Quick Foreword: This is a podcast interview on digital marketing for lawyers that our Managing Director Jeromy Sonne did that for a variety of reasons didn’t end up getting published. As a consolation the host agreed to let us publish a transcript here. Enjoy!
Female voice: Welcome to the podcast, where we share some of the latest tips, tactics, and strategies for adding case files to your practice from the top experts in the world of growing law firms. Are you ready to ignite your growth? Let’s get started.
Host: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Podcast. I’m your host Host, and I’m here today with Jeromy Sonne. Jeromy is the founder and owner of FirmFuel. He’s got a pretty interesting story, but he’s formed a business providing calls for law firms in a way that I haven’t ever really seen before. So I’m really excited to speak to him about that. Thanks for being on the podcast today, Jeromy.
Jeremy Sonne: Yeah, I appreciate you having me.
Host: So, I like to get these things started usually with a little bit on how you got here. So would you mind sharing the origin story of how you got to where you are today?
Jeremy Sonne: Yeah, absolutely. So, kind of a really long twisting path that’s gone in a lot of directions. When I was in college I got bit by the entrepreneurship bug, and started a company that raised a little bit of money and went from there, and as the nontechnical founder had to figure out how to add value to the team, and so, spent a lot of my time learning about marketing, got into Facebook ads really, really early as part of that, went from there, ended up leaving that company, had spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was next, and during the figuring it out what was next time I started freelancing doing Facebook ads for folks. It was relatively new at that point. So, there wasn’t a ton of people with a lot of experience out there.
Jeremy Sonne: I started working for my friends that also had technology startups, things like that, and were in that space, and have done that really since about early 2014, late 2013. So yeah, I spent a lot of time doing that, have gone in a lot of different directions. Had a brief stint in-house as a director of marketing for a fintech company, but really in the last year I picked up a couple of clients that were lawyers that were looking to do lead-gen. One in particular, a personal injury lawyer, great guy, I was working with him and I inherited it from a marketing company that was doing … charging a lot of money, not really getting a lot of results, a pretty typical scenario.
Jeremy Sonne: We tried a lot of different things, and it’s a pretty hyper competitive market out there, especially for personal injury, and just banging my head against the wall. We were like, “Let’s just try a few more things, we may as well, nothing’s really working.” He was ready to stop all of his marketing a couple of months into our engagement. I was like, “You know what, I think I’m overthinking this. I’m creating all these of crazy funnels and stuff.” So yeah, just tried basically doing some click to call ads. I’ve been Google certified, or AdWords certified for awhile, and I’ve been doing Facebook ads for a long time and stuff and I was just like, “You know what, let’s just try it.”
Jeremy Sonne: It worked tremendously, and then I started doing it more, and looking at some different spaces and stuff, and as I’ve continued to see success with it with more and more campaigns that I’m launching, and I’m working with more and more folks on it, I was like, “Okay, I think that there’s really something here.”, and decided to shift all my efforts away from just being a pan freelancer towards really doubling down in this space, and ever since I started FirmFuel just been doubling down into the legal space, and continuing to see a massive amount of success. So, kind of a random story, but I don’t think actually really that dissimilar from how a lot of people end up finding niches that they’re able to do a really good job at.
Host: Yeah, absolutely. Funny enough, that’s kind of how I got focused on the legal stuff as well back in the day. One personal injury lawyer can change a lot of people’s lives in more ways than one.
Jeremy Sonne: That’s true. Yeah, that’s true.
Host: So basically you’ve been doing this for the last year, but I mean, it sounds like you’ve been in a lot of different channels for the lineup, like the, your marketing career. So how do you see the state of the union for legal marketing in 2018? Obviously we’ve seen some changes with Facebook, Google, SEO, you name it. What have you seen working and not working based on the firms that you’ve been working with?
Jeremy Sonne: The legal space is an interesting one. It’s a tough spot to be in if you’re a new entrant. The markets that I play in, especially when it comes to digital marketing and stuff like that, I think that, what I see as just hyper competition right now. You have more and more entrants, especially as law schools continue to churn out lawyers at pretty record rates. They’re churning out these lawyers at record rates they’re … folks are, they’re trying to figure out what to do. A lot of folks are starting their own firms and things like that, and they’re entering in, and doing personal injury and stuff.
Jeremy Sonne: So, I see increased supply of lawyers at the same time that I am seeing … you’re getting, especially with a lot of people with their bread and butter being car accidents, auto accidents, things like that, I’m seeing [inaudible 00:04:49] cars continue to get safer, I’m seeing … not … I don’t want to say a shrinking market, but maybe a little bit of a stagnant supply of injured folks, in regards to that. Obviously there’s a lot of verticals.
