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Revamping Legal Marketing: Challenges and Strategies in Legal SEO

In Conversation with Shamil Shamilov

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Shamil Shamilov, Founder of dNOVO Group, a digital marketing agency, located in Greater Toronto Area, Canada. He shares insights into the challenges and strategies of legal marketing. From addressing website revamping to the importance of reputation management, Shamil emphasizes the need for innovative thinking and a strong focus on client relationship management. He highlights the crucial role of technology, such as call tracking software, in measuring campaign effectiveness and maximizing ROI in the competitive legal field.

Persistence beats resistance. If you’re always trying very hard and you’re self-critical, that’s the path to success.

Shamil Shamilov
Founder of dNOVO Group

Hey, hi everyone. Welcome to another episode of E-Coffee with Experts. Today, we have Shamil Shamilov, who is the Founder of dNOVO Group with us. Hey Shamil.

Hey, how are you?

All good, Shamil. Nice to be here. Lovely. Before we move forward and talk about SEO strategy and all, why don’t you talk us through your journey, how did you find dNOVO Group? I’m just getting to know the human behind the mic.

Fair enough. Thank you. I got into the industry through a friend of mine who, by association, invited me to work for him. In about a year and a half, he made a radical move and essentially gave me a partnership in the agency back then, and we hit the ground running. We worked together for about eight years. We had about 25 employees at that point, and we were expanding to the US, not only Canada. We had all kinds of breaches, from home improvement to legal to medical. Due to life circumstances, we went our separate ways at a certain point. I essentially took my key team at that point and took the clients that I was managing. We split the company, and he’s no longer in the space, but I pivoted and found dNOVO, COVID brought a lot of change for everybody. We split ways in December and in March, COVID hit. It was the first year. It was challenging, especially the first couple of months. Then it rebounded. However, I decided to pivot only towards legal marketing. We currently have a large portfolio of clients who are not law firms or individual attorneys, but we pitch and market ourselves to legal only.

We had, even at the time, and I have quite a few clients in the space, and I decided to pursue it further. Both my siblings are lawyers, so I figured if I could get along with them, I could get along with some lawyer clients. Yeah, that’s us. We’ve been strong. I have about 18 people who work with me right now in quite a few time zones from the West to the East and some people in Europe. It’s a large team, a very vibrant team, and things are looking good.

Lovely, Shamil. Quite a journey, I must say. Shamil, a law firm marketing has its challenges. Why did you go ahead and pick just legal marketing? What got you interested in this domain?

It just happened that we had a bunch of lawyers as clients that came over time, and I found that building a relationship with them, I have clients from all types of indices, but legal specifically. My partner at the time taking on clients in the medical field, and they’re nice people to work with as well, doctors. But it’s weird. I take it a challenge upon myself to get along with people who by default are difficult to get along with, and There’s a stigma out there that lawyers are very strict and very knowledgeable and maybe socially are not the easiest to get along with., I always found that a challenge when you serve somebody who’s a tough cookie to say, and you earn their trust, you form a relationship with them, and then you can work with them for years. It just happened that I’ve discovered the legal niche. I was enjoying the challenges with it. When you’re working with a home improvement company, everybody can do that. Also from the competition point of view, if you think about it, there are a lot of developers or a lot of technical people who are behind a lot of digital marketing agencies.

They’re either developers themselves or stuff, and they’re very tech-savvy. They have a challenge often to get along with more difficult clients because it’s just right there’s a left part of the brain and the right part of the brain. There’s the tech people, and then there’s the theoretical thinkers, so to speak. To me, I found that it’s a good niche because also less competition, especially in Canada. There are a million agencies out there that do work for all kinds of people. But lawyers want to work with somebody they feel comfortable with, somebody who knows their industry, somebody who they can get along with. I thought it was a good niche to get into. I still think it’s a pretty decent niche to work with. A lot of digital marketing agencies shy away from it, or not necessarily.

I know quite a few of them, yes.

Exactly. Because they’re tech-oriented and lawyers need a special approach. I thought it wouldn’t be a bad strategy. I wanted to focus on one niche after parting with my partner because being an agency that works with everybody, is nice, money is money. But if you’re ever thinking of having a competitive advantage, having it easier to penetrate a particular market, let me tell you that. When you say that, Look, we work mostly with lawyers, and that’s our legal forte, that’s our forte and focus, people respond to it, clients respond to it nicer. Then if I’m Jack of all trades and I have plumbers on my client list.

