111,000 Facebook likes, 121 Google reviews, 100 YouTube videos, 50 Avvo reviews, free apps and more generate 15-20 leads daily.
Jacob Sapochnick is the managing attorney of the Law Offices of Jacob J Sapochnick, the San Diego, CA, based firm which provides comprehensive immigration support to those who wish to immigrate to the U.S. from all over the world.
Several years ago, Sapochnick decided that social media was going to be the main tool he used to market the firm and reach out to clients, especially since not many other lawyers were pursuing that avenue at the time. Distributing information is key and he and his team get this task done primarily through blog posts and videos. But his most impressive marketing feat appears to be creating one of the most popular lawyer communities on Facebook. This accomplishment led him to create a marketing resource for lawyers called Enchanting Lawyer that offers articles and podcasts with insights and tips from lawyers and marketing experts.
I recently spoke with Sapochnick about all things social media, which invariably led to discussion of other aspects of his well-rounded marketing strategy.
SEO, Content & Blogging
While keyword research and keyword-rich content were effective SEO strategies a few years ago, they’re no longer as relevant says, Sapochnick. “With the recent algorithm changes like Google Hummingbird, we’ve realized it’s not just about keywords anymore and it’s more about providing what people actually want.”And the team has a novel approach for doing just that. “We survey the visitors who come to our website,”he says, “We can track the search terms they use to arrive on our site and based on what they’re looking for, we create content that targets those questions and provides specific answers.”
His team will be pursuing this path even more in the future by adding a Q&A database to address these FAQs more directly.
Another strategy Sapochnick has found to be effective in terms of boosting site traffic is Google Local. The local listing that appears on the right hand side of search results prominently displays the fact the firm has received 121 Google Reviews and has a near 5-star rating. As one would suspect, this is very good for business.
“We’ve been paying attention to Google Local for a year and a half while a lot of people have ignored it,”Sapochnick says, indicating it’s so important because it creates a sense of “validation and comfort”before someone even lands on your site.
But he’s quick to note, the sense of comfort can’t end there. “We try to take that and continue it when clients come into our office.”He emphasizes his team is trained to be nice and patient. Kindness goes a long way. It doesn’t matter who it is, if they work in the office, they’re expected to be kind to clients, from the receptionists to the paralegals to the lawyers. “We don’t tolerate people who are short with clients,”he says, noting “When people come to you based on these positive reviews and they have a different experience, it can hurt you big time.
However, if you make clients happy and present yourself consistently, it’s another story altogether. “We ask [clients]to leave a review at the end of a case,”he says and they’re usually “more than happy,” to do so.
The firm does use Google Ads on occasion, particularly if they want to focus on a specific area of practice. It helps to drive more traffic but it’s not something they use on a regular basis. “It is a good addition to creating content on a regular basis for our blogs and our website,”he says.
And as the saying goes, content truly is king.
Besides the main firm website, there are also two blogs affiliated with it. Visa Lawyer Blog was the firm’s first. It first launched in 2005 and it’s important because it established a principle about blogging he believes in strongly to this day.
“You see a lot of websites where attorneys combine their blog with a website, but I don’t agree with this,”he says. “A blog with fresh content provides much better authority on its own, with its own domain, than attached to a firm’s site as just another page.”
Sapochnick uses both Visa Lawyer Blog and the firm’s other blog, Immigration Lawyer Blog, as educational tools for clients and even attorneys. “They’ve been a major driving force for clients and media,”he says. He also guest blogs on occasion and writes regularly for Avvo’s blog, Lawyernomics. He says of guest blogging, “it’s a good way to get your name out there, especially if it’s a big publication.”
But it’s not just about blogging and content. It’s also about social media. “Most of our media connections have come from social media outreach,”he says. “If you’re everywhere, people can’t help but find you.”
On Being Useful
“A year ago, I discovered something interesting,”begins Sapochnick. “I’d been reading books by marketers like Jay Baer who said something to the effect of ‘If you’re useful and do useful things, you’ll have the best form of marketing possible. So we started offering more free consultations. It forced us to look at clients from a wider angle. If someone comes in and says they need help getting a work visa, I’ll say, ‘You’re new in town, you probably need a house and help finding a real estate agent,’and I’ll provide him with a list of agents in the area.
If you’re useful, clients will come back and refer other people to you.”
Sapochnick practices what he preaches. His website, blogs, and social profiles are chock full of useful information. On his firm’s site, he currently offers two free apps with the promise of more becoming available in the future. First up is Citizenship Pal, an app available for iPhone and Android that helps clients complete their citizenship form within in the app. When done, the app emails the completed form to the client, which she can then use. All the questions for the citizenship test are also included in the app, so clients can prepare on-the-go.