Jeremy Sonne: So, what I’m seeing basically is just a very, very hyper competitive market right now, and I think in these hyper competitive markets, I see a lot of people just trying random things. There’s the trope about the bus stop ads and things like that, ut those are very alive and well for a lot of personal injury attorneys in the markets that I play in. So, I think that there’s a lot of, like I said, a lot of competition that’s leading to a lot of rash decision making is the state of the Union of where I’m playing in.
Jeremy Sonne: At the same time though, there’s also a lot of opportunity if people are willing to invest in new platforms early on. So, that’s what I’m trying to help my clients with, and then I think the other thing too is that when you have these hyper competitive markets, you end up with people trying to basically outwit themselves, you know what I mean? So it’s like they’re spending a lot of time focused on creating these very fancy sort of acquisition funnels, and really valuing being clever and over simplicity, if that makes sense.
Jeremy Sonne: At the same time that they’re doubling down on traditional media and things like that, and moving away from digital because they run a few digital ads, and don’t see the results that they want, they’re also trying to hack the system, and stuff like that. I feel … I see a lot of people looking for these crazy arbitrage opportunities, but only inside of what they know. So, it’s an interesting market. I think there’s a lot of competition, a lot of misinformation, but I think also a lot of opportunities if you’re willing to take chances on new things.
Host: Yeah, it’s really interesting you say that. I feel like the challenge for the attorney in 2018 is that you’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place, because on the one hand you’ve got the proven channels, you’ve got AdWords that’s been rolling since 2002, but you’re not the only person who knows that. Those firms have been competing in that, and that’s why we’re paying $1,500 a click for personal injury lawyer in New York City, or Washington DC, or any place you did it, because it’s competitive.
Host: But at the same time, the other thing is, like you said, it’s this potpourri of these different channels or hacks within other channels, and a lot of the times you’re getting juiced and it’s getting more and more coming from Google every single year, but then the [inaudible 00:07:19] vendors don’t really seem to be playing out. So, it’s really interesting that, I mean, you kind of … and this is sort of what’s wrapped into what your clients are paying you for is that a lot of the experimentation that they could be doing on their own, the stuff that you guys have already been through, and now you guys have a system that’s been working pretty well.
Jeremy Sonne: Right, yeah. I think that one of the things too is that a lot of the experimentation is hastily done by a lot of folks, you know what I mean? I think as a marketer our market has the same problem that a lot of the legal market does, and that’s basically, how do I tell somebody that’s great from somebody that’s terrible, because there’s a lot of people that are saying very, very similar things, if that sort of makes sense. So, I think that a lot of experiments and a lot of people, many personal injury attorneys or attorneys of all kinds with their marketing, are willing to take chances, but then they take chances with people that maybe aren’t of the best quality, or don’t have the best skill set, and so then they write off a platform when they really should just be writing off the technician, you know what I mean?
Jeremy Sonne: If somebody … if a mechanic screwed up your car, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, Toyota’s terrible.” You’d say, “That mechanic is terrible.”, but I do think that we as marketers run into that. I think that that’s one of the things that keeps people grounded in those traditional things, because they have experiments run on something like Facebook that don’t produce results, and they assume Facebook’s broken rather than the technician is not doing the best job.
Host: Yeah. No, that’s a really, really good way to put it. I’ve been searching for a good metaphor. You might have just given me one for moving forward. I think, the whole mechanics and the Toyota thing is really great. But yeah, drilling down a little bit on that, you guys have developed a pretty cool system for getting Facebook to work, and this is funny because I used to say that if you want to look at the picture of something that’s not going to work on Facebook, I always used to use personal injury as an example, because there’s some markets that we’ve been experimenting with, family trust and estates law, the more proactive side of things, but the chance that somebody sees an ad the minute they log into Facebook after they got hit by a car, I don’t know why they’re on Facebook at this point, but it’s something that I’ve always thought was very, very, very unlikely. But you guys seem to have gotten a great way to get that to work. So, would you mind sharing a little bit about some of the ways that you guys have been doing that?
