Mockingbird Marketing is now Cockroach

Last Thursday, in between obsessing over a Coronavirus growth chart and a Crisis Strategy Session for a divorce attorney trying to keep her lights on, I caught a tweet from inveterate Seattle tech entrepreneur, Buzz Bruggerman:

Survival is what our clients (and in turn the agency) need. We are a Cockroach. The adaptable, innovative, opportunistic, skittering, nauseating, and yes, disease-resistant arthropod that not only survives, but actually thrives in disaster.

In the coming months, many lawyers will go bankrupt. Despite our best efforts, some of those lawyers may be our clients. It’s the agency’s responsibility to fight, innovate and do everything we can to help every single one of them survive. Over the past two weeks, I’ve adopted the cockroach analogy with clients during Crisis Strategy Sessions….. creatively coming up with anything and everything Mockingbird can do to help them not only survive, but possibly even thrive in this chaotic, mad, uncertain environment.

The second of our Ten Commandments states: “We are Responsible for our Clients’ Livelihoods – Our performance dictates if our clients can pay their mortgage, their staff and their kids’ college tuition.” Today, clients are responsible for our survival as well. Its corny as hell, but employees and clients are both part of my extended family. We all have to adapt, evolve and fight to survive this. Like Cockroaches.

The following bullets come from the rebranding presentation I gave to the team:

    • Keep being amazing for our clients – remember we are responsible for their livelihoods – and now they are responsible for ours. (even if they can’t pay us).
    • This is the time to work overtime, to over deliver, to over communicate and to give everything we have to keep our clients afloat.
    • This is the time to step in and help clients with whatever they may need.
    • We are effusively grateful for every single client who sends us a check.

The cockroach mindset has led to some creative tactics, unexpected adjustments and occasionally brutally honest realizations over the past ten days:

    • What I believe to be the most effective linkbuilding campaign undertaken by a law firm in 2020.
    • Dramatic shifting in practice areas for a firm that has seen restaurant, bar and court closures decimate their business.
    • Worked with a handful of clients to accept that they should completely shutter their PPC budgets to preserve precious cash flow.
    • Tactical and data driven responses to the seismic shift in search volumes.
    • Forecasted changes in search traffic by applying changes in leading markets (Seattle) to lagging markets (Florida).
    • Doubling down on a PPC budget as competitors in a highly fragmented market scrambled to respond to inbound inquiries

Not everything we’ve done has been successful and some of the early successes are going to disappear as this crisis evolves, wears on and firms burn through cash reserves. But the cockroach survives. It evolves, pivots, and does whatever it takes.

So starting now, we are temporarily  a Cockroach – doing everything and anything we can to help our clients survive the Corona disaster. The old Mockingbird logo has been transformed and if you look carefully, the Mockingbird M cameos as negative space in the cockroach logo.  The Mockingbird is still there… it’s just waiting to come back.

At some point, we’ll go back to being Mockingbird – liberating lawyers from ineffectual marketing, one sided contracts, proprietary website platforms and opportunistic agencies. But for now we are a Cockroach – with a singular focus on our clients’ survival.

We’re in it Together: Our COVID-19 Related Webinars

Things are changing almost faster than anyone can keep up with. This is why we have been organizing webinar after webinar on how to maintain your firm during COVID-19. Currently coming down the line are two that tackle the issue of finding and financing clients.

 


Converting Leads During Corona – How to Maintain Marketing Campaigns During a Crisis with Outsourced Intake

When: March 20, 2020  12.30-1.30 PM PST

A lot of law firms are seeing the impact of COVID-19 in the form of court closures and reduced web traffic. So how can we make sure we all stay afloat during the coming weeks or months of uncertainty? 

The goal of this webinar is to bring together some of the best legal and marketing minds and figure out the best next steps for law firms of all sizes. From the best software and tools for working at home to how to manage your current marketing campaigns, we will help you build a comprehensive plan for moving forward and keeping your business running.

We’re all in this together, which is why we’re working so hard to get you the information you need, not the information we want you to hear. This is a no-nonsense discussion about how to prepare your firm for the current and coming disruptions. If this sounds like something you need, register below and we’ll see you on Friday.

Register Now

 


Client Financing Informational Webinar

When: March 26, 2020  12.00-1.00 PM PST

During these times in which clients might have more limited income, it’s important to think about how they will afford legal help. This webinar will be focused on client financing options for legal matters. These are the ways clients pay for their legal help, as opposed to Litigation Financing, which is a percentage of the final judgment or settlement. Matthew Moore from Justice for Me will be leading this discussion.

Some of the topics we will be discussing include:

      • Common legal payment methods
      • Common legal payment alternatives
      • The ethics of legal financing
      • Legal lines of credit

Register Now

BEDLAM Goes Virtual

If any company in any industry were more perfectly positioned to transition an in person event to a virtual one as a response to concerns around COVID-19 it’s Mockingbird (especially considering we are based on Corona’s original US hometown of Seattle). The Best Damn Legal Marketing Conference (BEDLAM) is now a virtual conference – held at the same time, with the same speakers and viewed from the comfort of your home.

