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While Will has 15 years of professional Sales and Marketing experience, he has dedicated the last nine years to the legal industry. His accomplishments include being a 4-time winner of The Sales President’s Club Qualifier by ADP & Thomson Reuters, and Regional Salesperson of the Year by Thomson Reuters.
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SEO in the Legal Niche
George: This is the Conquer Local podcast, a show about billion-dollar sales leaders, marketers leading local economic growth, and entrepreneurs that have created their dream organizations. They wanna share their secrets, giving you the distilled version of their extraordinary feats. Our hope is, with the tangible takeaways from each episode, you can rewire, rework, and reimagine your business. I’m George Leith, and on this episode, we welcome Will Palmer. With over 15 years of professional sales and marketing experience and nine of the 15 dedicated to lawyers, we’re gonna learn from Will how to capture this lucrative niche. He’s a four-times President’s Club Qualifier and won Regional Salesperson of the Year, and when you listen to Will, you’ll see he is a dialed-in sales professional. He founded and rebranded three different companies and I wanna hear that story for sure. Get ready, conquerors, for Will Palmer. He’s coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local podcast.
George: Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been to Kansas City, Missouri, so today we’re gonna do it virtually. Will Palmer on the line with us from Kansas City, CEO, and founder of Growth Lab. Welcome, Will, to the Conquer Local podcast.
Will: Thanks, George, good to be here.
George: We’re pretty excited to have you on the show because you’ve been very successful in your career working in what I consider to be a really lucrative space, which is working with law firms. But love to understand a little bit more about your background and how you became the SEO expert that you are today.
Will: Yeah, I’ll give you the rundown with my experience. So, I guess the best way I would describe myself would be sort of an internet nerd, and my wife would attest to that. I’ve just always been on the computer from a young age and sort of turned into this legal marketing entrepreneur over the last almost 10 years, believe it or not. And so, worked with, you know, pretty national well-known agency in the marketing space for legal. Before that, had pretty traditional professional sales experience with some big players, like ADP, and ultimately, in the last couple of years, have realized my dream of being an entrepreneur and quitting sorta the corporate world to give myself just an opportunity to kinda build my own empire, so to speak, to have really better work-life balance, to build a team, to take sorta my creativity and apply it to the business world, take my sales experience, apply that to my ability to acquire our own customers and really just gain a lot more control over the sales process, the marketing solutions that we provide that lead to really good results for our law firms that we serve. So it’s been a really fun ride and I just wish I did it sooner.
George: Yeah, you know, we were talking about this before we jumped onto the show. You were in the corporate world for quite some time, honed all your skills, and then took the plunge. So congratulations on that. And what you are articulating, I hear from lots of entrepreneurs, “I just that we woulda done it earlier.” But for folks that are listening on to the show today, I do wanna talk a little bit about your experience, because you mentioned, you know, you’re doing the sales. Like you’re right in there doing the sales and leveraging all those skills. Is that a key component to your success, obviously?
Will: Yeah, I think, and I’ve talked about this before, in my humble opinion, one of the most important common traits among the most successful entrepreneurs, no matter how big the business is, is the ability to sell and get out of your comfort zone if you aren’t familiar with sales and to sell. So yeah, I would say it’s played a significant role in our ability to scale quickly because the sales process, obviously, being one sort of cog in the machine in terms of how you can scale quickly with revenue and make a really valuable service for your clients. But sales has been a huge component of that, no doubt.
George: So you founded and rebranded three different companies. Let’s talk about those and the niches that they serve.
