April 25, 2017

Content Marketing with a Family Law Expert from Phoenix Arizona

An Interview with Wendy Hernandez of Hernandez Family Law

As part of my ongoing effort to interview people who, in my opinion, we can all learn something from, I started a Google+ Hangout series call “The Curious Marketer with Vin”.

For my first online interview, I spoke with Wendy Hernandez from Hernandez Family Law.

This post is a summary of the questions I asked, and the answers she gave.

Who should read this post, or listen to the interview (see video below or follow this link)?

Any lawyer who is at all curious about learning how content marketing actually works.

Vin: Tell me a little bit about where you’re from because I think your ethnicity is kind of interesting.

Wendy: So I was born in northern Arizona. I was raised in a small copper mining town called Baghdad Arizona and my Dad was a miner and his Dad was a miner, my Mom’s Dad was a miner and everybody else in the entire town were miner’s.  The mine owned everything in the whole town including the swimming pool and the school and the one store and the gas station.  I think it’s changed a little bit now but the town was so small there wasn’t even a stop light but it was a great place to grow up.  You know it was very much like The Andy Griffith lifestyle that we see on tv.  There was not crime, there were not drugs, everybody knew everybody and it was fun, it was great. Limited opportunities but I couldn’t have asked for a more peaceful, safe, nourishing childhood then the one that I had and that’s where I come from.  

The first time I ventured out of Baghdad is when I went to college at ASU and that’s in Tempe Arizona, in case some of you don’t know.  Sun Devil, I’m a Sun Devil and I was there for four years.  After ASU then I went to, even further east, to South Bend Indiana where I went to law school at Notre Dame Law School and I had never been further east than New Mexico, at the time that I went to law school.  I didn’t even go visit Notre Dame at the time that I had made the decision to go there.  So it was a total culture shock but it was also one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life. Here I am like twenty years later and I’m a lawyer.

Vin: You and I have talked a little bit back and forth, in private conversations, but you’re an artist, you had indicated to me in some of our discussions that you have sort of a creative side but that you were into the artsy kind of a world; so tell me a little more about that.

Wendy: I think we’re all artists, first of all, you know it’s really whether to what extent we choose to express that art.  So I’m not an artist in terms of, I don’t have paintings hanging up in galleries and I don’t draw but I do write.  You know and I’ve only recently begun to claim “I’m a writer” and that’s, in part, thanks to some of the stuff that I’ve read by Jeff Goins, who I know is active on Google+, but you know as a kid I really loved to write and I expressed myself beautifully in my writing and I’ve only recently discovered some of the stuff I had written like when I was ten, eleven, twelve years old.  It was really shocking to me because at that age I was expressing in a way that wouldn’t have occurred to me as an adult, after law school and being educated to express myself and it was really honest and I felt like I want to get back to that because that’s who I am.  I un-learned that during law school so know I’m re-learning it.  So I’m an artist in that way.

Vin: I also think it’s really difficult to be a good lawyer without mastering the art of writing.  The written word is a big part of your business, is it not?

Wendy: Oh it’s huge. I mean it definitely is huge and you know in law school you un-learn writing with lots of adjectives.  You learn to write in active voice. You learn to write in an argumentative or persuasive way but there’s not a lot of feelings that go into your writing because that’s not what the law is about.  The law is supposed to be more objective.  So I did learn to write well in law school and before that I think I was a pretty decent writer. So that did strengthen my technical skills but I lost touch with that creative part of who I am, that I love to express.

Vin: I think that’s actually an interesting point because I go back and forth with some people out in the internet with this concept of authenticity, as we were talking about before we went live, I’m a Certified Public Accountant, so I was trained formally as well as professional and that kind of a writing doesn’t necessarily fit very well in social media or from a blogging perspective. You need a more conversational maybe more creative, more artsy-craftsy if you will. So you kind of have to re-learn a whole different writing style but you still have mastery of how to express. I’ve seen some lawyer blogs that are unbelievable, in terms of how they express thoughts and ideas.

Wendy: You know for anybody, regardless of who you are, what profession you’re in I think that when you are creating something or presenting you have to understand, who your audience is. Obviously some of the blog posts that I have created, would not appeal to a judge in a courtroom.  When I’m writing for a judge, I have to go back to, what did I learn in law school, you know what are the principles? What is the IRAC method? Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion and that is how I have to write.  So I’m always cognizant of who I’m writing for.  In terms of the marketing world and knowing my audience and my ideal customer, I’m always mindful of what it is that they’re going through and how I can speak to that.

Vin: I wanted to talk, before we get into the more complicated stuff, formal stuff, you indicated to me that you; there’s a couple things I want you talk about. One, you’re an older mom. Two, you like to be in control; which doesn’t surprise me because I don’t know too many lawyers that don’t, but you also, one of the things I really like about watching a lot of your feed is that you are very active in meditation and the practice of mindfulness.  You knit, you are practicing the ukulele and you are on the paleo diet. I don’t know what the paleo diet is. I know what a ukulele is, so we can touch on those things before we get into the business side of things.

Wendy: Oh my God, okay, older mom, I mean “older” depends on how you define older but you know a lot of the people that are my friends they started having kids shortly after law school or college and now there kids are graduating from high school.  So I just I had my first child when I was forty.  I’m almost forty-four and I got married on the verge of forty so I’m doing things now that a lot of people, in my circles here in Phoenix, have done way before.  My daughter is the light of my life, just like my husband and she really, things that happened in my life are dictated by what’s going on for her. She’s high maintenance, like her mommy but she’s a child and she has needs and those come first.

