5 Ways to Stand Out From Your Competitors Teleseminar Led by: Dan Couvrette, CEO, Divorce Marketing Group

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Dan Couvrette:

Thank you for joining our teleseminar, my name is Dan Couvrette. I’m the CEO of Divorce Marketing Group. Every month we host a free teleseminar to give marketing advice to professionals who are serving the divorce market. You can listen to past teleseminars by going to DivorceMarketingGroup.com. We promise that these teleseminars will not be a forum to promote our company but just to give you a bit of background.

For the past 16 years Divorce Marketing Group has been helping family lawyers and other professionals serving the divorce market to better market their practices. We do everything from building websites (and helping them rank high on search engines); to publishing Magazines and newsletters; to customizing divorce guides for our clients; to helping clients use social media and promoting them on DivorceMagazine.com. Please visit DivorceMarketingGroup.com to learn more about what we do – end of sales pitch.

Future teleseminars this year will go deeper into specific marketing topics, but I thought for the first teleseminar of 2012, I’d talk more in broad terms in order to help you establish a plan for the year.

Before I start talking about how to more effectively market your practice and how to ward off your competition, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about the divorce market itself – which by the way is something that is rarely, if ever, discussed. I believe a good question to ask is yourself is “What is the future for your family law practice and how can you best prepare for that future?”

Let me give you a summary of where things are at for the divorce market and where things are going. These are the trends that are converging right now:

• Less people are getting divorced. Divorce Marketing Group has been in business for 16 years and every year fewer and fewer people have been getting a divorce – in other words the divorce market is shrinking.

Prediction: The divorce market is not going away but it the boom years for divorce are behind us. We are not going back to the “way it was.”

• The economy has contracted and more attorneys are seeking divorce cases because other types of legal transactions are down in numbers.

Prediction: Because of a tight economy, technological advances – meaning more information is easier to access more lawyers who don’t concentrate on divorce cases will take on more divorce work; even if they take on more simple cases that will force more junior family lawyers to seek more complex cases.

• Pro Se divorces – More and more people are doing their own divorce and that percentage will continue to grow as time goes on.

Prediction: It is estimated that between 75 – 80 per cent of divorce cases are handled Pro Se in California – the number may not be that high in your state yet, but I predict that number of people doing their own divorce will continue to go up.

• More Marketing – Attorneys are marketing their services more than they ever have before. Younger lawyers in particular don’t care that it “isn’t right” to market their services, that thought never crosses their mind as it does with many older attorneys.

Prediction: Attorneys will need to spend more on marketing as a percentage of the cost of doing business

• ADR – more and more people are voluntarily turning to a mediation or collaborative divorce process. In some states mediation is mandatory in divorce cases.

Prediction: Because of pressure on State budgets more systems will be put in place to resolve cases outside of the courtroom.

• Unbundling – There is a growing trend for divorcing people to use a lawyer for some aspects of their divorce, to review documents, etc.

Prediction: More lawyers will offer a “stripped down” divorce option.

• Outsourcing – Many, many companies are outsourcing work to places like India and the Philippines, etc.

Prediction: In order to stay competitive more attorneys will look to outsourcing some aspects of their legal practice for legal research, document preparation and administration functions. Most of the outsourcing from North America will continue to go to India because they speak English, are well educated, and their legal system is based on the British legal system. There are 1 million lawyers in India today and 80,000 new ones are being added each year.

With these trends in mind, I highly recommend that you read at least two books to open your mind up to new ways of doing business and thinking of the world:

The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris
The World is Flat – Thomas Friedman

To summarize, I believe that these things will happen in the future of family law:

Fewer people getting g divorced
More lawyers competing for a smaller market
More Pro Se divorce cases
More marketing
More ADR
More unbundling
More outsourcing

But hold on a minute – it gets worse.

I haven’t really talked about the effect of technology yet. Other than people being able to do their own divorce online, there is a even bigger problem.

Lawyers Replaced by Technology?

There is the idea that lawyers will be replaced by algorithms at some point in the future. What is an algorithm you might ask?

Wikipedia explains it as:

“In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning. In simple words an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculations.”

Google uses algorithms to determine which website will come up when you do a search for, let’s say, “New Jersey Divorce Lawyer.” Our website DivorceMagazine.com comes up on the first page for a search like that because we do a number of things to optimize our website. But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s get back to “How will lawyers be replaced by Google?”