Will: Yeah. Try not to do that if you’re listening. Yeah, you know, you learn and you make kinda some mistakes, but yeah, that’s really what happened. And just to touch on the why behind that and a little bit about my journey. When I was with a large organization serving legal, and I’ve served legal for close to 10 years now, coming up on 10 years, you know, I certainly didn’t wanna violate any non-competes, things like that. So really, I carved out a niche in a space that was geared towards med spas and sorta healthcare. And it worked really well. We brought in a lotta good money and it was called KyteStrings Digital. It was really an integrated approach where we would essentially touch every channel. Despite my sales background, I guess I’m a little bit unique in that I, like I mentioned, I’m sorta the marketing nerd as well, and that I can practice what I preach. I love digging into analytics and different acquisition channels and all that. So we could say yes to a lotta different things over there. So we could say yes to automation, email marketing, Facebook ads, Google ads, SEO, website, I mean, everything you could think of, we could say yes to, and that was good because it earned us a lotta business quickly. The bad part of that was that it was not scalable. There was a lot of elements to that that were out of our control in terms of building repeatable, predictable, and high-output processes within each of those channels. It’s just almost impossible to do effectively unless you have a 30- or 40-employee agency and you’ve been around for a long time. So, when I left the corporate world and I was out of the non-compete, I was able to pivot back into legal. Between that process, I had created a new entity and made a different brand. And that was purposes for equity distribution among the partnerships I was exploring, so I won’t get in the weeds on that. But ultimately, we did finalize sort of hopefully our, knock on wood, our final rebrand, which is called Growth Lab. It really exists to allude to the fact that, you know, my team is, we’re very deep and skilled in a few very key areas, and we’re not wide. I literally took the opposite approach. Instead of trying to offer a lot of things so that I could say yes to a lot of business, I turned down a ton of business or refer it to agency partners or colleagues in the space that do things outside of what we do. And really, we only do three things for law firms at this point with Growth Lab. We do SEO, which is really our bread and butter. We do SEM, so we run ads on Google, Yahoo, Bing, so search ads. And we do websites. That’s the only three things we do. We do not touch anything else. And Growth Lab has been successful at really scaling because of how deep our knowledge is in those areas.
George: Well, it’s fascinating to me, because what you’re referring to, I’ve talked a lot on this show about over my career, where I sold radio ads, on one station with one format to reach one audience. And then digital comes along and I loved the fact that we could solve more problems, but I wanna understand why tailoring it to just three things, I think it has something to do with scalability, but explain to us what the strategy is there.
Will: Yeah, it has to do with scalability, but even more important than that, I think, it has to do with how we can best serve our customer base. And so, if you’re an agency owner or even if you’re a business and you’re trying to understand where to invest a dollar in marketing and sort of, what are the most high-priority things, ’cause as I just alluded to, there’s let’s say a dozen different channels or strategies you can invest in, depends on your clients’ clients. So our law firms’ clients, unlike other industries, like healthcare or e-comm or product-based stuff, where you’re trying to sort of educate the marketplace, where that’s, in my opinion, social media can work really well, if you’re trying to create demand, demand creation, we’re not in the business of demand creation for legal. We’re in the business of demand fulfillment. And so, if you think about a law firm, let’s say, you get a DUI. You have a pretty urgent need for an attorney if you’re arrested for some kinda criminal charge. Let’s say you’re trying to get a divorce or you need a divorce attorney. There’s a pretty, typically a pretty high urgency around that or personal injury, if you’re in a car accident, right? We see the billboards and the TV slots for that. There’s a need that needs to be fulfilled with some urgency, and there’s some legal questions that need to be urgently answered. So, when we looked at our clients’ clients and the legal consumer and their journey to connect to a law firm, and just having been in the space and tried a lotta different things, the most linear path for a legal consumer to connect with a law firm is through search, through SEO, I mean, it’s the real estate on Google. And so, if you do a search for top car wreck attorney in whatever city or any of the other practice areas I just mentioned, that real estate includes the local service area ads and pay-per-click at the top, of course, map section and basically organic below that. And that’s when our clients can dominate those areas and there’s a website on the backend that tells a really unique story, it tells people who they are, what they do, and how to contact them and sort of the five-second rule that I call it, and it converts, that, those three things are the highest return on investment channels, in my opinion, that legal can pursue with their dollars. That, again, is the most linear path. So yeah, it’s scalable, but it also serves our client best. And I can talk more about the scalability piece, but it’s just been incredibly effective at the results piece. And that’s where we’re getting referred and getting a lot of growth happening.
