Mr. Glass: You mentioned not listening too much to the TV ad reps in terms of I guess where you were going to place your ad and you certainly weren't listening to them if they were giving you advice on the creativity itself, so I'm curious if what you learned or figured out about making TV buys the placement and whether that is it pretty much the same now in 2008? Are you still sort of buying the same way that you did in the 90s?
Mastermind Member: We actually do buy the exact same way and sometimes it amazes me that we still get consistent results after 15 years and we really haven't changed our main focus. Our main TV station is the Fox network and we've experimented with other stations. They just don't produce the results that the Fox network does for us and that could be, you know, just particular to our type of client because I know, maybe that doesn't apply to the personal injury field or the estate planning field where maybe the demographic is more white collar type of person but Fox has always been good to us. Any time and I still find this today where the ad rep will come in and say, "Well, let's look at these ratings points and this is where you need to be and just for instance you want to be on Oprah and it's $700.00" - probably a lot more than that now but $700.00 for a 30 second spot and you know when I'm sitting there when we started out and I only had a $2,500.00 a week budget, I'm not gonna run many TV ads if I'm spending $700.00 a spot. So, to me, it was getting as many spots as I could so we started looking into rotator spots and it's where you don't have control over where they place them but you kind of do and that's what some people may not understand and if they listen to the ad rep, they're gonna tell you, "Well, you're not gonna have control over where they are," but what we did was we went to them and said, "Look. We want to buy - what would the cost be to buy a daytime rotator that runs between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday?" And basically they came back to me with a $50.00 a spot price. So, you know, I told them, "Okay, I'm gonna run it heavier at the beginning of the week." So I ran eight spots a day, Monday through Wednesday, and then it would taper off to six spots on Thursday and maybe a couple on Friday morning. So I'm, you know, I'm looking at about 35/36 spots maybe for the week. Well, that's only costing me $1,800.00 and I've got 36 spots out there and what they ended up doing was I said, you know, run them twice an hour so they were running it every half hour and then it got to the point where when they weren't running them where we also put in our order that we don't accept any make goods. A make good is if you get bumped for some reason, a rotator spot gets bumped first but if you get bumped for some reason they try to place that spot somewhere else. Well, somewhere else may not be advantageous to me so all of our orders that went in said we won't accept any make good so basically you lose the money. You lose the commission. Well, the sales rep now doesn't want to lose the commission so he does everything he can to make sure that they run when we want them to. So that reallywas the key fro us to get a lot of spots out there with minimal cost and then once we started doing that, after about two or three months, then we went to them and said, "Look, this is what we're running consistently. We'd like to get your overnight spots" and those are, you know, your 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. spots, you know, that normally don't sell and we were getting them for at most $5.00 a spot. Most of the time it was free so I told them, "Give me as many overnight spots as you can" and there was a lot of times where we were getting eight to ten overnight spots a day and I'm spending at most $50.00 a day on it. But our type of client with our type of problem are up sometimes all hours of the night plus we're hitting second the third shift workers. I don't know how many people I've heard that have come in for a consultation and said, "You know, I was sitting up at 2:00 a.m. trying to figure out my house is gonna be foreclosed on and then your commercial came on." So I've always had the belief that I don't just dismiss the thought of doing overnights especially if they're $5.00 or less.
Mr. Glass: Okay so the commercial runs and it enters the conversation and the prospect's head and then it says what I know it's driving them to a toll-free hotline but what's the invite? Is it to listen about more information or to hear the seven, you know, mistakes? What is the headline of the invite over to the toll-free number?
Mastermind Member: Well, basically, the ads themselves were built around it's more captivating type questions. Are you tired of your bills taking a bigger bite out of your paycheck? Are you afraid you're gonna lose your home? Then I go through some examples of what we can do for you and then give them the call the toll-free hotline for more information. Now, when those people would call the hotline, then there was a eight to ten minute recording that's scripted out that goes through what a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can do and what a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can do and all the things it can do for you and it spells some of the myths out there about losing property, about never getting credit again, about - just different things like that that prevent most people from looking at it as a viable option. During that eight to ten minute recorded message, then it gives them the option to press 1 if you'd like to make an appointment and then it transfers them directly to a live person.
Mr. Glass: And most people would say eight to ten minutes, you've got to be kidding. No one's gonna listen that long.
Mastermind Member: That's exactly what I was told.
