In Episode 40, Anthony speaks with Vik Rajan, the co-founder of Phoneblogger.net.
Vik is also the creator of Inner Circles, the free LinkedIn networking add-on: Focus your time on engagement & reciprocity. Vik started Practice Marketing Advisors and its blog as he realized attorneys, CPAs, and related professionals required specialized marketing help that accounts for clients’ professional code of conduct, ethics, and model rules. Vik is a columnist for AICPA’s largest publication for accountants and frequently helps to present CLE classes through various Bar Associations. Vikram’s book, “365 Personal Brand Marketing Thumb-Rules” published in 2008, is available through any bookstore. Vik lives in Harlem, NYC.
Here is a full transcript of our conversation:
Anthony Verna: Welcome to the lawn business podcast. I’m here with Vikram Rajan. Vik, how are you doing today?
Vik Rajan: I’m well Anthony, how are you doing?
Anthony Verna: I’m doing all right. Thanks for coming on.
Vik Rajan: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Anthony Verna: So, Vik, you’re the co founder of phoneblogger.net ,which is an internet referral service for finance professionals, accountants, and attorneys. How is it having professionals as your main consumer?
Vik Rajan: It’s a lot of fun. You know, sometimes people it and like and you work with lawyers. “Why would you want to do that?” I think maybe you said that to me.
Anthony Verna: No, but
Vik Rajan: That’s funny. I wanted to be a lawyer. I’m not an attorney, you know, full disclosure, but I was a political science major and did great in my con law class and had hopes and dreams of potentially going to law school, but ended up working with my dad right out of school. So I never achieved the ultimate American dream of being an attorney. But I love working with predominantly lawyers and, um, and really helping them succeed in their practices, growing their firm. It’s a lot of fun. I mean, it’s, I like what you guys do for a living. I liked that area of, uh, you know, I guess maybe I romanticize it. Maybe it’s not awesome all the time.
Anthony Verna: I’ll let you romanticize it all. All you want. I’ll take that smoke.
Vik Rajan: I mean, it’s, a lot of us grew up being, geeks and nerds and I tend to say that affectionately and I, and I very much, I can relate to that. So from that aspect, I like working with smart people.
Anthony Verna: Wonderful. And yeah, some of us are, some of us layers are geeks and nerds and, and, and you know, it was funny, my friend Doug, when I first was accepted to law school, he looked at me and he said, “This means you’re not going to be a nerd anymore.” And I looked at him and I said, “I didn’t know that that would go away.”
Vik Rajan: Yeah, yeah.
Anthony Verna: Phoneblogger quickly, what’s, what’s your business model and, and we’ll go from there.
Vik Rajan: Yeah, sure. So in our clients, as you mentioned, they are, they’re practicing professionals. They need to stay top of mind with your referral relationships, you know, out of sight, out of mind, out of referrals. So we help our clients do that. They’re usually busy working with their clients. So a lot of the marketing stuff fall by the wayside. So phone blogging is kind of a term we made up. It’s by which we brainstorm article ideas with our clients over the phone of course, and then set up a series of telephone interviews where if you can say it in five minutes, they can read it in five minutes. So they’re are short five to seven minute telephone interviews on a variety of blog topics that we brainstorm. We audio record it, transcribe, edit and optimize those articles and then review it with our clients to get their final approval.
Vik Rajan: They have full opportunity to make any edits and changes they want. But, the goal is that what we presented to them, it’s good to go. We want to make sure they find it an efficient process. And with their approval, we, we make sure all the attorney advertising, disclaimers and disclosures are attended to or as they can’t say, must say, et cetera. We, we optimize it from an SEO standpoint. We add a copyright approved image. We then promote those articles. Of course on their blog website. They don’t have one. We could launch one for them. But usually nowadays people have a blog, they just don’t use it. But we changed that and then we promote the articles through their relevant social media. They don’t need to be on everything all the time, but depending on the practice, maybe Facebook is more important than linkedin or vice versa.
Vik Rajan: Um, us when it was around was a, was an important aspect, but more than even any other social media, you know, more people check more email, more times a day, more than any other social media combined. So we put the, the articles together into an email newsletter that goes out from their email address to their circle of influence, you know, using like mail champ or constantly contact, et Cetera and uh, and get it done. And kind of the latest twist to all this is making sure that our clients are doing more and more video blogs and we bring our clients together on zoom video conference calls and take turns to record video blogs together and give each other feedback and introductions. And in a very similar process, but a little bit more automated system, they were able to stay top of mind. And engage their referral relationships are the lawyers as well as potential clients using video blogs. And then they could turn those video blogs into regular articles. Kind of like what we do at phoneblogger because we’ve got the audio and we could kind of follow the same process that we do traditionally at phoneblogger that we’ve been doing for the past eight, nine years.
