March 2010 Archives

March 21, 2010

The Nuts and Bolts of Setting Up a Webinar (Part II)

In Part I of this two-part series on webinars, I discussed why webinars are an effective marketing tool for lawyers and identified suitable topics for webinars and free and low cost platforms to support webinars.  In this Part, I'll go through the nuts and bolts of setting up a webinar from start to finish.

1.  Choose your weapon.  As I suggested in Part I, test drive a few of the webinar platforms to figure out which ones work for you.  The platforms vary in price and features but what's most important is that you (or your staff) feel comfortable with the interface.  (One of my personal favorites for features and ease of use is DimDim).  Once you've decided on and registered for a webinar service, you can start planning your first webinar. 

2.  Decide on a topic for your webinar.  For prospective clients, pick topics that are timely and don't usually receive adequate attention at other seminars.  Remember - because webinars are so inexpensive to host, you can keep the topics narrow.  You may attract a smaller number of participants, but chances are, they'll be much more interested in the event and more likely to retain you.  To select topics for existing clients, why not ask them what interests them?  Clients will feel flattered that you've sought out their input and will appreciate your continued responsiveness to their needs. 
 
3.  Pick a date.  Choose a date for the webinar anywhere from four to six weeks out.  A shorter time frame will cut down on your ability to promote the webinar.  

4.  Pick a time for the webinar.  The best times for a webinar will depend on your audience.  If your target audience includes a 9 to 5 working crowd, an evening or weekend will work best.  For a national audience, a time slot after noon is necessary to ensure that West Coast participants will be awake in time for the call.  Limit webinars to no more than ninety minutes and preferably, aim for 40 to 60 minutes of content with 15 minutes available for questions.

As for your own schedule, try to set the webinar on a day that you won't be in court or at other meetings.  Though a webinar is only an hour and can be conducted from your office, you're better off hosting it on a day with few distractions.

5.   Set Up Registration:  Once you've set a presentation date, it's time to start marketing your seminar.  Prepare a snappy announcement and post it on your blog, website or a separately created landing page.  You can use auto-responder programs like Aweber or Constant Contact for registration, or even something free like Google Forms.  
These programs will capture registrants names and emails so that you can send them the log in information for the webinar. 

6.  Start marketing.   After you've set up the registration, begin promoting your program.  Use social media applications like a Facebook fan page or Twitter.  Disseminate information about the webinar through your newsletter as well as any listservs in which you participate (if they allow promotions).  Reach out to bloggers who cover the topics that you'll be addressing in the webinar and ask whether they can get the word out to readers.  You might also consider advertising on Facebook.

If you're targeting a consumer audience, don't limit your promotions to the Internet.  Depending upon your audience, consider announcing your webinar in school or PTA newsletters, through leaflets or fliers at the local coffee shop, bookstore and library and perhaps even through an inexpensive ad in a small local publication.

7.  Prepare the Webinar.  Once the marketing for the webinar is underway, begin preparing your materials as soon as possible, for two reasons.  First, getting the prep out of the way early on means you'll have less to worry about when the webinar date approaches.  Second, you may decide to send an outline to participants in advance to provide more details about the topics you'll cover. 

8.  Send Out the Access Information.  Two days before the webinar, send out the access information to participants.  Some of the services - such as DimDim can transmit an invitation for you, or you can simply send an email yourself.   In addition to sending the numbers to call and/or codes to enter to access the webinar, you should also provide participants with an alternative way to get in touch with you (such as email) if for some reason, the webinar disconnects.

9.  Test Run.   It's always good to do a quick test run a day before you put on the program whether you've used the product or not. Sometimes, companies may change the features of a webinar platform and if you don't check it out in advance, you may find yourself fumbling on "game day."  Also test out your recording options and run a sound check.  If the sound comes across weak, you may need to plug a microphone into the computer.

10.  Webinar.  Giving a webinar can be tricky since unlike an in person event, you can't judge reactions.  So stop from time to time to ask participants to send in questions.  Err on the side of keeping the webinar short.  Many people budget a limited time frame - typically not more than an hour - for webinars, so try to keep your presentation short, while allowing time for questions.   