Mr. Glass: Yeah but obviously everyone else was wrong and so did you have a way to track at which point people were bailing out to either hang up or to be connected for an appointment?
Mastermind Member: Back then we actually didn't. We used these old, archaic little cassette tape machines and it would register a click on it every time somebody would call and there was three lines coming into the machine so all's we took was daily meter readings basically and there was no way to know how long they were on there. Under my current system, I've kind of gone digital. I have the same recording which is now - I still use it but it's been shortened and it's not quite ten minutes, it's about 7, but now it comes through both call lines and I have a call analyst program in my server where I can see how long they've been on it and it surprises me even to this day. Back then I used to have people tell me they would call back and listen to it again and they would get their husband on to listen to it and I can see phone numbers on my list now that listen to it more than once.
Mr. Glass: Well, as I understand it, back in the beginning, the most you could take is three calls at one time and then somebody got a busy signal.
Mastermind Member: Yes, but back then we had three machines stacked up on top of each other so we had nine lines coming in.
Mr. Glass: I've heard Dan Kennedy joke about guys like you back in the early days before digital, before major use of websites with like a room full of phone answering machines essentially and that to now look back on what you were doing. I mean it's no surprise you've been as successful as you have been because that really was advanced, No. 1, No. 2 took technical know how, (3) you had to overcome a bunch of objections from everyone around you who told you you were nuts and I know that you have a very special way of booking appointments now. Why don't you share that with the folks who'll be listening to the CD?
Mastermind Member: Yes, we do. Once they get through the 24-hour tape and they connect with our receptionist, she has a very detailed script that she goes by to set the appointment and basically I don't allow her to book an appointment past tomorrow. The script - and the reason we do that is we have found that with bankruptcy-type clients, filing bankruptcy isn't something somebody wants to do, as opposed to maybe a personal injury case where they're injured and they know they need an attorney, they have to act now. Bankruptcy they want to put off and put off and put off so we found real quick that the longer they set the appointment out, the more chance it was they weren't gonna show up. So we developed a script and we said, "Look, don't book appointments past tomorrow." So she says - the first thing she says is, "I have an appointment today at 3:30 or I can squeeze you in tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Which would be better for you?" And she just gives them those two options. If they say that, "Well, I can't make either one of those. I can come in two weeks." Her response is, "We don't have anything available in two weeks." Which is not a lie because I don't let her book out that far. We don't have anything available that far out. So then she will, you know, ask them, "Well, if those two times don't work for you, you know, I can possibly squeeze you in tomorrow evening at 6:00 but you may have a few minutes' wait." Even though that may not be - if you look at the book that may not be accurate, it's about the belief that she gets across to them of that scarcity of the appointment itself and the value of that appointment which comes later in the script. So once they say, "Oh, okay, you know, well, I better take this one that's available." So they take that appointment then she goes through and she gives them the directions to the office and then at the end she'll say - and this was something else we found that really helped to solidify our show-up rate was she would say, "I just want to make sure that 10:00 a.m. is a good time for you because if for any reason you can't make this appointment that's okay but there is $150.00 charge- you lose the free consultation privilege and there's a $150.00 charge for the next visit." She gets one of two responses and I kind of monitor her calls every now and then but either the response will be oh, no, I'm gonna be there or "I thought this consultation was free." You know, well, she'll respond by saying, "Your consultation is free at 10:00 tomorrow but if you miss that one then you've lost that free consultation privilege and the next one you pay our normal rate." And it basically dropped our no show rate from about almost 40 percent down to where it averages about 17 percent.
Mr. Glass: You know, you're busting a whole bunch of myths from this phone call and now you've just busted the customer service do it their way that entirely because I'm sure also that people told you that was a dumb idea, that you're losing a lot of business if someone can't come in until next Thursday and that simply has not been your experience at all.
Mastermind Member: No, it hasn't.
Mr. Glass: Now, to do such a volume and to have such a great methodology for getting them from TV or radio ad through this funnel requires a staffing and systems. Tell us a little bit how you're set up now in terms of number of lawyers and bankruptcy paralegals - whatever it is you have.