So I have my daughter, gosh the ukulele, I love singing. For those of you that know my brother Shannon, I mean, I like to take some credit for where he is in terms of the radio station because I’m a rocker at heart, in case you didn’t know that, I love the bands that he loves and I think that he grew up seeing me listen to them and that’s why he wanted to do what he does but we were all, all three of us kids were taught to play the guitar by my Dad and Shannon is the one who excelled. As an adult I really want to get back to the music that was a big part of our life growing up and that’s part of what makes us all creative, all of us kids and I think the ukulele for me is the easiest way to do it;  with my daughter, it’s easy, it’s a little guitar to her, it’s fun to sing.  So I’m learning the ukulele, which I think is not that difficult because I have some guitar background.

Vin: It’s a great instrument to. I have a guitar background myself and I come from an extremely musical family as well and I think it’s a great compliment to the world that you’re in professionally because it gives you that outlet.  I think the ukulele itself is a really slick instrument and it fits perfectly, and it fits perfectly for children, for kids it’s great. It’s fun.

Wendy: Very fun.

Vin: You’ve got to get into the paleo diet because I didn’t Google it because I wanted you to tell me what that is because I want to know what it is.

Wendy: Okay, so I knit and knitting goes in spurts but you know this a skill that I’ve acquired in the last few years and I’m not an expert but I’ve knitted some sweaters and hats and socks and things like that. Part of the reason I love knitting is because it is kind of meditative when you get into it.  When you just kind of lose track of time and you get into the flow and it feels great, I love it.  But you know the problem with me, which you kind of referred to earlier Vince, is that I am;  I’m a control freak, I’m kind of OCD. I’m a little bit like a jack russell terrier, as my husband would say.  Once I get a hold of something I won’t let go.  So when I’m knitting, I work myself into the place where my back hurts, my neck hurts because I can’t put it down.  That’s how driven I am about anything I’m passionate about, even knitting.  So that’s knitting.

Vin: I like that because it’s a nice balance. I think it’s interesting to me because professionals tend to dive into their work.  When I was practicing as a CPA, I worked 90 hours a week, especially during tax season and you lose yourself a little bit in your work.  So the things I see about you professionally, they come through your marketing first of all, I think this all bleeds through your marketing, which is what I think attracted me to your marketing to begin with but it was really interesting to learn some of these things because you’re not just your work.  There’s a lot more about you which I think is really cool, I think it comes through in your marketing as well as serving the needs of your clients. It’s really great, cool stuff.

Wendy: Thank you Vin.

Vin: So there is a question, which I think is in line with what we’re talking about here. It says, the question is, “Why did you choose law and not literature?”

Wendy: (laughs) That’s a great question. You know I have to say that law was kind of calling for me. I don’t know if that seems silly or not but I just had this intuition or feeling when I was twelve years old that I wanted to be a lawyer.  That was my life’s purpose and everything that I did from that point on was aimed towards becoming a lawyer someday and helping people.  I can’t explain why or how it happened.  I mean at that time L.A. Law was very popular (laughs) and I thought that being a lawyer would be really glamorous, like it was on L.A. Law and it’s a lot of sweat, especially here in Phoenix, it’s not nearly as glamorous. That was my calling, that was what I wanted to do in my heart and frankly when I got to college I thought the literature people were just way smarter;  I just could barely get through some of the stuff.

Vin: Yeah I think people that go into literature, they’re really, they’re at a different place. I think the people studying literature are at a different place.  I mean I read, I like to read but I need an interpreter for a lot of the things I read and so you know.

Wendy: That’s how I felt.

Vin: I remember as an accountant, one of the partners of the firm I worked for said, you know CPA’s think they’re reallly bright, and this guy was getting his PhD in history before he became a CPA and he said, “The students that I went to school with, they would learn Egyptian hieroglyphics so that they could learn whatever the course they were taking”, they didn’t have to learn Egyptian hieroglyphics but that’s what they would do on their own time.

Wendy: That’s unbelievable.

Vin: That’s kind of a different level, you know what I mean?

Wendy: Totally, totally.

Vin: So really good stuff, again I bring all this up because this whole situation here was more about me getting to know you than it was about doing a hangout on air but I think there’s a lot to be learned from the way you do your marketing as well. So let’s transition a little bit into that. You wanted to be a lawyer from the go, did you work for a firm when you got out of school? Let’s start from when you got out of school, you’re in a firm because I’m asking what happened before you started your practice?  You were working as a lawyer for someone else.

Wendy: That’s kind of a story. I have to say when I went to law school I felt like a dummy, in law school. Really, at the time Notre Dame was one of the top ten law schools in the nation and a lot of the kids I went to school with had fathers or grandfathers or family members who were lawyers and I had never even met a lawyer in my life.  I was just kind of on a different track so I felt dumb through a lot of law school and there was a lot of insecurities that I had that plagued me during that experience, that I fought through.  So this kind of affected the years after I graduated.  When I graduated from law school, course the next step is studying and getting ready for the bar exam, that following July. So I was struggling with the insecurities that I had and on top of that I had a relationship, that I thought was “the one”, ended.  Ended, like right when law school ended, so I was devastated.  

So it’s a long story but the bottom line is I failed the first bar exam I took.  Which was extremely devastating to me because I am a high achiever and a control freak and really I’m not dumb, I’m smart.

Vin: Yeah but standardized testing is a totally different world. In terms of intelligence vs. standardized testing. So I get you, I’ve been there.