Definitely record the webinar, either using tools included in the platform or screen capture programs like Camtasia (for PCs) or Screenflow (for Macs).

11.  Post Production  Once the webinar ends, there's still plenty of work to do.  For starters, you should email participants with a short survey (also something that can be done with Google Forms) asking them to rate the program and for testimonials (be sure to ask for permission about using them in your marketing materials). 

Next, save a copy of the recording and arrange to have the audio transcribed.  That way you'll have both a visual summary of your talk (on CD or thumb drive) as well as written materials for those who don't care for video.  If you're pleased with the product, you might consider selling the recording bundled with the tape and a written transcript or making it available on your website.

CONCLUSION  Though all of these steps to put on a webinar seem complicated, they become much easier over time once you've mastered the learning curve.  In fact, you may become so adept at webinars, you might decide to hold a webinar for colleagues or clients on...what else?  How to put on a webinar!  
March 18, 2010

How Lawyers Can Use Webinars to Attract and Retain Clients (Part I)

According to the 2009 Benchmark Report on Professional Services Marketing, seminars and webinars are some of the most effective tools for attracting new clients and retaining existing ones.  The Report found that professional services use in person seminars (66%) and webinars (45%) to identify service providers and make hiring decisions.  The results apply with equal force to legal services; at the  Marketing with a Book blog, Henry DeVries writes that:

In 1991 a random survey of the top 1,000 U.S. law firms found that 89 percent held at least one client seminar per year. In 1999, 94 percent of law firms were regularly holding seminars. Lawyers at the top 1,000 firms ranked seminars as the most effective tool for cross-selling and gaining new clients (Source: FGI Research, 1999).

I've already discussed at length the benefits and how-tos of speaking events.  But for all their effectiveness, seminars and speaking events aren't without their drawbacks.  For starters, if you have a national or multi-state practice, you may have to travel to the event on your own dime, and lose billable time while you're away from the office.  Local events are more convenient if you can find a group that's willing to host you.  But you may have to rent space and serve refreshments, which are an added cost that may outweigh the benefits if only a handful of people actually show up.

Though webinars can't replace face to face events, they are a cost-efficient way to supplement live activities.  With today's low cost, user-friendly technologies, even a solo lawyer on a tight budget can put on several webinars a year and perhaps even make a few extra dollars by bundling and reselling the content.  Below, I'll describe what a webinar is, suggest ways that a webinar can work for any practice and finally, give some practical tips on getting started.

THE WHAT, HOW AND WHY ABOUT WEBINARS:

1.  What is a webinar?

Basically, a webinar is what the term implies -- a seminar delivered over the web.  Webinars offer several advantages over their poorer relation, the conference call.  During a webinar, you can present power point slides from your computer that participants can view on their screen.  Many webinar products (I'll discuss them in more detail at the end of this post) allow you to use whiteboard and mark-up features, so that you can highlight parts of your presentation, or demonstrate a skill - perhaps how to fill in a form or improve a contract draft - in real time. 

Other webinar products offer additional features that set them apart from conference calls.  Some incorporate video, so that participants can see you while you deliver your presentation while others will tape the webinar so that you can post it on YouTube or distribute a copy on a CD or thumb drive.  Some products allow participants to submit written questions or comments during the presentation which can be viewed by all other participants through a side bar.  During conference calls, listeners are often intimidated from posing questions, either to avoid being recorded or because they're simply not comfortable doing so.   All of these features make webinars are far more impressive and interactive for potential or existing clients than a simple conference call.

2.  Are webinars better for existing or prospective clients?

Webinars work extremely well for both.  A webinar gives a prospective client a more personalized and impressive introduction to your services.  In addition, a webinar can educate prospective clients, making them realize a need for your services.

As for ongoing webinars, they're a great way to help existing clients keep up to date on developments in the law while showing them that you value their business.   And of course, like newsletters, webinars let you stay in touch with existing clients so that you'll be first to come to mind when they're asked for referrals.

3.  What kinds of topics and practice areas work best for webinars?  Can webinars work even for a consumer oriented practice?