Jeremy Sonne: So first off, I want to clarify that of digital advertising revenue, Facebook has roughly 40% of the entire market, Google has another 40%, and every single other company is splitting that remaining 20%. It’s an extremely used platform. Not only is it big blue Facebook, but it’s also Instagram, and a number of other properties including WhatsApp and things like that. So, Facebook is a lot more than just Facebook nowadays. That said, I think that Facebook, Google AdWords, and Bing, SEM in general, search engine marketing, operates largely on intent. They’re saying, “I’m looking for this thing right now, give me this thing.”, and that’s what makes it really powerful for the space that I work in, which I call bad day lawyers. So lawyers are, yeah, just lawyers that you call when you’re having a bad day.
Jeremy Sonne: So I think that, for all your listeners out there, what I’m saying really applies to things like, tax attorneys, and divorce, and family law, and personal injury, things like that. Like I said, Google, it operates on intent. Facebook operates on demographic information. It’s who they are, where they are, what their interests are and things like that. Well, the way that we’ve gotten this to work is, number one, a lot of people don’t know that Facebook has click to call ads. I mean, most people are at least tacitly aware that Google has them and Bing has them. Maybe they aren’t using them, but they’ve heard of it.
Jeremy Sonne: What I see when it comes to Facebook is most people don’t know that they exist, and they do. It’s a very specific setup, but they absolutely do exist, and then what I do is I look for context in which I believe people would be looking for specific kinds of attorneys. Now, for things like family law and stuff like that, you can target changes in relationship on Facebook. For things like personal injury, you can look to target pin drop. So you don’t have to just target by country, or city, or zip code, or whatever, you can actually drop a pin on top of, say, hospitals, or chiropractic centers, things like that, and just advertise to people on their mobile phone that are within a few blocks of that space.
Jeremy Sonne: So, you can be very targeted by being creative, and I think that my background as a freelancer who’s worked mostly for technology startups has given me a very out of the box thinking, and that’s how I think I arrived at this ability to use demographics and things like that to infer intent rather than directly just needing it off of Google.
Host: Yeah, that’s the thing, if there’s any personal injury lawyers listening this podcast right now, imagine what the billboard space in front of your local hospital would be, and now we’re talking about going … that’s probably tens of thousands of dollars going down to the point where your cost per thousand is probably within $10 or $20 for impressions that people that are literally leaving the hospital right now, that’s the reality here. So that’s super exciting.
Jeremy Sonne: To tack onto that, I mean, it’s people that have been recently in the hospital, you can get that specific. Recently within a few blocks of the hospital, and more than that you can engage with them. So it’s even superior to a billboard that would be right outside of an emergency room.
Host: Yeah, no, you can kind of imagine the potential for where these things are going and especially, if anything else, it’s a platform for the reasons that you outlined, which is the fact that people don’t really know about this. That’s why the ROI potential is where it is. Everyone’s heard of AdWords, quite a few people have heard about click to call ads, and those are still built onto the same cost per click, where we’re working on personal injury, but if you can get this stuff to work for Facebook, I hadn’t heard of this and I consume marketing content 24/7, so it was really, really fascinating to hear about this. Now, in terms of results, what kind of numbers are the people that are using these kinds of strategies getting from you, Jeromy?
Jeremy Sonne: So, I don’t want to specifically … every market’s going to be a lot different. I operate in a lot of midsize city markets, a lot of … not like the New York’s and the LA’s, at least not presently, and so I can really only speak to that. Every market’s going to have a different level of competition, and so as we moved away from a traditional funnel where somebody would click and fill out a lead page, and then the lawyer would have to follow up, and by the way, every minute you aren’t following up a significant percentage of people are dropping off that want to talk to you, because somebody else has already picked up the phone and spoken with them.
Jeremy Sonne: What I have seen at a high level, without getting into specific dollar, is on average, 90% to 94% reduction in the cost per lead for a client, and of them we’ve seen a significantly higher rate of them turned into cases as well. So a vast improvement over the traditional logic of a click to a landing page to fill out a form and then somebody follows up.
Host: That’s incredible, and especially when we’re talking about cost per leads, sometimes ranging in the hundreds of dollars for personal injury firms, and say, getting that down to a number closer to $30, or $40, or $50 bucks, I mean you can just imagine how much farther your budget’s going to go when implement a strategy like.
Jeremy Sonne: Yeah, absolutely, and that range that you mentioned is typically where we see folks. So, we’re not talking three figures, we’re talking like mid two figures is usually what we’re seeing people come in for new leads, and like I said, of the leads that come in a higher percentage are actually coming in and having a consultation, because they are talking to them immediately, they are getting a more personable experience, and 70 … and then there was a stat that I read that 70% of people on AdWords, or people that are searching, prefer using a … maybe not prefer, but they are open to using the click to call campaign, so they like … 70% of people, at least on some level, either are open to or actually like clicking on an ad, and then just speaking with somebody right away rather than going through a complicated process.