Anthony Verna: All right, well now that the commercial’s over, I gave you some thoughts on what a blog should be. I appreciate it. It’s what we’re here for. I gave you, I gave you some homework and the homework I gave you was to give me three items, professionals forget about blogging and, and, and we’re going to dig deep here, but you said:
Anthony Verna: Number one that a professional should keep it short and simple so that perfection is not required regardless of the medium that one is using and three to remember frequency. So unpack this a little bit becausecause it’s kind of like that Seinfeld episode, I’ve got some problems with this particular list. And so let’s start off with, with short and simple. What, why, why should somebody keep it short and simple?
Vik Rajan: Well, the quote Seinfeld, you know, it’s more important to be real and spectacular and more than anything else. Um, and the reason we need to keep it short and simple, um, is attention spans. And at the end of the day, you know, if you’re writing an article, um, you know, you’re doing it for some type of marketing purposes. Um, not everyone’s going to read every word and it’s almost not important that they read every word cause we really want them to engage with the article or reply to the article, you know, literally click reply on the email and use that or a quick comment like share it on social media. And you know it when we get these long emails from people, like not even a newsletter but just from a client perspective, client even or a family and it’s like paragraphs and paragraphs and even a relatively short email looks even longer on a cell phone.
Vik Rajan: It’s just kind of that TLDR, too long didn’t read or uh, I’ll just read that tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. It’s always today. So from that aspect alone, from a word of mouth, marketing, attention grabbing perspective, we want to keep it short and simple, focused on one or two main topics and we can always have a part two, part three, you know, link to further link to previous articles, further resources, quote others, et Cetera. So, um, it’s really from that, uh, attention span perspective so that people get the gist of it. We also, it prevents, uh, especially a lot of our attorney clients from tripping into the, uh, giving advice issue, you know, giving legal advice. You know, first of all, obviously their attorney advertising epics in play, but there’s also kind of marketing common sense that you don’t want to Kinda give it all away, you know, then why would they buy the cow? So that aspect, it doesn’t make marketing sense, let alone, you know, it’s violating epics to give advice and, you know, keep it short and simple.
Anthony Verna: I get that. But, but, but if I’m writing an article on my, on, on my website and it’s, and it’s 500 words. Sure. I mean that’s not going to be painful.
Vik Rajan: 500 is fine. Know what we are cut off is about 600 hundred words, a minimum 300 so we say someone should be able to read within five minutes, preferably three minutes. So it’s very much kind of a a hundred words a minute kind of a rule of thumb. So yeah, minimum 300 words. It’s Kinda, you know, with Google’s, you know, you know, mythological or a number of minimum for a page being 300 hasn’t always been confirmed, but you know, around 300 sure. And I’ll cut off at around six, 700. The reason is because if someone veers into an article that’s like 800 words, that enables us to kind of say part one, part two, we still got a 400 word article. Um, so 500 is fine. Yeah, no, we don’t consider 500 long.
Anthony Verna: Well, well, but that’s kind of, that’s kind of my point. Like don’t I need to have a longer article? Don’t I need some thousand word articles in there in order to keep my SEO up? Like, like Google’s, I, I always was under the impression that Google’s going to knock you down if a page is really under a thousand words.
Vik Rajan: No, no. I mean, first of all, they don’t really disclose that.
Anthony Verna: Well I know they don’t really discuss that.
Vik Rajan: Right, right. And it’s much more relevancy. Well, first of all, the overarching question is, are you building your practice off people finding you in the modern day yellow pages, which is Google. And that’s fine if you are creating a firm that way, which is kind of be purposefully built to filter the tire kickers and, and to make sure you have some type of uh, uh, a cost model that makes it efficient for that type of maybe higher volume type practice. So it, and there are a variety of ways of using FCL effectively, but know that of course you’re going to get a lot of people who just want the free advice or the cheapest option, et cetera. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you can configure your practice to that, what a lot of boutique professionals, a lot of boutique firms, Solos, even to three partner firms, they find more lucrative business from the word of mouth referral from another attorney who kind of tees up that client.