An excerpt from “Will Google Law Replace the Legal Industry?” on LegalLoudSpeaker.com explains the notion:

“I just finished reading “I am an APP” and “Run! Hide! The Lawyers are being replaced by machines.” Two excellent articles that address the concern about how the legal industry is being affected by programmers. The conclusion of the article based on some significant research is that “A computer program with enough analytical power along with a database filled with reams of documents from a statistically significant set of similar cases could predict the outcome of a dispute”.

Is it such a stretch to believe that we could go from simple divorce cases that are currently being handled by relatively simple software programs to the ability of computer programs that can handle more complicated matters? I don’t think it’s much of a stretch at all. It then becomes a question of: How much time before this happens? — And it won’t all happen at once, it will happen over time.

You might be saying to yourself:

“But Dan I’m busy and turning away business at the moment.

“But Dan I only deal with high-end divorce cases and I get all of my clients from referrals so I’m immune to all those conditions.”

Nobody is immune to converging trends. The blacksmith thought he was immune to converging trends when the automobile first came along.

Then, is marketing the only thing that can save you? Unfortunately for me the answer is no. Marketing is part of the equation for success, but there are a few other components that you need to embrace to succeed in the divorce game in the future if you want to beat your competitors.

You should consider the following:

•  Develop a willingness, interest and desire to change and adapt preferably before you are forced to do so.

I remember when banking machines came into use. I was at the bank about 15 years ago when we all started using banking machines and I was in line for a teller. The reason I was in line for a teller was that what I needed to do could not be done by the bank (and still can’t be done because there is not a big enough demand for it). While II was inn line, the bank manager was going down the line talking to each person about why they are in line and telling the ones who could or should be using the bank machine to do so.

You can still wait in line if you wish but I imagine most of you use a bank machine because it’s faster, easier, and you can do it whenever you want. Most of probably do online banking and rarely ever go into a bank – that’s called adapting. You can either go kicking or screaming into the future, or you can go gracefully – the choice is yours.

I’ve been working with family lawyers and other professionals for the past 16 years and I vividly remember most family lawyers telling me 10-12 years ago that they’d never have a website. They didn’t see a need for a website and didn’t want one. But look at where we are today, almost every family lawyer has a website.

So my question to you now is – what are you saying “no” to now that you’ll wish you had said “yes” to, 2, 3, or 5 years from now? More progressive professionals are already taking advantage of LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, videos, electronic newsletters, advertising, networking, press releases, public relations, etc.?

Think about ways you may have thought you’d never market yourself i.e. Facebook, twitter. LinkedIn and give them a second look.

•  Look for ways to differentiate yourself from your colleagues.

If people can fill out forms and do their own divorce what do you really have to offer? What do you offer and what is different or better than any other family lawyer?

You might consider some of the following:

Learn skills that are complimentary to your family law practice. I spoke with a lawyer last week at the ABA meeting in Las Vegas and he told me that he recently completed training with the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and has found it very helpful in his practice.
Become trained as a mediator or collaborative professional so you broaden your potential client base.
Take some courses or attend trainings and workshops with therapists. It will accomplish two goals: one is to educate yourself on the issue; the other is network with professionals who can refer business to you.

“Dan I don’t believe in the Collaborative model.”

This is where you need to start thinking like a business person and less like a lawyer. I remember going to MacDonald’s 20 years ago with my kids (and I’m a vegetarian so there wasn’t much for me to eat). We’ll MacDonald’s didn’t sell salads in those days so I ate French fries but you know what MacDonald’s now sells salads and they were smart enough to realize that just because they sell hamburgers it doesn’t mean they can’t also sell salads – they saw a business opportunity and they seized it – you should do the same.

By the way, it has been my experience that as family lawyers age, many of them still want to have an active practice, but they are looking to use mediation or the collaborative model in their golden work years.

Marketing Ideas

If you asked me, what are the five things I should be doing right now to help me more effectively market my firm? This is what I would tell you to do:

Take better care of your clients. That’s a whole seminar itself but I recommend that you write down 3 things you could be doing to do a better job for your clients. I recommend that you survey your clients to ask them what you could be doing to make their life better – if you don’t do an exit survey with your clients I recommend you do one. If you don’t have an exit survey go to our new website – FamilyLawyerMagazine.com and read family lawyer Mark Chinn’s article called “Exit Interview.”
• Have a better website
Get and/or stay connected with your referrals sources
Get involved or step up your social media marketing plan
Use printed material to inform, educate and support your clients and referral sources and ask your referrals for resources.
Have a better website than any of your competitors.