Wendy: Yeah, it was a really difficult life changing experience but it was really one that served me well. What ended up happening was I couldn’t get a job as a lawyer for like a year until I was able to take the next bar exam and wait for the results and get sworn in.  So what I did was, I went to a temp agency and signed up to do secretarial work and paralegal work. So I worked as a legal secretary, for a year, it was very humbling but it really, you know it is the one thing that has prepared me the most to do what I do today because I was lucky enough to get in with a firm, it was my second assignment, and they loved me so much they kept me for the rest of that year until I passed the bar. But I learned from the ground up what it’s like to operate a business and at that time we didn’t have the social media that we have but I learned, what does a mailing certificate mean? What does a conform copy mean? How many copies need to be delivered? How do I count deadlines in Arizona, because I had to do this stuff.  I was the secretary, I was the one doing the docketing. I was taking the dictation.  So that was a very valuable experience and I think only because of that experience I am now able to manage my own law firm and have an understanding of the people who really make it happen, which are the people behind the scenes.

Vin: I worked with an orthodontist, years ago when I was an accountant for dentist, believe it or not and I remember this guy, like it was yesterday, he was one of the more successful orthodontist, dentist’s for that matter that I had ever met and he said that there’s the practice of my orthodontics and there’s the business and I have two separate brains, separate hats, whatever.  I think that professionals come out of school and they might start a practice, whatever, but there’s a business side of things, there’s a operational side of things, there’s the marketing side of things and that’s all kind of separate but intertwined within the I’ve got to practice law side of things too. It’s interesting because when you’re on your own, you’ve got your own firm, you’ve got to do it all.  You can be a rainmaker but you can also be just the delivery.  When you’re on your own it’s pretty much you.

So you work for a firm and you the you decide to start a practice, we can skip over the details there because it’s a real scary thing.  I think starting a business is very scary for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons for me was you’re exposed.  It’s all on you now.  Every decision you make, you can’t point to someone above you and say well yeah they screwed up. This is all about you now.  It’s kind of scary going in but so tell me a little about when you start your practice, what are you thinking? How are you feeling?  Why did you do it?  What did you want to get out of it?  Talk just about the beginning phase of it.

Wendy: I’m just going to mention this part real quick because after I passed the bar exam and stopped working as a temp for this firm then I did work as a prosecutor for the county, for the state for three years. I litigated a lot of cases, I did a lot of jury trials and I learned a ton.  The problem there was like all people who go to school today, I had overwhelming debt and the pay was just horrible. I could not support myself and I just felt, this is ridiculous because I’m a lawyer, I have a law degree from one of the best schools in the nation and I have to rent a room from somebody.  I decided I was going to make a change for myself and that I could do more on my own financially.  I took the leap, after three years of being a prosecutor and opened up my practice and it was, you know it’s kind of hard to remember, it was back in 1999 and I just felt, I remember feeling so confident that I could do better and looking back now I don’t know where that confidence came from.  I just had it.

Vin: I understand that but you know what’s interesting your talking because people think that if you graduate with a professional degree, particularly a law degree, you sort of have a ticket to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the story of most lawyers is not that way at all.  Particularly if you want to go start your own practice, it’s kind of a daunting task, it’s a daunting challenge even to get a job.  There are stories out on the internet, it’s craziness to think how difficult it is just to get employed never mind start a practice.  You’re speaking to the notion of “well of course she’s a lawyer, she can have her own practice, have her own business, it’s easy”.  It’s not the case,  particularly in the legal profession, it’s just not the case.

Wendy: It’s not. At that point, I didn’t actually start thinking of where clients were going to come from until the last couple of years and I have been lucky that I have not been put out of business because the clients have come.  I’m thinking on a different level though and that’s more of a business owner now instead of you know the worker bee and that’s where I’m moving towards in my business but at that time it was just survival and I took everything that I could.

Vin: I’ve been there as well and so it’s interesting because you’re trasitioning into my next line of questioning and that is that you probably felt a little insecure, well maybe you did, maybe you didn’t.  I know for example, I felt a lot of self doubt when things weren’t going very well.  I made a lot of bad decisions and my own sense of competency was questioned.  I’ve had a lot of business experience and I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing.  I think when you’re out there on your own it tends to do that.

So what did you struggle with? What were the things that you battled? Did you ever want to quit?

Wendy: Oh yeah I definitely wanted to quit and you know sometimes I still do (laughs), you know, you have a bad day. It was difficult going from a place where there were a lot of prosecutors, a lot of peers and I could bounce ideas of them and talk through cases with them and then I went to an office where it was just me.  It was very lonely at first.  It was sad, I felt isolated.  It was difficult to juggle all of these balls in terms of, I answered my own phones, I did make my own runs, I did my own filings.  All of this stuff takes time and on top of that you’re trying to produce good legal work and write motions and prepare pleadings or whatever you need to do.  It was hard to be everything that the business, that every business needs.  That was the main challenge, I worked a lot in those days, a lot, I mean from six in the morning till ten at night.

Vin: That is a lot. Where did your first clients come from?