What this means for attendees:

  1. We reduced ticketing pricing by 60% of the full cost and will be sending out refunds in the next week.
  2. If you have already booked flights, note that many airlines are working with passengers to manage the fallout.  You can get a detailed list of how 7 major airlines are dealing with this here.
  3. Our contact, Tayla at The Aria in Vegas is being extremely accommodating, flexible and responsive in dealing with this.  At some point, I may ask you to leave them (and her specifically) a review. This also means that while I now no longer have a $80K credit to finance a three day bender in Vegas, BEDLAM III will be early 2021 at the Aria.
  4. We believe hotel room cancellations fall within the Aria’s 72 hour time window.  Their room reservations number is: 866.359.7757.
  5. The video conference will be held via Zoom – we’ll be sending more details.

As a bit of a tangent: note that this virus and the public’s reaction to it is going to have a devastating financial impact on many small businesses – please do your part to patronize them as much as possible.

Finally, it’s also possible that I now have an account with the Aria in Vegas and if you are absolutely determined to head to Vegas during the BEDLAM dates, I may be able to finance a six figure, three day bender…

Google Ads Conversion Rate Benchmarking

Mockingbird manages millions of dollars in lawyer advertising across hundreds of law firms and while overall performance varies, firm to firm, I thought it might be useful to share our conversion rate data so my readers could benchmark their own performance. First – understand that conversion rate here does NOT mean converting into clients, but instead the percentage of people who contact the firm by phone, form fill, chat or even text message after clicking on the advertisement. One of the patterns we are aware of is that conversion rates vary greatly by Practice Area, so I’ve broken different practice areas out below. I’m hoping the numbers below are helpful in evaluating the performance of your own advertising…and if you agency obfuscates or doesn’t report on these numbers, I’d ask myself what they are hiding (read below the bullets for more…)

Also note that our campaigns’ strategy and tactics are driven primarily by business metrics instead of traditional PPC marketing metrics (such as impressions or click through rates), these benchmark numbers are likely to be very different from PPC campaigns that focus on optimizing more typical metrics like impressions, CTR, or position.

    • Personal Injury:  10.2%
    • Criminal Defense:  10.8%
    • Social Security Disability:  18.9%
    • Bankruptcy:  8.8%
    • Family:  20.2%
    • Immigration:  32.3%
    • Business:  1.6%
    • Estate Planning:  12.4%
    • Tax:  4.2%
    • Employment:  17.1%
    • Medical Malpractice:  31.0%

Tricks Agencies Use to Lie About Conversion Performance

Trick 1: Conflating Branded Results

Note that in our analysis above, we only did the analysis on non-branded search queries – i.e. “car accident lawyer” and not branded queries – i.e. “Smith and Jones Law Firm.” The reason for this is simple, branded queries already have high intent, and the marketing cost of those queries clearly doesn’t rest with the AdWords spend, but instead, TV, radio, billboards, and overall great customer service which drives referrals. In addition, clicks for branded queries are extremely uncompetitive relative to non branded queries and therefore cheaper, typically costing between 1% and 4% of typical PPC bids. One way online marketing agencies fool their clients is by including conversions from branded queries in their reporting – and taking credit for these very low costs clicks that drive business from marketing dollars spent on other marketing channels.

Trick 2: Hiding YOUR Data.

Agencies often literally hide conversion data from their clients by refusing access to either Google Ads or Google Analytics. If you can’t find your conversion data, perhaps it’s time to find a new agency that understands that it’s your data, not theirs.

Trick 3: Over-Counting Phone Calls

There are only 4 real “conversions” for legal marketing: phone calls, form fills, chat and text. One way agencies artificially inflate their “conversion” data is by counting every phone call (instead of first time callers only) to obfuscate the data behind poorly performing campaigns. Ensure your conversion reporting is set to only count first time callers, any moderately sophisticated dynamic call tracking service (like CallRail) has a simple setting to adjust for this.

It’s important to not only monitor the rate at which your advertising is converting into inquiries from potential clients, but also understand how this relates to industry standards. Benchmarking your conversion rate against competitors within your practice areas should allow you to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as shore up any deficiencies in bidding strategy, ad copy or landing pages that might be preventing you from maximizing your overall conversions.

Mockingbird Client Google Ads Disapproved…. temporarily

Over the weekend, the Google Ads algorithm updated resulting in a temporary suspension of all of our clients’ search advertising campaigns. The issue at heart was the tracking pixel associated with PPC Protect – an additional step we have in place to combat click fraud above and beyond what is already in place through Google.  PPC Protect is a third party platform we’ve implemented across the board and we’ve seen a solid improvement in our clients’ advertising spend.

Unfortunately, Google flagged PPC Protect yesterday. We worked with both Google and PPC Protect to resolve the issue, but the end result was a roughly two hour downtime for clients running ads over the weekend. Sorry for the inconvenience. Clients – you should have already heard from your AE via email and/or phone.  If you have any additional questions – give me a shout directly at 206 209 2125.

