Master Class: Debunking Referral Marketing & Networking Myths

Elizabeth Lockwood

So many lawyers want to network to gain referrals and spread awareness of their law firm, connect with others in their community, and build their customer base, but there is so much information out there that many legal professionals are often left confused as to the socially accepted rules and regulations surrounding networkings. If this sounds like you, don't worry; you're not alone in feeling this way. In fact, there are plenty of misconceptions about networking and referrals marketing out there and it can leave a lot of legal professionals feeling in a analysis paralysis.

In a webinar recorded on August 4th, 2020, Maddy Martin, head of growth and education at Smith.ai, met with the leading experts in legal networking and marketing, Tyler And April Roberts, co-founders of NOMOS Marketing, and Kelley Rider Goodwin, founder of Rider Goodwin Law, to touch on the tried-and-true growth methods that can help law firms obtain reliable referrals through peers, stellar reviews from clients, and much more. During the webinar, the experts discuss how all law firms, from solo agencies to established firms, can avoid falling for marketing myths and can utilize the tools at their disposal to build a solid referral network, generate consistent reviews, and establish their law firm within their community. 

If you’re interested in hearing more about this discussion, we've provided a full transcript of the webinar below, edited for readability. You can watch the full webinar by clicking on the video below. This webinar is also available to watch for free on YouTube. To learn more on how to properly network and market yourself and your business, and other helpful business tips, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Moderator

Maddy Martin

Head of Growth and 

Education at Smith.ai

Speakers

April Roberts

Co-founder of NOMOS Marketing

Tyler Roberts

Co-founder of NOMOS Marketing

Kelly Rider Goodwin

Founder of Rider Goodwin Law


INTRODUCTION

MADDY MARTIN, HEAD OF GROWTH AND EDUCATION AT SMITH.AI:

I'm excited to introduce our panelists today. Kelly Rider Goodwin and April and Tyler Roberts of NOMOS Marketing

Kelly, could you introduce yourself and just speak to the networking and referral marketing experience that you have, and how has that played a role in your business growth?

KELLY RIDER GOODWIN, FOUNDER OF RIDER GOODWIN LAW:

Yeah, of course. And thank you again for having me. 

I'm Kelly Rider Goodwin. I'm a practicing attorney. I own and manage a law firm in Denver, Colorado, where we exclusively practice family law so just divorce and child custody cases. 

My practice really is built all on referral marketing

My— I’ve had the practice — it will be six years in December, which sounds crazy when you say it that way, but I— originally my background is from legal aid so that I couldn't take any clients with me. I had to really just start from nothing, and we really do get our best and almost all of our clients from referral marketing.

I do think that in at least the practice of law, that's one of the things that I don't really think is going to change, but how we do it is going to change, but I don't think the premise of it will. 

So, I'm a member of companies that, you know, organizations, and we've built a successful law practice here in Colorado, just from referrals.

MADDY:

Yeah, and we should touch on some of the organizations that you're in. I think that has the application to a lot of business owners, law firm owners, EO among them, I know there is one that we've talked about before. 

April and Tyler, please introduce yourself and NOMOS Marketing. 

APRIL ROBERTS, CO-FOUNDER OF NOMOS MARKETING:

Hey all of you, thanks so much for having us, Maddy.

We're April and Tyler Roberts. We are co-founders of NOMOS Marketing, so we're a full-service marketing agency built specifically for lawyers. 

So Tyler's a former lawyer. I am not, but I say we were married when he was in law school, so I feel like I was part of it, like at his graduation. I don't know if they said this at any of you, but they were like, “Spouses stand up,” and I was so proud cause I was like, “Yes!” Like we went through this together. 

So, yeah, I mean, we work with clients all over the country. We're actually based in Charleston, South Carolina, but I recently moved from San Diego. So we still have our office there. We're kind of bicoastal now. 

And, yeah, I mean, we're really excited for this conversation and, we have a lot of tips and tricks and I think for us, especially growing our marketing agency, we've done a lot with referrals, but also bringing in marketing that helps to support that as well.

So we're really excited to kind of share tips and tricks for what's worked for our clients, but also what's worked for us. 

MADDY:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that there are sort of best practices that you take with you, whatever your businesses or whatever your client's businesses because there's sort of underlying principles that really just get at the root of being human and the nature of relationships and the investment in them that pays off.

And a lot of it just has to do with being genuine. 

I will, before we get fully into the questions – we've got several teed up for our panelist, introduce Smith.ai and why we're presenting this today. We're a virtual receptionist service. We answer calls, chats, texts, and Facebook messages for small businesses, many of whom are our lawyers and law firms, solo and small practices up to more medium-sized enterprises

And we see the power of networking at work every day for our clients. And we also know that the timeliness of this webinar, you know, we are amides COVID right now and there is limited cash. And what do you do when you're limited on cash? You cash in on your time? 

So there is a lot of emphasis right now on where can you bring value to your business? Where can you exercise control within your business and referrals, strategies that work that are systematic? 

I think Kelly has seen systematic referral and networking opportunities with her practice and her involvement in local communities and groups.

We're going to be talking about all of these things that sort of bring back the control to you, and that's such an empowering feeling right now when the world is sort of tumbling through and each day, who knows what it will bring. 

There's a very satisfying feeling that it is completely up to you and your resources to support your business growth through really effective networking and referral marketing.

So, I think we have to fulfill our promise of the title, debunking some myths. So let's start there. 

What are some common networking myths, Kelly, that you see and you see in the events that you're in, maybe in person and even online in your day-to-day networking activities? 

COMMON NETWORKING MYTHS

KELLY:

Yeah, I do think it's similar, but also different when we're talking about in-person versus virtual events.