Wendy: My first clients, I had this idea, when I left the prosecutor’s office that I was going to send out announcements.  One of my best friend’s had a printing company and she said “hey we’ll do these to congratulate you” and I sent out announcements to every single person that I knew, via mail. So that was my mailing list then I sent them out.  At that time I really didn’t have a focus, my primary focus was criminal law but the people I had sent announcements to weren’t necessarily people who were going to need criminal law services; so I started handling wage garnishments, the occasional divorce, just suing somebody if they didn’t pay for a service and that’s where the first clients came from but then it just kind of started, word started to spread as I helped more people and did more work and eventually it evolved to where it is today.  Which is almost 100% family law; I still do the odd criminal case, like I just finished handling a first degree murder case because it’s interesting, it keeps it exciting and I like it.  I like helping people who need help but mostly it’s family law.

Vin: You’re touching on a lot of interesting concepts for me. I had to learn the hard way in certain regards. Phases, when you’re launching something, everything comes with phases.  I think, step one to me and people might tell me I’m wrong but step one to me is get your first few clients and perform. Right? Because that typically leads to your next series of clients and then once you get that ball rolling, you’ve got testimonials, you’ve got referrals now you can start thinking about the kinds of things that you’re doing now.

I think that’s a formula that I wasn’t aware of, when I first started my own company but it’s my modus operandi now.  I’ve got the clients, I’m serving them, I’m getting referrals and now I’m starting to look at the social media, online and so forth but I think the evolution of it is the perfect description of, to me, what I would advocate as here’s your mindset.  You’re doing this, okay, lets go find your first client.

Dentist’s are a little bit different, in that I serve dentists as well, in that particularly if they buy a practice they kind of go into a situation with clients but if you’re a CPA and you launch a practice, you’re a  lawyer and you go launch a practice;  just get your clients, serve them, beyond serve them and let that be a catapult to the next level and then you can start worrying about some of the more sophisticated marketing strategies, which we’ll talk about in a few minutes.

Wendy: Okay, yeah exactly. You’re right on.

Vin: That’s what I would contend.  So we talked a little bit about challenges. I would like to, before we go into the stuff that’s really cool and the stuff that works, I’d like to know, well I know, I’d like you to share a little bit with some people, you made some bad decisions but they’re not necessarily you’re fault, I don’t know if Ana Hoffman’s watching but she and I kind of had a little bit of a debate with regards to culpability versus accountability and Matt Cutts and this whole concept of SEO but you shared with me that you had some experiences with marketing, that cost you both money and time and it didn’t work out very well. So talk about that because I think it’s really important.

Wendy: I was kind of involved in the conversation that you had with Ana, who I love by the way Hi Ana if you’re watching.  Part of being a business owner, like we’ve been talking about juggling all these different things that need to be managed.  Working on the business and in the business.  As the internet began to gain popularity, I knew that I needed to have a website and about that time I was approached by somebody and I’m not going to say the name, of a large national marketing company, that a lot, I mean thousands of lawyers used to do their lawyer marketing.

Vin: That’s the scary part. That’s really scary.  The fact that it was a large established firm that you hired.

Wendy: Oh yeah.  It was huge.  I mean it’s huge, they’re still huge. So, I love my rep, he’s a friend to this day and I like him but I didn’t know anything and I am not, I take 100% responsibility for every single decision that I have made in my life whether it’s “good” or “bad” and I don’t necessarily think there are bad decisions, they’re just experiences.  You know it’s my fault, I trusted this guy, I didn’t do my own research and the fact is I was too overwhelmed at that point to learn what I needed to, to know that I could trust this person about internet marketing and SEO.  I said sign me up.  I started out buying a very small package for a website and at that time it was a lot for me. I though oh my god pay $500 a month or whatever it was, it seemed like a lot to me.  You wouldn’t believe what I was paying at the time.

Vin: For a small business now, that’s a lot of money.

Wendy: It is a lot of money but every so often my rep would come back to me and say hey we’ve got this new product, we have this new product and gullible Wendy would get sucked in. I’m a sucker and I would say okay sign me up. Towards the end of my relationship with this company, you know within the last couple of years of that relationship they had signed me up for this “linking” program and there were different linking programs that you could sign up for.  You know, “this one has up to a thousand links” and this one “has a thousand to whatever, five thousand”.  So I signed up for this linking program where they had people in other countries linking my website and it sounded all fantastic and I guess it worked for maybe a month or two but then, I only know about this now after learning a little bit about Google; but there was this algorithm change I guess where people who were building these links that weren’t good links were penalized and I happen to be one of those people unfortunately.  My website and consequently my business took a nosedive and it was confusing to me. I didn’t understand it.  The people from the company, including my rep, were talking to me about it in a way that, really I don’t think they were taking any responsibility for it. After doing research into it I discovered what had happened.

Fast forward a little bit and then about that time my brother Shannon starts getting nosy about my website and “what’s going on” and “how much are you paying” and “what are they doing for you” and my IT guy did to.  They were both did some research and some of the blog posts that I was paying to have ghost written for me were actually appearing on other family law attorney blogs in the country. I had purchased a social media marketing package, where they would go onto Facebook and post some little thing everyday, it was just like a link, not a picture or anything.  They were doing that for other attorney’s in town and I thought wow this is a rip off and I need to stop it because they were bleeding me but they had me feeling like I needed them so much, like I couldn’t do it on my own.  Luckily Shannon was there and he’s the one who told me we can do this like, we can do this, like let’s just stop you know and the timing was very perfect because my contract was ending, I told them I wasn’t renewing, they were shocked.  Shannon and I took down the old website, it was destroyed and started from ground zero and that was about a year ago.  So I probably invested, I would say a couple of hundred thousand dollars in the “marketing” efforts of this big firm that you know , they were engaged in questionable practices and again I take responsibility.  I mean it was my money, I should have researched it better but live and learn. We don’t get smarter until we make mistakes.

