EP 224 – Eric Bersano & Ryan Klein – Focus Group Review

The following interview has been transcribed for our readers from rev.com. Please excuse any discrepancies in the transcription.

Eric Bersano: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Legal Mastermind Podcast. Today, we have a special episode. It’s actually going to be myself, Eric Bersano, and the CEO of Market My Market, Ryan Klein. Welcome to the podcast.

Ryan Klein: Thanks. I’ve never been presented as a guest on this. I’m used to being the host, but yeah, looking forward to this dynamic today for a special conversation.

Eric Bersano: Yes, and the reason it’s special is because we’ve been doing some focus groups on legal websites and performed four full focus groups so far and want to share with the audience some of the early findings and some of the interesting things that we weren’t expecting, and then some of the things that we knew but maybe we’ll pay even more attention to.

Ryan Klein: I think we’ve always been excited about focus groups. Even about two and a half years ago, we were chatting about it. And so, we were doing some research to see how prevalent this is in the legal community. And remember saying that you do some searches for focus groups, especially in legal, and then guess whose website pops up from how many years ago?

Eric Bersano: That’s right. Yeah, we had a conversation in Charlotte, and I got so excited about that. I put it as a page on my website for legal focus groups or law firm focus groups. And now, that’s ranking at the top of Google. So, one of the things that I think was… I think just to jump into some of the things that we’re finding about these focus groups would be maybe one of the things that surprised you most about it and then one of the things that you knew was going to come out of it but might’ve looked at different. So, was there anything that comes to mind that surprised you most or confirmed something that you already believed?

Ryan Klein: I think, for me, it was a little bit unique. As you know, and maybe the audience knows too, I was doing surveys. I still do surveys with Mechanical Turk and hundreds of people, asking them five questions, and it’s very, very rigid. One through 10, yes or no, select these options. And I think one of the things that stands up the most is how much people elaborate and then go off on tangents, and then you can actually follow up. So many times, with surveys, how did you arrive at two out of 10 when you said eight out of 10 for this one? That literally contradicts each other. And that’s pretty much the biggest thing that stands out. It’s not just numbers, it’s just people with their thoughts and their ability to follow up with things. So, there are plenty of examples of that.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, it’s true. The focus groups obviously take more time and a lot of planning as opposed to the survey where you send it out and just receive the data back. But in the focus groups with our moderators, they’re able to drill down on why somebody said something, and we need to have this balance of letting the focus group talk without trying to influence other people in the focus group too much. Because in each focus group, you usually have one person who’s got a very A personality and very strongly opinionated, and we love that. We want them to share their viewpoint, but we don’t want them to skew the mindset of the other people. So, that’s become, for me, one of the most important balancing act so we can get as much information out of each one of these.

Ryan Klein: That absolutely is the case. I don’t know if you’d consider a shortcut, but when people have their own answer and then they hear it from someone else, they say, “Yeah, actually what they said.” And then I guess it’s worth prefacing that the biggest difference between surveys and the focus groups, the surveys, again, you don’t know who they are or really their background, where they live. It’s just a catchall, whoever is available to do a two-minute survey for a quarter or 50 cents or whatever it is when they might even be watching TV or knitting or crocheting in the same point. This is a dedicated group of people that are vetted by demographics or different backgrounds that are with you on video for an hour and have their undivided attention. And so, you can really dig deep and get some stuff that I wasn’t ever really expecting in the past by doing these other platforms.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, and just to give the audience the reason we started doing these, is we’ve been, whether you’re a lawyer or you’re working with law firms to help market them, we’re so close to this information and have been for so long, it’s hard for us to guess what the general public is doing. So, instead of us saying, “I think the general consumer wants this and I’m pretty sure they want this,” without hearing it from somebody else, you’re really not sure if your messaging is resonating. And I’ll give a perfect example.

In Texas, you can be a board-certified attorney for personal injury. I believe it’s categorized by the practice area. And on the website, it mentioned that this attorney was board certified. And a couple of people in the focus group thought that meant he was a doctor because they weren’t familiar with board certification for lawyers. Now, what that tells us is, okay, board certification is an important differentiator, but we need to have better messaging to communicate what that means, so that if you’re going to have something that takes up the biggest font on that homepage, that you’re really translating that message to your audience.