But I do think one of the biggest ones is the whole adage about if you give out business cards and that kind of ties back into your control. 

I remember graduating law school, and they didn't teach us how to network or that what they taught us was to go to these BAR events and give out your business cards well, and in truth, that doesn't work.

So I think that's one of the biggest myths. 

I also think another one, which I'm so curious to hear about, kind of, what April talks about, about like, if you build it, they will come.

And I think there's an adage in the practice of law that if you're a good lawyer and you do good work, the clients will find you and I think we can all agree that's not true

It really is about being active, and Maddy, I think your point about being in control is really important. 

We talked to our clients about the focus on what you can control, and that really is true in networking.

So for me, those are, I think, the two biggest ones are that give out your business cards, and you'll form this great referral relationship.

And then the second one is if you're a great lawyer, your clients will find you, and your referral partners will find you if you're a great lawyer. 

And those two just aren't true. 

MADDY:

Yeah, that's a great point about also being discoverable to your referral partners because those relationships, I mean, when we get to the heart of referral marketing, you know, investing in those relationships that are fruitful — that's a great use of time. 

If you know how to develop those relationships, you don't even have to worry so much about the direct one-to-one potential client, really through your nurturing as well. You had sort of your team out there, stumping for you.

So April and Tyler, you know, what do you think are some of the common myths we need to debunk? 

TYLER ROBERTS, CO-FOUNDER OF NOMOS MARKETING:

So I'm laughing because we wrote down literally the exact same thing. 

So I think for us, there's kind of that idea of you can't just show up to an event and hand out a business card. It's not that transactional.

It's about building those relationships. It’s about being genuine, like you're saying, and bringing that human element to the practice of law and into your practice. 

My academic advisor back in college used to say, “It's not what you know; it’s not who, it's what people know about you.”

And so finding a way to position your personal brand, in front of those referral partners, potential referral partners, at different events, whether that's through speaking engagements, whether that's through just going there and, volunteering your time or engaging with people, through a panel or a queue and a panel, that sort of thing. 

Those are all things you can do to kind of elevate your law firm in one of those networking settings as opposed to just attending, handing out those business cards, and kind of moving on. 

The other myth is, you know, kind of just, build it, and they all come.

I think there's a myth, especially with digital marketing, that if you just build a website and you build a click funnel campaign, and you hit go, then you're going to get clients on-demand, and you're going to be fine. And that's how you're going to build your law firm. 

I think the most successful law firms are the ones that recognize that referrals are going to be your strongest pipeline for new cases.

I mean, there's just absolutely no denying that. 

So when it comes to networking and referral marketing, I think it's the flip side of that, too — so getting out there, putting your face out there, shaking hands, getting to know people, and then using your online presence to really validate, people's decisions to give you a call and to stay connected with your referral pipeline as well.

MADDY:

Yeah, you bring up a really good point there. 

One of the things that we see often is that in the Clio Legal Trends report, for example, there was a lot of data around the lack of responsiveness leading to losing business, and also that referrals are validated online, as you just said.

Clio Legal Trends Report shows there is a mismatch of expectations between lawyers and clients

So people are taking referrals with a grain of salt before they validate them online through the reviews. Well, did that person engage with that law firm or business quite a long time ago, and that referral is stale? Or needs to be sort of confirmed with real-time data? What’s the latest Google review say? What is the website saying that they are still serving these practice areas? And am I still in the right, sort of, camp or the market as a consumer? 

NETWORKING TIPS

What are some of the ways, though — so speaking about networking events, you brought up a really good point, Tyler, about speaking and being on stage.

I know Kelly is a leader in many organizations and a speaker and very comfortable in the spotlight. 

Maybe it's not commonly seen as a networking tactic to be an educator or on a panel. 

But one of the things that I have seen at events is that being on the panel actually attracts people to you after, and you have to do less sort of outreach, hands-out trying to introduce yourself to people; they'll sort of come to you. 

It's almost unintuitively the introvert's method of being the speaker and then bringing people to you so you don't have to be so sort of outbound. 

How do you break into that sort of networking through your organizations or maybe a bar association or professional groups like to be a panelist, to invite the spotlight that actually helps you build your network? And Kelly, I’d love to hear your thoughts after Tyler and April, too.

TYLER:

So I think that lawyers sometimes get in their heads that they have to attend, like, legal events with other professionals, right, that where they can hand out their business cards. 

I think there are many other organizations, especially local ones, that are kind of starved for thought leadership, especially when it comes to having a lawyer involved. 

So one of the examples that we were going to give today was with one of our clients, Jen Longtin, out of Denver, Colorado. Her criminal defense practice has focused exclusively on mental health criminal defense.

So they work with defendants who have mental health issues rather than going and fighting for speaking positions at the bar, which she gets plenty of – she does CLE all the time with them — she's involved with local mental health organizations as a board member, also as a volunteer, and as a speaker, someone who regularly contributes to those organizations.

So thinking about some other organizations, whether it's a non-profit, it could be even a church you're involved with, just getting in front of people and having those leadership positions is a lot easier said than done. 

I think a lot of times, we look at like ABA tech show, for example, or Clio.

Kind of like, how do I get to be a speaker at one of those events? 

And yeah, that's a great goal to have, but I think if you start small and start local, there's a lot of opportunities out there to reach your target market. 

MADDY:

Yeah, and I think if you're not necessarily a very experienced speaker to the point where you have strong speaker resume, it also feels— I know personally, for me when I started speaking, more comfortable to be at a smaller event and then to fumble your way through a couple of little small events, and then you get on the big stage.

And that can be a way also to establish your rapport and your referrals actually for you as panelists are speakers at some of those larger events. 

