All posts by Amy Zahensky

Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down! Dealing With Online Criticism

Let’s face it, as you grow your firm, eventually you’re going to run into the problem of an unhappy client (or more likely, an unhappy non-client.) It happens, and as much as we’d all prefer that they bring their grievances to us personally so that we can work things out like adults, sometimes it doesn’t work that way.

They decide to lash out and leave a nasty review. It could be on some desolate part of the web designed for angry people to air their grievances for other angry people. Or it could be on a Google page or local business directory.

The point is, it’s out there, and you won’t always have the ability to control the message. It’s the price we pay for exposure. Sure we could opt out of Google’s local search and eliminate the risk of a bad review, but we’d also eliminate the risk of getting clients online.

So what’s a business owner to do?

Well, first, take a breath. It’s not the end of the world. In fact,` it might even be seen as an opportunity to show your commitment to making sure your clients are happy.

So what are the options?

Obviously, in the moment, the reaction is to get defensive, or more accurately, offensive. The initial thought is to burn it to the ground, to go all scorched earth on the whole review site. Tell the little arrogant SOB what’s what. How you bent over backward for them, or how difficult they were to deal with and how ungrateful they are for your service. In short, you want to bring them to justice!

Well you know better than anyone else that justice isn’t always easy, and often times both sides lose. Overreacting now is almost guaranteed to make the situation worse for everyone involved.

So now that we’ve gotten the least desirable outcome out of the way, let’s discuss the option in order of preference.

Kill them with kindness and work it out offline

The first step should always be to reach out in private to try and resolve the problem in a cool and collected manner.

But first, you do want to respond to the review, so start by posting a message that shows empathy and a sincere desire to work through the problem. If it feels dirty to turn the other cheek at this point, just remember, this is more for the benefit of others that come along to see the review than the actual reviewer. You’re still going to reach out in person.

For example:

    • I’m sorry to hear about that, let’s talk offline so we can fix this…
    • Feel free to contact me personally with any other feedback to make your next experience better…
    • I’m sorry that you feel that way. We do our best and if it wasn’t good enough, we want to have a chance to make it better.
    • I apologize for your experience please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. If I cannot help you I will put you in contact with someone better equipped to handle the situation.

If you’re able to resolve things in person, kindly ask them if they’d update their review. Whether that’s removing it or even mentioning how you went out of the way to make things right.

Ignore it

If there’s no hope in trying to make things better, I would still leave the contrite message showing your  willingness to work through it, even if you know it’s pointless. Beyond that, you do have the ability to just ignore it. I know, it’s not the best feeling to let something like that just sit out there. But sometimes it really just doesn’t matter.

For example, I’m sure you’ve seen sites out there whose sole job is to shame lawyers for supposedly bad practices. I don’t know why these sites proliferate with attorneys, but they’re out there. They’re clearly vendetta machines.  The thing is, it’s unlikely that they get much traffic, so the risk your potential clients will come across it is low. And what’s more, many of those sites are so out there that a sane, level-headed individual can clearly tell that it’s a bunch of crackpots that are mad because their case went beyond their retainer and their attorney wouldn’t work for free. In other words, they have no credibility with the types of clients you actually want to work with.

So again, it doesn’t feel good, but those sites are best to let fester at the ends of the internet.

But if the review is on a reputable site like say Google, Yelp, Avvo, or a local chamber of commerce or BBB site, ignoring it probably isn’t the best option.

Contact the site owner

It’s rare that this will work as the incentives of the site owner are not aligned with you, but it can be worth a shot. If it’s a smaller site and the comment is clearly offensive or out of line, you may be able to contact the site owner and simply ask them to take down the post.  Put your letterhead on it and maybe make a veiled threat of “considering legal action” (you’re not going to, it’s not worth it) just to let them know that it might just be easier to take down that single post.  Keep it polite and respectful. Again, the odds aren’t good, but as a website owner myself, I’m happy to side with a polite professional over a nutjob.

Legal action

This is included only for completeness. In all but the most egregious of cases where there’s proof of fraud and/or a substantial effect on your business this isn’t this even worth considering. I’ll leave it to the lawyers in the house to discuss legal recourse, but again, this is a last ditch, I’m losing multiple clients because of this review, kind of an option.

Drown out the bad

Regardless of how this particular review turns out, you should still be actively soliciting reviews from happy clients as part of your outtake or project handoff process.  If you’re effective at getting a decent number of reviews from happy clients then the good will invariably drown out the bad, and further minimize the impact of the review.

