Drawing attorney referrals with the same techniques used to attract consumers.
John Fisher is a medical malpractice attorney in New York who primarily gets referrals from other attorneys. He is the author of “The Power of a System: How to Build the Injury Law Practice of Your Dreams,” which is available on Amazon in print and for the Kindle.
His first website was http://protectingpatientrights.com/, designed for targeting consumers directly for his medical malpractice law firm. However, when he realized that most of his business was coming from other attorneys, he built http://ultimateinjurylaw.com/ to attract attorney referral traffic. His primary marketing expertise is marketing himself as an authority in his niche using free content in a variety of formats. Here in great detail, he explains his approach.
1. Taking a look at your website (http://www.protectingpatientrights.com/), I see that you have a lot of resources that visitors can get lost in, other attorneys as well as potential clients. Plus, your site is very attractive. How important is website design to generating new leads for your practice?
My practice is built almost 100% entirely by attorney referral base, so my new website, http://ultimateinjurylaw.com/, is actually more important. I wrote the book “The Power of a System” to teach other attorneys how to build the ultimate lead generation system.
This ultimate injury law book and my coaching program were designed not only to derive a passive income but as a way to develop relationships with other attorneys and attract referrals from lawyers who don’t know me. The primary marketing obstacles that lawyers face, and myself included, is not talent and ability but obscurity. If people don’t know who we are or what we do, then they won’t hire us. So “The Power of a System” is a lead generation device.
I also send out a monthly newsletter called “Lawyer Alert.”
The monthly newsletter and book help other attorneys and they help me in return by referring me new business. I give something of value away for free without asking for anything in return.
No one throws books into the garbage can. You might never read it, but you won’t throw it away. So it’s a great lead generation device regardless where else you may be getting your leads from because it might sit on your shelf or you might give it away to someone else or lend it to someone to read, but you won’t throw it away. It’s an invaluable tool I use to develop a relationship with referral partners.
I did an interview with JD Blogger, and another one with Legal Marketing Made Easy, an attorney podcast, and was able to promote my book and my website. Where I am, 90 miles north of New York City, there aren’t any other lawyers who do medical malpractice. If this is the only type of work you do, then you can use a book and a website to market to other lawyers who don’t do medical malpractice and get a lot of referrals. That’s my system and the website is a very important part of that.
2. How do you track your visitors, lead capture, and conversions on your website?
I use a program called Infusionsoft. Through that I am able to run a variety of campaigns. I call them nurture programs.
If someone downloads my free e-book “The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims” from http://www.protectingpatientrights.com/, then they’ll get an auto-response message thanking them for downloading the e-book. Then they’ll receive a series of e-mails providing valuable content to them for free. In those e-mails they’ll be given an opportunity to receive my direct mail newsletter.
All I ask for in that initial download request is your first name and e-mail address. It’s simple and relatively painless. Through my nurture campaign, if you want more, I’ll give you a free offer where you’ll give me your full name and I’ll take the relationship a little deeper.
On http://ultimateinjurylaw.com/, I give you the first chapter of my book for free then you’ll enter into my 365-day nurture campaign. You don’t get an e-mail every day, but the campaign lasts for 365 days where I keep sending you valuable information that will help you in your practice.
With both downloads, you’ll be entered into the central database at Infusionsoft. It’s very complex and the best follow-up software on the market today. Constant Contact and Aweber are good if you want to start small, but Infusionsoft is the expert’s software.
If someone calls my office or arrives in person, their names are entered manually by my staff, but the system will automatically add their name and e-mail address if they download one of my free e-books.
Collecting and nurturing new leads is something that new lawyers screw up big time. Everybody wants the immediate dollar. They go after the big cases, and if they don’t get the big case, they write the person off for good. That’s a big mistake.
I look at it like this: About 52 people will come to your funeral. That’s the average. Those are 52 people you are likely to refer to an attorney or doctor, or whatever, when you develop a new contact or new lead. We’re talking about a sphere of influence of 52 you may refer in the future.
Most attorneys are looking for instant gratification. They’re not thinking long term, but long term is where the real value is.
So my strategy is to share valuable free content that will help lawyers. I’m not selling the book. I’m not soliciting stuff or asking them to buy something. I offer free advice on how to build their practice. If you want to buy the book or discuss a consultation, then here’s my number. I’ll include that. But that makes up about 5% of my auto-response messaging strategy. The other 95% is providing free information that is helpful to my audience.
3. You have a lot of information-rich pages on specific topics related to your practice on your website. How do you determine what information to focus on and make it navigable and easy to find?
