A site refresh, follow-up letters, prompt callbacks, and free consults have rebuilt this Bloomington, Minnesota’s solo practice.
Gregory J. Wald used to be so busy he had neither the time nor the need to think about marketing his law practice. Then the economy improved, which meant fewer people needed the services he offers as a bankruptcy attorney. It got to the point that a couple of years ago Wald did something he had never done in his 25 years in practice: he retained a marketing consultant, and followed his advice.
Wald upgraded his website and learned how to capture contact information from visitors, wrote a book, stirred up some testimonials from satisfied clients—and it worked. Bankruptcies are still down about 50 percent from their peak in the days of the Great Recession, Wald says. But he has a full slate of clients again.
New Website with Tracking
Wald had modest goals when he hired the consultant, Richard James, of Gilbert, Arizona. “I was not interested in building up a big law firm with offices all over the place and becoming a manager at 57,” Wald says. “In the past, I have had other lawyers working for me and multiple clerical people, and it was a big headache. As I am getting closer to retirement, I don’t want to start that whole process over again.”
But he needed more clients and the first step to getting them, the consultants said, was to improve the look and functionality of his website. “They gave us referrals to vendors that they recommend, and James Publishing was one of them, so I used them to handle my website.
“I’ve had a web site for at least 15 years, but a lot of times it really didn’t work that great as far as bringing in clients. I didn’t have a good way of tracking how much business was coming through the site anyway,” Wald says. “I am so much happier with it now. It’s got a dramatically better look and I’ve get better metrics for tracking performance. It’s just miles better than what I had before.”
One feature that has been especially effective, Wald says, is a popup that greets visitors to the site offering a live, online chat with an operator who takes down contact information. “With that feature, I am able to actually know who reaches me through my website. I never had that before. I am definitely getting some clients through it. That’s a real winner,” he says.
The fact that operators are on standby around the clock is a big benefit. “You wouldn’t believe how many of the inquiries I get are in the middle of the night,” Wald says. “Maybe it’s because people considering bankruptcy are up at night worrying. I get a lot of e-mail inquiries and a lot of them come in at odd hours or on weekends when I just couldn’t possibly answer the phone.”
For several years before he updated his website, Wald maintained a blog on bankruptcy law using the Blogger platform. His blog is now part of his website. James Publishing’s writers generate content about bankruptcy law for the blog. “I could add some of my own posts if I wanted to,” Wald says. “But right now I’m super busy, so it’s really tough to think about taking time to write a blog.”
The Value of a Book
Wald says the marketing consultants were adamant that in addition to a strong online presence, he needed a book with his name on it. “That was one of the biggest things they recommended: you’ve got to write a book.” And so he did. It is titled The Real Truth about Bankruptcy in Minnesota, featuring “real life stories” about Minnesotans who have improved their finances by exercising their rights under the bankruptcy laws. It took him quite a while to finish it, he says, but it has been worth it
A banner on his website’s home page offering a free copy of the book has been a dud so far. He has yet to receive a single request, something he’ll try to fix with a more intriguing pitch for the book or better placement on his home page. But it has been very useful as a handout for, and a way to get contact information from, prospective clients. “If someone calls or e-mails me, even if they’re not ready to hire me, I tell them I’ll send them a free book with some more information about bankruptcy. I think it makes me look like more of an authority.” And it’s a great way of keeping his name in prospective clients’ minds.
“I can seek the smile on people’s faces when they come into my office and I say I wrote a short book on bankruptcy and would like to give them a free copy. People like that and I think it makes a difference. That’s one of the things that I think has definitely helped,” Wald says.
Lowering Barriers with Free Consultation
Wald draws prospective clients to his office by offering free consultations—first briefly over the phone and for up to 30 minutes in an office visit. “When I was so busy that I had to schedule people a month out, I did not offer free consultations,” he says. “In fact I told people that if they wanted to come in, they would have to bring at least $300. I can’t afford to be that picky right now. Bankruptcies are way down.”
The offer of a free consultation “helps to lower the worry for them about what it’s all going to cost. And a half hour is not that big of an investment for me,” Wald says. “It might turn out in that half hour that they’re not a good candidate or they might hear my fee and might want to shop around.”
Wald generally doesn’t discuss fees in the initial phone consultation. “I tell them I can give them a quote when they come in for a free consultation,” he explains. “I try to do that as much as possible because if you give them a quote over the phone, it just encourages them to shop around and get the lowest bidder, and that’s probably not going to be the best bankruptcy lawyer. So I think it’s good for both them and me if I don’t quote them a price over the phone.”
How to Get Glowing Testimonials
Testimonials from satisfied clients are prominently displayed on Wald’s revamped website and on his Google Plus page. He gets these testimonials by asking for them. “If I have somebody who I think will give me a really good evaluation, then after the bankruptcy hearing I just ask them if they’d be willing to write a line or two on Google Local. I have found it helps to ask with a little humor, so I will say, ‘I would really appreciate that if you’re happy with my services. If you’re not, just forget about it.’ Once they have told you in person that they’re going to do it, they pretty much will.”
A bonus of getting reviews on Google Local is that it helps him stand out in local search results. “I think especially on mobile devices, the results will show you lawyers that are in your area, with so many stars next to them. So you look a lot better if you’ve got a whole lot of good reviews on Google Local,” Wald says.
The Importance of Responsiveness
Wald credits another insight he picked up from the consultants with helping rev his law practice back up: the importance of responding promptly and keeping in touch with prospective clients. “When people inquire, you need to get back to them immediately, like within five minutes, if possible. If you don’t get back to them within five minutes your chance of getting hired declines dramatically,” Wald says.
For prospective clients who aren’t ready to commit, Wald’s website gives him other ways to keep his name in their minds. “Richard James got me started on an email drip program,” says Wald. “If someone contacts but is not ready to hire me, it keeps sending out useful information to them on a schedule. That reminds them that I am still around, which helps convert people a lot better,” Wald says.
The pay off for his practice has been unmistakable. “My business has definitely improved since I hired marketing consultants. It cost me a fair amount of money but it was worth it,” Wald says.