The scope of potential webinar topics is limited only by your imagination.  Consider the following ideas:

  • Corporate, tax or regulatory attorneys:  The law in these practice areas is constantly in flux and clients are subject to an array of compliance issues.  Webinars are ideal for providing updates on changes in the law or offering tips on compliance and ways to keep out of trouble.
  • Small business lawyers:  In addition to the issues discussed above, small businesses face a variety of legal issues, from leasing, zoning and property issues to employment, trademarks and copyright.  Many times these businesses don't have in house counsel, and aren't able to determine whether they need a lawyer or not.  Educating business owners about the legal issues they may face can help them figure out when it's time to call a lawyer - and that lawyer could likely be you!
  • Consumer and general practice lawyers:  Holding a webinar on broad consumer issues, such as the need for will or how to draft a lease may not attract much attention if only because so many lawyers offer these seminars already.  However, niche topics - such as estate planning for single parents or parents, tips on writing a contract to hire a nanny or the basics of special education law are more likely to generate interest because these audiences less frequently served by in person seminars.
  • Unbundled providers:  Many lawyers are beginning to handle legal matters on an unbundled basis.  For example, a lawyer might draft documents for a business incorporation or will but the client would have the responsibility to file the documents with the Secretary's office or execute the will before a notary.   Though most lawyers provide written instructions to clients on how to perform these tasks, a webinar could also be used to supplement the information provided - and clients would have a chance to ask questions as well. 
4.    What kinds of materials should I prepare for a webinar?
Again, you have many options.  You can create a power point presentation that participants will be able to view when they log in to the webinar.  Or, as you become more adept delivering webinars online, you could show websites to clients as part of your presentation.  For example, many government websites contain information on rules or filings that may interest your clients, but they may not know how to navigate the site.  You could show them how during the webinar.

5.  What technology is required to put on a webinar?
There are a number of different free and low cost webinar packages available.  I recommend using those that are "cloud" based, i.e., accessible over the web rather than those that need to be downloaded onto your computer or participants' computers.  In this way, participants can log in easily without any advance preparation and further, you avoid any Mac/PC compatibility issues.

As for specific programs, consider the following low cost options:
 DimDim - free for up to 20 users and also supports video (so participants can see you on the screen) and recording capability.
Glance - $49 per month for up to 100 users who can call in free (or available as a one time day pass for $9.95).
Go To Webinar - $49 per month, but only allows up to 15 users; up to 100 will cost $99/per month. 
WebEx $49 per month for up to 25 users; also offered with per minute charge.
Huddle.net - Really a hybrid web conferencing/project management tool.  $40/month for up to 5 users, but not an apples-apples comparison because the Huddle system includes document storage and other team management tools.

All of these services offer free service either on small scale or a trial basis, so play around with them to figure out which ones you like best.  In Part II of this post, I'll go through the nuts and bolts of setting up a webinar.
March 17, 2010

Part II: Should Lawyers Advertise on Facebook? My Experience

In Part I of this series, I considered whether lawyers should advertise on Facebook?  Though Facebook's traffic numbers recently surpassed Google, making Facebook the most heavily trafficked site on the web, most of the commentary that I found related to Facebook ads suggested that they were rather ineffective.  In addition, I expressed concern that Facebook users, who are interested in socializing and escaping the stresses of daily life, might be put off  by lawyer ads which might come across as an undue intrusion into their personal life.  I concluded that if lawyers wanted to experiment with social media, they might do so by offering a class or an ebook on a lighter topic (e.g., copyrighting a blog rather than personal injury), but not by directing links to a law firm website.  Still, they shouldn't expect great results. [but see the update at the end of this post]

As it happens, I've experimented with Facebook myself for a similar reason:  to promote a program on Hanging a Part Time Shingle with my colleague, Julie Tower Pierce.  In this post, I'll share the my thought process in creating the ad and the results of the campaign.