The other app offered is Marriage Based Green Card Application. It’s available for iPhone, Android, and also has a web-version. It features an image of Sapochinick and a voiceover that offers a detailed and highly interactive look at how to get a green card for marriage. Both of these apps are completely free.
“We wanted to be useful and give clients things for free,”he says, noting that the mobile element is especially important. “Everyone is mobile so the more tools we can give clients for mobile devices, the more useful we’ll be and the more people will reach out to us when they need help.”
Since Sapochnick has been so successful in his marketing efforts, with many lawyers contacting him regularly asking for advice, he started a blog and podcast called Enchanting Lawyer. It focuses on his approach to social media and his ideas about leadership for lawyers. “Many lawyers don’t understand the concept of being nice and just don’t see the value in it, so I figured we’d promote it and write stories about marketing, my experience with clients, and life to change the perspective,”he says.
The Enchanting Lawyer site features a newsletter signup and several calls-to-action within the body of the content:
These attract the eye and have an effect on signups. “Signups are pretty good from the podcast and blog,”he says. List building has numerous benefits for marketing, even if you’re not selling something directly. For instance, when I asked him about the effect his marketing site and newsletter have had on referrals, he made it a point to emphasize that the point of Enchanting Lawyer is not to generate referrals, but rather, help people. Of course, he did admit that he’s received some referrals from other attorneys who checked out the site and referred to him cases that were outside of their practice areas.
Even with an eventual sales component, a newsletter is still designed to drive an action. That starts with a solid foundation. Sapochnick says a good newsletter should:
- Be consistent. Send it out once a week or once a month (once a month is fine).
- Be visually beautiful. A good design will catch the eye better.
- Be brief. People have limited time. Get to the point right away.
- Have carefully considered titles. If the title isn’t appealing, a subscriber won’t open the email.
- Include links to read more in-depth content
“The main purpose [of the newsletter]is to keep us top of mind,”says Sapochnick.
After signing up and you confirm your subscription, you’re greeted with a list of Action Guides. These guides accompany each week’s podcast and provide actionable tips. Again, I had to ask, what’s the end goal by giving away all of this free content? “Subscribers either communicate with me for consulting or continue following the newsletter —some will maybe call me later on,”he says.
“Most attorneys are in the dark with Facebook,”Sapochnick says. Though he excels at various marketing techniques, social media is where he really shines, Facebook in particular. He currently has over 110,000 Likes on his Facebook community, San Diego Immigration Lawyer, Jacob J. Sapochnick. Naturally, I had to ask him how he built his Facebook community from the ground up.
“[Facebook] allows you to create a proprietary audience; it’s your own audience. Google Ads and everything else is shared. You have to compete with other people doing the same thing. But Facebook is your platform where you can do and say whatever you want to your audience, exclusively. Like, enticing them to visit your site or go back to your blog. It’s a stream of perpetual referrals.
“To build the community, we Initially started with posting information and outreach on the different social media sites like Twitter and on our website. We promoted it in our newsletter and to those on our mailing list. We put the URL on our business cards and even on the front door of our building. We took the time for six months to promote our Facebook page absolutely everywhere. It was important to get organic growth. We reached about 10,000 Likes within those six months and started using Facebook Ads to further expand reach.
“We also held a contest and a chat. And we had community advocates who started spreading the word about our page to their communities. We always try to encourage our fans to spread the word about us by rewarding them. We do this through highlighting them within the community and helping them in every way we can. It takes time and effort to build a community. But if you have community your referrals are never going to stop.”
But what kinds of posts get the most engagement whether through Likes, comments, or shares?
“We don’t post too many legal things. We post news, of course, but don’t post our blog posts because it’s usually not of interest to our community. Instead, we use inspirational quotes, pictures from birthdays, and pictures from the office to draw the community closer to our attorneys. That way, they see we’re human. And should they one day need our services, they will remember our name and come to us.”
Sapochnick offers a specific example of his success on Facebook. The following was posted to his page on April 9.
This simple post that had nothing to do with immigration law garnered over 700,000 likes, comments, and shares. For the week this was posted, Sapochnick saw more engagement than Coca-Cola. Now, Coca-Cola has over 81 million fans on Facebook and it only managed to bring in 611,000 people that week. Why did this happen? Sapochnick believes it’s because the community is so connected to his firm.
“We get referrals every day. That’s between 15-20 leads every single day. I haven’t found any other attorneys doing what we do with Facebook,”he says, and that seems to be his ultimate takeaway: be original.
But his social media strategy doesn’t end with Facebook. He’s pretty much everywhere else, too, and doing well at it, I might add.