Ethical Considerations

Not only do lawyers have the difficult job of trying to please each client that comes through the door but now you also need to be concerned with what these clients are saying online and what the repercussions will be if you choose to respond. Across the country responding to those pesky reviews has become a hot topic. States such as New York and Illinois have released statements that have determined that releasing any confidential information, even in defending yourself, your practice, or employees, will result in disciplinary action. Lawyers, look out. It is time to be careful. Unhappy clients will say anything under the moon, true or untrue but the response you choose to use could affect your more than losing some clients from some crackpots ridiculous review. Responding online could cost you so follow some of the strategies we have suggested and steer clear of trouble!

20 Minute Marketing Plan For The Busy Attorney

We get it. You’re busy! On the long long list of things you have to do in a day, marketing is probably one of your least favorite and often gets lobbed to the end of the todo list.

But successful marketing depends on consistency, and we all know what happens to the tasks at the back of the to-do list.  So let’s set up a plan that will allow you to be consistent without causing the dread of staring at a blank screen wondering what to do.

We’ll start today with social media.  Yes. The amorphous, ubiquitous, and perpetually misunderstood side of marketing.

It can be a pain to sit down and come up with a single Facebook post let alone creating an entire social media strategy.

Well, what if it only took 20 minutes while you were sipping your morning coffee? Well that’s more manageable right? Today we’re going to outline a process and tools that will help you to do just that.

We’ll cover three components of a social media strategy that will allow you to create a bustling social presence without needing to spend all of your time dinking around in the productivity sucking waste-pool that is Facebook.

Without further ado, our first focal point – curation.

ABC – A – Always, B – Be, C – Curating. Always be curating!

What is curating you ask? Curating is collecting and filtering content from across the web that will interest your ideal clients and allow those ideal clients to interact and share with you, and more importantly, their peers, that are also ideal clients.

Everyone is drinking from a firehose these days, and with so much awful content being spewed into the ether by “marketers” it’s harder than ever to filter out the good stuff.  Your goal in this exercise is to be that filter for your ideal clients.

This does two things.  First, it distinguishes you as a thought-leader in your space, and second, it makes you the source for all things true and helpful.

Another way to think of your role in all of this is as a magic flower. No, I’m not on some other magical substance writing that. Your goal is to be like the magic flower in Super Mario Brothers.

For the uninitiated (read: those over 40 or under 25), the magic flower turns regular old Italian plumber Mario into Super Mario. Super Mario is bigger, faster, and stronger than his wrench-wielding alter-ego, and he’s also invincible.

Through your carefully curated information, you can make your ideal clients into super heroes.  They’ll be more on point with what’s going on in their industry. Able to impress their bosses, their clients, and maybe even their spouses with how in tune they are with the world of [insert ideal client’s industry here]. They might get promoted. They might close that deal. They might get their spouse to stop rolling their eyes (unlikely).

But you see where we’re going with this. By giving your ideal clients those super powers, who do you think they’re going to turn to when they have a problem even their super powers can’t handle?  That’s right.  You.

So how do we do this?

First we need a way to keep track of the content we find worthy of sharing. The goal is to find something that you have available at any time, because you never know when you’ll come across something you want to share.  The best tool is the one you have with you.

For capturing content as it flies past you, we recommend an app called Pocket.  Pocket allows you to instantly save the contents of a website while you’re looking at it.  They have a great mobile app so you can just quickly “share to Pocket” and the article gets saved for later review. They even have a browser plugin so when you’re come across a good article at your desk or on your laptop, you can quickly save them there.  You can find Pocket at http://getpocket.com.

But if Pocket isn’t your thing, Evernote’s web clipper can do a great job as well (though if you use Evernote for other aspects of life/business, it’s a little hard to control the clutter of constantly saving articles). And if you don’t want to learn a new tool, a simple note taking app on your phone or (gasp!) an actual notebook, work just as well.  Point being, find a tool that works for you.

So, when you are listening to the news in the morning, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter on your lunch break, etc. always be on the lookout for those magic flower articles.

What do you do once you find one? If you’re using pocket, just save it to Pocket. If not, take down the URL of the story, and then write down the first “take” you had on it. Your thoughts on where it was great or missed the mark slightly, or how it might fit into the bigger picture for your ideal clients.

Then move on, you’re all set.

Now you might be thinking, “Wait, I’m always doing this? I thought you said 20 minutes!” Well, you’re right. You need to be on guard 24/7. But the real benefit is that this takes just a few seconds as you come across great content, and it allows you to do GREAT things in just 20 minutes if you already have a starting point when you sit down each morning.

This next part is where we get into the meat and potatoes. The 20 minute social media habit.

Habits are super powerful when it comes to compounding the returns on your time investment. That’s our goal, to layer up little marketing habits that set you up for that month down the road where you’re suddenly turning away clients because you’re too busy, or thinking about hiring that associate to handle the workload.