George: How do you overcome the fact that lawyers are competitive? If you’re working with one law firm in a market, are you able to work with others or do you have to go into another market and kinda give ’em a bit of an exclusivity?
Will: That’s a great question. And our prospects ask us the same question as well. Like, well, “Are you working with other firms in Atlanta,” or Houston or LA or whatever it is? And I’m always, of course, honest about it, but what I usually tell people, because when I was with in the corporate world and with Thomson Reuters, I had over 100 clients in Kansas City alone, which is kinda mind-boggling. People don’t realize how many solo and small law firms are out there in every metro. And that is problematic. I mean, that’s incredibly saturated. But what I usually tell people, and to answer your question is, you want a law firm or any business to participate in the process of search, in the process of client, you know, decision-making processes. And the data behind the legal consumer, and I’m sure this applies to other industries that some of your listeners may be dabbling in or focused on, is that consumers aren’t looking at one website before they make a call or fill out a web form. They’re looking, you know, between three and four, at least in the legal space. So, as long as our clients are participating in that process and we can effectively differentiate them through unique value proposition language and content and headlines, and just to give you some real-life examples, you know, you may be a woman that needs a divorce and maybe you want a female divorce attorney on your side, or maybe, you know, you got a DUI and there’s a younger, hungrier looking attorney with a bunch of accolades or maybe there’s an older attorney that has more experience, ’cause you have a really high-stakes, you know, white collar crime involved. And there’s always this psychological and cognitive decision-making process at play. And as long as we can get our clients into that position, they usually are going to win because consumers do want choices. So, the other thing too, there’s always a right way and a wrong way to do marketing with legal. And if you’re an attorney and you believe in the power of digital, and you believe in legal consumers going online to choose an attorney, which is what they do, you can either work with somebody that has seen it all and knows exactly how to build these campaigns, or you can work with somebody that may claim they do and you’re still having to compete with everybody else. Do you know what I mean?
Will: We understand that and we can differentiate our clients so that they’re all getting results, in my opinion.
George: No, that’s really, really well thought out. What I was jumping at is, I got a good feeling that you’ve had this conversation a few times where you’re dealing with a client and they say to you at the end of the presentation, after they sign on the contract, they go, “Just don’t sell it to my competitor.” ‘Cause they see it as a competitive advantage. That’s the idea of the perfect sales pitch, in my opinion.
Will: Yeah. And that, I’d probably say this, you know, I get it, I’d probably say something similar. But you know, I’m a business owner, they’re a business owner, we’re all entrepreneurial.
Will: At the end of the day, if they’re not happy with the results we’re providing, I certainly don’t want anybody handcuffed to us with, you know, 12-month term agreements and things like that. I mean, we’re a very flexible team. Our team is, we’re very entrepreneurial. We’re very pragmatic. We’re incredibly skilled at what we do and dynamic, and I’m just bragging on my team because we understand the marketing systems that grow our clients’ businesses. And if, for some reason, there’s a competition issue where it’s preventing results from happening, I mean, we’ll get it fixed. It’s not something we’ve had to come across thus far.
George: That’s fascinating. Hey, often, the account manager and the SEO fulfillment coordinator are two different fields. Do you have one person fulfilling both account management and SEO for your clients?
Will: We do. The way I structured our team is a bit unique in that our account managers are fulfilling a lot of the SEO services that we provide. Not all of them, but that was intentional after sort of some trial and error where they were, you know, leading teams behind them and just reporting on results and acting as that liaison. But the problem is, when you have an account manager also fulfilling a lot of the SEO, the technical SEO stuff, it reduces the distance between results and communication with clients. ‘Cause the SEO space is full of a lot of imposters, unfortunately, that talk a big game, but they don’t deliver what they promise, you know?
George: No, unfortunately, it is tainted with that for sure. So, given the knowledge and experience that you’ve garnered over the last number of years in your career, this 15-year career, if you go back and do something differently or a couple things differently, what would that be?
