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Unlocking the Secrets to Legal Marketing Success: A Journey from Inception to Excellence

In Conversation with Patrick Carver

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Patrick Carver, Owner of Constellation Marketing, located in Atlanta Georgia.

Discover Patrick Carver’s journey from sports marketing to owning Constellation Marketing, serving 85 law firms. He emphasizes quality leads via SEO and ads, underlining the importance of high-intent searches. The interview delves into strategies for effective legal marketing, focusing on local SEO dominance and comprehensive content.

Watch the episode now!

Effective law firm marketing blends strategy with client intent.

Patrick Carver
Owner of Constellation Marketing

Hey, hi, everyone. This is Ranmay here back on your Show E-Coffee with Experts. Today we have Patrick Carver with us who is the owner at Constellation Marketing. Welcome, Patrick.

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Great. Patrick, before we move forward and pick your brains, I’d request you to introduce yourself, talk a bit about your journey, and let us know what Constellation Marketing is all about.

Absolutely. My name is Patrick Carver, and I started about seven years ago. I had been doing marketing for a sports software company. I’ll talk about this probably a little bit later, but I kept on getting questions from my father, who’s a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer, about his marketing. That kicked off some ideas that I had about it and eventually figured out that there was a need for it in that space and started working for him. Since then, we’ve grown consistently over the years. We’re really happy to be able to work with about 85 law firms right now. We are just really happy and fortunate. I think we have a great team and appreciate opportunities like this to get to talk about us.

Superb. You have been there with this industry for so long. As you mentioned, 85 law clients mean a lot. Could you please share with our listeners today the story behind the inception of Constellation and how you’ve experienced, like you mentioned, with your father’s law firm, influencing your decision to start this company? And how has been this journey so far from starting with your father’s law firm to 85 clients on board right now?

Yeah, for sure. So when I got out of college, I thought I was going to start the next Facebook and just instantly be super successful. And I learned some hard lessons that entrepreneurship is much harder than that. And so the mistake that I had made was trying to build a business without a real need or a real idea that someone would pay for. And so when I got to the point in my career, I was doing marketing for a software company. I kept on having these conversations with my father, who’s a criminal defense lawyer. And he was engaged with one of the big legal marketing companies in the US. And he would get these reports every month, send them over to me, and say, What does this all mean? What do these statistics mean? Is this working? Is it not working? And, for him, all he knew is that he needed to be doing something to market his law firm. And this felt like a good solution. It felt like this is what most people were doing, and it checked all the boxes. They were doing SEO and ads, but he didn’t know exactly the value.

And so I eventually relented and started looking into these reports. And after a little while, I figured out that what they were doing was not contributing at all to new cases. All of his new cases were coming from people who were searching his name. A light bulb went off for me that, Hey, the stuff I’m doing over here on the software side with SEO, with advertising could be applicable here. And I could show that line from investment to return on investment. And that’s when the light bulb went off. And I figured out that maybe I had something here that people would pay for. It was a service worth paying for. And so he let me get started and use his law firm as a test case. And the results were positive. And so after a little while, some colleagues reached out and asked if I could do the same thing for them. And that’s when I felt that momentum of, Hey, I think there’s something to this and was able to start the business that I’d wanted to a few years earlier.

Okay. But let’s put it this way. Your dad was your first client, your colleagues were your second client. But how is it going to go from starting from scratch at home with your dad being your first client, you’re building 85 clients to date? It’s a huge journey. Talk to us about it.

Yeah, I think it’s a journey that every entrepreneur goes through. I think the struggle or the challenge is very similar for agency owners. You start by taking anybody you can get. And so in those early days, we were taking psychologists and other people who were just friends and somehow were related to my network and just to keep the lights on. But as time grew, we realized that the number one thing that we could do to help our growth was to deliver amazing results. And when we did that, people were pretty happy to talk about us and share us with friends and colleagues who were taking notice and looking to them because their business was going well. And the early years, I would say, up to the first five years or so, we focused on referrals and building that network of people who were connected to our clients. And about that time when we were trying to scale and move beyond that, we encountered a lot of the same challenges that our clients have, our referrals are great, but they’re often unpredictable. It’s hard to scale them. And so we came to this conclusion that the same thing we’re doing for our clients, we needed to do for ourselves.

And so since then, we’ve been doing a lot of email marketing. We’ve tested a lot of ads. We’re increasingly doing SEO for our firm. And those have been the three biggest drivers of new business for us over the past seven years. I think now we’re getting into that flow or getting that momentum of adding people who are non-referrals, who don’t know us but are in the market for legal marketing services.

Adding specialists, if I may put it that way.

Absolutely. Yeah. Looking for people who have that proven experience.

Absolutely. A referral can also backfire. You cannot be dependent on referrals to keep the lights on, as you mentioned. If you were to emphasize a couple of strategies as to how any business, let’s say, who does not have a marketing expert as you are but need to run their show. What they should focus upon, top three factors, if they’re not in the law segment, if they are not having, let’s say, very good referrals, they don’t want to be dependent on that. Two, let’s say they don’t have a marketing expert like you are, and how do they run their show? What are the basics that they should be looking at and doing on a day-to-day basis to keep the lights on?