So let’s commit to it, right now.  Let’s commit to 5 week days in a row of curating and scheduling social media each morning.  Then we’ll revisit.  Figure out what isn’t working, make tweaks and commit to another five days. Rinse. Repeat.

Here’s the 20 minute morning routine.

First 5 Minutes – (Gasp!) Original Posts

Original posts are always the hardest. But we don’t want to derail the process because we have writer’s block.  Give yourself 5 minutes to come up with an original post or two or three. But stop after 5 minutes, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t think of anything. That’s why we have that hopper full of curated content, so you don’t always have to be on your A-game.  The juices will start to flow over time, so don’t get hung up here.

Next 10 Minutes – Queue up Curated Content

Next, dig into your treasure trove of curated content, and pick out three or four posts that you can share.  Use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to create posts on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. Link to the articles, write in your “take” as the post content, and then get ready to schedule those posts.

Last 5 Minutes – Scheduling for Long Term Success

The powerful part of this plan isn’t necessarily that you’re generating social media posts every day, it’s actually that you’re going to be generating social media posts for weeks or months in the future. To the point that there will be a morning in the future where you’ll sit down and realize you already have two or three posts ready to go for the day.

So here’s how we schedule them.

First, you need to decide how “evergreen” the content is.  Once you figure out which bucket this falls into, follow the scheduling guidelines below.

Breaking News

This content is usually only good for one, maybe two days. Think – a comment on a big supreme court ruling, an announcement of a new staff member, or a comment about a the latest corporation to screw up, etc.  For these posts, we suggest scheduling the post to go out on each of your various channels today. Post once on Facebook and LinkedIn, and consider posting two or three times on Twitter.

Timely

This content is something that is useful now, and likely for the next few weeks or months.  For example, an article about this year’s trends in industry X, how a certain technology is affecting Y, etc.  For these posts, I’d schedule one post for today on each of your channels, then create posts for each channel that are 4, 14, 30, and 60 days out. Note, those numbers aren’t set in stone, but rather ball park values. The idea being to keep the posting going but at larger and larger intervals until you think the article won’t be relevant any more.

Evergreen

These are the holy grail.  They’re the articles that keep on giving, and they’re rarer than one might think. These articles are the ones that will be as useful today as they will be in five years.  For example, with attorneys, these might be articles that relate to handling common situations that ideal clients might not know about. They might be articles about how to think about a particular issue.  And sometimes they come in the form of an article so good that you couldn’t imagine someone covering the topic more completely (like, for example, a 1500 word lesson on how to do your social media in just 20 minutes 🙂

For these posts, schedule out as many as you can forever. For example, post one today, and then repeat monthly or bi monthly for the next year. Basically, for as long as you can go before your 20 minutes runs out.

Conclusion

And that’s it.  If you follow this plan for even a month, you’ll find that your social media hopper is filled out for weeks and months into the future. Your facebook page will no longer be a dormant ghost-town where we promoted that one blog post we wrote 2 years ago. Your twitter account will start to accumulate followers. You’ll start to hear the phrase “oh I saw you posted about that a few weeks ago” at random networking events from people you’ve never met before. You’ll get a referral and when you ask who it’s from, it’ll be from a person you’ve never met, and when you Google them, you’ll see that they’ve been following you for a few months on Twitter.

In short, you’ll start to see why social media can be a real benefit to your firm, and you’ll laugh at the big firms that don’t get why.
Finally, reach out to use here at AmazeLaw. Tell us how this is working for you.  Suggest tweaks. Let us know when you get that superfan client that you realize has been stalking you just a little too creepily on Facebook.

Slow Drip Is Better Than A Big Splash: Consistency Is King

Lately we have received several questions revolving around the difficulty of maintaining a consistent marketing presence without having to spend all day doing marketing instead of client work.

Most attorneys have heard the advice that they need a consistently updated marketing presence, but you’re already busy with your client cases and maintaining the business. Taking time away from the work that pays the bills to “work on marketing” is a tough ask without even considering that most of the time, it’s not always clear what needs to be updated or how often.

Here at AmazeLaw, we’re trying to take the generic guru-ish marketing advice that experts spout like gospel, and deconstruct it to teach attorneys what it really means and how they can use that advice to grow their firm.

The point of this post is to show you what consistency really means and how mastering it can benefit your business. Not only will we tell you what consistency online can do for you but we will also help you to keep up online while you keep up with your busy schedule.

What does it mean to be consistent?

What it means to be consistent varies depending on the activity, but the general goal, is that any time a prospective client stumbles upon your firm, either through your website, a facebook page, a tweet, etc, it needs to look like you’re on top of your marketing.

There are some technical reasons why this is beneficial, but let’s focus on the feels.