Will: Yeah, I mean, based on the knowledge that I have now, I would certainly say niche down, both with clients and with your service offerings. In fact, there’s a company that a colleague and I just incorporated and we’re gonna bring on some clients that is so niche, it’s geared content, it’s content only. So it’s a content marketing agency geared specifically towards a single niche. So it’s not even SEO and website. I mean, it’s literally we’re just going to produce SEO content. It’s called Performance Content Partners where the entire point of that content is just to drive qualified traffic and leads through a website through, you know, high-intent content. So when we’re scaling down and niching down, and serving a very specific audience with a very specific service set, that is what I would do much earlier on in sorta my entrepreneurial journey with marketing. It’s just much easier to create repeatable processes, teams that are very expert in what they do, and that, again, it leads to higher value for our clients.
George: And I think that it’s a really good lesson, because where missed expectations happen is where you get that, you know, huge menu of items that you deliver and some of them you don’t deliver on a regular basis aren’t very good, and then it leads to bad experience. I’m trying to dig into this, but I think that this is what you’re trying to solve against by having a smaller set of things that you do really, really well.
Will: Yeah, exactly, and I think, for the entrepreneurs and agency owners that are listening and also the business owners that are trying to understand how to best grow their business with marketing, the advice I always tell people, and this is not a sales pitch towards what we do, I even say to prospects, even if you don’t work with our team, what I would encourage you to find is a agency or a marketer that is really focused on what you do. Because I think most agencies out there have what I call a heterogeneous customer base problem, in that their customers are not all the same. They serve lots of small businesses or even enterprise kinds of clients. And the problem with that is when you don’t have a niche that you serve, like legal as an example, one of many, then the insights that you gather, the strategies you use from working with just legal or just one kind of customer are not able to be recycled, there’s no relearning. And when you’re marketing to each new customer, you’re having to sort of relearn things. And as a result, there’s an efficiency problem that happens and your ability to deliver consistent results to your customer base, that is lost. And I think the more customer types you bring on in an agency, the worse service can get for each customer because it’s sorta creating this negative feedback loop and customer results ultimately get hurt in that process that we found.
George: No, there’s some really good lessons in there, and you know, the one thing I wanna leave our audience with is we’ve gotta congratulate you on the big award that you won here recently, Will. So congratulations, Vendasta’s Strategy Excellence Award for 2022. We’ll see if you can defend that next year. But thanks for educating us today, some great learnings, and we wish you all the best with your organization as you continue to grow. Growth Lab is a juggernaut. You’re doing a great job there.
Will: Thanks, George, really appreciate you having me on.
George: We’ve been hearing about this niching down thing, phenomenon. I wonder if it shouldn’t be niching to win, because niching down, to me, is a little bit negative. But what Will was referring to is by dialing in your offerings and having less offerings that very clearly solve the problems that your customer base has, and then not selling to everybody, being very focused on one vertical or one niche that you do really well, you have a chance to get higher paying customers with larger margin, and you deliver every time. And wouldn’t it be great to say that when you sit down with your customer and you get a smile on their face and they’re just talking about, “Wow, that was a great month? Look at all of the leads that we were delivered or the new customers that we were able to speak to.” It’s pretty cool to see it happen, and Will is living it every single day. And you can hear because he’s been doing it for a long time, there’s quite a bit of discipline needed. Because you have to be ready to say no, to say that that doesn’t fit with what we know we can deliver and be successful with. If you liked Will’s episode, I sure did, discussing SEO in the legal niche, then let’s continue the conversation. Check out these episodes. 217, “The Evolution of Search Engine Marketing,” with Sandy Lohr, episode 422, “A Guide to Google Ads,” with Mike Rhodes, or episode 514, “The Current State of Vendor and Media Company Relations,” with Martin Kristiseter. Please subscribe and leave us a review wherever you listen to podcasts, and thanks for joining us this week on the “Conquer Local” podcast. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.