That includes: more resources, more information, and more fresh content.

Have press releases on your website – they’re impressive and add credibility – the perception is that the only people who do press releases are people who truly have something worth saying.
Integrate your LinkedIn profile and Facebook corporate page with your website.

Most family lawyers’ websites are all about the firm and completely miss the opportunity to inform and educate. As a result, the websites are not very persuasive from a marketing perspective.

There’s a big gap in the type of resources and information you offer and what you could be offering.

There’s a big gap in the ability of your website to make your firm look the most credible it can possibly look, and I don’t mean having more information about your firm, what I mean is by thinking more from your clients point of view rather than from a family lawyers point of view. You’ll understand the value of providing resources and information on your website.

There’s a big gap in your websites ability to attract prospective clients. There’s a big gap in the likelihood that anybody is going to recommend your website — if there were more information and resources they’d be more likely to recommend your website.

I would tell you to stay connected with your referral sources; both your professional and personal contacts like you never have before. That includes regular contact: A) e-newsletter B) LinkedIn C) Facebook.

Have some printed information that you give to your clients and prospective clients when they come to meet you. Giving something out in your office will keep you “top of mind” longer and differentiate you from your competitors.

We produce 9 different divorce guides – if you go to DivorceMarketingGroup.com and look under divorce guides you’ll see all nine of these guides – they’re 26 to 33 pages each in size and they include: The Divorce Guide – which covers legal, financial, children etc. and then there are more specific guides like:

•  Children’s Divorce Guide
•  Co-Parenting Divorce Guide
•  Divorce Recovery Guide
•  Divorce & Finance Guide
•  Men’s Divorce Guide
•  Women’s Divorce Guide
•  Mediation Divorce Guide
•  Collaborative Divorce Guide

Social Media

I think we’re ready to move on to the topic of Social Media marketing. A quote from the book Social Media Marketing – One hour a day, reads:

“Social media involves a natural, genuine conversation between people about something of mutual interest, a conversation built on the thoughts and experiences of the participants. It’s about sharing and arriving at a collective point, often for the purpose of making a better more-informed choice.”

So as lawyers, social media marketing is a way for you to share yours and your firm’s expertise, information and intellectual resources with your colleagues, your clients, and with people who can refer business to you. Social media also provides a way for you to learn more about what you to learn from others sources. This is the power of social media; it’s an informing, learning and collaborating experience. Social media marketing is typically not a one way street like advertising is — it’s interactive.

Social media marketing can help you stand out as an expert in your field without having to say it (unlike with advertising). Social media marketing is about you demonstrating your expertise not promoting your expertise.

When most lawyers think of social media, the image that probably comes up for them is some crazy thing a client or the ex-spouse did on Facebook to jeopardize their case; or they think of a 14 year-old girl following their latest teen idol on Twitter. But the fastest growing user age group on Facebook is the 30+ age group. As for LinkedIn, for the most part, young people have no interest in LinkedIn – it’s all adults.

The entry level of social media marketing is about you connecting with people you know, and then you connecting with the people who your LinkedIn contacts know.

I think of it as six degrees of separation with really no separation. Everybody knows the concept that you’re never more than 6 people away from anybody, with social media you’re literally a few clicks of your mouse away from anybody.

Let me ask some more questions:

How many of you get most of your business from referrals?

How many of you have a plan that’s in action to keep you connected with your referral sources on a regular basis (by regular I mean at least once a month)?

We’ll at the entry level, if you were minimally active on LinkedIn you could probably stay connected with a good number of your referral sources plus you could greatly expand your referral sources, plus you could make new contacts plus you could inform new potential referrers about what you do, influence people who know to recommend you, help you stand out as a thought leader, etc.

I recommend that you do some reading about both of these websites – LinkedIn and Facebook. I like the Dummies and Idiots series of books but there’s lot of other books on the market about social media.

Let’s talk briefly about LinkedIn because up to this point I’ve only generalized about social media marketing.

How many people have a profile on LinkedIn?
How many people have no idea what LinkedIn is?

Latest LinkedIn Facts

•  LinkedIn has over 120 million members in 200 countries.
•  A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of their members are inside the U.S.
•  Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.

LinkedIn is the place where professionals find each other, connect to each other, share information with each other, initiate business relationships with each other, build their credibility, and influence what people think about them.