For sure. We love referrals. I think in our view, our philosophy has always been we want to get you as many clients as possible for the least amount of investment. And if referrals are part of that, typically they are for law firms specifically, that’s a great thing. And we’re not in a position of saying referrals are bad or don’t get them or anything like that. But as you highlighted, there are some challenges with them. And so we believe that whether it’s a marketing agency or a law firm if you want to grow in a scalable way where it’s not just hope and prayer that the referrals come in, you have to add at least one other source or channel to acquire these leads, qualified leads that can help grow your business. And so the ones that we look at and rely on for our business, for our clients, are going to be search engine optimization and advertising. Those are by far, the two biggest movers in terms of bringing qualified business in for law firms. We also do Email marketing, and social media, which can also be valuable as well. The thing I would recommend when you take all of that into account is that you want to go where your clients are.

And you also probably just want to focus on one channel until you get it dialed in the way that you want. And so we, in fact, in our agency, I think have made a mistake in the past by trying to split our efforts between a couple of different lead generation strategies. And so if you’re a law firm and you’re existing on referrals right now, but you’re looking to scale, I think it comes down to, at least in the short term, choosing one strategy and trying to become something of an expert with it or putting a lot of resources into it. And for several firms, SEO can provide that because if you enjoy writing, it’s the ultimate self-powered marketing strategy that you can do for your website. You don’t even really need an SEO specialist. You’re just out there writing comprehensively about your practice area and the types of cases that you’re looking for. So it can be a DIY-type strategy. And now with local service ads, advertising is like that a little bit as well. I think it goes back to what you’re comfortable with if you like writing. If you like writing, if you’re interested in that, then that could be a good area to focus on.

Or if you need business right now, ads might be a little bit of a better option. So I think it just comes down to your business goals and figuring out which of these strategies fits your personality, fits what you feel comfortable with, and will help you accomplish those business goals.

Just for our audiences, if all of that sounds confusing, then we can contact Patrick. We’ll have those details at the end of the podcast. Patrick, you also touched upon leads. Now it is a very discussed topic, leads, low-quality leads, warm, hot, super hot, and all that categories that we all build. You have emphasized the challenge of erratic and low-quality leads from marketing efforts. Could you elaborate a little more on the common pitfalls that law firms encounter when it comes to lead generation? And what is your fund for overcoming these challenges?

We often see two core problems with law firms when they come and get in contact with us. One of those is not enough leads and the other is poor quality leads. Both can be killers for law firms because we go back to what we’re talking about with just building a successful, scalable law firm, you need those good, high-quality leads coming in every month. Now, there are some practice areas out there that require fewer leads per month, and their mechanisms for acquiring business are different. But we work with six primary practice areas: bankruptcy, estate planning, family law, criminal defense, immigration, and personal injury. And so all of those practice areas are highly dependent on new business coming in the door each month. And they need not only volume of leads but also quality of leads. And so there are countless people out there who will take your money and market your law firm. Some of the biggest players out there are these big legal marketing companies that also have directories. And one of the challenges with relying on a company like that is the quality of those leads that come in, because when we’re talking about quality for a law firm.

We’re looking for people who are looking for the service that they provide that our clients provide, and they’re also willing to pay for it. And those two things can make or break a law firm. Because if you have those types of leads coming in, then it’s typically, in our experience, we see lawyers are pretty good at closing those types of leads. And so it comes down to being able to find where those leads are and facilitate their acquisition to our clients. And so from a lot of experience, we’ve analyzed over 10,000 leads as they come in. And then we’re also tracking who of those people become clients for our clients. And the common thread that we find is that people who go to search engines and search in their time of need are typically the highest quality of leads. And so in our industry, it’s people searching, Criminal lawyer near me or Criminal lawyer Chicago, things like that where we would qualify those as high intent. So somebody is searching for the actual service provider, as opposed to a more informational search, such as What are the penalties for a crime in Chicago?

Where we think that’s the step before they are interested in hiring a lawyer. And so our efforts, both on the SEO and advertising side, are driven towards finding that segment of the population who is looking for those types of services. And so we do a lot to filter out leads that may not be ready or if they are not necessarily ready, push them to other resources within the ecosystem of our client’s websites and marketing efforts with that. But that makes or breaks our efforts and marketing campaign for law firms, in my opinion.

Great. And you touched upon search intent, search with high intent, and those keywords, which also mention certain locations. So what is your take on local SEO being a critical factor and parameter when it comes to legal marketing?

Yeah, I think it’s huge. We try to affect that in a few different ways. You’ve got the advertising side, you’ve got the Google business profile optimization and showing up in more proximity-based results and the organic search results. And then you have the map as well. We try to emphasize and optimize all of those areas. Our philosophy, the pitch that I always give to clients when they’re thinking about utilizing our services is based on some data that Google collected, which is famous in the National Law Review, which is a big publication for lawyers, that 96 % of people looking for legal services are going to use a search engine. And so we know that’s a known commodity. What we don’t always know is what the search engine will look like because Google is changing and adjusting it. But I’m sure what we’ve seen over the past few years is that Google is getting smarter about the types of answers they’re giving to potential customers. I think they are continuously making the responses, and the search results more localized. And as part of that, it is going to pay for law firms to invest in that side of the business because not only is it the number one area where people are going to look for their type of legal services, but most practice areas in law in the United States are going to be restricted to the state that they’re practicing in.

