceful because a person does a lot of mediation and their tagline is compassionate understanding? Or should it be a bulldog because they spend all their time litigating? Your branding message is going to inform potential clients about you. So will your website, your Facebook page, your LinkedIn page, your logo, all those sorts of things. You should also be providing articles, doing questions and answers, and writing for websites, etc.
For example, when a sales rep calls you or you bump into a sales rep at a CLE event and they’re trying to sell you their services, you can match what they’re offering to what your message and your strategy are. Every so often, you’ll need to relook at your strategy, because things can come along that you may not need anymore to enhance your branding message. For example, when we started talking to clients about Facebook about 12 years ago, they all shook their heads and rolled their eyes and said that there was no way they were ever going to be on Facebook. And then lo and behold, pretty well every family lawyer has a Facebook page now because they realized it was a good vehicle to use. So over time, your strategy will change. You’ve got to be aware of that.
In addition to this, everybody who is going to end up on your website will likely end up there before they hire you, or shortly after they hire you. So it’s critical that it’s the best that it can be. I also recommend you only work with professionals who build websites or professionals who focus on building websites for lawyers. Otherwise, you’re just taking a huge risk by having somebody else build a website. They may not know how it should be branded and they may not know how to even ask you the appropriate questions to figure that out.
I’m just going to hit the highlights of other things that I recommend. After you’ve got a great website, the next area to focus on is referral development. You need a strategy in place to make sure that you’re in touch with your referrals, you’re providing them with information, you’re informing them that you’re staying very involved in CLE and that you’re a leader in your field. The next thing is that you need to be constantly enhancing your credibility factor. You can provide information to the outside world by offering to write articles and/or questions and answers. If you’re a family lawyer, our websites are always looking for content, and as are countless other websites. There are lots of opportunities to get your articles and questions and answers out there. You should also have podcasts and videos on your website. These are all things that should be considered a part of your branding message.
The last thing I’ll mention is client reviews. You need to have lots of client reviews. These client reviews have to be quality, like four- or five-star quality reviews, because someday, if it hasn’t already happened, you’ll get some bad reviews. And you need to have lots of good reviews on your website, on Google on Yelp, etc. You need to be well thought of and you also need to know how to handle a bad review.
The kind of marketing you should be doing and the thought processes that you should have are exactly what Dan is talking about. I recommend that you – it doesn’t matter what kind of law firm you’re in – go to www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com and you’ll find all the information there that you can use to help you. But before you spend any time, money, energy, and effort on any marketing, you have got to make sure that your intake department is solid. If you go and spend all kinds of money on marketing – even if it’s the right marketing, the right people, and the right resources – but you do not pay attention to intake (the folks that are handling the inbound prospective client phone calls, or client service representatives), then you are wasting your marketing dollars, because their job is to convert those prospective clients that are coming in through your marketing efforts. Without the right intake department, there goes all the marketing dollars and all the energy and all the time right out the window as fast as it came in. I just wanted to throw that in because many law firms just don’t think about it. They don’t think about each step – and intake is part of marketing.
I 100% agree with you, Chris. I mentioned that when I talked about the foundation. If you don’t have a solid foundation, don’t go and market yourself until you do. We see that time and time again. A family law firm may start feeling that marketing doesn’t work when that’s just not the fact. We get to listen in on calls when we do pay-per-click advertising, and we see the mistakes that happen.
Thank you. Everyone, please go to www.DivorceMarketingGroup.com for more valuable information. That’s it again for another one of our weekly expert interviews. Thank you so much, Dan. We’ll talk to you again real soon.
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