A quote from the LinkedIn website reads:

Relationships Matter

Your professional network of trusted contacts gives you an advantage in your career, and is one of your most valuable assets. LinkedIn exists to help you make better use of your professional network and help the people you trust in return. Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. We believe that in a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.”

How many people who have profiles on LinkedIn have more than 50 connections on Linked in?
How many have more than 250 connections? 500?

I’d say you probably want to get in the 200 range given the groups, organizations and associations you’re involved with for a start, but the game is not to have just a lot of connections, it is to be active and use the service for whatever you want to use the service for whether that’s:

•  To connect with people you haven’t connected with in a long time (old school mates, colleagues, etc)
•  Connect with people who you’d like to know for business purposes.
•  Expertise requests – to make yourself available as an expert.
•  Make yourself available for consulting
•  Make yourself available for new ventures
•  Make yourself available to give requests to your colleagues. Etc.

How many people have joined groups on LinkedIn and participate in discussions of those groups? How many people have started their own discussion group? How many people here are confident or know for sure that all of the lawyers in your firm have at least a LinkedIn profile?

How does LinkedIn work?

We’d need another hour with everybody in front of a computer to show you how LinkedIn works.
However, for those of you who haven’t signed yourself up on LinkedIn, I recommend that you do so.

For those of you who have a profile on LinkedIn and it’s not complete, I recommend you complete it as best you can. I recommend that you have at least 5 recommendations on LinkedIn – more is better.

For those who have a complete Profile on LinkedIn I recommend that you start participating in groups that are of interest to you. If it’s not of interest to you won’t participate. For those of you who are already participating in groups I recommend that you look into creating your own group because having your own group gives you privileges and makes you look more important and successful – particularly if a lot of people join your group.

I’m not going to try to give you more details about LinkedIn – my hope is that if you’re not on LinkedIn you’ll read up on it and get involved, if you’re on it you’ll get more involved.

What can you do on LinkedIn?

Once you’ve got your profile up and once you’ve joined a group, you can post discussions about topics that might be of interest to your group and post and news about your services or your firm. Make sure that you provide the link back to your web site, make sure that the link back goes to a page that is highly relevant to what it is that you are posting.

When you post discussions and news, the links back should be relevant to that group. The last thing professional want is irrelevant information where you’re selling anything and everything with no respects for where you are and who you’re talking to. The managers of these groups can delete your post if they think that they are being spammed with propaganda about you.

Another way to get contacts is to start your own group. We started a group called Marketing for Divorce Professionals. When you start a group, you need to write a short little blurb about the purpose of the group. For example, our says “A forum for exchanging marketing ideas”

When it comes to LinkedIn, get on board and get everybody in your firm on board. Create a strategy for how your firm can best use LinkedIn and work that strategy.

Facebook

Facebook is also a social networking site. Until recently, most people have used Facebook for personal purposes. But about a year or so ago, Facebook introduced a business aspect to their website because LinkedIn was becoming so predominant in offering networking for professionals. Facebook wanted a piece of that action so they introduced Facebook Pages for businesses. That is particularly useful for if you want to promote your firm.

A big difference between the Facebook page for your company and your personal Facebook page is that your company page can be viewed by the public. The public doesn’t have to have connected with you on Facebook in order to view your page. This is different than a regular personal page on Facebook, where in most cases, people have to be friends before they can connect and see each other’s pages. Keep in mind that the business page is what you want to create for business purposes. Also keep in mind that the world can see your corporate Facebook page. Whatever you’d be OK showing on your firm’s website you should be OK with showing on your Facebook page.

A quote from the Washington Post that goes back to July 2010 about Facebook reads:

“In its six-year history Facebook has become ritualized in our everyday lives. It has even attracted the unwilling (that would be lawyers by the way) to join for fear of being cut out of the social fabric. It has connected old friends and family. It has helped make or break political campaigns and careers. It has turned many of us into daily communicators of one-line missives on the profound and mundane.”

Having a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook and being active on these websites will make your firm more connected to the whole world, it will help make your firm look more important and relevant and the more interconnected you make your website and other marketing with a social media strategy the more likely your firm will succeed in the future and stay ahead of your competitors.

Thank you for listening. Please visit DivorceMarketingGroup.com to read articles and past teleseminars and to learn more about how we can help you more effectively market your practice. Of course you’re welcome to contact me directly by calling 866-803-6667 (124) or by sending me an email – DanC@DivorceMarketingGroup.com.

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