1.  Background:

 
The part time shingle program is geared towards lawyers interested in starting a part time law practice.  Julie and I identified three demographics:
 
  • Lawyers with children who are currently home raising them, thinking about leaving a full time job to spend more time with family or who'd left the work force to raise a family and now seek gradual re-entry.  Though increasingly, it is common for men to work part time, we believed that even in the 21st century, women would continue to dominate this category. 
  • Lawyers interested in starting a firm but who could not afford to leave a "day job" or give up contract work.  While this category encompasses almost any lawyer, we assumed that younger lawyers and new graduates with large loans fit within this group.
  • Lawyers seeking to retire or who have retired but want to keep a foot in the law either for personal interests.
2.  Set Up: Choosing A Demographic

As I described in Part I, Facebook allows users to specify the demographics of their target groups.  After you select a particular demographic, Facebook will tell you how many users fall within that group and will recommend a price per click (CPC).   

Once you've selected a demographic and specified a CPC (and daily or total ad budget), Facebook will determine when to run your ad based on the following guidelines:  

 For any given ad unit, we select the best ad to run based on the ad's bid (CPC or CPM) and ad performance. Your ad's ability to win the auction will change based on its past performance and as the pool of available ads changes.

If you are not receiving as many clicks or impressions as you would like, we recommend increasing your maximum bid. You should also take a look at your ad's targeting to make sure you're reaching the most appropriate audience. Your ad is more likely to run successfully if you're targeting a highly relevant group of users with Facebook's detailed targeting options.

[Source:  Facebook website]

Based on this information, I chose to target users who are college graduates and over the age of 50 (to capture re-entry candidates as well as retired lawyers); college graduates over the age of 28 (to capture those with day jobs) and married female college graduates between the ages of 29 and 33 (to capture mom lawyers home with children).  I restricted the last group to a narrow demographic because the recommended CPC for all women users was more than I wanted to pay.

The results of my ad campaign, which lasted for approximately six days, are shown below, with the results ordered as just described (all college grads over the age of 28, college grads over 50 and women between 29 and 33):
Picture 30.png For the first two categories (28 and older; 50 and older), I used Facebook's recommended CPC.  That wasn't very effective for the 28 and older category, as it resulted in 33,037 impressions.  I had better luck with the 50 and older crowd, where I scored 203,151 impressions by paying the recommended CPC, presumably because the 50 and older demographic on Facebook is smaller and not as frequently targeted by advertisers.  For the 29-33 married female category, I exceeded the recommended CPC by .25 because I knew that I'd be facing still competition.  My decision paid off in that it yielded 148,908 impressions.

Of course, the more important metric than impressions is the click through rate - since that's the first step to converting to a sale.  As predicted, click through rates were not impressive  - just five from the 28 and older group, 58 from the 50 and older and 40 from the women ages 29 to 33.  On the plus side, I didn't pay much for the click throughs - an average of 68 cents.

Did any of those click throughs result in a sale?  The program cost $25, so three sales would have given me a positive ROI.  Unfortunately, I didn't track sales origination closely so I don't have that data.  But my guess, based on the pattern and timing of program registrations, is that all of the registrants learned about the program from list serves, blogs or Twitter rather than through Facebook ads.

My results don't tell the whole story because of other variables.  I ran the Facebook ads just a week before the program which was a live call - so it's possible that those who clicked through and were interested had scheduling conflicts.  In addition, since I'm not a professional marketer, my ads (I used different ones for each group) may have simply been ineffective.

Given the low cost, I might experiment with Facebook again for a similar type of program.  I'd try to narrow my demographic groups further and also provide more lead time before an event.  However, I don't really see Facebook as a valuable promotional tool just yet. 

Finally, I would not use Facebook to market my law practice -- I don't market to consumers and even if I did, I strongly favor educational based marketing over pure advertising. Plus, I think that lawyer ads on Facebook are intrusive.  Nevertheless, if the results of my efforts to market the Part Time Shingle program on Facebook are any indication, I don't think that lawyers who avoid Facebook ads to market their law firms are missing out on much.  At least right now.

Update #1 (3/17/10)  I've received several reactions to my posts.  Two providers who serve attorneys (a legal marketing professional and a CLE company) have used Facebook for ads, with far better success.  The CLE company reported 200,000 hits, 1300 click throughs for $25, while the marketing professional has generated several serious leads through Facebook and  found two clients, for well under $100  $300 per month (correction as of 3/20/2010).  I already pointed out why my campaign may have been less successful - it ran only a week and my ad copy may not have been compelling.  Though my experience was more aligned with those of others (discussed here who have used Facebook ads), apparently there are those who are experiencing success and it's important to portray both sides so that you can make an informed decision.

