Shaming State Farm: A Social Media Experiment

Two weeks ago, my wife and I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to a loud crash.  Tow trucks and police cars followed and in the morning, we found this in the backyard (minus the 2013 Lexus the formerly filled said hole.):

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Unfortunately, the following day no one knocked on the door to offer either apologies or insurance information, a few days of my sleuthing through police reports finally brought me to . . . State Farm.  Now as far as I am concerned, the insurance as a whole lives at the very bottom of the ethical business barrel – and while there are some exceptions (I’m an ardent fan of Farmers), my experience with both Allstate and now State Farm suggests value to their shareholders is delivered through screwing their own customers.  Frankly this is one of the reasons I love working with lawyers – at Mockingbird we’ve codified this into the way we think.  The first of our 10 Commandments is “We Love Lawyers” – this is explained in greater detail in our new employee training manual:

We Love Lawyers – Attorneys who represent individuals are the primary counterbalance to corporate greed, the widespread abuse of police and political power and the abusive Insurance industry. We are honored to play a small role in this system.

Now, back to State Farm and our little fence problem . . .

Two weeks have gone by – I’ve called state farm once, twice, three times a day during the interim.  I’ve spent roughly four hours on hold and been transferred between departments and managers.  I’ve been hung up on.  I’ve left innumerable identical messages.  I’ve been polite.  I’ve been a jerk.  I’ve been patient and I’ve been irate.  And yet – the fence looks just like it that first day.  I’m still waiting on State Farm to take step 1A.

So, I decided to create a billboard for State Farm.  They do lots of advertising, so why not inject a little truth into their advertising . . .

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In all fairness, I “may” have casually arranged some Lexus parts carefully on top of the fence for dramatic effect.  Unfortunately the remaining fence wasn’t big enough for my new tagline:  “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is . . . .Where?

(And the “2” looks like a “1”, because it used to be a “1” – not sure what happens once we get to “3”.)

1% for Good: Get Your Rear in Gear in Memory of Katie Tinnea

Last year, my son’s 1st grade teacher, Katie Tinnea died of colon cancer.  She was a young mom, a great teacher and made sharing her experience the final lesson plan for a classroom of kiddos (and parents).  Our family has been running in 5Ks supporting colon cancer research ever since we met Katie.  This year, I was flattered to have some of my co-workers join the race.

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Katie’s support group was called Purple Power – and Purple Power was out in force this year and I was pleased to contribute 1% of our revenue last month to cancer research on behalf of Purple Power.  Ryan and Kennedy – all of us think of you on a regular basis.

Why I am Lucky to Work with Amazing Clients

There’s nothing worse than people who assume they can get free advice from professional service providers.  I’ve doled out more free SEO advice than I can imagine and I know lawyers get hit up for legal advice all the time.

So when acquaintances of mine ask for an intro to a lawyer for a quick legal question, it’s always a bit dicey.  What follows is the slightly sanitized interchange between myself and one of my clients that makes it worth coming in to work every day:

Me

. . . if you can help my friend, who has a legal question, I’d be most appreciative.  If so, please send me an invoice for your time and I’ll deduct from your next bill . . .

Client

Happy to help—informally as a courtesy to you.   If you can have your friend email directly with the issue, any supporting documentation, any interview date and location, and a phone number, that would be great.  I won’t charge for that.

Me

Thanks for this.  And genuinely – charge me for it.  As a service provider myself (and being married to one), I insist on paying for advice – especially from one of my clients.

Client

Ain’t gonna happen!!!!!!!

 

At the most basic level, SEO is the practice of influencing the results in a zero sum game and sometimes I question the value we bring toe the world overall.  Exchanges like the one above put all of this in a much larger perspective.  To our amazing clients – thank you for making my day.

 

Atticus is Now Mockingbird

I started Atticus Marketing two years ago, consulting on SEO  for a few law firms as a side gig to my day job.  Today, we’ve grown into a small team of marketing experts running 30 law firm websites.  Our service offerings have expanded from SEO and include everything from design to technology to business consulting.