Most attorneys don’t have a clue about how to do Internet marketing. They focus on keywords like “personal injury attorney in New York City” or “family law in Kentucky.” Those aren’t actual keywords that people are going to use to find an attorney. I focus on what we call long-tail keywords.
You might say, “I have no idea what that means.” You’re right, you wouldn’t use those keywords to search for an attorney, but if you have a perforated esophagus and you need a medical malpractice attorney, then you would be very familiar with esophageal dilation. Somebody who has been injured through esophageal dilation is going to be familiar with that term.
No one else is going to use that keyword phrase, but good Internet marketing is about adding new content to your website every day without fail. It needs to be free, valuable information.
If you focus on long-tail keywords that consumers are going to use to find an expert in your niche, consumers are going to see that information and say, “It’s obvious you’re an expert on esophageal dilation. You are an expert in this area and we want to hire you.”
I also put a lot of testimonials on every single page of my website, with names and addresses of people. If I say, “I’m a great attorney and I know my business,” no one will believe it. But if consumers who have used me as their attorney say it, that has credibility.
4. The first thing I see when I go to http://www.protectingpatientrights.com/ is that video on the front page and right away I’m engaged. How important are your videos in keeping visitors on your site and engaging them in a meaningful way?
Crucial. You need video today. We live in the YouTube era.
The videos are compelling. A lot of people don’t like to read. The text draws in the search engines with keywords. Most people don’t want to read, but people do love to watch videos and YouTube is No. 1.
I recommend to attorneys to get a dedicated YouTube channel and put videos on your website everywhere. Create a bond with consumers who don’t know you. I have a green screen studio in my office and we shoot videos regularly for ourselves and other attorneys.
You want to do three things:
- Keep it short
- Provide valuable information
- And tell a story
What people want is, they want to know if you know something that will help them with their case. I could do 20 videos on the topic of statute of limitations.
I tell attorneys, “Write down 10 questions you want to answer and 10 questions your client should ask. Make 20 great videos. They just need to be 60-second videos.” What that does is, it lowers your bounce rate. People stay longer when they have a video to watch. People are more likely to stay and watch a video then go to another page on your website.
5. Do those videos increase your conversions or lead capture stats?
Yes, absolutely. Always include a call to action at the end of the video. I include a call to action, like a free book. I encourage watchers to download it for free, or if you want to discuss a case, then call me at a toll-free number.
I’m just giving my viewers other options. You can provide a free audio CD. For instance, “Mistakes consumers make when hiring a lawyer.” It can be anything as long as it’s valuable and it helps them.
I try to give as much valuable information as possible. It runs contrary to what other lawyers are doing, like screaming “I’m the greatest” at the top of their lungs. You can’t tell who’s good and who’s crappy. There’s no way to differentiate yourself from everybody else. If I give everything away, then I’m not pitching myself. I’m pitching my books and DVDs. It’s a totally different ball game.
I’m not talking about myself. Instead, I help people by providing them with valuable information for free.
6. What technology do you use to create your videos?
I have a green screen so I can superimpose any image behind me. It can be a logo, a toll-free number, or a landscape. Also, I can add a combination of music and text. It will appear in the video right next to me. I can have a question with the answers. And I can use still photographs.
I have a Nikon 7100. It’s a state-of-the-art video camera. I use it with a lavalier microphone.
We outsource the editing of the video. It’s easier. We shoot the video and overnight it to my video expert. He edits it and uploads it to the website.
I can use the green screen studio for other attorney videos. It’s an easy process. We offer five free videos to other lawyers if they want to come and shoot them in our studio. We do this to help them with their practice.
The equipment is not the key thing, though. The content is the key thing.
Don’t be like the talking heads where you just talk about how great you are. That’s horrible. Consumers couldn’t care less about any of that stuff. The content is the most important thing. Make it valuable.
I don’t believe in using a script. It’s awkward and foolish. Write it down so you know what you want to say. If you screw it up, keep going. If you make mistakes, it actually humanizes you. People can relate to that. What’s important to lawyers is not important to consumers. They don’t care if you have a verbal tic. They want to bond with you.
7. It might seem like a strange thing to have podcasts targeted to other attorneys on a website that is obviously targeted toward consumers of medical malpractice law. What was the thought process in adding those podcasts to your website and do they lead to new clients or leads for you?
You’re right, it runs counter to common wisdom. But before I had the second website, I had http://www.protectingpatientrights.com/. I built that site to appeal to consumers, but what I realized was that my ideal clients are not Jane and John Doe on Main Street but lawyers who send me work. I added that element to appeal to those lawyers, but I don’t see any reason to take it down now that I have a website that caters to them specifically. Lawyers will still go there and see that.
