There’s always something to howl about

BHB-style lawyer marketing – from the trenches

This is a long-delayed post. A thank you to BHB. A clue for others to see, use, follow. This post is about marketing techniques. A case study. A “you can do this, too.”

Apology in advance

Gregg, please pardon the backlinking to myself. I don’t like to pee in the pool by hyping myself, but the project I’m backlinking to is almost over, and will be worthless by the 15th of October, so I have no long term benefit from this. I’m deliberately not linking to my main website.

The world we live in

BHB is interesting to me. The philosophy (treat your customers like humans, get ’em smart, treat ’em right), the approach (use the tools that Teh Interwebs give ya), the people.

The real estate world is hidebound and burdened with useless historical debris. But the law world is worse. Lawyering is a closed shop industry and the State Bar is hellbent on protecting union members. Using ideas imported proudly from Elizabethan England.

BHB-style thinking and action to me is what the individual can do — constructively — to rage against the machine. (Hmmm. Good name for a band, I think.)

The opportunity

First, background. The IRS announced a voluntary disclosure program in late March, 2009 — people with money hidden offshore could Come to Jesus and avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion.

I’m an international tax lawyer. Ding-ding-ding.

Seizing the opportunity

With help and coaching (ha! Chris hates that word!) from GenuineChris I launched Simple WordPress install, various plug-ins, no biggie.

With me so far? Yep. All of you have launched blogs. Ain’t but a few of you who have made money on them. Listen up.

Get to work

Here’s what happened next. Chris Johnson harangued me. “Write!” he commanded. I wrote like an SOB. I remember one time when he said “It doesn’t matter what you write, just write.” As if content doesn’t matter. My “A” student overachiever feelings were hurt. But I wrote. Brute Force SEO. That’s what we did.

Hint. Here’s how you generate a LOT of posts fast. (1) Go buy a little digital recorder. Cheaper = better. Sony = badly-designed overpriced POS to be avoided at all costs. (2) Sign up for an account on (3) Talk into your digital recorder. (4) Send the sound file to by email. (5) Get it back in an hour or less, fully transcribed for about 2 cents a word. (6) Light edit. You’re not Marcel Proust. (7) Post.

Then he said “Do video.” I fretted about that. I’m not photogenic. I don’t have high quality equipment. I didn’t have a pretty background. Guess what. I used my iMac’s native camera. Sitting at my desk. If I was lucky I remembered to pull out my Eyeball microphone to get better quality audio. And I did video. Lots of it.

Hint. Want to generate blog posts at the same time you do video? (1) Pick up that digital voice recorder of yours. (2) Push start on video recorder. (3) Push start on camera. (4) Start talking. (5) Stop talking. (6) Video to blog, audio to for processing into text.

What happened

Here’s what has happened. Starting from the first week in June.

  • Phone calls to me from all over the world. (I took a cue from @bawldguy’s blog posts and stuck my cell phone number at the bottom of every post. I got calls from Singapore while I was at my daughter’s soccer practice. I got calls at the beach. Yay Jeff. Thanks for the idea.)
  • Huge revenue. It only counts when the check clears. And the check/credit card has indeed cleared. Let’s just say we have collected in excess of 50X my out of pocket costs.
  • We had to close the door to new business. I did this to honor the commitments we’ve made to existing customers.
  • What’s next

    The amnesty closes on October 15, 2009. I am already plotting my next internet move.

    Action > Whining

    Memo to all personnel:

    • Prospective customers call me, having read EVERYTHING I wrote. They have watched ALL of my videos. They have already decided to buy from me.
    • Videos matter. One guy came in last weekend (flew in from the East Coast) and said “Hey, you look just like you do on your videos!” I about bust a gut. 🙂
    • Videos REALLY matter. People saw me, heard me, and knew what to expect when they dealt with me. One less obstacle to the close.
    • Just write. Quantity matters more than quality. Sorry but it’s true.
    • Don’t do the tech stuff yourself. Hire someone. Chris knows way more than me. It wouldn’t have happened without him. If I had tried to do this myself, I would have washed out.
    • This is fun. REALLY fun.
    • This will work for anyone, even real estate brokers. 🙂

    Thanks Gregg for the opportunity to talk about this out loud, and for the BHB inspiration. Funny how I tell local real estate friends about BHB and they don’t get it.

    Mr. Google

    Oh. Adwords. We eventually decided to experiment with this, a couple of months after we launched. Took our daily traffic up 5X. Stopped buying ads and traffic dropped again. Hmmm. Cause/effect is obvious even to me. Can’t tell you if we got clients from them or not. But it was at the level that ONE additional customer paid for all the Adword spending we did. And I figure Adwords brought us at least one new customer.

    Mr. Google is your friend. Give him money.