I’m in Georgia currently. A criminal defense lawyer in Georgia can’t service a case out in California or Chicago. So that limits the map when in terms of who you can service at any given time. And so if you can’t get those national clients and people in other countries, you must dominate your local area. And so that’s precisely where local search marketing comes into play.

Yeah, absolutely. And talking about these websites, obviously plays an important role in terms of conveying the message of a particular law firm, a brand, or even if, let’s say, it’s a small setup, but what practices are they into, let’s say, their cases and their story? How do you go about advising your client on the content that they should be putting up on the website and then further optimizing it regularly?

Yeah. So we’ve focused a lot on topical authority over the past couple of years, and we’re increasingly seeing that Google is prioritizing people who can comprehensively answer questions and comprehensively have material to go that covers the entire topics and other interrelated topics. And so when we’re advising clients, our goal is to get them to a place of topical authority as soon as possible. And when we’re looking at a topic like criminal defense, the example I keep using, we’re looking at all of the components that go into that type of law. And so we’re looking at both from a local perspective, state laws, national laws, how all of that interrelates back to the ideal client that they’re looking for and the topics that are important to that ideal client. And then from there, we add content, and we optimize it consistently on a month-to-month basis. And that allows our client to have this big presence, this digital billboard that’s out there. And then the other part of it, too, I think, is we offer some guidance on just overall best practices for a website. And I think some of the real basic things that we stress are making it easy to get in touch, making your website easy to use, and not taking 20 seconds to load.

Little things like that, just from a usability perspective, are vital because you can do all the SEO you want. You can write a million articles. But if it takes three, five seconds for your website to load, and it’s really difficult to schedule an appointment, people are going to move on. There’s no real loyalty when someone’s out there searching Google and looking for an attorney. It’s just they want somebody who can solve their problem. And whoever makes that path the easiest, they’re going to have a great opportunity to grow their business.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s a billboard advertisement wherein you just got the first seven, or 10 seconds to make that impression for the consumer, for the client prospect, to stick around on that website of yours, right?

Absolutely.

And ever since we touched upon content, I cannot let you go without asking your take for letting our audiences know. What does Patrick Carver think about AI, ChatGPT, and this entire thing that we all are in?

Yeah, I think it’s not going anywhere. I will think about that. It’s curious. I don’t have a strong position right now with it. We personally, in our agency, don’t use AI content, developed content for our law firms. We have a pretty rigorous content development process with editors, human writers, and editors and things like that. We have played around with it for things like social media posting and content in ancillary areas. And so look, I think it’s going to continue. I think it’s going to play a part. I’m just of the opinion that it’s maybe snuck up on Google a little bit at this point. And so they’re not sure how to incorporate it in their search results and just in the bigger, broader ecosystem of the internet. And so I think we’re taking a wait-and-see approach where we want to understand it, we want to have practical experience with it. But we’re also not in the camp of, let’s have everything written by AI. And instead of writing one great article, let’s write 100 and partner with that in our business just yet. But as I said, I think it’s here to stay.

And so I think everybody has to pay attention to it and think about how it can impact their business, how you can incorporate it, and keep looking for ways to have it be part of the marketing strategy.

Absolutely. Patrick, we are done with the questions now. But before we let you go, I would like to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.

Of course, I’m ready.

Great. What did you do with your first paycheck?

Probably paid bills.

We all did that. Your last Google search and you can check your system, that’s fine. It’s an open book.

Yeah, that’s a good one. I think it would have to be about SEO, related to SEO for bankruptcy lawyers. That’s what I’m going to go with.

Do you have a prospect inside then? We all know that now. Great. Your favorite book?

Favorite book? I would say The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. Okay.

And your last vacation?

My last vacation was to Europe. We had the great opportunity to see Paris, Amsterdam, and London, and we enjoyed it.

Family?

Yes. I went with my wife, and it was my first real vacation in about seven years, so it was great.

Oh, okay. But then you got 85 clients, so you should not complain. Okay.

No one’s complaining. I just need the rest.

Okay. Last one, Patrick, and we’ll let you go. Let’s say we have to make a movie on you, what genre would it be?

Let’s go with the action. Why not? I would choose Patrick Swayzee to play me in a film. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this film called Road House. It’s one of my favorites. That’s how I would model my life story.

Perfect, Patrick. Thank you so much for taking the time and doing this podcast with us. I’m sure our audiences would have benefited a lot from what they have heard in terms of your insights, and picking up your brains on legal marketing. Thank you for taking the time to do this with us.

Of course, it is my pleasure. I appreciate the opportunity. I would say it was really happy to be here and appreciate it.

Superb. Have a great day. Thank you, Patrick.

All right, take care.

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