If it drives up Web traffic for lawyers, that’s great. A podcast is a great way of providing valuable information for my ideal client.
I’d add that being unusual is a good thing. Being like everyone else is mediocre and average.
8. I love the chat box. Do you get a lot of people using it, and what’s your conversion rate for people who take advantage of your chat line?
It’s called Engaged Live Chat. It’s not me on the other end, but the reality is that site visitors will type in information and I’ll get an e-mail. We’ll follow up with an Infusionsoft nurture campaign and call them.
The No. 1 thing lawyers mess up on is the conversion. People will pick up the phone, end their search, and call you. Engage Live Chat is a great conversion tool very few attorneys use. Before I started using it, my conversion rate was very low. It’s gone up big time. I get reports every Monday. I track them on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. I don’t remember the last time I checked it, but conversions have gone up a lot.
9. How often do you e-mail your newsletter and what kind of content does it contain? How does that play into your overall marketing strategy?
I send it the 26th day of every month. It’s called Lawyer Alert. It’s only four pages and I write all the content.
It takes me two hours in one night. I e-mail the content to my graphic designer and she puts it into a PDF and sends it to the printer. You should receive it on the first of the month.
A direct mail newsletter is the best thing for marketing. E-mail newsletters are worthless. About 85% are unopened due to spam or indifference. A direct mail newsletter is powerful because people get it and read it. With e-mail, I’m afraid I’ll get a virus. If I send you a direct mail newsletter and it provides valuable information that can help you with your law practice, there’s a high chance you’ll read it. It is invaluable content. You’re more likely to give it to others.
E-mail is easy to do, but it’s not valuable in building relationships.
11. Your free e-book looks interesting. How does that drive leads to your practice? Do you think it’s instrumental on its own or more effective in conjunction with other things you are doing?
Basically, the free offer is the call to action. Every site needs a call to action: What you want the consumer to do right now. Get this e-book, this is what you need to get before you do anything and read it first.
They’ll get it and they’re entered into a nurture campaign. They’ll get an auto-responder thanking them for getting it and a follow-up. It’s staying in touch, building a relationship. That’s unlike other attorneys saying “Call this number.” That’s not a call to action. You need a completely different call to action. Give them a free e-book. There’s no cost.
If I send out a print book, there’s a little bit of cost in that, but the return is so much greater. I have their address. I can stay in touch.
The reality is, an e-book is a brain-dead simple way to get people to stop their Internet search and enter my sales funnel.
12. You’ve got a 10.0 AVVO rating. How significant is that and why do you have your AVVO badges on your site?
AVVO is huge. Lawyers hate it, but it doesn’t matter if lawyers like it. Consumers love AVVO and rely on it.
If I have endorsements of lawyers and consumers on my site, it’s perfect for my case. People notice. “See what they say about him?”
I build up my AVVO profile as much as I can because I know consumers are relying on it. I got 2,300 unique views in the last month. That’s better than most people get on their website. It’s like an independent website.
Instead of me saying how great I am, other people do it for me. It builds trust.
13. Are you listed on other directories, as well?
Yeah, I’m on lawyers.com, nolo.com, and some local directories. I’m primarily on those three, Cornell.edu, and a few others.
14. You seem to have a strategy for your social media posting, as well, particularly for Twitter and Facebook. How does social media play into your marketing strategy?
Here’s the thing that took me a long time to realize. It’s not simply about posting valuable information every day. It doesn’t generate much response over time. It’s all about engagement on social media.
Social media is not easy. It’s a long-term strategy. You get new cases by engaging and interacting with people, by Like-ing, sharing, providing valuable content. I’m in different groups and comment on posts. I’ll say (when I comment on a post), “Yeah, I agree and here’s an article I wrote recently about that,” or “I like these directories, by the way.” I respond appropriately to the previous comment or the discussion and interact with the other members of the group in a meaningful way. Then the number of people who view your LinkedIn profile goes way up.
Filling out a profile doesn’t accomplish anything. I tell people to just go with one or two networks and engage with other people who are relevant to your audience. That’s the most overlooked thing.
I’ve made a lot of money on social media, but I’ve had to learn a lot about what to do and not do.
Most attorneys are using social media as PR campaigns, but nobody cares about them. If you use it as a PR campaign, then it’s completely useless. But if you engage with others and answer their questions, that’s when it’s useful.
The best social media expert I know is Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s got three books and I’ve read them all. They’re fantastic.
It’s all about engagement and interaction. I use LinkedIn, YouTube, and AVVO primarily. Facebook and Twitter less so, but my blog auto-posts to Facebook and Twitter. I’d say focus on two or three at the most.
15. Does including your latest tweets help keep visitors on your website or increase engagement?
Not that I’ve noticed.
