Introducing Mandy Hicks and Hally Pinaud
Welcome back to another episode of Legal Marketing Radio. Today’s guest is Mandy Hicks of Hally Pinaud. Mandy is the Director of Marketing and Communications at English, Lucas, Priest, and Owsley, a diverse multi-practice firm in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Prior to becoming the firm’s first ever marketing director, she worked for the United Way of Southern Kentucky for a decade, serving as the organization’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communications. Hally also has more than a decade of marketing experience. She is currently the Vice President of Product Marketing for Podium. The company offers review collection, user experience, and ecommerce solutions that help businesses reach and engage with their leads. This episode is going to be all about reviews. Your clients are using reviews to vet you and your competitors. Unfortunately, many lawyers have a hard time collecting reviews even when they have satisfied clients and a winning track record. Today we’re going to explore how Google and other reviews can amplify your brand, boost your conversion rates, and how you can boost the volume and quantity of your reviews. Just a quick reminder, in case you’re not already familiar with LaFleur, we’re a full service digital marketing partner. We work with law and professional service firms across the country to help them develop their brands and grow their business. To learn more about LaFleur, check out our website at LaFleur.Marketing. That’s L-A-F-L-E-U-R.Marketing. We’ve got other episodes of the podcast and other resources like eBooks, podcasts, and webinars that will help you expand your knowledge of digital marketing and help your law firm grow. So let’s get started. Let’s start kind of at a pretty high level. We’ve had some episodes where we’ve gotten to some nuance things about reviews. But why should law firms be concerned about Google and other reviews to start out?
I love that question, Chip. I think I can take it. And then we’ll turn it over to Mandy here very shortly because I think she’s got a lot of very specific expertise from their amazing story at ELPO. Look, at the end of the day, I think every one of us as consumers understand that most of the time, when we’re looking for a service and we haven’t worked with someone before, the very first thing we do is turn to Google. Search is not only how we think, it’s actually what 89% of potential customers do first. It’s where they start their entire search process. It’s right online. Google obviously is the overwhelming majority of those searches. So when people are looking to make a decision, 90% of those folks, once they run that search, are using what they find to make that decision. And what’s interesting about Google—because that’s really where I want to zoom in here given that that is, again, the overwhelming majority of search activity—is that Google prioritizes local businesses and local search. In fact, if you go in and you type in such-and-such, it’ll populate near me. I’m sure you’ve noticed that. And so that is very much the habit that they want consumers to get into with local search.
And the way that they pull forward businesses to prioritize them in that search is by the quality and quantity of the reviews that those businesses are receiving. It puts them at the top of SEO. It informs choice in just a matter of seconds. And I’m here to tell you that the data suggests that most clicks, about 75% go to the top three on that Google business list, right in that map pack there. And it even gets more granular than that. About 42% go to the number one. So really important to be able to make sure that you’re ranking on those Google local searches and ranking as high up as you possibly can. But there’s actually a lot more benefit than just getting that exposure and SEO specific to the legal world. And I know Mandy’s going to talk more about this in a second. Obviously, it increases your brand trust, it brings you more business, more customers, it improves the click-through rates to your website. But it also creates a feedback loop for customer intelligence. You’re getting more feedback from customers and the sort of meat and potatoes of your reviews can be very helpful in developing your business. It’s also helpful in new hire and associate recruitment which I know is very top of mind for a lot of law firms and attorneys right now, making sure that you’re coming up top of mind not only for new clients but also for those associates you may want to be bringing on board as well as for retention and acquisition of laterals. So there are a lot of benefits here both in that sort of tangible SEO findability universe but then also in just the way that you’re presenting your firm.
No, that’s awesome. Let’s talk more about social proof and legal consumerism then. For decades, professional services, law, healthcare were kind of immune from consumerism. People called the law firm with the biggest ad in the phone book. But we see more and more that clients are really digging in and doing their due diligence on the front end. What sort of trends are you seeing in that regard?
