Who is Tom Tona and what is Virtual Marketing?
Thomas is an attorney and business owner with 26 years of experience under his belt. In this video, he goes over the most valuable tools to his marketing success. Now more than ever with face-to-face interactions lessening due to the Covid-19 crisis, virtual marketing keeps you even closer to your clients. Through virtual marketing and a lot of quick-thinking, Thomas has been able to keep his business moving forward quickly and efficiently. The first thing that he stresses is the importance of always being ready for a crisis. By making slight pivots to his business, like cloud computing, for example, he’s been able to keep his business nimble. Another thing that he stresses is the importance of thinking outside of the box. He talks at length about his experience with business coaches and how they’ve been able to help his business grow. The Internet, specifically social media is your best friend in a virtual world. You should have accounts with Google My Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Clients should not only be able to see what people think about your business, but they should be able to google your business and tell other people how amazing you are. Thomas implores business owners to take advantage of other tools like MailChimp to send out email blasts and he also shares the importance of text messaging. Thomas goes over the need to be in constant communication with your clients. By being proactively communicative with your clients not only are you reassuring them and cementing those relationships but you may even be taking business from your competition. Thomas firmly believes that when you invest in your client they will, in turn, invest in you. He’s done everything from sending meals to just calling to ask how they are doing. This video will provide a road map to all of the really simple but actionable ways that you could be making your business more profitable.
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Full Transcript of Virtual Marketing Now & Forever
Thomas: Just a little bit about what we do and my firm and myself. I’ve been in business for 26 years. My law firm has three main divisions, the personal injury litigation division, my no-fault collection division which is B2B, and business and consumer litigation. Broken down as you see on the screen. Chris runs my personal injury litigation. He’s actually been managing my No-Fault division as well.
One of the things we did during the crisis was, we consolidated down to work on work in progress and managed through the crisis. We’re in expansion mode again now and we’re looking to hire, but this is basically what the firm structure was before Corona still is in a consolidated fashion. Is everybody able to see the full slide? Everybody can see it?
Thomas: Okay. What is virtual marketing? Virtual marketing again, replacing what we did face to face, why is it extremely relevant now more than ever? One virtual marketing increases efficiency through leverage. You rely heavily on technology and that allowed me specifically to work extremely fast during the Coronavirus and I realized I’m going to continue doing this forever. That’s why I titled it Virtual Marketing Now & Forever. I don’t see ever backing off of the things that worked and adding them to the other stuff I was already doing which was the face-to-face when we go back to that.
Why is it relevant? This type of marketing led to increased profitability. The more people that knew about my firm and knew what we were doing allowed us to be selective. I actually stopped representing several clients during Corona because we chose to eliminate that from a profitability perspective that they just didn’t fit our profitability model at the time.
The most powerful tool in my opinion is the cell phone. The six major platforms that everybody uses and I’ll go into specifics, but the whole key to virtual marketing is no different from every other type of marketing which is the reliance on digital interactions, creating top of mind awareness, TOMA for you and your business.
It was extremely cost-efficient. I ended up cutting my in-house marketing budget completely during that time including letting go of my marketing director because all I was focused on was text messaging, telephone calls, emails, and a bunch of other different things that required my personal focus on marketing. It was extremely cost-efficient.
Here’s the most important part. During COVID what we learned was there was only one way to market and that was virtual. It was only one way to market to our clients, our referral sources, or potential clients or potential referral sources. If you didn’t do it, you likely didn’t see new business coming in. You might have lost business you don’t even know about.
The Coronavirus crisis timeline was extremely important and I’ll explain to you why shortly. On around March 17th Cuomo announced that we had to make a 50% reduction. I had already known we were going to be shut down at that time. The next day he increased it to 75% and then by Friday, everybody is fully remote, we’re shutting down.
My office was already prepared for this. I’ve been in the cloud for 10 years. Hopefully, everybody is now in the cloud, but if you didn’t start prepping until march 23rd, you were already too late. That applied to the marketing of your business as well. Is there going to be a second wave? I do think there’s going to be. I’m already preparing for the worst-case scenario again and I recommend that everybody do that as well.
What did we do that worked in marketing and crisis management and what will you do? My job as the leader, I see it as two-fold. During a crisis, it is to, crisis management and marketing. During a normal workday, 80% of my day is marketing anyway, but during the Coronavirus, those were my two most important functions. We’re only going to focus on marketing today because crisis management is a whole different module that I would have to do.