Ryan Klein: That’s a great one. I remember that. And you hear the tone of their voice and inflection, and you hear them saying, “Wow, I had no idea.” And it’s just like this surprise and almost awe. It’s like, “That’s great.” And I said, “That’s great and that’s why you chose this lawyer.” But we also don’t want to be misleading, and later down the road, maybe we should consider that for ourselves. Say, “Well, you said you were board certified and that’s misleading. I thought you were a doctor and a lawyer.” You don’t want that to bite you in the butt later on.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, and one of the other things that came out, obviously give out some tidbits here that people can use right away. One of the things that I’d always wondered is how much do these legal awards really mean to people? So, you’ve got super lawyers and an AV rating and an AVVO 10-star rating, and what does that mean to the general public? Because if you asked 20 people on the street what is super lawyers or what is an AV rating, I would almost guarantee that 20 out of 20 wouldn’t know unless you happen to ask an attorney. But the thing that we’re finding out in these focus groups is even though they don’t know what a super lawyer is or how an AV rating is calculated, by seeing that on the website, they say, “Oh, that’s a legal award. That attorney must have done something to earn that.” And it actually gives a little bit of credibility in their mind.

Ryan Klein: That was a good one. And then something that we figured out as much from doing surveys for years but then was reaffirmed by every single focus group that we’ve done at this point, reviews are just all people talk about. And it is true, the social validation, Google, I did hear some Yelp, but yeah, it is exactly what we thought it would be.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, and here’s some good news for you attorneys out there that are really, really trying to keep your five-star rating. Your five-star rating isn’t as important as you think it is. One of the things that we hear over and over is that if a law firm, specifically a law firm has a lot of reviews and they’re all five stars, they think there might be some gaming going on. So, we’ve heard different people say, “Give us a different number.” But about four and a half is all you need to really qualify. So, 4.5 stars, people say, “Oh, that’s good. And you don’t have to have a perfect five-O.” And the other thing would be the number of reviews. Now, more is obviously better, but the other side of that is that if you have 80 reviews and everybody else has around 80 or 100, you’re fine. But you don’t want to be doubled or tripled by your nearest competitor who shows up on that Google search results page.

Ryan Klein: And they mentioned, I don’t know if you just mentioned that now, but if you have a thousand reviews, they say, “I don’t even know how that’s possible.” Like how many clients, which shows that you handle so many clients that there’s no personal touch. Another one that stands out maybe in another area of advertising, we’re talking about billboards. And they said if a lawyer has enough time to go to a studio or take a picture and then get all fancy and primmed up for commercials and billboards, then they’re not practicing law and they’re spending too much time actually advertising. And it’s like, I never even thought about it that way, but you’re the consumer.

Eric Bersano: Yeah. And I think that one of the things that we’re learning out of this, there’s no silver bullet. There’s no one right way to do it. Another example was we gave a focus group a task to find, ask, look for a personal injury attorney for a family member, and then we had them come back to us with the results. Why would they choose somebody? Why wouldn’t they choose somebody? Who would they call first and why? And one person on the focus group says, “Oh, I recognize that law firm from a TV commercial. So, I would call them first.” And every other person on the focus group said, “I wouldn’t call that law firm because of that.”

So, what is going to work for one person, or one group is not necessarily going to work for everybody, but you really want to tip the scales in your favor, which is why we’re doing these focus groups to learn as much as we can.

Ryan Klein: That’s a great point. After a bit, you’re going to hear two sides of everything. Even with five or seven people, who you can get a lot of great information in a focus group, you’ll hear people saying the opposite in these instances, but they do represent potential other different demos. So, depending on who you think your ideal client is for you based off of historical data, this does allow you to know what that demo might be saying, whether it might be a geography or age group, all those kinds of things. That’s what it allows you to do, is see what that demo that you’re targeting is really saying.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, I think it’s an interesting time right now in marketing in general. Google has been the 800-pound gorilla forever. Social media, I think, is great to sell sneakers or T-shirts or name the consumer good. I don’t think it’s been used quite effectively yet for consumer lawyers, whether it’s personal injury or family law. I think based on some of the stuff we’re hearing in these focus groups, which could change soon.

I do notice that a lot of the younger participants will mention, “Well, then I would go to their Facebook page, or I would go look for some videos from that firm on YouTube.” Those are some things that came out of left field for me. I thought if someone went to Google, they might Google their name. They’re definitely saying even if they get a referral, they’ll Google that law firm and the word reviews, but really, actively going to their social media to find out how they’re interacting with other lawyers or other consumers was something that surprised me.

Ryan Klein: It definitely seems like there’re the most number of options for searching than there ever have been. I mean, there’s social media. People talk about how TikTok can work. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t for different practice areas. There’s only one person that ever-said ChatGPT out of all the groups and they go, “Yeah, I don’t trust Google. I trust ChatGPT.” And that makes you say, you want to reach through the screen and be like, “Well, where’s ChatGPT get the information? They don’t pull it out of thin air.” So, one’s pretty interesting.