As for posting lawyer ads on Facebook (rather than an ad for an ebook or webinar), that's a matter of taste.  Personally, I am tired of lawyer ads littering every site that I frequent online. But that's just me -- and if you don't take issue with that approach, then Facebook advertising may be something worth considering. 
March 16, 2010

Part I: Should You Advertise on Social Media Sites?

It's official!  As of yesterday, Hitwise confirmed what many had long predicted: that Facebook surpasses Google as the most visited Website in the U.S

So what does this new development mean for those lawyers who've hedged their Internet marketing bets on Google-driven search engine optimization (SEO) or pay per click?  This  article from Fast Company discusses the implications of Facebook's ascendancy for advertising.

For starters, Google will continue to dominate search.  So to the extent that you invested in professional SEO services or activities like blogging to build visibility online, your efforts will still pay off.  Moreover, even if you're a diehard Facebook user, with hundreds of friends and fans, you won't get much mileage from that presence in Google search.  And while users could also search Facebook to find you, as  the Fast Company article points out, search is not why folks flock to Facebook:

 Facebook does have a search ability inside the site, but what's really driving users to Facebook in droves is that it's a genuine phenomenon. Social networking is still riding that "oh you should try this, it's new and cool" wave and the site itself has reached a critical mass of user numbers whereby if you want to contact almost anyone, odds are that they have a Facebook account.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Facebook is without value - not just as a participant but potentially as an advertiser.  Fast Company suggests that:

 Facebook is now in a position to leverage those user visits to seize control of the online ad-placement business from Google--advertisers will begin to do the math and work out which site will get their ads in front of more eyeballs. And while Web 2.0 has been with us for a while, the fact that more people are visiting Facebook than Google indicates that this interactive revolution has really changed U.S. Netizen's online habits.

With enormous traffic numbers and still undiscovered advertising potential, there are certainly benefits to marketing legal services on Facebook.  Moreover, Facebook makes the advertising process easy with these tools that enable you to design your ad and specify where you want it placed.  Features of Facebook ads include the ability to:

  • include a photo or logo as well as a link to a website or fan page.  The graphics feature makes Facebook ads snappier than the bland Google pay per click ads that dot the top and side of Google search results pages.
  • specify the precise demographic audience you want to target based on age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, and key words on a fan page.
  • choose amount to pay per click through, as well as a daily and/or total limit for the ad campaign.   
But for all their benefits and low cost, Facebook ads haven't been terribly effective, as described here, here and here.  That's not surprising either.  After all, most people come to Facebook to interact with friends or socialize.  Thus, an ad for lawyer website isn't going to be terribly appealing, and in fact, might be regarded as an annoyance (though a recent study from Australia showed otherwise).  In fact, to the extent that Facebook ads are effective, they tend to work best for entertainment or recreational services rather than for the pharmaceutical or financial industry.
 
Like Facebook, Linked-In also offers advertising opportunities.  My guess is that Linked In ads might potentially be more effective than Facebook -- since Linked In users are more likely be combing the site to find a service provider rather than to chat with buddies -- I haven't been able to find studies that corroborate my hunch.

Despite the ineffectiveness of Facebook ads thus far, some (for example, a few of the commentors at this post) suggest that Facebook ads may be worth a try for a couple of reasons.  First, because the ads are cheap and users can limit their budgets, they have little to lose.  Second, because users can include logos and pictures, the ads offer an inexpensive way to build brand - though branding of this type is arguably less important for lawyers.

As for me, I'll concede that Facebook ads might be appropriate, albeit not all that useful to publicize a discrete law firm activity or product, like a free webinar or ebook (In fact, I've used Facebook for that very purpose, and I'll share my results in Part II of this post).   But as general tool to advertise a law firm, the the potential intrusiveness of lawyer ads ultimately outweigh any minimal benefit they might provide.