Here’s the baseline of what I had in effect pre-crisis that I found to be tremendously useful as a lawyer, as a law firm owner, as a business owner. If you don’t have this stuff in effect ask yourself why what’s stopping you and should you be thinking more outside the box? One, we had a business coach. We use a company called Atticus Advantage. They specialize in business coaching for law firms.
I belong to the group plan and I belong to private one-on-one coaching where we do an hour a week. During the crisis, it was an hour a day plus I was on webinars for marketing and crisis management, the balance of my time.
If you don’t have a business coach– In every business, I believe there are business coaches, but at a bare minimum, there are coaching entities out there, that you really need to look at what you want to do with your business. I don’t believe that you can take a small business and scale it up without coaching. It’s just my belief because then it’s just trial and error. Coaching eliminates that.
I’ve spoken about our Google My Business page before. Some of you still don’t have Google My Business set up on google. People can’t find you if you’re not on Google My Business. If you don’t have it, I can’t leave a five-star review on Google where it matters, in my opinion, the most. You may be the best electrician in town but if he doesn’t have a Google My Business page. Then he might be the best, but I can’t shout his praises. No one will know.
Social media, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google My Business you have got to be on these platforms. Your choices are going to be limited. You’re either going to do it yourself or you can delegate that stuff. We had an email vendor in place already, MailChimp. It allowed me to email messages to 7,500 people, multiple times. Text messaging. We have a program called Zipwhip, that allows us to correspond with our clients and iMessage which is on my cell phone which every phone has a different messaging application.
A website. Now is a great time during the Coronavirus to work on content. I wrote probably 50 to 60 pages of content for our website. We put a red banner up on the home page day one saying, ‘Hey we’re open, we’re working fully remote’. That was on March 23rd, the Monday after the shutdown started. Then one of the most important things that I’ve always had and I highly recommend everybody do and do it today if you don’t have it, a top 100 list or at least the top 20 list of who are your largest referrers of business?
Based on the Pareto Principle we know 80% of business will come from the top 20% of your referrers. Make a list of your top 20 business referrers. Who do you need to get on with immediately if this happens again?
What I did on March 21st, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning. I was panicked, I was nervous. I’m not going to lie. I did not know what a shutdown meant for business.
I made a pot of coffee and I said, I’m going to do what I always do when I don’t know what to do, which is start marketing. Start marketing to all my top 100 business sources. I pulled out my marketing CRM, contact relationship management software and I started lighting up my top 100 business sources with a personal text message or a personal email that they were going to wake up to that morning.
Then the calls started coming in by seven o’clock in the morning. People were worried about their No-Fault collections. People were worried about their personal injury cases. By seven o’clock on that Saturday morning, I was taking calls until about twelve o’clock. I was doing those one-on-one, phone calls, emails, and texts the balance of the weekend.
By Monday, I sent out bulk emails to all 7,500 of my contacts saying, we are open Monday morning for business. We are fully remote, here’s the software we have, here’s the hardware we have. Everyone on my team had a computer, a scanner, a shredder, a printer, and everything they needed to continue working. Within that whole window, I started to hear back from my largest referrers of business. Some of these companies are doing $100 million in No-Fault collections. One particular way that I realized I knew I was on to something was her comment to me by eight o’clock was, listen I haven’t heard from my other law firms. I’m giving you all of their work too through Coronavirus.
Think about that statement for a second. By eight o’clock in the morning on Saturday, I took the business from other law firms because she hadn’t heard from them. Do I think it’s reasonable or unreasonable that a law firm would not have contacted somebody by eight o’clock the following? Doesn’t matter? I won that race because I was there as she was drinking coffee that morning.
After the initial shock and awe marketing which was what all of Saturday was about, I spent the rest of my focus during the Coronavirus and even now on crisis management and marketing. Operations and services were all delegated out to my team which was consolidated, but everybody was so happy to be busy that no one cared and productivity was shooting through the roof believe it or not.
My sole focus was on messaging to anybody I could. I attended every webinar that I could on virtual marketing from the very beginning. I took what was useful, I disregarded the rest. Not everything I show you today is going to be useful for your business. Take what’s useful. Hopefully, you walk away with one actionable thing, but I think I have a lot more for you.
I doubled down on my coaching. If you don’t have a coach, I recommend you look into one-on-one coaching or group coaching or a combination, but I recommend you look into your specific business. I know they have them for auto mechanics, they have them for tradesmen. How do you run your business like a business and grow it to scale?
I did three Zooms a week with the group and private coaching on crisis management and marketing, each lasting from one to four hours. Here was a big thing that I did also, I never cut my digital marketing with my outside company/SEO company. If you have that person that was not a cut you should have made at the beginning of the Coronavirus because shutting that down shuts down your website growth, it shuts down your social media growth and effectually you’ve got to start back from scratch again once you decide to resume.