Host: To drill down on the AdWords stuff a little bit, so I understand that you’re using a couple different platforms to get these click to call ads going. So we’ve got know AdWords, Bing, Facebook. Are you seeing any differences in the types of people that are coming through, retention rate, that kind of thing, between those three platforms?
Jeremy Sonne: Yeah, so a little bit of a difference between them. I would say that the people that are coming through on AdWords and Bing with the keywords that we’re bidding on they’re a little bit more educated, a little bit further down the process. They’ve maybe read a couple of articles or something like that, and they have an idea that they might have a case. When it comes to Facebook there’s a little bit more education that’s a little more top of the funnel, but we’re finding that they are coming in at a similar clip and they are turning into clients at a similar clip. It’s just going to require a little bit more education on the social ad side of things versus the AdWords where somebody is looking up some of these things that are maybe a little bit more educated, a little bit further into the decision making process.
Host: Yeah, and a follow onto that, is there any advice that you’re having, because this is a story that you hear all the time. People say, “Oh yeah, I spent $10,000 on AdWords and I wasn’t able to close clients.” We both know that that’s probably not the fault of AdWords, but is there any recommendations that you’d make for people that are responding to people from one channel versus another, or any advice for handling these phone calls as they come in at all?
Jeremy Sonne: Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, part of the process that I work with, and a thing that we’ve been working on, coming up with a standard program is the sales coaching aspect of it, how to connect with a client right away, what are some best practices, and things like that. How to move somebody to come in for a consultation, and things like that, without being overwhelming. I would say that, in general, in the markets I work within, the bad day lawyers as I called them earlier, I find that if you lead with empathy, and you make it more about the people that are calling than your credentials as an attorney, the more successful you’re going to be.
Jeremy Sonne: Because really, I definitely don’t want to call attorney services a commodity product. It’s not. There are great attorneys and there are terrible attorneys, and there’s a huge difference between styles, and approaches, and everything else, but if you are acquiring somebody with marketing, going back to what I said earlier, where it’s difficult for someone to be able to tell … a lay person to be able to tell the difference between these attorneys, your competitive advantage when you get somebody on the phone is to be empathetic, to be personable, to be there, and to try and make connection with them as a person emotionally as quickly as possible.
Host: Yeah, no, that definitely makes sense. It’s interesting, one of our last guests from last week, Andy [Sickle. 00:00:18:34], said the same thing, that a lot of … his advice to a lot of attorneys that are marketing, including the intake process and sales is, stop being such a lawyer. A lot of these credentials, it’s definitely super impressive for differentiating yourself, but a lot of times it’s not legible to the people that are making these phone calls, and at the end of the day, it’s the old Oprah principle that’s … what do people remember? It’s how they felt when they spoke to you.
Jeremy Sonne: Right.
Host: Yeah, operating under the assumption too, especially if we’re talking about search, if you can click one ad, you can click two or three, and a lot of the times the person who ends up getting the call back is the one who’s having the best experience with them.
Jeremy Sonne: Exactly that, and I think that, like marketers, like a lot of technicians, attorneys tend to judge themselves based on things that other attorneys care about. I just think that having client empathy … and not that people don’t, I mean, of course they have some level, but really taking that next step and immersing yourself in understanding the pain, and confusion, and fear that a lot of clients, at least in the spaces that I’m working in, feel when they pick up the phone to actually call somebody is … I think that that’s what can help you stand out, and help you actually gain new clients, because it’s another classic marketing thing too.
Jeremy Sonne: When somebody buys a product, they aren’t trying … they’re not really buying your product or service. They’re buying a solution to their problem, and a lot of these people, not only is the solution to their problem, “I need restitution for my injuries.”, or, “I need help dealing with the government.”, or, “I need out of this marriage.”, or whatever, really what they’re looking for is a friend and a trusted advisor during a hard time in their life. So, the more that you can be that, the more successful that you’re going to be in acquiring these new clients. When a lawyer is doing digital marketing, they need to understand this.
Host: Right, really great points, because at the end of the day it’s like, the best marketing isn’t going to be able to close the deal for you. At the end of the day, it’s always … it’s the person who’s picking up the phone, whether it’s you or your front office. You could have the best quarterback in the world, but if your wide receiver isn’t going to catch the pass, it doesn’t really matter, and you’re [crosstalk 00:20:38] touchdowns.