On Twitter, he’s a part of a lot of discussion groups. He follows the discussions and contributes when he can. He also follows a lot of reporters. “It’s a great way to supplement marketing work,”he says.
Google+ is an enigma for many but it’s 100% essential. “It’s a good tool for following people who are a bit more professional,”he says, “and it’s great for SEO.”He’s referring to Google Authorship, of course. “Every time you publish an article or a bit of commentary on Google+, it’ll come up higher in the search results.”And it’s great for communicating with those who have similar ideas as you. It’s the place for professional discussion.
He’s on Pinterest and Instagram, too, which are networks a lot of lawyers overlook. “Pinterest is cool,”Sapochnick says. “We have images for all of our articles and when you put a link at the end of the description in each Pin, the SEO value is very strong.”Links from Pinterest to your site are dofollow, which means the juice flows, in search engine speak. “It’s also good for branding,”he says.
And he treats Instagram as a supplement to Facebook. “I post the images I put on Facebook to Instagram,”he says, and notes that lawyers should also take advantage of the 15-second video capability on the site.
Video is another main component of his marketing strategy. The firm’s YouTube channel has over 100 videos. “The video [embedded]at the top of our site is designed to show clients who is behind the website,”he says, adding, “It shows them who we are and gives them a look at our office.”
Of the production process, he had this to say, “It took some time to make [the video]because we wanted to come across as caring—which we are—and foster a connection with potential clients. We’ve received good feedback on the video so far.”
All of this community building might sound exhausting on its surface. And it is definitely a lot of work. But, “the more communities you build, the more you’re going to be visible,”he says, “You have to be everywhere.”But how is this possible when running a practice, too? Believe it or not, Sapochnick began on his own.
“Now we have a small team, but I was doing it myself at first with tools like Hootsuite and Sprout Social,”he says. He’d schedule his posts to each of the social networks 4-5 days in advance, insert pictures, and so forth. “Now I have community managers who help source news but when you start, it’s easy to get everything managed,”he says. “There are so many tools now that allow you to manage everything.”
Speaking of being everywhere, Sapochnick is also listed on all the major directories, including Findlaw and Lawyers.com. However, out of them all, he finds Avvo to be the most efficient and useful from an SEO standpoint. “We have a profile and I have about 50 reviews,”he says, noting the site offers a lot of content and that he used to answer more questions there himself but other attorneys in the office now take on that task.
Putting a Marketing Plan into Practice
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to establish a marketing plan from the start. Oftentimes, lawyers miss a thing or two when putting such a plan into place.
“One of the biggest problems is [lawyers]copy what others do. There isn’t too much innovation in legal marketing for attorneys so when they set up websites and lack social media connections, and have a blog on their firm sites, they’re showing they don’t have a strategy,”he says. Another problem is this lack of strategy as a whole. Many attorneys appear to be “all over the place”and have no real focus.
Another issue is lawyers tend to make everything about themselves. “We give a lot of information away,”he says, and his strategy is, “designed on a platform of serving the client.”Other lawyers make it all about themselves. “But clients don’t care about that. They want to see human attorneys who are helpful.”Clients also want to know if the attorney can do the job. They don’t care if a lawyer went to Yale or Harvard. “[That’s] more about glorification of lawyers,”he says than anything else.
Practice management is another thing that lawyers don’t pay enough attention to, especially in terms of streamlining processes and becoming more efficient.
“We try to use the cloud,”says Sapochnick. “We scan most of our documents and use case management tools. As firms become busier, we have so many tools available, so why not use them?”
And he has a point. There’s an app for everything. “I use apps for time management, for taking notes, for communication with my team—there are so many things that can make your life easier and so you don’t forget anything,”he says. So, understandably, when he comes across lawyers using manual calendars and who have offices full of files, he’s a bit baffled.
“You don’t need all of that anymore,”he says and notes that he’s thinking about moving his entire office to a hosted server. “All computers will be virtual,”he says, so there’s no more risk of a single computer crashing and losing a ton of data as a result. “Everyone is flexible now,”he adds, so if you provide the service, you don’t even necessarily need to have a brick and mortar location.
“Keep an open mind,”Sapochnick says. And? “Don’t follow what others are doing.”
He also reiterates the importance of “embracing”mobile and social media. “People spend their days on their phones and tablets, so if [your]website isn’t easily searchable or reachable on mobile, it’ll be difficult for clients to read.
It all comes down to making sites more useful and friendly. And that means investing in the time it takes to learn how to do social media right. “People are spending more time in communities,”he says, “If you’re not doing this, it’s going to be difficult to compete in the future.”