Be intentional during a crisis. Obviously you have to focus on survival. Cutting costs where you can, figuring what’s imperative, what’s not, increasing incoming revenue, staying focused on marketing, and building the brand despite the crisis. That should leave you in a great marketing position after the crisis and benefit from the new market vacuum. A lot of businesses did not survive this. You got to rescue yourself and marketing is the only way to do it. Marketing didn’t change by the way.
Marketing is marketing regardless of when you’re doing it. Regardless of the crisis, the scenario, the current climate, you should be marketing. It’s about people and it was about communication, strengthening relationships, top of mind awareness. Was I scared? Yes. Did I communicate scared? No. You get on a call and you communicate terror, fear, anger, you’ve lost that marketing opportunity.
I like to picture myself like the lighthouse in the storm. Of course, there are fires going on everywhere. People call me up, I was to be the calm voice of reason. That’s what I portray on social media, that’s what I portrayed in my email marketing, every text message, every call. You have to stay disciplined, you have to stay focused.
Who did I market to? My current clients, my past clients, my referral sources, which my top 100, but I would recommend everybody on this call and that includes my employees. Have your top 20 list. Be marketing to them. My vendors. If somebody was trying to sell me something, I was trying to market back to them. I spent time on everybody.
Speaking of employees real quick, I made sure my employees were marketing to everybody they were on the phone with. Hey, just want to let you know we’re open. I’m working on your file, here’s what I’m doing. Clients really responded to that and they referred over new clients during the Coronavirus.
Here were the messaging guidelines, they’re really simple. It really is How to Win Friends and Influence People 101 by Dale Carnegie. One if you haven’t read that book shame, shame, shame. If you’re looking to grow your business you need to read How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you have read it, reread it again. I highly recommend, especially during a crisis, but at all times, put all of your attention on the client or the referral source. They don’t care about you. If you start talking about how good or bad things are and you’re not asking them how things are with them, you’ve lost already because I’m calling them up and I’m asking them questions. Simple questions, text messaging. Hey, how are you doing? It opens the door for, “I’m not doing that good. I went away to Vegas last week and I think I was exposed.” Now you’re having a conversation. Now you’re winning the marketing game because you’re showing somebody you care about. You are showing empathy.
Focus on connecting and supporting the people you’re talking to. Provide immediate value wherever you can, not necessarily your services. The immediate win in marketing is to provide immediate value not with an ask, for free, and I did a lot of that. I still do a lot of that, for free. I provide a lot of free services and it’s leading people to retain me time and time again for my money-making services without me asking.
Marketing actions you could do right now. This was important for me to make it simple and easy with immediate takeaways for everybody. Low-cost takeaways. I made a list. These are virtual marketing actions. You can read them. I’m going to go through the ones that I found the most effective and what I did immediately.
Email blasts and posts about your business being open on social media if you’re offering virtual options, telling them. Reviewing of client accounts with the client because when you do that you’re telling them you’re working on stuff, you’re telling them what you’re working on and you might find out if they have new cases or access to new cases or new matters to handle.
Creating fidget spinners. It’s a good time to work on content. Creating a website blog content was huge for me. I spent a lot of time doing it and I got a lot of cases out. Thanking people with notes, with text messages, with phone calls thanking them for referrals. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, you’ve got to use social media. I don’t love doing it, but I do it.
Let me tell you about a Facebook link, an Instagram win I had. I had been posting messages on all five of the platforms throughout the Coronavirus. I get a call the other day, the client says, “Hey, I need your help.” Sure enough, it’s a monstrous case, it is probably a seven-figure legal fee. I said to her, how did you find me? She said, “Well, I’ve been following you on Instagram for years and I saw that you were open through the whole virus. I remembered you and I knew it was time to talk.”
If I tell you that the posting I’m doing you can buy a $15-a-month app. It’s called Canva. You create the post-yourself-a million-dollar legal fee from one social media platform five posts that I posted, hey we’re open and we’re working. If you’re not doing that, I can’t tell you the amount of business that you’re not getting, but I can guarantee somebody else is getting it. Somewhere out there somebody who does what you do is taking these small steps to get a competitive edge.