-Conrad

 

Announcing BEDLAM II

Earlier this year I joined a quintet of the top legal marketers in the country to put on The Best Damn Legal Marketing Conference (BEDLAM) in Nashville. Attendees were exposed to an irreverent, honest, expert, behind the scenes look into the tactics these agencies use to drive business to their clients as well as dirty agency tricks pulled on the legal community. The content was so good, we were threatened legally by another legal marketing agency. In order to be the best, we did things differently:

  • There was an application process and market exclusivity and we only shared tactics with two firms in any given market (practice area + geography). We also turned away a few firms with a history of abusing vendors and/or not paying their bills and ended up turning away about 10% of the prospective attendees.
  • No Vendors – no one likes going to a conference with thinly veiled pay-to-pitch sessions.
  • There were no sacred cows and we talked frankly about the many systemic technical ways other agencies take advantage of their clients by confusing lexicon, obfuscating reporting and denying access.
  • We didn’t distribute presentations and attendees couldn’t photograph or otherwise record the slides.

So back by popular demand, Mockingbird is joining AttorneySync, Juris Digital, GNGF, and Nifty Law to bring you BEDLAM II, held at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, April 1-3.  A few notes:

  • As I mentioned at the end of the conference in Nashville – if you’ve already been, I discourage you from attending this followup as much of the content will be very similar.
  • We’ve expanded this from 2 to 3 days so attendees have more time to digest the information.
  • We’ve added hands on workshops and 1:1 training.
  • No Vendors (kind of)…. we’ve invited a short list of market exclusive vendors who all five agencies universally endorse (think CallRail, WPEngine etc.) to attend as our guest…. and still no pay-for-pitching.

Use EARLYBIRD2020 for $200 off the registration fee through the end of December.  

Register

Competitor Ads in your Google My Business Profile…

Well, we seem to be moving closer and closer to an advertising driven world, as Google has introduced advertising directly on competitor Google My Business listings. To the right is an example from Greg Sterling, at Search Engine Land which shows an ad for a competing car dealership showing up directly within search results. Greg notes that the advertisement is located almost an hour away…which, at least in the example, flies against the highlighted importance of “local” to consumers.

One important note – according to Greg’s review, firms can’t pay for ad free listings – which means any business may have competitor advertising embedded directly within their localized results. This “ad free profile” business model has been widely utilized by directories in (Avvo) and out (Yelp) of the legal market. From my experience this generates nasty backlash from prospective customers and Google is clearly trying to avoid that, although I’m not certain that the prospect of having competitor ads showing up by default on branded queries is going to engender any goodwill either.

If you’ve got an example of one of these ads in legal…please send a screenshot over.

Google Ads Brand Attacks…Misspellings as a Workaround (i.e. Nagage)

While Google allows bidding on other firms’ brands (think Coke bidding on people looking for Pepsi), it doesn’t let Coke use Pepsi’s name in the text of the advertisement itself. So for example, while Mockingbird can bid on Scorpion, we couldn’t have an add that says, “Don’t get trapped by Scorpion’s proprietary website platform” or “Scorpion won’t give you access to Google Ads campaigns, but we do.” Part of Google’s position on this, I suspect, is to avoid the potential subjective call of Coke pretending it is Pepsi. While that may be an unlikely mistake for big well known brands, its much more of an issue for mostly unbranded industries, such as…legal.

One sneaky work around for this is misspellings of the patsy’s brand name. To whit…here’s Apex Chat advertising their superiority to…Nagage on a search query for “ngage chat.”

Note that Apex is bidding pretty aggressively as they are outbidding Ngage on their own brand and presumably have a much lower quality score for that term. Think this is just an innocent spelling mistake? Oh your naivety amuses me. Here’s another ad from Apex showcasing how they deliver more features and more leads than…Nagage.

As our Director of Advertising told me, it’s most likely against the rules, but could probably work for a while though…until it gets flagged. And Nagage Ngage, don’t send me a thank you note…you are on SEO Santa’s naughty list too. Just hope Scropion doesn’t notice our ads…

Hiring: NON COLLEGE GRAD For High Tech Marketing Apprenticeship

Mockingbird is opening up our Marketing Manger job to someone who hasn’t spent 4 years and a small fortune attending College. The Marketing Manger is an entry-level role designed to transform recently minted College graduates into highly effective tactical online marketers over a 12-36 month period.

I’ve become increasingly convinced that key to success for our clients and therefore my agency, is hiring the right people and providing them with a heavy focus on ongoing training and support combined with the real world, trial by fire reality that is impossible to experience among the vaunted ivory tower of higher education. It has nothing to do with my employee’s alma mater or even their degree. This perspective has been strengthened when I interview business school undergrads – 90% of which can’t calculate a simple ROI.

The reality is that a College degree is simply a marker, albeit a poor one, of the potential in a candidate. And that potential (at least for us) is much more determined by an individual’s analytical curiosity, innate professionalism, genuine nerdiness, and a proactive out-of-the box thinking.

At Mockingbird, our Mission is to “vastly improve the lives of our employees and clients (in that order) through exceptional marketing.” There is no reason that Mission shouldn’t embrace those without the luxury of a College degree. Special consideration for military veterans trying to enter the civilian workforce.