Vin: So this is where Ana Hoffman and I start to diverge, if you will, we reach a crossroads and we start to separate because here’s the thing, I started experiencing this recently with other professionals: dentists, accountants, you name it right;  the fact is my mission in life is to actually to be your brother for you for a lot of other professionals, that’s what I do and what I tell people is I’ve experienced enough now to know that you don’t know what you don’t know and it all sounds great and basically there are people out there that are taking advantage of this phenomenon. They are taking advantage of the fact that they know you don’t have the time to investigate, so their going to present this shiny new object and it sounds great and then you’re just going to go make a decision and so you trust and you make a decision and you move on and you practice law and then behind the scenes someone is doing something that’s completely screwing up your entire reputation or you’re spending money on things for example the concept of custom blogging and then you find out that there’s ten thousand lawyers across the United States of America that have the exact same blog.  I’ve actually seen this with a mission statement on a dental website, by the way.

Wendy: That’s awful

Vin: Literally there’s twenty pages of Google dentists with the same mission statement. Come on, this is ridiculous.  So my mission in terms of the practice that I have, my firm, if you will, is primarily to help professionals make decisions.  It’s not to say that I know it all but I’m going to spend the time to make sure that you don’t waste your money, right and then we work together. 

Very interesting, this story is not unique to you, I see it a lot, I think it’s a very common thing.

Wendy: I could have used you like ten years ago, Vin.

Vin: Ten years ago I was selling software.

Wendy: My law school loans would be paid off by now had you been in the picture.

Vin: It’s a tragedy and it happens nowadays, it still happens more than I , well it’s better for me because it’s good for my business, I can go in and save professionals from themselves, if you will.

So you started, Shannon, I don’t know Shannon that well, I just know him from experience on Google, he clearly had helped you but you started you say a year ago.  I want to talk about this because your approach to content is pretty extensive, I think.  I think you put a lot into it. I think these things take time, I think they take a lot of thought but you started this whole thing a year ago but what I’m curious about, ha the curious marketer right (laughs), what I’m curious about is the evolution of it.  So you start, did you take baby steps?  Did Shannon, did you jump right in? How has it worked?  What hasn’t worked?  Adjustments you’ve made?  And I would like to talk about results because there is a reason for this, I think people on the internet, marketers in particular, I hear this statement all the time “Everybody’s blogging, everybody’s doing content marketing”.  Wrong. That’s wrong.  Wendy, I encounter, I can’t tell you how many small business owners, small professionals but they don’t know what a blog is.  My point in all of this is to say, what I’d like to come out of some of this conversation is you really should be doing this and here’s why and you might have thought about it differently and then how has that thought pattern changed over the twelve months that Shannen sort of intervened and said let’s put this program together.  Let’s talk about that now.

Wendy: So I’m going to try, well I’m just going to talk and hopefully I’ll hit on the long list of things that you gave me to hit on (laughs) and if I don’t then you can ask me questions follow up.  So with Shannon, who’s so confident that we could do this and he gave me confidence and really I owe him a lot.  You know I owe him my first born which he can come pick her up at anytime, Shannon if you’re listening.  We started with baby steps, I mean he was responsible for building the website, I created all the new content to put in the website, it was like almost seventy pages worth of content.  For weeks, I just shut myself in my office and just started writing, writing, writing and thank God I know it because I’ve been practicing family law for so long.  Once I gave him the content he worked on putting the website together.  Then he showed me how to blog and the basic elements of a good blog, how many words it should have and just basics about keywords and the most important thing I think was that he showed me in terms of blogging was you have to consider your audience and I know this because I was a communication major in college and I’m a lawyer and I have to know who I’m talking to and when I have clients in my conference room, who are making a decision about whether they want to hire me, I have to speak to who they are.  I don’t talk to all of them the same but Shannon encouraged me to think about who it is you are trying to reach and what are their pain points?  This is something also that I learned because I’m a B-schooler, in case anybody out there know Marie Forleo and B-schooler’s I have taken her B school.  One of the first steps she has you go through or the first exercises is defining who your ideal customer is and creating a customer avatar.  So once that was done, then I was able to go and write for the people that I was trying to reach.  We just started writing blogs and most of the blogs to begin with were legal based. That’s very important, I’m a family law attorney but as the website has evolved and it evolves every single day and things change because you have to because this new media world that we’re in is ever changing and you have to change with it or you get left in the dust.  As it has changed, I have kind of expanded the message and it’s still a consistent message and I still think it fits with family law.  Family law not just about laws and it’s not just about child custody.  Family law is about relationships it’s about the issues that people are struggling with within those relationships.  Those are the things that I’m passionate about.  Those are things that have been challenging for me in my own life. Those are the things that have made me cry at night.  So I’ve been able to try to reach these people who are going through those same things, through the writing.  Not only do we do the legal blog post but I do other types of blog through my weekly newsletter, where I’m trying to speak to people in a way that they need support and it’s gotten a really great response.

Vin: I think your content is related but indirectly related to the law and I think what you do is produce a stream that is sort of like, if law is your circle of expertise, there is an outside layer that your clients are involved in, issues that your client’s face and I think you address those things like mindfulness, meditation, eating right, good relationships.  I looked at your video stream in YouTube and I don’t think I saw the word law. It’s just that you cover so many topics that have to do with how to avoid having to deal with law side of what you do but you’re addressing a very important point and I that is the buyer persona that people talk about in marketing isn’t about a profile, it’s about a day in the life and that doesn’t have anything to do with what you do, it has to do with what their issues are.  As a law expert, you’re addressing those issues I think very nicely.  So I think it’s a template, if you will, a how to for people who want to make good content. Don’t make it just about your expertise, make it about what your audience really is looking for.