Lovely. Then talking about law firms, Shamil, has quite a few tricks. Beyond traditional SEO ranking factors, what are some of the key or unique challenges law firms face in achieving visibility and authority online? What are your strategies for your clients to address these issues?

Are you talking about relating to digital marketing?

Yes, absolutely.

I found this to be true sometimes you encounter a website that in the very beginning needs to be revamped or redone because while it’s built on a template and it looks good and it functions and the client seems to like it, you can improve positions. But you realize that 6 months to 12 months, you’ll come to a point where the platform has to be revamped. I learned over time that it’s good, maybe at the very beginning to, at the very least, mention that to the client. Because what I find is that sometimes you do great digital work, or somebody else does amazing digital work. They do content and very good quality links, and they push the site, But just the website at a certain point plateau or peak, so to speak, and stops ranking further. When you look at some of the competition out there, you realize what you’re lacking. You just might be built on an old platform. With age, in the beginning, sometimes you don’t want to address it because the client’s happy, it’s workable. But I found that it’s easier to address at the very beginning, mentioning that, Look, we could do this, but this challenge will arise and you will need to revamp your site to take it a step further.

I think that’s also a lot of people don’t do that. They don’t want to disturb the client, and especially at the beginning of the relationship, place this idea that now you need to redesign the site. And besides this, SEO, I think reputation Management, especially in the legal field, and I’ll explain. If you are a plumber or a service provider of some sort, nails, hair salon, whatever, or even e-commerce, it’s a lot easier to gather reviews and to outreach clients to use all these fancy platforms to generate feedback from clients and get, whether it’s Google reviews or any other reviews. I’m just being the devil’s advocate. Put yourself in the shoes of a criminal attorney. Not a lot of people want to leave a review saying that John Smith helped me out. I had 10 years that was facing, and now I only have two. You get where I’m going with this. Same thing with some of the bigger business transactions or litigation matters. If you’re a mergers acquisitions firm and you’re doing some high-end corporate work. These files sometimes last for years, and there’s not a lot of turnaround to ask people for reviews.

I feel that the strategy to generate reviews is even more essential for lawyers, especially in certain niches. If you’re an immigration attorney or if you do a lot of real estate or family work, but again, family, same thing. People fight, they’re bitter, they lose money, they’re going emotionally through emotional trauma, they’re getting divorced. Do they want to give you a review? There are certain scenarios in life where nobody wins, and I think divorce is one of them, where people both Regardless of the monetary component, they’re not in the right state of mind. To ask them to leave a review after that you did a great job when you charged them thousands of dollars. I find that for lawyers, that could be a huge challenge. To ask for them in the right way, to have the processes in place where that lead generation happens, so review generation happens at the right time, and it’s effective. That’s a huge challenge that a lot of firms face.

With law firms, I see a referral business as a huge factor in getting your fresh acquisition or, for example, even a recurring business. How do you ensure that the referrals are coming in and the inquiries are in place?

You’re talking about after the clients leave the agents, leaving the lawyer. Again, the firm has to have processes in place with proper CRMs. Now, I want to make something clear we do some practice management for some of our clients. We do get involved and help them organize their processes and their phone systems and answering systems. They’re using the CRM to have follow-up emails for the new leads coming in, to have, as you say, relationship management processes in place where after the client is secured and then he becomes a client, that we have email automation, asking people for referrals, a social media component. I find that the law firm or the client has to want it and have the time the department and the people to put it to life. I find the true example. Client of mine of eight years, I have a very difficult time getting them to do anything and agree on any initiative because although it’s a pretty significant-size law firm, they have about 25, 30 lawyers for Canada. It’s in Atlantic Canada. It’s a pretty large law firm. But there was no designated person, even amongst the partners, who would uphold the initiatives when all it took was them hiring a pretty junior marketing person.

But that person relied on us, but at the same time was instrumental because he was in the office to make decisions and get answers. Just building out those chains of command within the law firm. If you talk to any client, do they want to retain more clients? Do they want to get referrals? I don’t think you’re going to hear no from anyone. Are they willing to commit in resources to do Are they going to invest in the CRM and the education, making sure the people are using it? That’s the challenge. We help our clients do that and build out these processes. But it’s indeed an 80/20 rule. I would say Only 20% of the clients are thinking that way, whereas others are getting the leads in, and getting the client signed up. They’re not too busy optimizing their business processes inside.