In doing so, we’ve bumped into a great law firm consultancy out of Florida – Atticus Inc. (great name, if I say so myself).   I had breakfast with their CEO Mark Powers at the Orlando airport and learned much about the other Atticus. Most importantly, while our product offerings are fundamentally different, they are close enough that it is genuinely confusing.

So, as of today, Atticus is being transformed into Mockingbird. I value the consistency of branding with Harper Lee’s novel and the mockingbird branding offers a little more.  In researching the brand, I ran across an article by environmental journalist, Chris Clark:  An Intro to Mockingbirds: The Noisiest, Most Aggressive Small Bird You’ll Ever Meet.  I like that headline. A lot.  And if you know me even a little bit, the metaphor extends perfectly. Here’s how Chris defines the mockingbird:

The northern mockingbird’s absolutely fearless defense of its nest probably puts it in the running for bravest animal in the desert. It certainly makes it a contender for most annoying.

You have to give mockers points for guts. When’s the last time you took on an opponent who outweighed you by a factor of 1,500? . . . . Which doesn’t mean they’re above taunting them.

Heh.  So, here’s to bravely and noisily annoying opponents who outweigh you. Watch these two little birdies tenaciously and fearlessly drive off a huge predator:

1% for Good: Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative

This is a crappy post to write.  Generally, I’m a few steps removed from Atticus’ 1% for Good campaigns – this time it hits home.  Courtesy of social media, I recently learned that one of my earliest Seattle friends, Sig  is undergoing treatment for Sarcoma – a connective tissue cancer usually associated with children, but occasionally cropping up in adults.

Sig on the PitchI played rugby with Sig at Old Puget Sound Beach – one of the premier rugby teams in the USA Superleague.  He’s every part the rugby player, a huge dude with the body fat of a teenage cross country star.  He looks like the love child of Ivan Drago and Arnold Schwarzenegger and specialized in laying our competitors flat on their backs.  Even his name is tough – Siegfried Kohl.  He’s also a paramedic and on many occassions was called to tape OPSB players up so they could get back on the pitch.

For this month’s 1% For Good – we’ve made a donation to The Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative – which dedicates over 97% of donations to sarcoma cancer research.   Thanks to a slew of new clients, we had a record month in January – if you count among Atticus’ client base, thank you for making this possible.

Wishing you well Sig.

1% For Good: Sea Shepherd

I wanted pictures of the Atticus team with sweatshirts and flag from Sea Shepherd before I revealed them as our December 1% For Good donation, but today’s photographs and reports coming out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary have forced my hand. While Sea Shepherd’s fulfillment for their online store may be very slow – their boats are much faster at intercepting and driving out the Japanese whaling fleet from Antarctic whaling grounds.

Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd captain, Canadian Paul Watson has been combating the Japanese whaling fleet for years and has been featured on the show, Whale Wars. The Japanese fleet exploits a loophole in International Law to “harvest” whales for scientific purposes – supplying whale meat to the Japanese consumer market. According to yesterday’s statement by Sea Shepherd – they have driven the whaling fleet out of the southern whaling grounds.

Along with yesterday’s statement, Sea Shepherd released  images of 3 minke harpooned whales, as well as the gruesome bloody video of a whale being butchered on the deck.  Hardly “scientific study.”

Watson is facing numerous legal concerns – and while the organization may take heat from some within the legal community for their actions – we are very happy to offer a small piece of financial support to Sea Shepherd’s efforts to publicize and stop the slaughter of whales.

Update: Recently, the attorney who represents Sea Shepherd did an interview on KEXP to discuss his work with the organization and the recent U.N. court ruling to end Japan’s whale huntington. You can see it here on his blog article, ‘Why I Represent Sea Shepherd‘.

 

1% for Good: Get Your Rear In Gear in Memory of Katie Tinnea

When I first heard that my son’s upcoming first grade teacher was dying of colon cancer, my immediate reaction was to do everything to shelter him from the experience.  But I was wrong.  Over the year, we met Katie, submitted homework assignments and had parent teacher conferences. Our family ran two 5K’s in support of Katie and cancer research – the first with her and her Purple Power support team (that’s Katie below on the right). At the second race, just a few months later, Katie stayed home as she was just too tired.  But Purple Power was out in force.