    Anyone else out there, contact me if you want to know more about what I did, how I did it. Do what I do, get what I got.


    21 Comments so far

    1. Genuine Chris Johnson September 29th, 2009 1:06 pm

      I think that the tacit agreement between Greg and contributors is that some reasonable amount of backlinking is the compensation for being able to write on a PR 5.5 Weblog. Dunno though. Fun project. You still need to do a call if not for the last ditch PR.

    2. Karen Brewer September 29th, 2009 1:36 pm

      Read with great interest your a new blogger .Paid some to be trained and to get the thing designed.)Take a look. Anyway,Im in a market that demands quality and sophistication. Am ready to hire a videographer to do a 2 minute video about me and the town and then do one every month or so.I was also wondering about paying to be on other blogs (advertising in addition to Google ad words) I know I did the blog so I wouldnt have to pay but doesnt it make sense to jumpstart the thing by investing a few more bucks.Also I need help with SEO etc. I cant spend my time figuring this stuff out.Your thoughts.

    3. Jeff Brown September 29th, 2009 1:44 pm

      Most fun I’ve had readin’ a BHB post this year. 🙂

    4. Phil Hodgen September 29th, 2009 1:53 pm

      @Karen Brewer

      I think quality and sophistication take a back seat to real. That was my experience with video. And quantity. Quantity counts more than quality. Business is one person talking to another person.

      The person watching your video is the one who will pick up the phone and call your cell phone which is in your pocket. That person wants to connect with you. Don’t let that person be put off by facade. (Let me just rant a moment about the utterly stoopit Realtor thing of driving big flashy cars. D-U-M-B. Facade. Worse than a damned Palm Beach Crash Helmet hairdo on a woman.)

      “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. Just do it.”


    5. Phil Hodgen September 29th, 2009 1:58 pm

      @Karen Brewer

      Follow up. No slight intended by the Palm Beach Crash Helmet wise-crack.

      Main point. Don’t let your image put people off. One day I learned this from a large, hairy, tattoed motorcycle gang guy. Wearing his club colors. He said that look was his armor, designed to keep people at a distance. He then changed my life. He said that when he saw people like me (navy pinstriped suits, red ties, white shirts) he was afraid.

      I realized then that navy pinstriped suits were my armor. And they were keeping people at bay.

      Don’t wear armor.

    6. Cooksquared September 29th, 2009 2:59 pm

      Can I ask how much the whole endeavor costs? I am also working on a project as well and any additional advice you have would be super helpful. I have gone a different route with a fairly simple website builder and attempting to build lots of content.

      I have a budget for a big project and it would be helpful to know what kind of dollars I should be allocating to the website and webmarketing.

    7. Phil Hodgen September 29th, 2009 3:11 pm


      The budget expands to meet the need. You would be stunned how much you can achieve for $1K. Let alone $3K. Personally I think $10K is a ton of money. If I recall correctly, launched for about $12K or at least one of @guykawasaki’s web properties did. Maybe it was The point is, you don’t need to spend zillions.

    8. Karen Brewer September 29th, 2009 4:16 pm

      I was a little offended but I get your meaning.If you knew me you’d know I’m as real as it gets..Im told refreshingly so. That said,my clients are spending at minimum a million bucks up to $10 million for a home. They are smart, savvy and not going to go for ANYTHING disingenuous.They’d smell it a mile away. Further, they are not going to CONNECT with someone (however honest and open) who does something,in a crumby “just do it” way. Sorry you’re off base here.These are my customers.I dont pick ’em I just sell to ’em.
      I spent $3500 bucks to learn the blog thing.Worth every cent I hope down the road. Not quite sure tho how much space is worth on the Internet. Is $400/mo for a prime spot on a site with 50,000 readers a lot. I dont think so but I don’t know.Does anyone know how to measure this.
      What about the rates for Google Ad words.?

    9. Al Lorenz September 29th, 2009 4:29 pm

      This is great stuff. Ryan Hartman and I talked today about applying some of this to other areas.

      I bet there aren’t many attorneys marketing with videos yet! Great to read your posts Phil. Thanks.

    10. Ken brand September 29th, 2009 4:55 pm

      Thank you.

    11. Phil Hodgen September 29th, 2009 6:19 pm

      @Karen Brewer

      Yeah sorry for popping off like that. Could have easily made a crack about white belt/white loafer Caddy-drivin’ dudes.

      Being real is where it is. It’s the anti-marketing. It’s the competitive advantage no one can take away from you.

      The blog thing. My experience is that if you lean into it, write a bunch, and write like a real person, it will pay off. You are doing is making one friend at a time. You are making them smart. They’ll come to you out of the blue. “Been reading your blog for 18 months . . . .”