My tweets are a blurb or link back to an article. Social media has been used by many people to drive traffic back to their website. That’s not meaningful. They need to interact and engage more.
Using social media to drive new traffic is not a successful approach.
16. Looking at your sidebar, what factors played into your decision to place your elements in the position that you did? Why the podcasts at the top and your social media at the bottom, for instance?
The principal areas are above the scroll. Focus your best content above the scroll and immediately visible to the consumer. I put my testimonials and my videos as high as possible.
http://www.protectingpatientrights.com/ is very old. It’s like 2008 old. My webmaster tried to convince me to convert it to something newer and more up-to-date, but I resist because it drives new clients to me. The layout and structure are not ideal, but it is effective, so I leave it as it is.
http://ultimateinjurylaw.com/ is a WordPress site I built just four or five months ago. It’s not getting the same level of traffic yet as the other one. It takes time. It takes 3-6 months before you start to see any real results.
17. Is your plan for that site to build out a lot of long-tail pages like you did with http://www.protectingpatientrights.com/?
Yeah, more pages. Absolutely.
If you go fishing and you have 2,000 lines in the water, you’ve got a much greater chance of catching fish than if you have 40 or 50 lines in the water. The idea is to have as many pages as possible. So I add new pages regularly. Not daily, but once every three weeks. My goal is to have it flooded with great information.
18. When did you first start noticing that your ideal target was other lawyers rather than consumers of legal services?
About four years ago. It was like an epiphany. I really knew it before that, but it hit home about four years ago.
I asked myself, “Why are you spending all your time getting consumers to your website when you have more cases coming from other attorneys?” So I started targeting other attorneys and it works great.
I do catastrophic injury law. The likelihood of consumers who know other consumers in need of a catastrophic injury lawyer are extremely low. But other attorneys, they may have one or two cases a year to refer. The likelihood is higher that I’ll get a steady stream of new cases from other attorneys.
19. Do you think that’s true of all attorneys or is it a special case with you because of your specialty?
No, it’s true of all attorneys. If you handle bankruptcies or divorce, most attorneys do not work in your specialty. You might have 10 or 15 percent of attorneys who practice in your niche specialty. Maybe if you have a general practice law firm it’s different, but today that is almost gone. The likelihood that you’re going to have 80 to 90 percent of other attorneys referring people to you is very high no matter what your specialty is.
I’m not confined to a geographic area in my practice. Most attorneys think only about the 30-60 mile radius around their office, but I think beyond that because if I can’t handle a case in Missouri or Oregon, then I can refer a client and get a referral fee from the attorney on the other end.
20. How do you handle following up on your leads? Do you have a specific person make the follow-up call? Do you have someone different handle incoming calls?
I outsource it to Legal Intake Professionals in Tennessee. I ask them to follow up and my paralegal will screen and call the client. I’m at the end of the line. It’s a screening process. I’m not speaking to someone unless my paralegal has spoken to them first. She screens them to make sure it’s a good client for me.
Incoming calls are sent to Legal Intake. Attorney referrals are handled with my paralegal, or I’ll take it. Attorney referrals are a higher priority for us.
All my phone calls are scheduled calls.
21. What methods do you use to drive traffic to your website?
I drive traffic through a number of means including my direct mail newsletter and speaking engagements for other lawyers. I might direct people to specific articles on my website. But, primarily, it consists of daily content. The number one priority is for search engine optimization by providing new content on my webites.
I’m making content that is valuable and not about me. I make sure to have a call to action and have a back end nurture campaign set up.
22. Do you do any guest blogging or write articles on other websites?
I do a little bit by writing articles on LinkedIn. I add to group discussions.
I try to add value to ongoing discussions on LinkedIn and on AVVO by answering questions.
I also do podcast interviews.
23. Is geo-targeting particularly important for your website and should attorneys be concerned with it?
For attorneys, geo-targeting is critical. I do that. With internet marketing you have to geo-target your content. My website content is geo-targeted to my local area.
24. What other advice would you give to attorneys concerning website design and navigation for more effective lead generation?
The key thing is your call to action. Make sure you have valuable content and create a physical product — a book, a CD, or a DVD — to stop the consumer search. That’s my number one advice.
Add content every single day and include a call to action with a back end nurture campaign. If you do those three things, you’ll be way ahead of everyone else.
To make yourself an authority in your specialty, create valuable free content organized around long-tail keywords and invite your prospects to go deeper by giving up their e-mail addresses in exchange for more valuable free information. Lead them into your sales funnel with strong calls to action and an auto-responder system on the back end that delivers more free content. The more you give, the more you’ll be seen as the authority in your niche.