You bring in some unbelievably interesting guests, all kinds of people, life coaches, and it’s not dull or boring at all.  It’s incredibly useful. It goes to that whole concept of utility.

Wendy: I appreciate that, yeah, Shannon and I are big fans of Jay Baer and youtility and just being helpful and just trying to meet the needs of the people out there who need help because even if people are going through a divorce or they’re divorced or even if they weren’t married;  if they share children in common, for example, they are going to have to continue to have a relationship.  If those children are going to have any chance at growing up and being functional and having healthy relationships;  their parents need to learn to do that.  So one of my mission’s is to enable people to do that and to give them tools to do that and ideas and techniques on how to get healthy, which I think begins internally so then it can reflect in your relationships with others in your life.  

Vin: I agree with literally everything you just said.

Wendy: Thanks Vin. (laughs)

Vin: The questions that I have, racing through my head, probably would require another hangout but I want to ask you, there has to be some results from this.  So what I want to get out of this for myself and for other lawyers, for other professionals is, I don’t want to talk about metrics and analytics and things like that. What I actually want to talk about is something that I try to tell professionals about, as you do these kinds of things from a content-marketing perspective your total costs of “sales” goes down.  So I had asked a question, in the document I had sent you, regarding have you seen a change in the preparedness of people as they finally get to you?  Are they ready to deal with you versus you having to go through this whole persuasive argument and has your content helped?  I think it has I just would like to know what your experience has been.

Wendy: Yeah it totally has. I want to address that question, I don’t want to get too off topic because I want to specifically answer that question.  I want to tell you that and everybody listening that when I was first practicing law, I would take anybody who came through my door.  I thought anybody was my “ideal” client and I didn’t think about the kind of clients that I wanted.  Above all I want clients who I’m going to like.  I’ve had some clients who we just don’t get along and that happens;  I’m not the best fit for everybody.  I’m not a mean junk yard dog.  I’m good in the courtroom when I need to be but if you want a jerk, I’m not your gal. As I have begun to put this content out into the world what I have found is that the people who are coming to me are people who are in alignment with who I am as an attorney and who want and attorney like me.  The match and the fit is so much better and I’m so much more fulfilled and happy with the clients that I’m servicing.  So that’s I think number one about defining your ideal clients and then putting it out there you attract that and by reading your stuff people know who you are, there’s no misperceptions.  It’s very valuable. 

I forgot the second part, which I was going to get back to Vin.

Vin: I know, hold on a second, cause I’ll ask it again but I want to, this is a very important point that you’re making here because not all clients are created equal.  As a former professional service provider and now I do a different kind of professional service;  to your point, good business mandates that you acquire the kinds of clients where there’s a fit, there’s a match because you’re going to be performing and producing at a much higher level if you’re attracting the kinds of people where there’s synergy.  It’s not like your selling a widget, you’re selling a business professional relationship and so by default, if you will, that relationship is going to be far more productive and therefore profitable if there’s a synergy, right if you will, between you and the client.

Wendy: Totally.

Vin: I think professional service providers, they miss this point. They miss it and I don’t know why they miss it because it’s really kind of common sense.  I don’t want to gloss over that because I think that’s a really important business consideration for professional service providers.

Wendy: Totally, it’s huge.

Vin: So second question I asked was in regards to, I have a nine year sales career, selling stuff, so I’m trained as a sales professional;  everybody has to sell, if you will, if you’re a professional service provider, you have to sell.  My contention is, particularly the way you approach content, is that your cost of sales and your time to sales is virtually eliminated, not entirely but virtually, by the nature of your content, you’re building a relationship so that by the time they get to you, your hump if you will, is not so high.  In terms of having to get over that, “let’s close the client” kind of thing.  So has that been your experience?

Wendy: It has been my experience. I mean I put a lot of time and effort into the content that I’m creating and Shannon too.  I lose a lot of sleep because of it but luckily I’m passionate.  I’m passionate, I love what I’m doing so it’s not work to me.  So the truth is because I am putting this out in the world and people are seeing it, they feel like they know me, they feel like I’m their friend or their ally already, before they walk in the door.  You’re right, I mean I never been a hard sell type of person but if there were sales tactics used in the past, I don’t have to use them at all.  A person has a need and they have the resources and they’ve already found me, I think the match has been made really when they make the appointment.  That’s what I’m finding in my practice and as an example, I had a potential client come in this past week and he didn’t tell me this but I could tell that he devoured all of the articles on the website and some of the podcasts because he was reciting some of what I had written.  I mean there were words, exact words that I had used and it blew me away and it felt awesome and I thought “Wow, this is working”.  He felt really much more secure about where he was in his situation because the resource was out there. He had heard about the resource, our resource or the website, from a friend of his who was going through a divorce.  Now, whether this guy hires or not it doesn’t matter to me, one because I’m helping him but two he found value in it and because he did, I believe that he is going to pass that on to people he comes across in his life who need it. It may be ten people down the road but somewhere, somehow, someone is going to find me because it’s there and they will hire me.