So Kelly, I mean, you're a leader in your community. Like how are you finding that? You know, being a speaker and educator has impacted your networking?

KELLY:

Yeah. It really kind of goes back to what was mentioned before about this, like, one-to-many model versus the one-to-one. 

Certainly, the one-to-one is important, and you kind of have to do both. 

And when we talk about leveraging your time, we really have found success being on a panel or just being a speaker or speaking with somebody else really does elevate and leverage your expertise.

And so you now become the expert in the room, and we really find success in those companion organizations. 

So Tyler kind of mentioned that. So we often sponsor, if not being also, a panelist at the ADR conference in Colorado because mediators are a great cross-referral source for us. And so it's a really welcoming audience, we have a lot in common, and because about 75% of cases in the state of Colorado don't have a lawyer, but they're all ordered to mediation, so it's a really great opportunity for us. 

Another great opportunity that we've seen a lot of success with is Denver Startup Week. And that's when you get business owners, and I know being a divorce attorney that might sound weird, but a lot of people, particularly in Colorado, don't understand what happens when a divorce happens in a business and how, or when a divorce happens with a business owner, how does that work? 

So we have a lot of success in that community, as a business owner myself, and talking about topical things that they all need.

So we really do— I mean, it's so funny that you said Maddy that I'm experienced. I will tell you, I mean, I even get nervous before webinars. I mean, but having a room in front of people, it is very overwhelming, but it really does leverage you as the expert in the room. 

It's so much easier to talk to people or start conversations that way.

And it really does leverage your time about one to many and getting in front of people that may not be the audience that your competitor is trying to get in. 

And so there's less competition, and yet you've just elevated yourself and so you're highly more likely to have a referral partner or referrals themselves.

MADDY:

I think you bring up such a good point, Kelly, about the competition. And like, there is always this sort of icky feeling when you bring up that c-word where it's like, “Oh, we don't talk about that. Is that because I don't really like to think of myself or someone who has competitors or I'm not a competitive person,” I mean, I relate to that.

And I think a lot of our clients relate to that. 

It's Smith.ai who say like, “I'm just good at this thing, and I like to do it. And I don't really want to think of competitors in the marketplace.” 

It sort of gives you a little bit of that stomach churn, where I’m not aggressive, a business owner like that, but what's really nice about the speaking opportunities that you're all highlighting is that it establishes credibility, it makes you very approachable, and it's nonthreatening. 

So when we talk about, sort of debunking these networking myths, I think one of the biggest myths or even real feelings that people have, often I, same as you, Kelly, when I first started speaking, I had to have a podium to anchor myself and not shake onstage.

And a lot of us have similar stories. 

What's really nice is that these sort of connecting events allow you to establish yourself, get comfortable with your voice and how you talk about the areas you're an expert in because you may also not be used to talking about them. You may just do them, right? 

So that's a whole other skill set where to Tyler’s point, you start small, you do some of these events.

But one of the best ways to build up your sort of speaker comfort is also to mingle into being forced to have those elevator speeches and those sort of uncomfortable conversations that your family's probably so tired of you trying to practice on them and talking about work. 

And you can't just do it in the grocery store, right, or at a parent-teacher meeting, like, you know? 

Where is there a tolerance for you to have all these conversations? It's often at these events. 

Now, the question then comes to, all right: those events right now are not happening as frequently, if at all, depending on where you live, so what happens online? 

You know, LinkedIn, let's talk about Facebook, let's talk about Twitter, even Instagram

Tyler, I know this is an area that you're really passionate about. We'll start with you. 

Is networking actually a thing on these channels, and can we sort of go one by one with the top four and say, what does it look like in these places?

NETWORKING TIPS AMONGST COVID

TYLER:

Yeah, absolutely. 

So I think consumers and individuals have been doing this for years already and they're way ahead of lawyers. 

When it comes to networking online, it really just comes down to engagement.

So, you can have a profile on all of these different platforms, and you can create tons of content, visual content, video content, written content, what have you, but if you’re not engaging with other people on this platform, you're not going to get traction. 

Smith.ai example of responsiveness with a Facebook comment

(Example from Smith.ai's Facebook page on online engagement.)

Time and time again, we see lawyers that spin up an Instagram profile, for example, and they post maybe ten things to get a couple of likes, and they say it doesn't work for them. Same thing with LinkedIn or Facebook, and really what we try to encourage our clients to find a platform that you can own, and that can be Facebook, it could be LinkedIn, it could be Instagram or Twitter, or what have you. 

And we'll be there to support you with different types of content, but really look at ways in which you can start to interact with other users.

Because the content is great, that’s one part of contributing to those platforms. But the other part is commenting on other people's posts, sharing those posts, highlighting what other people in the community are doing.

I even see direct messages saying, “Hey, love that last video you did.” 

Those simple things that you do can really start to make connections online, and I'm not going to say it will completely replace what you do in person and in real life. 

But I think especially if you're serving a larger demographic area or virtual already, it's a great way to have a happy hour in one city and then jump over and interact with someone in a completely different city and you're sitting on your couch. It’s a great way to network.

It's a great way to just kind of tap people on the shoulder and says, “Hey, come check me out.” 

And the one thing I was telling April last night when we were preparing for this, I was like, “How many times have you seen someone comment on a post on Facebook, right?”

And you click on that and you see an attorney at this law firm, you click on that law firm's profile, then you go, and you check out the website. I mean, I did that all the time. 

And I know that other attorneys are doing it too. And that's a great example of how just commenting and interacting online can start to generate some traffic to your website and interest in your practice.

MADDY:

Yeah, and I think that, you know, when you start talking about online profiles, you can't ignore the fact that you often have your own personal profile attached. 

So there is an aspect of personal branding here. 

