Social media delivers 50% of her clients, and they are exactly the type she is looking for. Media appearances raise her profile further.
This case study reveals how one attorney effectively gains new clients by using her personal network and social media. Instead of focusing too heavily on lead generation, Regina DeMeo combines her passion for cultivating quality relationships, social media tools, and media appearances to build a thriving practice.
It can be difficult for an attorney to figure out how much capital, both money and time, to devote to specific marketing strategies.
“The greatest challenge is figuring out how much you are willing to spend on a particular campaign, not just in terms of dollars necessarily, but in terms of time. There is always the issue of what is a realistic expectation on the return on your investment. Print ads are generally expensive, so if you do them you need to first evaluate if the cost is worth the investment. If you volunteer your time, that is also something you have to be careful with because time is a valuable commodity and you don’t want to wear yourself out on fruitless efforts.”
Regina leveraged her network to put together her initial strategy. She figured out what was already working for others, and tested out different strategies until she found what worked for her. Social media turned out to be her best medium for generating new business.
Social Media Marketing
“I talked to a lot of my peers, as well as colleagues in other fields, to figure out what was working for them. I was willing at first to give any strategy a shot but over time I really did make sure things were worth my investment of either time or money.
“It turned out for me that I really enjoyed social media marketing. I like blogging and sharing ideas with my friends and colleagues so that is something I have used to keep everyone informed of what I do, and why I love my work. Over 50% of my business comes from friends or colleagues so sharing my passion for family law with them has helped strengthen these referral sources.
“First of all, social media is free and I find it fun. As I mentioned above, I now get the referrals I want because everyone that is either a friend or colleague knows exactly what I do and the work they send me is very much in line with the cases I want to work on. You need to pay attention to what people are talking about.”
“I only joined LinkedIn because people in the business world encouraged me to do so and later I was at a conference that explained that Google is tracking the number of contacts you have in order to determine how influential you are. Apparently the magic number on LinkedIn is to get to 500 to be considered influential. I’m almost at 1,000.”
“Now Facebook is a totally different audience — those are friends from high school, college, law school, etc. On Facebook I not only share my blog, and articles related to my work, but I do occasionally post pictures of myself and my family so they get to see the human side more. The point with Facebook is that I want my friends to know about my two main passions — my family and my work. I have no doubt that if you polled all 475 contacts on Facebook, they could tell you exactly what I do, and why I do it.”
“Twitter is more for media contacts and there was a public relations rep I met a few years back that suggested I join. Through Twitter I’m quickly able to connect with like-minded writers and we re-post each other’s work.”
“Finally the blog, which my web designer recommended I get into, is a way to let people inside my brain. It is very personal. I talk about dating, finding love, marriage with kids, and divorce. These topics appeal to a very large audience, but my take on various issues won’t necessarily resonate with everyone, and quite frankly I am ok with that.”
The Goal of Using Social Media to Gain Clients
“The goal is to have people refer me clients, or choose me as their attorney because they think the same way I do—they value family and preserving goodwill, even after a divorce. They tend to want to avoid court, and not waste money. My clients are now self-selecting themselves, so there are very few people that I have to turn away because they want me to be a ‘shark.’”
Successes and Failures
“There is a lot of trial and error.
Running an ad that yields zero clients is not worth another try.
“Doing a ton of free lectures that only yield a few clients may not be worth it, unless there is some other value-add to these speaking engagements, like enhancing your credentials.
“For me, the lectures at law schools over the last five years may only have led to a few clients but more importantly I was promoting a new way of thinking that is now embraced by the law schools, and along the way I was asked to publish several pieces, which all added to my recognition in my field of law.
“Similarly, the year I commented for Sirius XM or the 19 months that I hosted a local TV show for free may not have led to any direct clients, but it did give me content for my blog and YouTube channel, and eventually I wound up on Good Morning America (July 2013). I don’t believe there is any doubt that I am nationally recognized now as a leader in my field.
“With social media one main challenge is keeping up with all the changes and a lot of us are learning as we go along. Some people truly have no patience for this form of marketing, but I don’t believe lawyers can ignore it anymore. You definitely need to know your audience and you have to track what is working with them. Making sense of all the data is key, and it is a challenge.”
Tracking Your Audience
Regina uses website analytics, her blog, and intake forms completed by her clients to determine which of her marketing efforts are yielding the highest return. “3 main ways:
1. Google Analytics.
Google Analytics tells me what sources are referring to my website;
The blog lets me see on a daily basis how many people have read which post (and I do track this daily); and
3. Intake Forms.
The intake forms I give my clients ask them how they heard about me, and each year I review those intake forms to see what marketing efforts were a success vs. those that did not yield a sufficient return.
“In addition to these indirect forms of tracking I get feedback from friends and colleagues that help me gauge what they like, and don’t like. I then take some of my most popular topics and I turn that into two articles a month that I post on my newsletter.”
Benefits and Drawbacks
“Getting the kinds of cases that I want to work on and enjoying myself is what I’d consider the biggest success.
“It is all a work in progress so you need to patient before you get the results you want. Using social media is not an overnight solution.”
Best Marketing Advice
Regina suggests that attorneys not be afraid of what feedback may come from their marketing efforts, to test their ideas and use their intuition, and to pay close attention to what prospects and clients say.
“Get over any fear of rejection—not everyone will agree with what you have to say, and not all pitches for lectures or articles will be accepted.”