As a prospective client of your firm, I want to know that I’m going to be working with someone that I can relate to. Someone that’s on top of the latest trends in the area of my problem. And having marketing that’s up to date checks both of those boxes for me. And as a tip, another signal it sends, is that you’re not an overwhelmed solo. It shows a position of friendly strength. That you can afford to spend time teaching people about your craft because you’re good at what you do and you’re confident in it.

Consistency online helps to build professionalism, clarity, and trust from your viewers while also boosting your google standings. When your viewers are on your pages and you have only updated some of the content or haven’t updated in a really long time it looks as if you don’t care about the details.  As a solo the details can make or break a referral so keeping up online sends a message to your current and potential clients.  Your viewers will respond well to your commitment to be consistent online and take it as a sign that you are willing to commit to their issues and build a bond of trust.

So now you know you have to be consistent but you need to know how consistent do you need to be with each avenue that you have online. Does that mean every day? Every week? Every month? Well, it depends on the activity, so let’s break it down.

Social Media

Putting content on your social media posts can be simple and easy. An original thought everyday. Do you have more than one? Post it! Do you want to promote something more than once? Schedule it! Social media is a way to draw the attention of everyday viewers into things that you are mutually interested in. The idea behind social media is to constantly be grabbing the attention of  people online. Social should be part of your everyday morning routine. Get up, stop at Dunkin Donuts, get to the office, POST.

But it’s easy to say “Do social media every day!” That’s where most gurus stop. We put together a detailed 20-minute daily marketing plan, so check it out and commit to it for just one week.  

Blogging

Ah blogging, ranking second just behind social media for the buzzwordiest marketing advice that never gets into the details.

We’ll cover a simple plan to get you started in a few seconds, but let’s talk about what consistency means when it comes to blogging.

First off, the idea isn’t necessarily to drive a ton of traffic to your site today (though it’s possible and can be a nice side benefit), the idea is to build up your blog like a long-term savings account. And the easiest way to do that, is to make small weekly deposits. Over time your bank account (your website) will grow enough to the point that it has a large number of pages. And just like compounding interest, as a site grows and ages, it’s ability to attract more traffic increases as well.

We recommend weekly blog posts, mostly because it makes it easier to keep up with. Two weeks in between posts and you’ll get out of the groove, and blogging will remain that “activity I’ll get to later when I have lots of free time.” Twice a week can work even better, but we’re also trying to be realistic. It’s hard to set aside that much time every week.

Pick your slow day of the week if you have one. Friday is my favorite. Make a recurring weekly appointment on Friday morning (avoid the afternoon because we all know what happens to tasks relegated for Friday afternoon) to draft a blog post.

I would allocate an hour.  And all you do is spend one hour answering one common question you get from clients in the simplest terms possible. It might feel like you’re giving away your secret sauce. You’re not. The clients that take your info and try to run with it on their own, were never going to be clients anyways. The clients that look at it and say, “Whoah, she knows what she’s talking about and I really don’t have the time or the expertise to handle this on my own” are the clients you’ll love.

Alright, back to it, spend one hour answering one of your common client questions. The headline can be verbatim what clients usually ask, i.e. “How often should I update my will and what should I be looking out for?”

If you’re happy with the post after that hour, go ahead and post it you’re done. If you think it’s a bit rough, put it away and schedule 20 minutes of time on Monday to edit it.  You’ll find that having a weekend for the thoughts to settle in your head can really add to the clarity of your answers.

There’s no rocket science to blogging, and we could go into all sorts of advanced advice, but that plan will make it easy to get started, and could provide you many months of great blog posts.

Email Marketing

There aren’t many firms out there that are using email marketing to their advantage. And in an industry where you’re typically not needed until you’re really really needed, having a medium that puts you in front of prospective clients on an ongoing basis can be key to making sure that you’re top of mind when they do have the need.

We’ll be posting an epic email marketing tutorial soon that will go over all of the how’s and why’s of email marketing, but for the sake of completeness, we recommend that you’re emailing your list anywhere from once to twice a month.  More than that, and it’ll be tough to keep your newsletters stocked with great content, and any less and your list will go stale. Meaning your readers will start ignoring your emails, or perhaps even forget why they’re getting the email in the first place.

Don’t have an email list yet? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon. Better yet, sign up for our marketing bootcamp and you’ll get a weekly email that explains the whole process.

Consistency Is The Golden Ticket

It really is. Over time a consistent marketing approach will be out the best marketing campaigns or PPC ads, or TV commercials. So look at your schedule and see where you can add those small marketing nuggets to your daily, weekly, and monthly routine so that you never have to think about what to do next.

And if you need help, sign up for our Marketing Bootcamp,  and we’ll walk you through the basics and turn marketing your firm into a habit.