Is there an audit or review or sort of analysis that you should undertake if you're about to expose your personal Facebook profile and Twitter?

I mean, LinkedIn, I think there's less risky stuff on LinkedIn, but there are some things, probably photos that your friends have posted on Facebook. 

Are there certain settings you should be aware that you actually advise your clients to do? If they're going to engage in social media marketing in this way?

APRIL:

I mean, we don't really tell them what they should do with their personal profile. I think it's more about leaning in to who you are. 

And for us, like, we've been very true to ourselves as we built our business. 

And for me, I've never shared anything, and maybe because I grew up when I remember being in college and social media was becoming big, and it was like, “Okay, don't post this from that sorority party because like you could get in trouble for this and all, like that was just like, you've probably been doing it for a while now.”

MADDY:

You’ve probably been doing it for awhile now, right. Already, you’d know about this. Right.

APRIL:

Right. I mean, I think like for me, I have, like, back in college, like, albums run like fraternity and sorority mixers, hidden, not for any reason other than like that's just not part of my life now. That was from a decade ago, and that's just not what I do. 

So yeah, I mean, I think that's a really good point and something that people should definitely be thinking of when they're really opening themselves up. 

But yeah, I think like, definitely be true to yourself and, you know, I think for us, it's really about leaning into who we are and like, we love posting fun memes like, that's all, we'll be sitting next to each other on the couch, and we're like sending things back and forth. 

And so, like, share those, do things that are fun for you. And I think that really helps in creating your personal brand.

MADDY:

So yeah, expressing your personality is so key.

TYLER:

I was just going to piggyback off of that because we have a client that we've been doing social media for a couple of years now. And we're posting high-quality posts designed by our design team, and they look great. 

But then, during quarantine, he started to post pictures of his avocado farm and engagement skyrocketed from that.

And so it's the whole idea of finding those authentic photos and not being afraid to share what you're doing on the weekends. 

And I think it's good to have a mix, both the personal and the professional. 

And if you want to have it separated, that's fine too. Just understand: your personal one should be used for networking, the professional one should be used for disseminating legal information and information about your firm. 

MADDY:

That makes a lot of sense. 

Kelly, I'd love to hear your thoughts on, especially, one thing I'll say specifically here is also, you know, we're talking with April and Tyler, who owned their own marketing agency, and then Kelly, whose name is on her law firm.

Kelley Rider Goodwin's networking example on LinkedIn

(Example from Kelley Rider Goodwin's LinkedIn page of social media networking.)

So in the solo, small business realm, this is especially relevant. 

So Kelly, how has your personal name and brand tied together there, influenced how you're personally using social media and feeling like, always a representative of your company, whether you like it or not maybe.

KELLY:

Yes, I'm going to date myself totally. 

So, Facebook came out in my fifth year of college. So it was not a conversation in my story about what we were posting online because it didn't exist. But I will say, this is a really important kind of topic for me and Maddy, you kind of hit the nail on the head.

My name is on the door and I am a big proponent of how you show up is really important and for right or for wrong. I think it's more than 67% of how we communicate is nonverbal communication

And that includes how you show up, right?

And in the kind of the online space it really is, and my perspective, and how I approach it is, “No, this is really, you are who you are everywhere you are.” 

So like, for example, I'm from Texas, and I went to school in the South. And so I do not leave my house without some makeup on and being done, and it drives my husband crazy, but I will also tell you that I run into people all the time, and so I am me everywhere. 

Well, people don't necessarily compartmentalize that. And so I am a big proponent of being conscious of that. 

For right or for wrong, people make split judgment decisions on what they see you doing online or in public, and so being mindful of that. I think, is really important.

For example, we don't have any clients coming into our office at this point, but I have a pretty strict dress code. And that's because people make decisions about lawyers’ capabilities based on what we're wearing. And I think that's silly, but that's what happens. 

But I will say, so I'm taking like, ‘cause I think April and Tyler are great and I'm taking all these notes. And I was like, “Oh, shoot. I should probably go back and look at my really old, personal profile stuff from, like, way back when I was like, ‘Ooh, I haven't looked at that in a while. I should probably go dig in.’ ”

MADDY:

People will dig in. People will dig into your background, right? 

Yeah, and I think that, Kelly, you bring up such a good point here and it actually tees up another question for April and Tyler, that you probably have examples of yourself. I think you bring up such a good point that you are who you are who you are.

There is no differentiating.

You don't get a pass if you've had a bad day and you're yelling in the grocery store, that's your potential client or referral partner who you maybe just shoot out of the produce aisle. 

I think that even if you don't have a goal for networking or referral marketing or how it's going to specifically impact your business’ growth. 

And April and Tyler, we’ll talk about that later, what are the actual measurable effects of this? And can you set goals against it? Yes, you can. 

But I think that, even if you don't have a clear objective in mind, If you are a small business owner, you're running an operation. No one can afford in this day and age to shoot themselves in the foot or limit their opportunities based on reputation or interactions in our community alone.

And I think that there does come the point where, if you have certain passions that come out publicly, whether they be political or municipal or whatever the case is in your community, if you choose to stump for something, you know, then that has to be something that you understand and own as part of your brand, as part of anything that you touch.

And there are different comfort levels there, too. 

Some people are very outspoken, who say “I own this business. And I also choose to have those be business values of mine, in addition to personal values.”

But whether or not you say it so explicitly, people will already tie those together. 

So the question that I have for you, April and Tyler, is so important that you maintain consistency with your personal presence. What does that look like in terms of working with an agency where let's say you're supporting through content, social media, website content? 

There needs to be a real sort of seamless approach between the content that Kelly's going to organically share and the content that your agency or any agency is going to create for you to approximate what you would have created if you have the bandwidth to do it, right?