Absolutely, Chip. So I think it’s safe for all of us to say that in today’s consumer landscape that customers don’t just look at one form of marketing anymore when we’re trying to make a purchasing decision. So we will take together everything that we’ve seen with the advertising, combine that in with word of mouth, brand and social proof, and probably that social proof is becoming the most important part of that bunch. And why is that? So social proof such as Google reviews, social likes, those trusted brand badges that you see, the verified check marks, these are incredibly powerful tools that convert online browsing into your actual sales. So it’s actually been found that 66% of customers say the presence of any one of those social proofs will increase your likelihood to purchase a product. And why is that? Well, the reality is that this peer-to-peer system of social proof is so popular because basically consumers, all of us, our trust in advertising is just declining. We all kind of get it. We’re aware of the purpose of ads, retailers, brands. You’re trying to sell us things. So today we need help trying to make these purchasing decisions, and offering the social proof gives us this authentic, transparent guidance that we want and that we crave that we seldom get from just your traditional modes of advertising.
So for us here at ELPO Law, we know based upon our internal tracking mechanisms that we use that Google reviews have increased the number of phone calls that are coming into us and how qualified those calls are that are coming into us. We literally have people when we say, how’d you find out about us, they said, well, went online, Googled, found you, and you had the best reviews, and that’s why we called you. So we have proof that Google reviews particularly with this whole social proof idea really do work.
So you touched on something there I think is a really important topic for I know a lot of the folks that we work with is that pre-qualification piece. Do you have kind of any thoughts on how the reviews are informing that?
Absolutely. So within the reviews that are being left for you, it also gives you this other billboard that’s out there to talk about the services that you have and your unique value proposition. So we’re going to get a little bit more into how do you make the ask and who do you ask and what does that look like, whether you’re a law firm who does more of the B2B, you’re more of the business legal services, or if you’re B2C, you have more of the personal legal services side, and how do Google reviews work for each of those. But again, it gives you another opportunity and to hear it from your customers who say, I really enjoyed my experience with ELPO Law because they knew a lot about intellectual property law, they knew a lot about immigration law, they were able to help me with this very specific thing that thereby increases your SEO, right? But it also too shows other people very specifically what sets you apart and how you’re able to help them.
I love that. So I mean we tend to think of things like lead volume and new client acquisition as almost like binary topics, right? Like we can get the number up, that’s good. If the number’s down, that’s bad. And so I find just in my own as a consumer, I go to reviews to find like what are the strengths of the product that I’m buying. And that’s not just about the number of stars, right? I know recently I was looking at little luggage squares, right? Like the little packing squares. And I wanted something that I don’t care really how much it weighs, I just want it to be really durable. And so I’m going through and reading those reviews, and some of them that had great five star reviews, they were great, super lightweight, but the cost of that is the durability, right? And so I have to think that the same thing applies to lawyers. And we work with lawyers who have more of a volume practice. They’re going to get your case settled. They’re going to be fast. And that may not be something that the law firm is talking about openly, but you’re going to be able to pick up that nuance from the reviews that you get. And so I love that point around pre-qualification because it’s something that we face constantly, right? We can get the lead volumes up. But then are we just generating more noise for the intake team to have to go through? Then we’re still not winning, right? So that’s a great point. I love that. So what are the biggest hurdles law firms face with review collection and reputation management and how do you see that they can overcome them?
Yeah. This is definitely a really unique space for collecting reviews. Obviously, there are ethical considerations, many factors that pertain specifically to the legal universe. One of the areas that we see needing to kind of overcome some challenges is just in setting expectations to write a review. It’s not necessarily as natural here as it is for a restaurant, right? But one of the things that you can do there is figure out the best timing for sending a review request invitation. And this is one of those areas where it varies very much by the sort of law that you do practice that you have the clientele that you serve. But figuring out as you experiment sort of what the right cadence is, if you should do it right away, if you should do it at the end of the year given the nature of the kind of business that you do. Along those same lines when it comes to setting expectations, once you’ve figured out what that cadence should look like given the type of client that you’re speaking with, let them know and let them know why it matters to your firm. I think, again, it’s natural for people when they write reviews for businesses like restaurants where it’s quite transactional to understand sort of the nature of the social agreement there and why it’s beneficial for a restaurant. There is often some work to do here to make sure that clients in the legal sphere understand why it’s valuable for your business as well. And asking for specifics in the review where applicable is really great. I mean we talked a second ago about that lead qualification piece and making sure that you’re kind of putting forward in your reviews or asking people to put forward in reviews what it is that you’re specialized in, what it is that your firm does well.