Vin: So there’s virtually another thousand comments that came out of what you just said.  One of the biggest things is that, I do see a lot of lawyers going after the whole SEO thing, I’m not discounting it, I think SEO is critical.  I think online is critical but your talking about, you just had mentioned  someone got a referral from someone else and they come to your website and your content is a credential.  Your content is the initiation point of a relationship built and I think that’s one of the points that I’m making to folks, it’s not just about SEO and being competitive online. It’s about where do people go, if let’s say you want a radio commercial, what do they do first after they hear the radio commercial?  They go to your content and website.  If someone passes a referral, they don’t just call Wendy and say, “Hey I’d like you to be my lawyer”. They go to your website, they look at your content.  You have to have something there that greets them appropriately.

Wendy: Totally.  For us. I’m a total conference, workshop, webinar, junkie. Like if you have a webinar going on, I’m probably going to end up buying whatever it is that you’re offering because I love to buy this stuff. Shannon is always make fun of me but I like to learn.  What I’ve learned in all of these things that I and we have been doing is that your website is the hub.  It’s the umbrella under which these different platforms exist and Google+ is my platform of choice, it’s the one I’m best at but there’s so many others out there and it’s a big circle going from the website to Google+, for example, out into the world and then back to the website.  It just kind of repeats itself but for me it starts with the platform, which is the website and the content that you have on it, that’s ever changing.

Vin: Yeah it’s funny somebody named Michael Ellis asked a question and I wish I had the technical ability to post it but it’s in the comment section but he talks about this, “You’re geographically based which is typical of a professional service provider but how do you find Google+ playing into that business scenario, where you’re local but where your Google+ reach is definitely not just local;  I mean it’s a global reach” but it’s an interesting point.  I could answer some of it, I see this conversation happening all over the web, all over Google+ in particular;  my take on it would be that you’re not just using Google+ to generate business but you’re using Google+ to demonstrate who you are as a professional.  It’s again another credentialing tool.  The conversations that you’re engaging in the people that are following you and so forth.

Wendy: Yeah I think that Google+ is just one of the many tools out there just like Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, there’s a bunch of them.  I don’t know about it, I’m not an expert at any of them, I’m not an expert at SEO but in terms of, local, I’m a brick and mortar business.  I have a family law firm in Phoenix Arizona so it’s important for me to have local clients coming to me, yes but my vision for my practice and what I want to achieve and what I want to accomplish by way of my knowledge is more than just local.  I mean it is global and I love the fact that I can have conversations with people in France or Africa or whatever.  I have a vision and Shannon and I have talked about it, along with my husband, that we want to develop multiple streams of income that stem from the hub, which is the website.  We’re talking about video series and other types of training.  It’s going to be more than just going down to Superior Court in downtown Phoenix.

Vin: You’ve got such a holistic approach to your entire business model which again you’re just validating why I wanted to talk to you to begin with, put aside this whole project and hangout on air, I just saw it, as soon as I went to your website, I could see it.  We only have a few minutes left anyway, you and I could probably talk, you’ve no idea the things that  I’d exactly love to ramble on about with you.  We share so much in common in terms of our past and histories as well.  I do want to touch on one thing that I found very interesting as I started to understand, am still working on a solid understanding of, the concept of lawyer marketing.  Marketing for the legal industry. There’s a lot to it because you’re confined, if you will, by ethics, I’m not sure if it’s by the law but it might be.  The bar association, if you will, you can only do certain things.  Talk to me a little bit about that.and your experience with it.

Wendy: I know that there are certain states, like Florida, where the ethic standards are much more stringent than they are in other places.  So we do have disclaimers on all of our blog posts and we can’t talk about certain confidential things unless we have written permission from the clients.  So we write about the things that we know about that I think are common knowledge or we dig deeper into certain issues and there’s just a disclaimer there but the advice is always if you want more information or how it relates to your case, talk to lawyer.  

Vin: Which is interesting because you can’t say “you’re the best”, right?  In many states, if not all states, it’s considered not right for an attorney to say that “they’re the best”, if you will, or to make unsubstantiated, grandiose claims, if you will.  Which I find fascinating because it makes advertising really difficult. (laughs)

Wendy: I don’t know. I think that for me what’s just most important is demonstrating the expertise and the authority through what you’re putting out into the world.

Vin: Let your authority speak for itself you don’t have to make a claim.

Wendy: Yeah and that’s not who I am anyway.  I’m not, I’m a Leo, which means I love attention but when I’m in a group of people I’m not the one who’s in the center of the circle.  I’m the one who’s really on the sidelines checking people out.  I choose to reveal myself more silently.  I don’t know if that makes sense. Being out there and saying “I’m the best” is not who I am.  I like to show how good I am and people can make the decision for themselves.  What may be good for one person, is not good for another person.  So I’m not the best to everybody.

Vin: Well no, it’s an interesting point, so personally, philosphically for you but the profession tends to frown upon what someone in marketing might say, “wow, that’s a great video. that’s going to get that lawyer quite a bit of exposure”, the profession slams that same lawyer for being unethical in their advertising approach. In other words, there’s a professional standard; that the profession sort of seems to monitor, if you will.  It kind of has this, yes this is marketing and sales in it’s purest sense but this is marketing and sales in the legal industry.  This is how it’s applied, if you will.  I think your approach, generally speaking no matter what whether you’re legal or otherwise, I think it’s the right approach for professional service providers.  This is what I do.  I go to professional service providers and I say here this is Wendy Hernandez. Here’s why, philosphically, I don’t want the professional service provider who wants to take out a billion dollar billboard on the side of a highway.  That’s just not who I want to work with.

Wendy: Right, right.