An agency is there to augment your company in very broad strokes. 

How do you stay consistent with this personality that we're talking about? 

TYLER:

Yeah, I think that's the challenge for any agency that's worth anything. 

And the one thing that we always tell prospective clients is that we are not a check the box marketing agency. We don’t have systems set up that we can just plug and play law firms 'cause we know, that doesn't work for everyone. 

Really what we do and what our process is designed to do, is to get to know our clients well and to really understand, kind of, their mission and their vision as well as, kind of, like what their interest is.

We like to say that we're making the law more human and really, what that means is that we're trying to personalize everything that we're doing for our clients so that way, people get to know them that they feel like it's a less intimidating thing to pick up a phone call and call a lawyer.

And so for us, it really boils down to having a really strong on-boarding process that asks them some really pointed questions about who you are and what you want to accomplish, and who you serve. 

And really what that allows us to do is to start the relationship on the right foot, where everyone on our team has that internalized, someone who's working on a social media campaign can go and look at that on-boarding document, someone who's doing pay-per-click and look at that on-boarding document.

And what we love to do is take a client from branding through website development and then into, like ongoing services, because the branding portion of that is so important. 

And I think a lot of attorneys often overlook it. I think that a lot of times, they jumped straight into building their website and logo aside. I think there's a lot that goes into building a brand, really defining the vision of the law firm, defining the mission, the core values. 

We love to come up with taglines for our clients, and yeah, these aren't this kind of like the run of the mill cheesy taglines that you might see on a billboard.

They really try to get to the heart of what that attorney's trying to do. 

And so it may not necessarily be an outward-looking statement. It could be more inward for the attorney. But it's kind of a guiding light for our team as we're building out content. 

When we're trying to figure out how to bring someone's personality to the forefront, I think it goes back to what we said earlier: you can't hide behind a computer and click a few buttons and hope to get cases.

You still have to put yourself out there. 

And just like Kelly was saying, it's like, you want to have that, I want to say, public persona. Cause it's not like we're famous walking around town, as attorneys, but this idea of when you interact with me in person, and you interact with me online, you're going to get that same experience.

NOMOS Marketing's social media example

(Example from NOMOS Marketing's Instagram account of consistent online and in-person interactions.)

I think that's something that we've had to learn a lot as an agency.

‘Cause I mean, we're two years, and now we’re going into our third year. And what we've learned is the more that we're able to replicate the conversations that we have in real life online, the better we are at converting website traffic, you know, people who are coming in through those other forms of marketing. They just get to know us a little bit better.

And so that's something that we've been improving and something that we've been internalizing for a lot of our clients as well.

MADDY:

And I think actually, just as a side note, as someone who has a content background myself, we talk about SEO as always a part of the marketing conversation, not normally part of a networking conversation, but there is a connection there, which is that the natural language of these conversations and the words that people use, you know. 

You're not highlighting a certain keyword, “car wreck” versus “car accident” versus “car damage”, whatever, the problem is that you just focus too much on the keyword and you need to zoom out into the situation. 

And when you have these conversations about the practice of law, or what is the practice of any professional business services specifically, if you get into the storytelling and you demonstrate experience and the sort of mindset that goes right behind it, and you convey those values you're describing brands, then you do two things. 

One, you speak in the target audience language, which is really effective. It's also super effective for referral marketing because oftentimes, the referral partners are outside of your industry. 

Think about chiropractors and medical and healthcare professionals. If you're PI, personal injury, you need to be able to say things to pair it then back to internalize and repeat to their audience. 

So if you're saying things that are too sort of professorial, then they're not going to be able to do anything with that. 

And it's the same way with where we see organic search headed. It’s very conversational, it's very sort of common language. 

So if you've been approaching your website content and your social media, that's not the way that a human normally speaks, it's not the way that you would see spoken or written on Facebook so as you connect your personal brand, your website, are you consistent and authentic across all these channels? That more informal language? 

It seems like it continues whereas before maybe just in a networking event, actually directly onto your website content, it can be your next blog post. You can take these conversations from whether it's a Zoom meeting or in-person happy hour and turn them into well, what were the questions that people ask me?

I'm going to write down those five questions that I heard most often, and I'm going to turn them into blog posts. And then you create the cycle of another way that that networking is working for you. 

TYLER:

Right. I think we get so hung up on channels as attorneys that we say the channel that brings in business. Is it going to be Facebook? Is it going to be SEO? Do I need to do pay-per-click ads? 

But I think if you go back to the heart of it, like you're saying, it's all about who you are, and it's all about doing a good job for your clients, and I think on top of that, it's about having something to say, right?

You have to figure out what makes you different. What makes you stand out from your competitors? 

And you need to find your own unique voice where your law firm can hand you a microphone and pitch on the busiest corner in your market, but, if you’re just standing their with a microphone is in your hand, and you're just saying, Hey, I'm a good attorney, here are my latest cases of all, come hire me,” no one's going to listen, no one's going to be captivated by that. 

So, if we are arguing FAQs or blog posts or social media posts, threading in the story of your law firm and capturing that human side of it and telling people why you care about them, why do you care about their situation? Why did you even decide to become a lawyer in the first place? 

These are all things that you can kind of thread in through your marketing.

And I think that goes back to how you interact with people one-on-one; I think one of the things we were talking about was always marketing or always networking.

I think that transactional experience that people used to have where it's like, here's a business card, give me yours back, it’s like a one for one type of deal that’s no longer relevant. And I think when it comes to digital marketing, it’s the same way.

You got to get away from that transactional language, that transactional voice, and appeal more towards your referral partners, your former clients, your current clients, colleagues, telling them about what you do, but do it in a way that will be engaging and that’s going to actually compare. 