Keywords are king in doing that, and there’s no shame in making sure that your clients understand that if they’re working with you for, let’s say, for instance, immigration services that that comes through in the review that they write. That a generic review is okay, but what you really want is something that speaks to the expertise of the firm and speaks to those keywords. And then finally, one of the things we really recommend at Podium is making sure that you’re catching people where they’re most likely to respond. One of the things that we found is that text gets a 98% open rate on our cell phones today. It’s a really effective way to bring people to the table to write reviews in the moment that you’ve found to be most effective to solicit those invitations. Now a lot of people are very responsive to email as well. But making sure that you kind of have a mix of those things and you understand which channel is appropriate for making that solicitation is a really good path to making sure that you catch people when they’re willing, able, ready, and most conveniently set up to write you that review. The only other thing I would say here is you don’t want to wait too long. Fresh is best. If you let a few months lapse between when you’ve rendered services or had that relationship and making that ask, you’re never going to quite get the review that you wanted from that client. So that’s a little bit. I know there’s a lot more specifics. I’ll turn it over to you, Mandy.
Yeah. So specifically from a law firm point of view, when we talk about hurdles, I think this is probably across the board for any time that the marketing department comes up with a brand new idea that we want to implement in our firm is 1) getting your stakeholder buy-in. That’s a hurdle we got to get through first. And then 2) the adoption of the program that you want to actually be able to implement. So when you are trying to get your stakeholder buy-in specifically for wanting to get more Google reviews for your law firm, you want to start out by really building the case to your firm. You want to have a really well thought out plan for how you’re going to go about doing this, what the systems and processes are going to be to make it successful, and then some of the outlines there, what are the expectations for this as it moves forward. So one of the things you’ll want to think about for what works best for your firm and your situation is how are you going to measure the return on your investment. So getting Google reviews, we’re going to talk about a couple of different ways that you can do that and opportunities that are out there to help you do so. But overall, it’s not a costly thing to do. The biggest part of the cost factor is your time just to get it done. So your time though is very valuable. So how are you going to prove the return on your investment? How are you going to track these calls? How are you going to track that this is working? And then think about, again, developing your plan.
Think about for your particular firm, what is your sweet spot for the number of reviews that you want to get. Hally and I get asked this question all the time. How many Google reviews should I have? Well, classic lawyer answer, it depends. So if you’re starting out and you have zero Google reviews, well, getting 20 over the course of the next month depending upon your geographic market or footprint might be a great goal for you. However, if you’re already sitting at 50, then maybe getting to 100 is your next goal. A key to figure out what might work best for you is to look up your competitors and see how many Google reviews they have and then just make sure that you get more than them. Then like Hally was talking about, once you start to get into a certain rhythm with your firm, you’ll start to realize, because in the beginning, you’ve got all these people that you can ask for reviews. So hopefully, they’re going to come in and they’re going to generate quickly. But you want to put some plans into place as how do you continue to incentivize your attorneys and/or legal assistance, secretaries, whoever you have deemed to make the ask, how are you going to incentivize them to keep going and keep that momentum going?