Absolutely. Now, we’re talking about processes, a lot of law firms, rely on phone inquiries. How can call tracking technology help them measure the effectiveness of the marketing campaigns and identify which channels generate the most qualified leads?

We utilize CallRail and what converts. These are two software we use to gather. We offer this service, but the client has to the initiative to do this. During our intake processes, we tell them what the challenges are and what could be done. True story. Having brunch with two partners, and they’re like, We’re getting the leads. This is the feedback, but we’re having issues closing. I feel like nothing is converting. I’m like, Just curiosity’s sake, what’s the protocol in the firm for phonebacks? How many times does your receptionist, whatever, call these leads back? The guy is cutting a piece of steak, and he says, You know what? That’s a great question. I have no idea. I find that in the law field, specifically, 90% of law firms do not have these processes in place. We offer call tracking, we offer call recording. When we run, for example, Google Ads with SEO, we have clients where every single lead through API drops in a document where we could differentiate. If the client doesn’t have a CRM, we have a modern CRM. We could drop it right in CRM. We can identify where the leads are coming from organically, whether they’re coming from paid.

Obviously, the return on investment, call per lead, call per appointment, call per intake, and then obviously, return on the client secured. We can calculate the cost of marketing, and we do this for our clients. Call tracking software helps us. I would say that we still have some non-legal clients, and they are more inclined to utilize these metrics than some of the law clients we have. The way I explain it is, I didn’t say this, my clients do, but they say, not every lawyer is a businessman. A lot of people who are running law firms, from my experience, are phenomenal attorneys. They’re very knowledgeable about what they do, and they need professional marketing help. And that’s where we can come in, but they need to be able to commit to it. As I mentioned, to have the processes, to realize what these numbers mean, and to focus on them, and to build a machine. And there are quite a few very successful law firms that I work with, I love working with these clients while this thought work may be challenging at first to hook up all the measuring, you could demonstrate your return on investment to clients knowledgeable.

You’re in the space yourself. We make sure The website converts. It’s fast. We put the right call to action. We suggest to the client the right call to action. We rank the site. We have a very efficient or we improve, at least, of the way the cost per click is and the leads are coming in. Then they don’t have a protocol inside the company, nor, for example, worst case scenario, do they want to invest in the call tracking software? To be able to see how many people called what the receptionist was doing and what the process in the company is. I think of digital marketing as a long chain with a lot of chain links. And we as agencies, and again, we do some practice management. With practice management, we may be responsible for two-thirds. There’s still that component that’s on the other end. So you got to get the clients in, look the right part. I feel like that’s a third of the business. The other third is to have the tools and the CRMs to measure progress and have a protocol. Then there’s closing the client. Unfortunately, you or I can’t impact directly because we could talk all the talk, we could help all the clients, but at the end of the day, there has to be a talented person on the other end who would be able to make these in things.

I feel like that’s the biggest challenge is everybody does the first step, which is digital marketing, but to fine-tune the rest, that’s the challenge.

That is why at times it is also about going beyond your contractual obligations. Also, ensure that the business at the back end is efficient enough to hold on to those leads and make it worth it. While we can most of our a lot of traffic that we get onto their website, if it is not converting into revenue, then It makes no sense for the business site.

With age, the more secure your clientele base is and the longer I’m in the industry, just as I mentioned, I do this at the forefront, where at the beginning the client has a marketing budget and first I think as you look at their site and you see the opportunities to help them out, you’re excited. Now I make it very clear and I say that, look, we could have website challenges because your website’s old and maybe not now, but in 6-8 months, you would need to invest this sum of money to redo this. I prefer we start a relationship with me showing you what we can do by increasing the lead flow. However, that’s a challenge you’re going to face and then carries an additional cost. The same thing with practice management and processes in place. I ask these questions of the intake. Have you thought about recording your phone calls? Who picks up your phone? What CRM is? We educate the client in the very beginning and try to make sure that we are the perfect fit. Because I’ve had this challenge all my life from all my career. We do go beyond our obligations to try to find the processes that the client has inside, but the internal mechanisms are just missing.

Sometimes the corporate structure at a larger law firm is just not, There are not the right people in place, or there’s the right initiative. I would rather have a marketing committee, and yes, it takes forever to make decisions, but at least there are some steps in the right direction, whereas some law firms just simply don’t have it. It’s very wishy-washy.