MADDY:

Yeah, I think you also bring up a really good point. You were saying, you can put anyone on the street corner, give them a megaphone, but I mean, Kelly, I'm sure you also know this, and you were saying this just a few minutes ago, are really about the golden rule. 

You didn't say it exactly that way, but you were getting at it where you are. Showing generosity with your own partners and giving first and then, knowing and having the faith that you'll get second.

And like that is something, when we look at the marketing funnel, and we talk about the touch points and the nurturing, “Oh, how many times do you need to reach out to a lead?”. 

It sort of becomes more than the networking side of, how many times have you given advice or guidance, not even legal advice. Still, just, this program, this case management system works for me, or here's why I like this or that, or here's why I use my calendaring system, some offering of expert advice that helps appear in your network, do that several times and then expect sort of the return to come. 

And I think that, if you have the approach, I'm selling and handing out my business card, I want, I want, I want– I need everyone to understand me, then you miss the opportunity to listen and to get in the good graces of people, by just sort of being there and present.

And we see that on Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups all the time. Are you in the group to promote yourself? Or are you in the group more as a mentor mindset? 

I mean, we're even seeing Facebook creating a mentor persona now because they see these people in their right interacting in the groups this way.

You can call yourself a mentor and make yourself available for advice. 

Kelly, what role has that had, and have you always sort of had that mindset in being generous with your time and spirit for others? Or was that something that you sort of like came into overtime? 

SERVING CLIENTS

KELLY:

Yeah that’s a great question. I was thinking, a lot of stuff, like just kind of putting this together and thinking about the questions and then listening. 

One of the things that when we talk about authenticity, right, and finding our own voice, I mean in the beginning, and kind of to your question, I mean, I threw everything on the lawn, just saw it stuck.

I could tell you it wasn't very effective or efficient, except that I figured out what works for me and what doesn't work for me. 

And one of the things that definitely did not work is in the very beginning, speaking of, like, past or prior agency work, I worked with one of the big law firm marketers and it was not my voice, and they pushed divorce and all that stuff. And it just wasn't my voice. 

I mean, when you talk to me or my staff about why we do what we do and how we do it, it is very consistent because it's authentic and we don’t want people to get a divorce. 

And so we talk a lot about family focus and co-parenting, and, like, that family unit.

And if people get divorced, or they have a custody issue, then we hope you think of me, you know.

To answer your question about mentorship, I think it always has kind of been there, and it comes and goes, I think, throughout my life. 

And I can think of times when it just kind of happened again. And I feel like I'm in that kind of moment again in my legal career.

You mentioned EO, entrepreneurs organization, and it is about helping business owners scale and grow.

And most of them are not lawyers, and I'm the chair of the accelerator program in Colorado. 

And I get so much value out of helping other people. 

There's a great book, "The Go-Giver", that talks about you helping other people, and it will come back, and I was struggling with this during COVID. Well, I know we're still in COVID, but during the shelter in place, we sheltered in place since March and were there through the beginning of June. 

And so it was, if I don't have a direct referral, how do I still add value to my network? It was just like connections and going back to the basics of, how can I help you? Who is a great connection for you, even though I may not have a direct client right now? 

Because we're all kind of hunkered down. 

Now's the time to, like, build those.

And I remember talking to my business coach about the energy of sending out 12 connection emails. It was so exciting, which sounds super dorky, but it was really exciting.

I felt like, “Okay. Like, I don't have a referral for you right now, but hopefully, this new relationship will turn into bajillion referrals.” So it was like, how can I help you? 

And sometimes I think I overextend myself, which is a fine thing, but I get so much energy out of it.

It's just like, I don't see it as extra work or more work or whatever, but it's fun. I mean, it's fun to talk about business. It's fun to talk about what you're doing or not doing. 

I mean, going back to that word, “competitors”, I'm always curious about what somebody else is doing. Not necessarily because I want to replicate it, but I'm just curious to see.

Is that working? How is it not working? Can I tweak that to my brand? 

Like maybe it's something I'd never thought about. And maybe someone in a different industry is doing something that I can mimic. 

Like that's why we host these webinars because we want everyone to just sort of come together and hear across the aisle what people are doing.

MADDY:

And you've got that listening mindset. And I think that's what it comes down to. 

Are you in tune? That is networking in a nutshell. Are you listening first, or are you trying to be the loudest and get your word out? Do you know? 

KELLY:

Yeah. I mean, I joked about how many like notes I'm taking. But it's true because I'm like, there is something that I can learn or tweak or get better at, and coming at it as this is an opportunity, everything's an opportunity. 

And so not having that scarcity mindset and there is, from a lawyer’s perspective, there is enough business for us all, it's really talking about getting to your ideal client, working with the people you want to serve, and getting them just to see the value in your services. 

There’s enough business for us all and we can learn from each other. 

We don't have to be in competition with each other, whatever, you know, potentially negative word we want to use. So, you know, I get kind of dorky about it.

MADDY:

I completely understand. I think we all here are in the same mindset. 

I just, with the amount of time that we have lost, I want to make sure that we hit on, you know, two subjects.

GAINING REVIEWS AND REFERRALS

One is reviews, and I've always sort of seen reviews as one-to-many referrals, you know. 

It's sort of this evergreen public-facing referral where your positive reviews here have a huge lasting impact and validation for the referrals that come in. 

What is a strategic approach or tactic, Tyler and April, that you can take to stand out, maybe from the competition, to establish even a new brand and maintain a brand that's been around that sort of needs to maintain its reputation?

APRIL:

Yeah, that's a great question. And I think it's definitely one of the biggest things we talk about with clients.