Jeremy Sonne: Absolutely.
Host: So we’ve mentioned the bad day lawyers, as far as who this is for, you mentioned personal injury, family, bankruptcy, that thing, what is this working out for the best in your experience, and is there any other stuff beyond practice area that might identify somebody who should be considering a path like this to get new clients?
Jeremy Sonne: I would say that there’s two criteria that I would say really make beyond practice area, that would make a lot of sense. Number one, I think that this … if you are the biggest in your market, this probably isn’t for you. This tends to work really well, from my experience, for midsize boutique to midsize firms, and the reason that that is, is that if you are the leader in the market, and this is true of any market whether it’s Coca Cola, or Toyota, or whatever, if you are the leader in the market, your job is to grow the market, and it is to grow the market through awareness and education.
Jeremy Sonne: If you are second place or below, your job is to steal people from first place. This is just classic marketing wisdom that’s been in numerous books and things of that nature. So, I find that this approach … you’re not going to be growing the market through awareness. This approach is for people that either know that they need a personal injury attorney, or know that they need some … one of these bad day lawyers, or they’re people that are trying to figure out and want to talk to you on the phone, but they have an inkling and they’re starting to look at that as an option.
Jeremy Sonne: You’re not out there educating people about mesothelioma, or something like that. You’re not out there educating people that what happened may actually even be something that they need an attorney for. So, I would definitely say that midsize firm is about right, who this would look for. That said, everybody should be incorporating click to call, I believe, as a part of their marketing mix, but if you’re going to focus on it, midsize.
Jeremy Sonne: The other factor that I think really matters outside of practice area when it comes to successfully deploying a click to call ad really is that you have to basically be comfortable on the phone. You can teach sales skills to a degree, but … not charisma. I don’t want to say you necessarily have to be the most charismatic person, but the personableness has to be a part of what you’re doing. So, if you’re deep into the books, and are all about the nuances of being a lawyer, and there’s nothing wrong with that, those people drive the law forward, it’s really taking a client centric approach to building your firm, is what I’ve found. So, the people that really enjoy working with clients, and enjoy creating a great client experience in addition to practicing doing a great job at practicing law are the folks that I find are very successful.
Host: Yeah, and I’d also say, if that’s not you, it’s easy to hire people to do that for you, right?
Jeremy Sonne: Absolutely. Absolutely, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can have a sales representative, or a marketing representative, or just a really charismatic paralegal or associate attorney that you can bring in. That’s definitely an option.
Host: As far as the people that might be considering this, got any parting advice for what people should be looking at if they’re looking about going down this road for click to call? What would you really recommend people start doing with it today?
Jeremy Sonne: I would say that if you’re looking to go down the road to click to call, I would say two things are really important. Number one, know exactly what kind of cases you want. Find that niche within a niche, and just dominate that. That’s going to … you’re going to get better results when you do that in a click to call campaign. Number two is, have a really solid battle tested process for onboarding new clients, and make everything as systematized as possible so that you create a consistently good experience for everybody when they’re coming in, and so that really the key is that the calls will come if you work with a competent marketer. The question is, can you close them and can you keep them around, and then actually settle or resolve these cases in a timely manner?
Host: Right, and I would say too, that’s pretty good advice for any sort of marketing that [listeners 00:25:00] can do. Even if it’s not for click to call, it’s probably a really worthwhile exercise for law firms even if you’re just 100% referral based to just really dig into that because yeah, at the end of the day, that’s the wide receiver for your touchdown, and you got to make sure that if you’re going to get any money you’ve got to come in across the line. That’s super helpful stuff. Awesome Jeromy. So, this has been really enlightening, like I said, this is something that was not on my radar. Almost certain that if you’re listening to this podcast probably wasn’t on your radar until we started this podcast. But, for anyone who might be looking to get this implemented by somebody who’s really, really good at it, what’s the best place to find you?
Jeremy Sonne: Our website is firmfuel.legal. We have a number of packages that are flexible to meet most attorneys needs, and yeah, we do our best to, like you said, try and … that customer experience that we preach, we also try and live. So, we work really intimately with our partners in order to find exactly the cases that they’re looking for, and work to grow together in the longterm relationships. So, check us out at firmfuel.legal.
Host: All right, awesome. So yeah, thanks again Jeromy. This has been super valuable, and if anyone’s interested in doing that, I’d absolutely recommend you go ahead and take the next step. So yeah, until then, next week we’ll be having another guest, a guest that we hope is half is engaging as Jeromy.
Jeremy Sonne: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me.