Vin: In closing this discussion, which again I think I could literally talk you.  I recently commented on something and I’m passionate about this and I want to close out the discussion this way because I firmly believe in this.  Someone had mentioned that Groupon was now acceptable, in terms of the legal industry.  I don’t want to get a bunch of people, from Groupon or, like anyone’s paying attention to this conversation

Wendy: laughing

Vin: Discounting, discounting.  You’ve worked hard to become the professional that you are.  I think lawyers should stay as far away from discounts across all platforms.  It’s not just Groupon.  I don’t think any professional should ever discount their service.  I think just the opposite.  If you’re good you should charge a premium and people will pay.  Have you been approached with the concept of Groupon?  Please if you’re going to we can talk privately about this.

Wendy: (Laughs) No, I have not been approached about Groupon and I think like early on maybe a year ago, Shannon and I talked about it, along with my husband who helps me make a lot of the decisions about my business.  One thing is I totally agree that what we’re providing people is valuable.  I think there is a place for pro bono work, in my practice, and I do it when I can.  I choose very carefully who I’m going to do free work for.  What I have found a lot of times is that when I don’t charge for my consultations or I give a discount to a client or I offer to work for free, that people don’t give my work the value that it deserves. They don’t understand the work that it takes to go into a motion or going into court and as a result I think that they make decisions or take decisions more lightly; that they are making about their case.  They think, “oh hell, what do I have to lose, let’s give a try”.  Where as if they were paying for this, they might really consider is this a reasonable choice to make?  Is it a reasonable position? So,  I don’t like to discount, I have to say that.

Vin: Pro bono is different as well because pro bono has it’s own marketing benefits to begin with but you’re also serving.  You’re not giving away, you’re serving.  You’re providing a service to those that can’t afford let’s say. But discounting is a whole other issue and you talk about the psychology of discounting.  First it’s who do you want to attract?  We go back to that ideal client but it’s also do they value your time?  If they’re not paying for it, they don’t have skin in the game, they don’t really treat it all that seriously.  Putting Groupon aside, I just think professional service providers should just stay as far away from discounting as possible.

Wendy: Yeah, I think so and what I’ve found in my practice is when I have discounted or in some cases I’ve done stuff for free for some people for whatever reason and I end up getting really angry because I feel like they’re not taking it as seriously as I am.  Like you said, there’s no skin in the game for them.  So, who gives a crap if Wendy has to write another motion or prepare for a trial because I’m still having to pay for my people to work on things but they don’t care.

Vin: It’s a bad precendence to set and the reason that I focus on this is because I intend on sharing this via a blog post with other professional service providers and I want to make the point that you’re setting a bad precedent for yourself, as a business, as a professional service provider.  You’re attracting the wrong people, you’re sending the wrong signals about what you do.  Often times the misconception is that it’s an easy way to get exposure and awareness.  It seems like a good marketing strategy because it’s the concept of, I’ll discount it, I’ll get them in and then I’ll charge them the premium service.  There’s enough written out there by the experts that say that it’s just not the way it works.

Wendy: Yep and just to add onto that Vin, one thing that i have found is that the discounted cases I’ve done over the years, it seems like they’re the ones, the squeaky wheels, they’re the ones that cry the most. They’re the ones that file bar complaints when they don’t get what they want.  So talk about adding insult to injury.  I feel like they are just less grateful all the way around.

Vin: We could go on, as when I was practicing as an accountant for years, we could talk about this, we could literally do a three hour session on this alone.

Wendy: I’m sure.

Vin: Cause it’s really a major problem but we’re coming up on an hour.  I would love to chat with you for another six, Wendy, honest to God but I know you have work to do.  I don’t even know that an hour is too long for people but again this is more about me getting to meet you.  I’ve learned an awful lot.  You’ve validated a lot of things that I firmly believe.  Is there anything else you wanted to say before we close it down?  Anything you want to add?

Wendy: Well you know, no Vin, I’m really just thrilled that you, I’m honored that you thought enough of me to have me on the show.  I know a lot of the people who are watching are Google+ ers and just Hi to all of you and you probably, you know a lot of people know more than I do.  For the people Vin, that you’re going to show this with, who may not have the knowledge of the plus’ers;  I would just say to them that in trying to reach your clients, that you want ot attract, identify who they are, really drill down your ideal customer and then speak to them and stay consistent with that message and make sure to put that message out regularly.  That’s the key.  It’s a lot of work, it’s also very gratifying and I don’t know, I hope this helps.

Vin: I will finish up with complimenting your sentence by saying this, it’s an extreme statement but what you were talking about is deep buyer insights and if you don’t do them you don’t have a marketing strategy. That’s it, it’s not going to work.  It’s not going to work as well, that’s for sure.  So you’re 100% on target. Who knew, who knew I could call it two and a half months ago, right?

Wendy: (Laughs) Who knew Vin.

Vin: Who knew. I’ve got a good sense for these things.  So thank you. I really appreciate this.

Wendy: I better say before Shannon kills me, I just remembered, if you want more of Hernandez Family Law we’re at www.hernandezfirm.com and listen to the family law insider podcasts, we’re on itunes and stitcher radio, sign up for weekly newsletter. We are on all the networks, so find us.

Vin: All the Hernandez’s Shannon, Steve, awesome and I plan on making him a big part of the blog post because I know you guys work really well together.  I think it’s a great partnership and I get a lot out of his feed as well.  I hope we can talk again.  I really do.

Wendy: We will.

Vin: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wendy: Thanks Vince.

 

 

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