‘Cause, yeah, like we were saying earlier, many people just check the boxes, and then we'll go and look at their Google My Business profile. And there's maybe one review or, if even, and I think the biggest thing is to set realistic goals of starting adding those reviews.

I mean, you can't go from like zero to a hundred in a month, like that's going to be difficult. And that's also going to drain you personally, trying to reach out to those people

So what I like to recommend that clients do is that they set a realistic goal for, say, once a month, you're going to check in on this or every quarter.

We like doing things in quarters. I think it makes it a lot easier and also, bake into your process. And, so you do not have to sit down for two hours, one day and just request review requests, review, wait until you get to a place where, you know, you're done with X, Y, and Z, and that's the place where you can bake it into your process, that you're going to ask for a review.

And I also think, like, for clients, make it easy for them to leave you a review

Many people will send like ten links of all the places to leave a review. Like, Google My business is not going to happen. 

And like, literally, I get things like that. I'm like, I can't deal with that cause it annoyed me. 

So it's like, as for Google My Business review, hyperlink it like Google My Business. You can get the link where you put it in the email; someone clicks on it, it pops it right up. They may have to sign in to their Gmail if they're not automatically signed in, but make it super simple for them.

And I always, like, when we ask for reviews, I like to do something funny. Like, I crack jokes all the time. So I'll put something funny in the subject line or something like that. 

Also, like when you're working with your team, I think it is also important to incentivize your team to ask for those reviews.

So I know with our business partners, we were trying to get reviews. I used to be their head of account management for another vertical that they have with a dentist. And so they said, “Okay if we get them 50 reviews, we'll go on a wine tasting day.” 

You better believe I asked for every review that I could ‘cause I was like, “I'm going on that day.”

So do something that's going to incentivize your team to ask for that

And then you're going to look back a year from now and say, “Oh wow, I'm competing with that person that I thought there was no way I could compete with,”  because you've set attainable goals and you've taken those steps to make it easy for you to get there.

MADDY:

And I think that you bring up a really good point that centers around LinkedIn habits. So it may be a good habit. 

I generally asked for your NPS score, your net promoter score, and how happy were they with you and that sort of internal. Maybe they were or weren't happy, but that's not something you need to put public-facing.

And then, the people who say they were happy, that's an easy indicator for who to reach out to, after the engagement is over, right. Just say, “Would you mind posting a review here?” 

If your Google My Business is sort of filling up, lovely, and you want to pay more attention to a Facebook review or just dedicated to your website.

Example of a review left for Kelley Rider Goodwin on Facebook

(Example of a gleaming review left on Rider Goodwin Law Offices LLC's Facebook page.)

You can redirect that approach to the channel that needs the most love. 

But, sort of coming to the end of our conversation today, I think that measuring the impact and the return on investment on these networking efforts, on the referrals in general, brand building.

I'll start with Kelly actually, ‘cause I'm interested in her perspective at the law firm level. Then we'll go to April and Tyler again. 

KELLY:

Is this about perspective, about reviews in general or—? 

MADDY:

Or perspective about actually— so the reviews, but the impact of your efforts and measuring, like, if you've ever sort of taken the historical perspective and said, “Wow. I started to do more with EO, or I started to do more with particular networking groups, or effort program.”

IMPACT OF MARKETING EFFORTS

I saw this impact, and I can directly tie it back to that ‘cause I think we are sort of reluctant to invest time and money in things that are unlike an advertising campaign, which can be harder to sort of track. 

So if you have any thoughts on that, and then, I know that, you know, April and Tyler have some strong thoughts on that.

KELLY:

A couple of things come to mind. 

So we, as a firm, have KPIs or key performance indicators, and getting reviews is part of our metrics that we measure, and we do put it in the process. 

We have a template, and we have everything, but I will say I'm going to go back and look at our template and see if we need to make it simpler.

So it is something that we look at, and particularly at the end of Q2, we did, internally, a really big push about checking in with past clients, checking in with potential new clients who were in our pipeline, but hadn't said no — they weren't disqualified for other reasons and really being intentional about that.

And, I was reminded by two very simple thoughts that are not earth-shattering, but it's always great when they remind you. 

And one is just consistency, right, and like doing something over and over in that compounding effect. And the other is what you focus on multiplies

And so, sitting down and being intentional and consistent with your time. It does work, and it's just kind of keeping the ball and that momentum going, and referrals are one of those. 

I should say reviews are one of those. It's tough. It's also really tough when you get, from the rules of ethics and you get a not kind review, and Colorado came out about a year ago that we could say a little bit more, but it's tough because you want to sit down as a lawyer and say, “That's not true, that's not what happened, but we can't cause attorney-client privilege.”

It is about really trying to get those positive reviews and being intentional and talking to your team about why this is important. 

It's important because even though we have a great sales quote-unquote “sales team” in the community that talks about and knows what we do, people validate online. 

And so we do have to put a focus on it, and so it is about being consistent, measuring it. What is there, how much effort did you put out of it and put in, and then what'd you get out of it. 

But it takes time, but if you do it in small chunks, right? Like if you are consistent about it, not sitting down, like what April said and make like a bit, four hours of calls and like, right, and then it's just like, then you're going to drop off again your second net total. 

And then you're going to be in the same back place in the next quarter because you didn't do anything over the last 13 weeks. 

So it is about consistency and just putting the focus on it, and it will happen. 

And also if you get like— I mean, April and Tyler probably know this better than I do, but if you get a hundred reviews in a month, Google and the powers that be are, like, “Hmm, what's going on here?”

MADDY:

You have to pace yourself — the same thing with a hundred blog posts in a month. So that's a really good point, Kelly. 

And I also think that when you have those reviews, specifically waiting for the legal profession, no matter what state you're in, you do have to be thoughtful around, like, a loss of control and what happens in your ability to sort of mitigating like that impact of the negative review. 