      I don’t know what you’re buying for $400 a month but whatever it is I would stop it immediately. You either rent an audience (buy ad space) or you build a community. So. Are you an owner or a renter? 🙂

      Adwords. We were paying about $0.45 per click, with a $100/day cap.

    12. Brian Brady September 29th, 2009 6:56 pm

      @KarenBrewer- you (fomerly of the Gray Lady), of all people, should be a writing machine. What Phil (and Chris) are demonstrating is the “quick start” guide to niche marketing on the internet.

      Rather than write about Darien real estate in general, write about a specific neighborhood or subdivision (Noroton Heights, for example). You could cover social events at Wee Burn CC, how proposed construction on Rte 106 affects the neighborhood, the new playground structure in Woodland Park, and the new synthetic baseball field at Darien High School.

      Set up a category for Noroton Heights on your blog, and populate it with lots of content. Go on a 90-post in 90-days sprint and you’ll dominate the SERPs. Then move on to Tokeneke this Winter. In a year, you’ll have built out all 5-6 major neighborhoods in Darien.

    13. If It’s Worth Doing… | Off the Beaten Plan September 29th, 2009 7:44 pm

      […] If It’s Worth Doing… 0 comments By Nicki Filed in Article Response, Completely Off Topic Tagged with just do it, motivation September 29th, 2009 @ 10:44 pm “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. Just [write]!” -Phil Hodgen, BHB […]

    14. Karen Brewer September 29th, 2009 7:59 pm

      OK I give up- how do you know so much about Darien?
      P.S. I was on the “business side” at the New York Times not the editorial side so Im no writing machine but I’ll take up the gauntlet….maybe to start 15 posts in 30 days….this is after all a small town even if it does have five neighborhoods. I dont want to start talking about who I saw walking their dogs…etc.

      Further the site that wanted $400/mo is a big NYC blog. I never signed up.He just threw that number out and I was kind of floored. In the old days there was CPM and that sort of thing.that could measure what you were getting…this stuff is “mashuganah”(technical term) to me.

      But honestly folks….what if anything is wrong with spending a few bucks to help the cause of sending readership TO the blog. Beats the hell out of worrying my fingers to the bone trying to come up with 90 posts in 90 days.Might even have time to sell a house.

    15. Genuine Chris Johnson September 29th, 2009 8:07 pm

      90 posts in 90 days should take a total of…12 hours. a post is a 350 word burst of helpful expertise, nothing much longer than these comments are necessary.

    16. Brian Brady September 30th, 2009 7:47 am

      “how do you know so much about Darien?”

      I googled it.

      “what if anything is wrong with spending a few bucks to help the cause of sending readership TO the blog”

      Nothing but I think it makes more sense for purchased traffic to be directed to a landing page which invites the traffic to register or susbcribe, so you can measure the efficacy of your investment.

      Chris is correct, though. Posts don’t have to be literary masterpieces. Blogging should be a disciplined approach to a marketing problem meaning, you pick seven broad topics, about one big theme, and fill in the blanks as you go along. If you plan your blog correctly, this should take 3-4 hours per week

    17. Damon Chetson October 1st, 2009 9:37 am

      I will say, in the middle of bringing in all this business, Phil has been generous with his time, giving me quick tips over email as I launch my site and practice.

      Action > Whining, indeed, even as we all acknowledge the complete nonsense imposed by state bars and licensing agencies under the guise of “protecting the consumer.”

    18. Phil Hodgen October 1st, 2009 12:49 pm
    19. Karen Brewer October 1st, 2009 2:10 pm

      Actually. I did have a couple of ideas along that line….stuff that could be archived and released as needed. That said I still think blogging is justone leg of the stool.What Im getting from my ramblings on the Web is that there should be a goal…then all things should feed that goal……..Twitter,Facebook,video….paid ads. I feel like a need help doing that.For starters ill blog my face off and let you know how I do with the other stuff.Anyone have thoughts on PPC versus impressions? Of course I need you all to visit,link back (ill do the same) and above all give me your thoughts about what Im doing. Thanks for the tips about neighborhoods etc. really good topics.Whew.

    20. Barry Cunningham October 1st, 2009 10:14 pm

      I second what Brian says about the “quick start” approach mirroring that which occurs in niche marketing. We are averaging a whole new blog per day so writing a new post each day shouldn’t be a problem for anybody. And as for video, I won’t do a new blog without video somewhere in the mix whether it be on the front end of a sales letter or later on in the funnel after the opt-in…but what the writer in this instance has said we have been saying for years and I applaud his success and wish more for him.

    21. Brian Brady October 2nd, 2009 8:42 am

      “Anyone have thoughts on PPC versus impressions?”

      PPC, while more expensive, it measurable. I always vote for marketing you can track.