Because as great as Google reviews are, if somebody comes and looks at your law firm and you were killing it, you were getting Google reviews, five stars all the time for three months, and now it’s been three months since you’ve gotten any, I as a consumer am going to look at that and say, what’s happened here. Have they closed their doors? Why is nobody leaving a review? So you do want to make sure that you keep up with those in a timely manner that’s going to work best for you. And again, you decide who does it make the most sense to make the ask. And again, that might be different for every practice area as to when it makes the most sense. Like Hally said, best as always, you just wrapped up a really great case for them, great time to be able to ask them for the Google review. If you’re in personal injury, while you’re handing them the check, ask them for that Google review. Very easy to be able to do. And again, it’s going to be very different depending upon which practice area you’re considering.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah, I love the point that you made, Hally, early on too about text versus email. And it’s really just about meeting people where they’re at, where they’re most comfortable. I review as many places as I can because of course we spend a lot of time trying to get those reviews for our clients. So if I go to a restaurant that I like, go to a store, I do it. I hate doing it on my phone. Like I have a lot to say and I’m going to write it out and like I can type really fast. I can’t type as quickly on my phone. Other people, they’re not going to sit in front of a computer ever. Maybe they have a tablet. Maybe they have a phone. But like meeting people where they are, what makes it as convenient as possible for them as an individual, and we can’t always know that. We’re not going to we may be able to know that for 70% of the population, but like by being able to meet people right where they are and like you had mentioned too, Mandy, the timing there, who the person is that asks, who’s the most comfortable. And the other nice thing that I think is happening now is that people have gotten accustomed to being asked, right? So it doesn’t feel awkward. I feel like the first few years that we were doing this, it just was so awkward, right? Like I have to ask them to say nice things about us. But now we’re always asked, and people do it. And so a lot of that has gone away. Mandy, you work in legal industry obviously. Like what’s some of the nuance that you see there?
Absolutely. So again, one of the biggest factors that you’ll want to take in consideration is, again, whether you are providing the business legal services or the consumer and personal legal services. So to your point, Chip, and meeting people where they are, we are a hybrid law firm here, putting in air quotes, if you could see me, full service law firm. So we do the business legal services and the personal legal services. So obviously, it was a very easy sell to the personal legal services side because they can see the reality of these Google reviews. Somebody’s looking for a will, they’re in a car wreck, they’re looking this up they could get. My business legal services side, we’re a little more timid about do I really think that the CEO of this company is going to go and look at this online? Well, chances are you got to look at it, but yes, the B2C, this is a great lead gen tool, right? People are going to go there. They’re going to call the office after that. And on the B2B side, you’re really building that brand, and it’s kind of proof out there so that when they do Google you or they do search, you they can find it.
And what we have found with our B2B clients who are willing to leave reviews is they respond better to the requests that come via email. However, on the personal legal services side, they respond better and quicker when we send the request via text. So it really just depends on which is going to work better depending upon each different practice area. But there’s some language that you can use, and to your point, when you make the request via email, you can build a little bit more into that request. So for example, when we approach our business clients and ask them for a Google review, we pick the person that has the best long-term relationship with them. I allow, if it’s an attorney, I allow them blame it on the marketing department. Our marketing department’s got this new idea that they want to do and they’re really pressuring me to get some Google reviews. For us here at ELPO, we don’t do a whole lot of traditional advertising. We don’t do a lot of TV and radio and all that. So we say that in our email. We don’t invest a lot in traditional advertising so that then we can invest in our community. We invest a lot into different community activities and sponsorships and everything like that. So we still need to get business though, and the best way that we can do that is through Google reviews and by you leaving us a review. It takes you five seconds. We tell them how quick it is, and we just tell them we’re thankful for it. And again, we can say all of that in an email. Whereas with your cell phone, if you’re sitting right in front of me, oh, let me send you this link real quick and explain it to you right then. You can click on the link. I can help walk you through it and everything. So you really have to, again, think about in the legal world which one makes the most sense for you.
And also too, when you’re developing that plan, you’re building your case study, figure out how you’re going to manage this on the back end. So you’ve got everybody, everybody’s on the ship. We all want the Google reviews. Everybody’s out there asking. They’re coming in. How are you managing that on the back end? For us to be able to partner with someone like Podium who is able to create a back end where I can log in, I can send emails through the back end, I can send text through the back end. The texts don’t come from my personal cell phone so you can’t text me back. It comes from an ELPO number that they then have that they could easily click on the link. I can see all who is left, who hasn’t, what’s coming in completely on the back end all in one platform was wonderful for us at a very, very cost effective price. The templates are already there. You can go right in and be able to follow up. So you’ll want to think about that, whether you’re just going to try to handle it and manage it all in-house or if you want to partner with somebody like Podium to be able to do that. And Google reviews are great, but there’s other places to be able to leave reviews as well and how do you want to tackle that. Again, to Hally’s point, Google’s going to be your number one. I mean everybody’s out there Googling. But there’s other opportunities as well to be able to leave reviews. So just some things that you want to think about within that world of law firms.
