5 tips on how to get clients using AVVO from virtual office NYC lawyer, Vivian Sobers.
Every so often at Law Firm Suites, the staff coordinates an outing with a small group of lawyers who have complementary practices. The idea is to get to know each other better and see if there is any referral potential between attendees. Usually there are adult beverages involved and the conversation mostly involves shop talk.
I was speaking with one of my solo colleagues, a consumer bankruptcy attorney, and of course we started talking about marketing. He’s got a volume practice and I was curious as to how he maintains a steady stream of leads. He said most of his business comes from online marketing, something I’m no stranger to.
While we were comparing notes, I was pretty surprised at how down he was about AVVO. Apparently he had spent some money for premium listings that didn’t produce any results.
It was interesting because I have had nearly the exact opposite experience.
The majority of my clients come from the referrals I get from other attorneys, many of which are my colleagues at Law Firm Suites. However, about 30% of my business comes to me directly through my online presence.
Of those clients, most of them find me through AVVO.
While I don’t have any inside scoop into AVVO’s algorithms, here’s are some tips on how to get clients using AVVO:
1. I pay for a premium subscription.
I subscribe to the AVVO Pro package, which costs me about $140 per month. For this, I am able to create a customized profile, I get a sponsored listing when certain practice areas are searched and, more importantly, other lawyers’ sponsored ads won’t appear on my profile.
The customized profile page won’t, in and of itself, generate leads. It serves as the landing page that entices prospective clients to call me. It’s the second step in the AVVO marketing process, the first being driving traffic to my profile (more on that below).
On my customized profile, I get to show off my legal knowledge and create a more personalized message, enabling me to further build the “know, like and trust” required to land a client.
The most important part of the paid subscription is eliminating sponsored ads from my competitors.
The most challenging part of AVVO marketing is driving traffic to your profile page. The last thing you want is to have one of your competitors poaching the traffic you’ve worked hard to create by simply paying for ads.
Here’s a screenshot of the top portion of my profile page. See, no sponsored ads:
By comparison, here is the AVVO profile of LFS founder Stephen Furnari. He doesn’t use AVVO for his law firm’s marketing. Notice the sponsored ad on the right side of his profile:
Nothing like making the effort to drive potential clients to your profile page only to have Jose Blas Lorenzo, Jr. distract their attention with his paid ad. Which leads me to …
2. I drive traffic to my profile page by answering questions posted in AVVO’s forum.
If you go to AVVO’s home page (which you’ve probably never been to because, let’s face it, you go directly to your profile where you can admire the picture of your pretty face and all the nice things people have said about you), there is a spot where prospective clients can post questions in AVVO’s forum. Any attorney with a login can answer these questions.
In my case, when a question is posted in a practice area for which I’m subscribed (not sure if this is a function of my Pro membership or available to everyone), it gets emailed to me.
Here’s an example of a question I recently answered, which happens to be one of my favorites:
Another feature of AVVO is that they have a “directory” service where people looking for attorneys can choose one from a list.
If someone is looking for an attorney in New York City that does civil litigation, I’m on that list (along with 1,253,759 other attorneys).
And while I have no insight into AVVO’s algorithms, it does seem that when I engage with their site by responding to forum questions, I get rewarded with a my profile being higher up on the list.
See, my sponsored listing shows up in the second position for this search:
I have no actual knowledge that there is any correlation, but this is what seems to be happening.
3. I don’t make my responses to answers sound too “legal”.
You’ll note from the image of the question I answered above, you don’t need to respond to questions with a legal brief. In fact, I find that the less “legal” sounding my responses are, the better the results I get.
Unless your clients are inhouse counsel, rarely are prospective clients looking for case or code citations. They’re looking for someone who understands their problem and can give them a plain English response.
My sense is that this may be the most challenging thing for lawyers. We are so trained to write a certain way (and one that is not easily understood by non-attorneys), it’s difficult to get out of that mindset.
4. I make time to answer questions.
Of course if I am answering questions I am making time for it. But this is a bit nuanced, and is important enough to deserve its own sub-heading.
While I don’t look at any analytics (not sure if I even have access to it), I know that when I make the time to answer questions, I get more calls from my AVVO profile.
The more questions I answer, the more calls I get.
By far, answering questions has been the biggest driver of traffic to my profile, and I find that it’s one of the easiest ways for me to market my solo practice.
I spend a lot of time in courtrooms waiting for things to happen. So I now take my tablet and knock out five or six answers to questions in a short period of time. This makes really good use of time that would otherwise have been wasted.
But, answering AVVO questions can be one more thing on your to do list that’s already a mile long. It’s very easy to just do nothing.
So unless you make time for it, you won’t do it consistently.
5. I immediately respond to all leads that come in through my AVVO profile.
The leads that comes in through AVVO aren’t like the clients who are referred by other attorneys.
Someone who is getting a referral from another attorney is usually the type of person who wouldn’t think of finding an attorney online. They want to do business with an attorney who has been endorsed by someone else they trust.
The internet lead is a completely different animal. If you don’t respond to their inquiry immediately, they will simply call the next person on the list.
This is a real opportunity if you’ve got the discipline (or systems) to quickly respond to every call. It’s easy to beat out other attorneys, who are usually neck deep in work for other clients, by being the first person to schedule a consult.
The bottom line is that I have been getting at least 10 new commercial litigation cases every year from my AVVO marketing. The amounts in dispute have been between $30,000 and $300,000.
It’s certainly not enough to make my entire practice, and AVVO won’t likely be an attorney’s sole marketing strategy. But considering the low monthly spending and the fact that I am simply recapturing time that would have otherwise been wasted, my return on investment has been significant.
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Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.