Getting Over the Fear of Rejection
“To be honest I don’t understand the fear of rejection. Rejection is a part of life. No one I ever met got every guy/girl that s/he wanted to date. No one got into every school, and was offered every single job s/he applied for.
“When you are a lawyer you are the product and it is an expensive product. Not everyone can afford you and that’s okay. We are not trying to be Walmart, and have a product for everyone. You have to think more along the lines of a Bentley dealer—now a good dealer knows he won’t be selling 50 cars in one week, but he is patient enough (and financially solid enough) to wait for the right buyer. It is the same for those of us offering quality legal services in the private sector.
“Try out all your ideas at least once. Go with your gut—if you are enjoying something, then you are on the right path to finding your true passion. Meanwhile, if something doesn’t sit well with you, then don’t do it.
“We are highly regulated in what we can say, and in how we present ourselves to the public. When using social media you really have to be careful, and if you are blogging you need to be clear that these are your thoughts/tips/suggestions, but NOT legal advice.“
“Since the blog is mostly about dating, love, marriage and kids I am fairly safe in those areas that no one is mistaking that for legal advice. My greater concern is to warn people in those blogs that I am not a doctor, and not a therapist. I’m speaking based on observations, or I cite to books that I’m referencing so they can read further from the professional sources themselves.
“For the blogs that contain legal content I am indeed very careful to give information without delving into advice, especially because family law varies from one jurisdiction to the next. You do need to be very careful that clients do not feel you are talking about their particular case so often I will wait weeks after I got an idea from a case so that there is no link based on timeline and I never, ever use any names for any sources without their permission.”
“Over 50% of my cases come from my friends and colleagues who are all connected to me via Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter. Furthermore, there are recognition awards I have received from the media, including, the guest appearances on Sirius XM, ABC and Good Morning America. Also, there is the Washington Post, ABA Journal, Bethesda Magazine, Washingtonian’s Top Lawyers and Superlawyers.”
Time Management and Improving ROI
Regina focuses a lot of her energy on making sure that her marketing efforts are efficient and effective. She has a few fundamentals that she uses to improve her marketing ROI.
Research and Managing Expectations
“Well, first you have got to do some data mining and ask other colleagues what did not work for them so you can avoid those mistakes. You have to have realistic expectations also. You cannot expect one print ad to yield an immediate client. They say a person needs to see an image at least 6-7 times for it to matter, so if you are doing a print ad, you need to figure out the cost and then determine if that will feasible to run 6-7 times. Will you be ok if you don’t get a single return?”
“A lot of my business friends let me borrow their marketing books and the books taught me some basic strategies, so without a lot of guidance and support on a subject that I knew very little about when I left law school, I could never have gotten this far.”
“Now as for time, it takes discipline and training to become efficient at marketing. You have to commit a certain number of hours each and every week. Let’s say you are going to blog. To blog effectively you have to figure out how long it takes you to write, and how often you can realistically do it. Writing comes easy to me so I average about 14 blogs per month, which is about 3 per week. It may take me 20 min to write, and another 10 to disseminate. I happen to enjoy it so it is worth that 90 min investment each week.
“The same concept was applied to my TV show. I produced 60 episodes in 19 months. It was a lot of work to come up with each topic, find the guest, prep them, tape the show and then promote it and post in on YouTube. It probably took 6 hours a week and I did not get paid to do it. But, it was worth it to me to meet new people, help promote their ideas which were in line with my way of thinking about families and reach a far greater audience via TV than just talking to one client at a time, or teaching one seminar every few months.”
Open to Change
“There is no better way to demonstrate the importance of keeping an open mind and being open to change, especially in the 21st century, than to tell you my own story. 10 years ago if someone told me I would be a legal commentator on radio and TV, who blogs and deals with social media on a daily basis, I would have thought that person was crazy. Lawyers were trained to avoid the media, keep their lives confidential and honestly Facebook was only available to college kids back then. There wasn’t any blogging and YouTube did not exist.
“As I began to see the speed at which information could be disseminated through the media, however, I could not ignore the need to reach out. That is how I found myself four years ago approaching the media about my desire to highlight Alternative Dispute Resolution/ Collaborative Law as a more holistic way for families to divorce.
“Bethesda Magazine agreed to write a story that was released in April 2010, and shortly thereafter the Washington Post did a story in June 2010 featuring my work. That story was picked up by journals and blogs across the country and I wound up on ABC TV for the first time in July 2010. Then from Jan-Dec 2012, Sirius XM asked me to be a guest legal commentator on divorce issues. Around that same time I was invited to do another segment for ABC TV on Facebook and its impact on marriage. I also went on a local channel (MMCTV) as a guest legal commentator, and next thing that happened I was offered the chance to host my own show, which I did Jul 2012 – Feb 2014. Then last summer, at the age of 40, I wound up making a guest appearance on Good Morning America, which pretty much confirmed that all these efforts were indeed worth my time and energy.
It wasn’t all planned out, but it has all worked out beautifully—and that is why I really believe there is nothing to fear but fear itself—especially if you fear change. To survive in today’s market, you have to be adaptable, and you cannot let rejection get you down. Not every media contact I made gave me a yes, but I just needed one—and after that first one, I was able to build off of that. Now I may not know what is coming next, but one thing is for sure — it has been and will continue to be fun.”
Connect with her on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/regina-demeo/14/607/901
Watch her videos on her YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/GenXSmartie?feature=watch