And definitely check the ethics rules in your state before you start to do this and think through what that means for you. So for example, if you are in criminal law and somebody leaves you a Google review, whether it be good or bad and you choose to respond to it, watch how you’re responding. There might be confidential things that you do not need to be putting out there in your response. So as legal marketers, we’re all very familiar with living in this world of thinking through things like attorney-client privilege. But it does not change with these as well. So that’s something, a cautionary tale. I want to make sure that everybody thinks through with this.
No, that makes a lot of sense. I know we read all of these reviews that come in for our clients, of course, and like it also ends up being a little bit of a source of entertainment occasionally when we see some that just kind of blow your mind. We see some especially on the family law side where the reviews are coming in from the opposing party, right? And we see that all the time. And so you raised a really good example on the criminal defense side. The family law side, like it is pretty wild out there to see what comes through. And almost 100% of those negative reviews come from the opposing party, which is one of those very unusual areas where you almost want to see some of those negative reviews. Because if you don’t see them on the family law side, then are they being aggressive enough? Like are they doing the thing that you’re hiring them to do? It’s kind of a weird area. But that’s where we see kind of I guess one of the bigger misalignments, right? Where like we’re not asking for those reviews, right? We’re not asking for the for the person’s spouse to come in and say, we really don’t like your divorce attorney. But we still get those sometimes. So what are some things then that you would recommend doing leading up to? So I mean there’s the ask and there’s the request for the review. There’s all the things that you could do just perfectly, saying, please do this, please mention what we do, mention practice area. But that doesn’t by default guarantee a positive review. So what do you do prior to that and what are some of your high level recommendations to make sure when it comes time to make the ask, you’re best positioned to receive what you’re looking for?
Sure. So step one, if you can build this into your systems and processes, it’s going to save you a lot of time. A lot of people work off a checklist. As you’re debriefing with your client, build this into your systems and processes to make the asks. And you want your Google reviews be representative of the work that you do, which is hopefully always good work. But recognize who you’re asking to leave the Google review and just really think it through, about what you’re asking of them and wrap your head around just go ahead and understand that if you were going to do Google reviews and you’re going to get as many as you want to have, there’s going to be a negative one. But don’t let that one negative review ruin your entire 99% of other reviews. I mean the reality is at the end of the day, if we think about it too, when we look at reviews of whether it be restaurants or law firms or otherwise, we’re not expecting to see absolutely no negative reviews. We would start to think, oh gosh, did they get a bot to leave all their reviews? Are they paying their friends and family? Which by the way, do not do either of those. Google is very smart. You cannot outsmart Google. They will pick up on it. Don’t do it.
So if they see a negative review, all they’re looking for is how did you respond to it? And I don’t mean get in a back and forth over, we didn’t do that and you’re dumb and I don’t like that. But to say, I’m so sorry that you had this experience. And again, you have to define that too for how your law firm is in your culture. To say I’m sorry might not be the way that you want to respond. You might not have done anything wrong. So to say I’m sorry might not be the right response. But to ask them if you can reach out to them offline. I would love to talk to you more about this. I would love to figure out what happened, if there’s more clarity, anything along those lines. People just want to know that they were heard. All people don’t want to see is that you just said nothing to them. So as long as you respond to the negative poster and say I would love to be able to speak with you offline more about this and figure out how, we’re constantly trying to improve our quality of service, what can we do to be able to figure out how we can prevent this from moving forward. That’s what people want to see. But don’t let that one negative review discourage you. Just acknowledge it calmly. Offer a proactive solution or a one-on-one discussion to be able to get offline. And again, think about it through before it occurs.