If you've got one, and that's another reason to always have that cycle running so that you don't fear a negative review because you know that positive reviews are flowing in all the time. 

And again, these things take time. 

It's also about the client volume that you have; you're not possibly going to ask for more views than the work that's going through your doors.

You have to set reasonable and achievable goals. 

And one of the things, if you don't already do it, is to ask how people heard about you

I mean, we do this at Smith.ai. We will ask them, every person, whether it's from a phone call or text or chat or email, we will say, how did you hear about us?

And we know that about 50% of our clients come from referrals, and then another huge percent are coming from review sites.

So those we consider, that's sort of like a referral. 

Five-star review left for Smith.ai

(Example of one of many five-star reviews left by a satisfied Smith.ai client.)

It's a happy client who is stating that publicly. And, and that is very good, powerful. It also is reinforcing to your referral partners because it's really important and that they have a brand that they feel they're not the only ones who feel strongly and positively for.

It's sort of like the consensus, and that only gives you a stronger brand to go out and say, “Hey, we'd like to make sure that we maintain this relationship.” 

So, April and Tyler, any final thoughts around measuring the impact of this work? And, even though it is a long game, like how long, the way can you indicate if your networking and referral efforts are working?

TYLER:

This is challenging for pretty much any business, which is attribution for networking and referral-based marketing, finding the source of the new client or the new customer, and understanding either time, resources, or money that went into generating that new lead.

And then, also assessing the lifetime value of that new client or customer. 

And so one thing that you can do, and this is— it's kind of like a little more practical how-to tip is, let's say that you do go to an event and you collect business cards from that event, and let's say you don't sponsor, there's no financial investment, but that's like an hour of your time.

Think about how much your hour is worth. What do you bill for that? 

And then go back through those cards. 

And then if you have a CRM or any sort of like sales management tool, tag people from that event when you're putting them in. 

NOMOS Marketing's example of instagram networking and tagging

(Example from NOMOS Marketing's Instagram account of tagging people from events.)

That way, every time you get a referral for a new client from someone that you had met at that event, you can say, "Okay, from that one event, I got two or three new clients, and that could be a year down the road."

It might not be immediate, but you can say for that one hour, I could generate three new clients from there. I think if you're looking at finances, I mean, I'll give you an example of what we've done. 

We've sponsored a local group called Atlanta Legal Tech because of our financial contribution to the organization, we've had an opportunity to speak at the event.

We've been able to network with our quote-unquote “competitors”. 

But then, we'd love to speak, but also other people, other people in the space too. Okay. 

And what's great is we've been able to speak to everyone from that group, as someone from Atlanta Legal Tech, and we may not get direct clients from that speaking engagement, but it could be someone who's involved with that group who saw us speak, and they make that connection.

And so we can look at that sponsorship package, and we say, “Okay, we got X number of clients from that event or this group, we can attribute that back in.” 

We can put like a hard dollar amount on that. 

CONCLUSION

MADDY:

Yeah and that's, I think, speaking to the point about that, getting you access, and it may not be accessed to direct clients.

It may be accessing potential referral partners, even if they're not a good fit, who knows who it is. And we often talk about that, just as a little anecdote at Smith.ai, about the calls that come in who are not qualified leads. 

Are you educating even those who are not a good client for your firm about what you do and say that you're actively accepting clients, but just not in that practice area? And you love to make a referral. It's an opportunity to give. 

And by the way, if you know anyone who needs service, like the one that we provide, we are accepting new clients. We'd be grateful for any referral.

And why not take that opportunity to do that because, in some way, shape, or form, you've paid for your exposure to that person to call you whether it's through a paid ad or organic search, or an event that you sponsored and attended, and they called you. 

So, don't sort of overlook any opportunity.

And, back to Kelly's point, about — you are in your brand.

You have to embody that, whether you like it or not, as a small business owner, that is, sort of something you have to own, right? That is also the same way. 

You can get a negative review, a bad phone experience, and giving that good service or someone on your team or outsource team to give that good service and be generous of your time and expertise also promotes your own role in that community as someone who is an influencer, a resource expert. 

Then, you are seen as that resource when it comes time for paid services that you deliver.

It’s very consistent. And I think that that authenticity, the genuine approach comes through very clearly to people who interact with you, 

KELLY:

So just on that point, this was a couple, maybe, I don't know, time, I don't know any more about time, but this was in the last couple of weeks. 

I had a call with a young woman, and we talked, and it wasn't a good fit, not because of whatever, but does it matter?

And we talked for like 45 minutes and she wrote the most glowing review, even though, like, we couldn't help her or do anything and all this stuff. 

I mean, it does help when you put the time and the effort; even if they may not be exactly your ideal client, you can still help them. And they are so grateful for it, particularly from a lawyer, right?

Like you're taking the time to talk about your case. It does work, and that just happened within the last couple of months, like a true story. 

MADDY:

Yeah. It's lasting and impactful. 

Thank you all so much for joining me today. April and Tyler can be reached at nomosmarketing.com.

And then Kelly Ryder Goodwin, is it right? Or goodwinlaw.com. It is— yeah. Wonderful. 

And then, I will send around the recording of this. I hope everyone has a wonderful day and that you spend a little time this week putting at least one of these best practices to work for you. 

So thank you all and take care.

Thanks for joining us.

Questions? Contact Us.

Have any questions about Smith.ai's virtual receptionists services or anything else mentioned in this webinar? Call us at (650) 727-6484 or email us at support@smith.ai.

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To watch more webinars like this one, check out our YouTube channel or access articles, guest blog posts, and other resources on the Smith.ai blog.

Elizabeth Lockwood

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

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