Absolutely. Yeah, that’s correct. In competition the legal marketing space is fierce. How do you help your clients differentiate themselves online and attract ideal clients for themselves in such a saturated market?

I would like to think that we, as an agency, have some competitive advantages over our competition in the legal field, and we work hard to maintain these. Number two, we particularly offer that practice management component where I would say even amongst legal marketing agencies, I would say at least 60, 70% of them don’t. They’re just your digital marketing agency that does lawyers. They don’t consult and help improve the business processes. I guess last but not least, I’ve always been I like to think outside the box and I like to have niches. I explain to our clients. I say that Look, you’re in a very competitive niche. It’ll roughly take you 8-12 months to rank. Let’s say we’re talking about a personal injury lawyer in a large metro area. But I’d like to work for short-term and long-term goals. We might identify a particular type of service they offer or maybe a geographical niche where I’d say, look, We could foresee you getting ROI here in four months, but the volume might not be there, and your phone will start ringing. At the same time, we’re working on these long-term goals.

Always try to think outside the box and leverage the niches and, the focus that they have. I feel that’s very challenging, especially with personal injury, because larger firms have very deep pockets. They usually work with very capable agencies. It’s climbing the hill. Somebody who’s been at this for 10 years and a smaller law firm is trying to hire you or get your help to climb that hill, that’s where it’s tricky, where you know what their budget is and you know what the challenges are, and you have to pivot in a different direction. They have this straight way of thinking, We want to rank and we want to get some personal injury files. You’re thinking, Look, maybe we focus on the disability case now because it’s a lot more feasible. We have that office because usually, you have several offices, so focus on something else. It’s always finding those opportunities where we could make positive ROI for the client, I feel like that’s a challenge. Again, leveraging. Some firms do amazing work outside of the digital space. They have some TV ads going where they have local recognition, combining them two and finding a way to make the two work together.

That is a challenge.

Shamil, finally, you have been through this journey of yours. You and I know that an agency life, getting your agency, running it, and scaling it is such a difficult task. What advice would you want to give to our young listeners today who are trying to make a mark in the space or trying to start their agencies? What are, let’s say, the top three advice you would want to give them to keep an eye out for if they’re trying to make a mark in the space?

I think everybody’s in the rat race. You try to serve your client, you try to get new clients, and we all have this stigma of how we get clients, whether you’re running, doing your SEO, you’re doing email outreaches. A lot of younger guys are starting with lower budgets. I find it very important.

A client, actually, of mine said this to me. He said I don’t work on Fridays. I said, What do you mean? This guy is a multi, multi, multi-millionaire. He said I take a Friday to reflect on how my week went and to draw the right conclusions of what I can do better. I still work Fridays, but at least on the weekend, to try to educate myself and look at and force my brain to think outside and ask myself, What am I doing wrong? You can start by listening to podcasts. I don’t consider myself a legal marketing space full of great agency founders. We’re based originally from Canada, and we work in the States. And my team, I tried to visit several conferences to get an outside perspective and see what others were doing. But I find that it’s very important.

A lot of people neglect that. They’re in the rat race. They’re doing the same thing all over again. They’re slowly growing, and sometimes you just need to stop, exhale, and try something else. I think that you have to try, fail, and try something else, and fail, and give it your best effort. Persistence beats resistance. That’s my forte. If you’re always trying very hard and you’re self-critical. Even if you have three approaches you tried and they’re not working out, maybe you’re not trying hard enough or you’re not utilizing the right people. As long as you’re always in that search and you’re making conclusions from your failures, I think that’s the path to success. You’re going to grow and do the right thing in the end.

Perfect, Shamil. Thank you so much for that advice. Quickly, I’d love to play a rapid fire with you. I hope you’re game for it.

Let’s do it.

All right, your last Google search.

Bank of Montreal.

Your celebrity crush?

Oh, boy. Elon Musk.

Okay, good. I’m going to lead you to that. All right. What did you do with your first paycheck, Shamil? First paycheck of your life?

I was young and arrogant, and I probably went out with some friends and had some oysters and vodka.

Lovely. Great, Shamil. Thank you so much for taking your time and doing this with us. I’m sure our audiences would have benefited a lot from what they heard from me in terms of the insight.

Thank you for having me.

Thank you for having me.Thank you so much. Cheers.

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