So, I think that this is a great opportunity to take a step back and ask the people in your community, how would you search? I mean, people go into these channels, and they hear, “Here’s my practice here. Here’s my geo.” And it’s like, should I do SEO or paid or social? And it’s like maybe you should just hear from the people and aggregate information from actual focus groups, so you have a little guidance before you just start doing everything or you do too few channels at once.

I think it’s like the prognosis for your approach in the first place. It lays the framework for what’s the most appropriate direction based off of what people are actually saying as opposed to marketers or maybe even people like us right off the bat. We don’t want to market people in a channel that doesn’t make sense, if we can hear it straight from the people that are going to be marketed to.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, and it’s really informing the way that we do design. It’s really informing the way that we’re modifying content, whether that be a tagline or even the content that our writers are creating practice area pages for. Because when you start to hear some consistencies about experience or reviews, highlighting these things higher up on the page or maybe including some things on every page where you typically only had a testimonials page, which one more free bit of advice is people do see the testimonial pages, but we’re getting half the people say, “Yes, I would go to the testimonials page because I’d like to see what their clients think.” And the other half goes, “Well, those testimonies on their website are going to be good. I already know that. I wouldn’t even waste my time going there.” So, that’s really why focusing on third-party sites like Google reviews or Yelp reviews is really going to help.

Ryan Klein: I want people to take the marketing idea I had in our last conversation where you highlight a few of the one-star reviews and say, “We’re not going to be a great fit for everyone. So, free consultation to see if we’re the right fit,” and just owning that kind of thing, because it’s out there, so you might as well just be upfront about it. Right?

Eric Bersano: Yeah, that’s a good point. The point of Google reviews, and I know these are frustrating for a lot of people because you’ll have things that are really not legitimate reviews that stick and some legitimate reviews that you got that don’t stick, but you have to understand that people are smart and they understand if they’re being gamed and they don’t like it. So, the more authentic it is, if you get a one-star review that’s legit, meaning it’s from somebody, just respond to it, respond to that in a professional way and people will have forgiveness because they understand no one gives 100% perfect service every time. Not everything’s a good fit, whether it’s a restaurant you went to or it’s a law firm you hired. So, being authentic in your marketing, whether it’s on your website or in your social media, is really what people are looking for.

Ryan Klein: Speaking of authentic, this is antithesis AI. I mean, people are AI for everything, and I think this is my quote, “AI has exposed the complacency that marketers have with mediocrity.” That’s it. I can coin that term. And so, it’s just there’s no substitute for people by people ordeal. AI’s not going to be able to tell you what the consumers want. They will in a focus group. So, yeah, I think we’re looking forward to the different configurations of the focus groups that we have coming up. We’ve done straightforward ones comparing which one would you choose, take the time? Why did you choose them? Because of reviews.

One that I thought was interesting just choosing between three law firms and I think two of them were open until 7:00 PM and one was open till 9:00 PM and actually had less reviews than the others, and someone chose the 9:00 PM. And we asked, “Oh, worst reviews, worst rating relative to others.” He said, “Well, all my accidents happened between about eight o’clock or nine o’clock.”

Eric Bersano: And those little nuggets are gold. Another one that was in the Google, the GMB section, was it says, “Online appointments available.” And I think three out of the seven people in the focus group mentioned that. Like, “Oh, I like the fact that they offer that.” Now, the other offices probably all offered it, but because it wasn’t mentioned, they just assumed that the one person that showed up with that was the one that only offered it.

Ryan Klein: Yeah, they’re going to take that information. They’re going to run with it. The last tidbit I have, and we could probably go on with this because it’s just, yeah, these bits of information will add up to a whole new story of what people are looking for. There was one where it said, “Over 200 reviews online.” Just reviews with five-star rating. The person went off, went to their Yelp and only saw three and said, “I think that’s BS to say you have 200 if there’s only three in Yelp.” And what they meant was, in Google, they did, but they didn’t specify it was Google. So, it’s important. People take those little things that throws off the whole perception of you when it’s misleading, almost like the board certified in some ways. But yeah, people take information their own way.

Eric Bersano: Yeah, and that’s good. This is really a sneak peek. Ryan and I were both really excited about these initial focus groups we’ve been running. There’s going to be a lot more to come, and we’re going to be sharing this information in several different ways as we gather it and put it all into a nice digestible form. So, if you’re listening to this and want to know more, we’ll have some information in the show notes of how you can get ahold of us and maybe even ask for some ideas for focus groups that we can run that you think might generate some interesting output for your practice.