And you always too want to respond, whether it’s positive or negative, quickly. You want to be able to say thank you so much for the review. And again, in your thank you, here’s a way, again, to think about this as a billboard or an ongoing conversation. So one of the things that I always like to say is, we look forward to continuing to provide you with a myriad of legal services because we provide them all. And I want to remind them and the reader that we provide them all, and it’s not just this one thing that they’re talking about. So that gives me the opportunity to reiterate that in a different way. So think about, too, how you’re going to respond to those.
That makes a lot of sense. You both have touched a little bit on the ethics and on the compliance issue. When we get a new client, like I generally try to get even a smaller firm if we’re working with a smaller firm, I try to advocate for them to use a platform. Do either of you want to speak to the benefit of using a centralized platform to make sure that you are abiding by bar rules, that you’re not violating ethical rules? What’s the difference between having somebody kind of bootstrap this out of the gate versus having a more centralized location for this communication?
Mandy, I’ll turn that one over to you. Of course, we have our point of view at Podium, but yours is a very lived experience.
Right. And we’re a small to mid-size law firm. We’re 28 attorneys right now, getting ready to be 32 really quickly. And so I’m a marketing department of one. So anything that I can do to help me manage any of the different hats that I wear during the day, this is amen going to be that. I love it. I have an actual app on my phone so that when a Google review comes through—so think about that too. I’m out of the office. I’m at a conference, Legal Marketing Association Conference. I don’t have time all day long to be checking my emails and checking the Google reviews. But I can quickly get on my app, and if a negative review comes through—this actually did happen to me at a conference—that I can see it right then and I can address it right then because that’s out there living in the world. You can go to Google and give them very, very, very specific and they have to be very valid reasons of this was a bot or this is a scammer or something like that for them to even consider taking down a Google review because that’s what it’s built on, right? People want to know that they’re coming somewhere that everything is coming out and that they can trust they’re getting all the information. So it’s out there in the world. So to be able to have an app and be able to quickly go in and be able to answer that.
Also, too, again, thinking about incentives. We have a lot of people in our firm that are out there asking for other people to give Google reviews. I can go in on the back end and see who’s asking people and how many times they’re asking them. So then when I go in and lead business development training within the practice area groups, I can say, hey, employment law group, I see nobody’s even asked for a Google review in two months. What’s going on here? What’s the problem? How can we build this into our systems and processes? Or I go in the personal injury group and say, hey, Donna, you haven’t had a lot of success in getting Google reviews, but I see that you’ve asked 20 people. That’s awesome. You’re putting forth the effort. Maybe let’s talk about how you’re making the ask of why you’re not getting them and figure out what’s going on there so we can make sure that we are getting them in because you’re actually doing the effort. So to be able to see that on the back end is awesome. If I didn’t have a platform like Podium to be able to go in and look at all that and everybody’s just willy-nilly out there sending links left and right much less you have to outline for people, here are the seven steps to follow to get to leave a Google review rather than click this link right here right now. It makes us look more professional on our end, and again, anything that makes my life easier, sign me up. And again, at a very, very cost effective price point.
Yeah, yeah. And you touched previously on some compliance things too, and like if you do not have centralized management, then you could have anybody using their own phone and they send a message say, hey, would you click on this link and do whatever, right? That is not centralized at all. And so you don’t have someone who can go in and audit that and say, hey, you asked in an inappropriate manner or you positioned this review request this way, not to mention the risk of as an organization, we try very hard to not put our employee’s cell phone numbers out there. Some choose to like especially on the business development side. But for the most part, we try to create that curtain to say we’ve got a phone system, you can direct dial. That phone system will forward to a cell phone, but we don’t want our team’s cell phone number out there because there’s all sorts of things that happen in the world. And so especially in the legal industry, there are going to be times where people are disgruntled, and they’re unhappy. The last thing you want is for them to have an employee’s cell phone number. So on the risk management side, I think it goes into both directions of can we make sure that we are complying with the organization’s approach here, can we do that in a way that’s reviewable? Because if we don’t, then anybody can do anything. And then how do you manage for that risk? So I think that makes a ton of sense. Mandy Hicks, Hally Pinaud, thank you so much for joining us here. Your insight, your experience is super valuable. I know our listeners will really appreciate that too. So thank you so much for taking the time.
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