Mastermind Member: Okay. Bankruptcy itself - the practice area is really paper intensive, more so than many other types of practices and I find that the makeup of our firm now with the volume that we do is kind of reverse of a normal firm. Where there might be ten lawyers to every one paralegal, here it's almost the other way around. I have myself and I have three staff attorneys and we have about 14 or so legal assistants that help and, you know, it's broken up into a pre petition department and a post-petition department so I have certain key people that answer to me. I have one senior attorney and he handles the other two. He handles the dockets and gets reports to me about what happens so that I know everything that's going on in court. I have one girl that's been with me for 13 years that handles all pre-petition cases. She knows every foreclosure date, repossession date, sale date, garnishment. She knows where every case is at, when it's gonna be signed, when it's gonna be filed and she keeps on track of that and gives me reports and then I have one post-petition person that I go to and I get reports on different things that happen throughout the case that I need to be informed of. I also get reports on a daily basis of our numbers, how many calls came in yesterday, out of those calls how many appointments were set, how many - now I've added to it how many internet appointments we've got because that is growing leaps and bounds, how many appointments are on the books for today, how many show up, how many reschedule and then of the ones that do show up, what the percentage are that we sign as new clients versus that we didn't sign. So all that information comes in to me and my role anymore is just to monitor that - keep my fingertips on all of that information so that I can make slight adjustments as we go to keep it humming along as - as efficient as I possibly can.
Mr. Glass: So are you doing any of the client contact or legal work yourself now?
Mastermind Member: I do not unless it gets to where like if someone's gonna be missing or next week we have a ton of conflicts because we have a personal injury trial that's gonna be going on that one of those attorneys is gonna be at so I will jump in there and help out. If there's complex issues, most of my function is mentoring the other attorneys and helping them through the system. With the volume that we do, the systems are huge. You know we don't want to overlook anything and then - something just as simple as when a client comes in and signs his petition, we used to - when we first filed cases, we didn't do anything special with that file. So it looks like the other 3,000 files in the file cabinet and there was one day where that file, you know, the client signed it, it never made it to me and the file went to the file cabinet and didn't get - and the case didn't get filed in a timely manner. So from that point on we just came up with something as simple as if somebody has an emergency, like a house sale date or a car sale, their file gets wrapped in a red manila folder. If the client has signed it then it gets a green folder on top of that so everybody in this office knows if there's a red or green folder on it, those files don't sit around anywhere and those are the little tweaks and things that we've done - just an example of it - of what we've done systems wise to handle the kind of volume we're doing.
Mr. Glass: What's your software backbone? Is it a particular type of bankruptcy management software?
Mastermind Member: For the most part, the processing of the petition and schedules is pretty specific for bankruptcy. As far as getting the work done, we use Outlook, actually. It's a simple thing. I mean it was several years ago, probably ten years ago, I had came across where the attorneys were so bogged down with work, I went by their office, they had so many files stacked up in their office and we were getting behind on getting work done in a timely manner that their stress level was way too high. And with bankruptcy you have a higher stress area of practice to begin with. Kind of like divorce. So I said, you know, this was a Friday, I said at the end of today, I want all of your work - every file in your office - in my office and when you come in Monday, we'll have a system in place. So all's I did was went through every slip of paper that had - something had to be done on it and I prioritized it, I had three priorities based on a court date, deadlines, things like that and then I just started using Outlook. I went into Outlook, I created a folder for each attorney and I first log in court time, when they're gonna be gone, I log in voice mail time and then I started plugging in the empty spots with assignments. So when I filled up a day, then what I did was I got them a 30-day spandex and now their assignments for October 30, they come in in the morning and they print off their daily schedule, they pull their assignments out of October 30 in their spandex and they might have two or three or four assignments for the day that have already been stuck in there based on deadlines so that they don't have to be concerned with deadlines or getting it done. It's just I come in today, this is work I have to do, I pull those files, I do these motions, I do these amendments, I get it filed and everything's done without me having to worry about it. As soon as we implemented that, the stress levels went down tremendously and the amount of work that we were getting filed and getting cases confirmed with the court went up dramatically and we were then not only the top filer but we confirmed the most cases and get the most discharge cases of any firm here. So those types of systems were things that we kind of developed along the way.
What you have been reading is an excerpt of an interview that Ben Glass conducted with a member of Great Legal Marketing. Each month members compete for the Member of the Month honor. Every Great Legal Marketing Coaching and Mastermind member gets an audio CD and complete transcript of the interview (in addition to all of the regular benefits of coaching/mastermind membership). To get a free three-hour audio CD on lawyer marketing, go to GreatLegalMarketing.com.