Updating your online profiles, a great time to do it. If you have expertise– You’re the engineer. Doing a webinar on what to look for in-home inspections and you do 15-minute segments each that you record and it’s reusable content, very valuable. You might get real estate investors that apply to it. These are all a bunch of other ideas you can do that is virtual. I will tell you that going down to the bottom of it. It says send baskets and appreciation gifts. What I did was if I had people that were in my top 100 I sent out lunch or dinner multiple times during the Coronavirus to their offices, especially my b2b firms, my largest surgical centers. I sent out multiple lunches and dinners to the people that send me the business within those businesses. Some of them said, “No, thank you. I don’t want it. I’m going to pass.” I said, “okay, I’m going to take that money $100 or $200. I’m going to donate it to the food bank in your name, then I would send them a text message of the receipt.”
Okay, I got a lot of business out of that. The ROI on the hundred dollar dinner. People were so burnt out trying to figure out what to make for dinner. That I was giving them a reprieve from, saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. Hopefully, this makes your day a little easier.” I got tremendous ROI from that. I did it also because I care. These are people that are watching out for my business during a crisis. I wanted to say thank you. I had a rule that I had to do at least 10 to 15 text messages a day to my top contacts, one to each of them, two to each of them. I did a minimum of 10 phone calls a day.
I will tell you, my stats I did in March, April, and May 4000 text messages a month. How many did you do? Did you miss out on that opportunity to not be creating marketing relationships using a cellphone? Okay, the 10 phone calls a day it was probably more like 20 for me, okay, but I actually put it in my calendar. A lot of these came from my Atticus group because they’re big on marketing. I added a bunch of stuff that I was doing that they ended up incorporating because they saw how well it was working, sending lunches to people not saying oh, you got to eat lunch with me on Zoom.
Saying listen, enjoy your lunch, we don’t need to talk shop. I’m just sending this because I care. You can do screenshots of all this stuff and anybody that wants it, just send me an email after and I’ll send you these forms, habits, and assets to the virtual marketer. I had this stuff in front of me the whole time. I said I got to pick three things to five things off of these lists, the one I just showed you, and this list which is three pages long. Okay, but this stuff is highly effective and it doesn’t cost you much if anything at all. I’m not going to read these to you but again, you see on there halfway down the page asset one, the top 20. If you don’t have a top 20 list, you’re not keeping up with competition from people who do.
In every field, there are people that think like me. Are you sharpening the saw? If you don’t know what to do read a marketing book, attend a marketing webinar. They’re free. I’m going to give you the link to my coach that gives all these webinars away that they did during the Coronavirus for free. It applies to every business. It doesn’t matter if they’re specialty is law firm management. It applies to every business. For larger businesses, do you have a marketing assistant? I now am bringing back a marketing person. We’re doing it in stages because I’m concerned about what the economy is going to look like but having them come on in a freelance capacity.
There are freelancers out there that will work four to eight hours a day for you. Okay. You can do that once a week, very cost-effective. Storytelling, I’ve read the book story brand by Donald Miller, an excellent way to learn about branding your firm in everything you do, including your website. I do highly recommend if you don’t have somebody working on your digital assets, you’re missing out on many, many, many dollars, thousands, tens of thousands of dollars. This is the second page having a professional website. You got to have one. I don’t care what business you’re in. You got to have one.
Having an accountability partner. Call somebody you know who’s in your space, or who’s a business owner that you enjoy talking to, and have a once a week talk about marketing, what are you doing? What am I doing? I have several accountability partners. All we talk about is marketing. Having a monthly marketing plan, I think to me, one of the most important things I did and still do, is I put my marketing efforts in my calendar every day. Otherwise, if it’s not my calendar, I won’t do it. I’ll get distracted. Okay, and again, you see there are three pages of this.
If you want any of this stuff, drop me an email after this, I will gladly send them on to you as a PDF. Having a client aftercare program. Now that I’m back to the office, one of the things I’m doing is aftercare, which is hey, we’re back you’re back, how are you doing? Those are my checking calls. I have four scheduled today, for after this. Having a tracking system. Who did you reach out to? Who did you send lunches and dinners to? One. It’s important if we have to do this again, if there’s another shutdown, hope there’s not but if there is, are you going to be ready? Because I’m ready. Having a client-centered office.
We have a complete health-oriented return to work policy that we’ve been sharing with our clients. We’re writing about it on social media. Have you done everything you need to do to be compliant with the governmental programs and guidelines? Assess your professional image, we’re all doing this on Zoom. Are you dressed as you should be for a professional meeting? I do zoom meetings with clients now and I record them as training sessions if the client wants help with something. Again, I always end this with a thank you. You’ve got to be thankful people that are sending you business.
Now more than ever, people are very angry, people are very upset, people are very scared. You have to disarm them. Spend extra time on the phone. That’s your gift to them.