Katie Tinnea

The consummate teacher, Katie made her personal experience her final lesson plan.  Parents in her classroom  answered some very hard questions from their kiddos.  The children started understanding their parents’ grief and learned that it was OK. We all finally had to find a way to explain that, “no, Ms. Tinnea is not going to be able to get better.”  At six and seven years old, the kids learned a lesson about the preciousness of life well ahead of schedule.

Before the end of the school year, we found ourselves in a church packed with kids wearing purple. My kids saw me cry for the first time.

Yesterday, 49 members of team Purple Power ran the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K in memory of Katie.  This month’s Atticus 1% For Good was contributed to that organization’s efforts to find a cure for colon cancer.

Katie’s husband, Ryan was there along with her daughter, Kennedy.  Kennedy turned 3 this year.

Introducing: Atticus 1% for Good

One of the reasons that I love working for lawyers is the good that many attorneys do for people in less fortunate situations.  In my role as an SEO – my work product is simply shifting a zero sum game – my clients get new clients who would have otherwise found a different law firm.  It is important to me that Atticus has a greater impact on the world.

Inspired by equal parts – Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia and author of Let My People Go Surfing), the environmental organization 1% For the Planet, and some of the attorneys I’ve had the privilege of getting to know, I’ve decided to contribute 1% of Atticus revenues to a charitable cause every month.  Every month I’ll bring you the story of a different charity and how they are going about changing the world in a small way.

Challenged Athletes Foundation

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Challenged Athletes Foundation is an organization that helps people with physical disabilities so they can pursue an active lifestyle. Every year CAF hosts a major fundraiser in San Deigo – the San Diego Triathlon Challenge where 200 challenged athletes mix with roughly 600 able bodied triathletes to complete a one mile swim a 44 mile bike and a 10 mile run.  This year is the 20th anniversary of the event, which will be held in just 4 days.  My brother, Paul, is among the participants – over the past few years he and I have traded triathlon training tips and results. Suffice to say over this distance, Paul would utterly crush me. Last year, through fundraising efforts Paul raised enough money to completely fund grants for the following:

  • An Ossur Flex Run Jr. running leg for Daniel Pimental, who was born without a left leg.  The prosthetic will allow Daniel to play competitive tee ball with his able bodied friends.
  • A basketball wheelchair for ten year old Luke Acuna, who lost a leg when he was hit by a dumptruck while skateboarding.
  • A rugby wheelchair for James Sa, who broke his neck in his junior year of college.  James has set his sights on competing with the Team USA Wheelchair Rugby team at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Take a step back, and consider the world around us.  For those of you reading this who I count among my clients, know a portion of what you spend with Atticus is going back into the community to help enrich the lives of some very amazing people.  Thank you for making this possible.

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Atticus Clients Doubling Traffic

This is the first marketing post I’ve written – granted it is in the guise of an analytical review – but let’s be honest, I’m showing off results here.

Every four weeks I report traffic growth numbers to my clients and I use those numbers to extrapolate an annualized growth rate.  (I use a straight line forecasting – in simple math terms, if you averaged 5% growth during a quarter, your annualized growth rate is 4×5% = 20%.)  Depending on the client, Atticus’ job is to exceed a 25-33% growth over pre-engagement traffic.

Through the end of September, Atticus clients are on track to more than double their traffic with a 103% annualized growth rate. Individual site performance ranged from -7% to 241%.

Q3 Growth Rate

How?

There are a few factors that contribute to this.  First and foremost, I carefully select clients that I’m confident I can make a solid impact for.  Ideal clients have either ignored their website or have worked with large legal focused SEO vendors who have been hammered by Google SPAM penalties.  I flat out refuse to work with clients who have previously worked with one of the few good SEO vendors in the legal industry – as frankly, my improvements on a site that is already well maintained will be small.  Secondly, I work first on those tactics that will deliver the biggest bang for the investment – ideally, this is a technical tweak that has an immediate, large and persistent impact on traffic.   (See an technical fix example here.)

If you are still reading my marketing puff piece, thank you – as David Lobdell  said:

“He who tooteth not his own horn, same shall remain in a state of untootethness.”