Vik Rajan: They look, you can go to Google and find a whole bunch of people. You could even Google this gentleman as well, this person as well. Uh, but trust me, I know her, I know him, I know their work. They’re phenomenal. These are the people you want to work with. Or maybe they give you a short list and say, Hey, here’s two or three people depending on personality or exactly what they’re taking on right now. But that referral tends to be more lucrative. However, going back to your point, Anthony, in terms of SEO, there are a lot of great statistics around a long form article that is a thousand word plus, right? And defined it that it’s very skewed by kind of people like me. Maybe you’re in that camp where it’s a lot of bloggers writing about blogging for other bloggers and you know, so like, but that’s my main source.
Vik Rajan: I don’t subscribe to print magazines. I don’t really read print books anymore. Everything I do is online. I’m staring at some type of screen all the time depending on the size of screen. And that is coming, becoming more and more commonplace. I mean sure. But in general, people are not spending a whole lot of time learning from the article as much as they’re justifying and edifying that that you know what you’re talking about as an attorney, I can know like, and trust you from this little bit of information and now I’m ready to start talking to you and seeing if you can answer my specific questions. And as you are, now you’re off your job to kind of convert that into an engagement relationship. So yeah,
Anthony Verna: but once again, am I m? I, N, n obviously I let you correct me when I’m wrong, but if I, if somebody wants to know who I am and if somebody wants to know what my thought processes are, especially as a professional where my, my work is in my head and, and it doesn’t happen until I put it onto paper or adaptable file these days. Don’t I want a longer article to show somebody why I’m worth picking up the phone and calling.
Vik Rajan: Those are the outliers. It’s kind of like any other bell curve, you know? Sure. You’re going to have some articles that are completely self promotional. Look how great I am. I’m in super lawyers yet again, I’m still awesome. You know, you should, you know, essentially hiring me now. Uh, and those are outliers, but that gets really annoying really quickly, including the, you know, you know, it’s, you know, it’s great that it’s, you know, Christmas time again and you know, the kind of the holiday messages. Okay, fine. Um, so the music, the personal musings as well as the, like the pat on the back is on one end of the spectrum of, you know, we could roll the eyes and of course we know someone. It’s kind of Nice and Dearing to Kinda hear about those kinds of stuff. On the other end of that bell curve spectrum, I would place what you’re talking about in terms of that white paper peer reviewed article type long form that honestly is going to be way over the head for most of your clients.
Vik Rajan: That’s depending if you’re an FCC attorney working with hedge fund managers, maybe you’re very highly sophisticated, very long article with a whole bunch of citations than other footnotes. Um, it’s gotta be this wonderful openness of a, of a blog post. Okay. That’s not really what a blog is post to be. You know, a blog originally is like this travelog the musings of someone, you know, traveling around the world and you know, they’re not writing like a book on each plate. You know, they’re not, they’re not Darwin kind of writing this opus of what they’re discovering on the island. It’s a really kind of a quick musings of their expertise when it comes to professional blog. So look, I’m not going to disagree that, look, it’s your blog. Do whatever you want. But from a marketing standpoint, you know, it’s, you know, will someone sit there and watch like a one hour sophisticated video, uh, that really, let’s say a cle quality presentation that you would do.
Anthony Verna: I know the answer to that. That one’s no.
Vik Rajan: Yeah. Wait, which was very similar to let’s say, I’ll read a thousand word read that maybe takes 15 minutes to read, let’s say on average. It’s like, look, it’s cle quality, pure review quality, and look, when you do get published in the New York Law Journal or other type of peer reviewed periodicals, absolutely you want to have it on your blog or at least an excerpt too, like the paywall version of it. Um, and of course that also legitimizes you with your referral relationships. Other attorneys who know that you’re for real and not just some, you know, marketing maven. So from that aspect, it builds credibility, kind of the reason to teach cle. Um, but on the, you know, for the bulk of your blog posts, either out four or 500 words because it goes to the other rules of thumb that we’ll talk about now.
Anthony Verna: All right. Very good. Thank you. Thank you, sir, for, for dealing with my torturous question. Thank you for challenging. Uh, so for number two, perfection is not required. Vergara plus of, of medium. So assuming media meaning, uh, the text, uh, for, for a podcast like ours, uh, or for a video blog as well.
Vik Rajan: So it’s look, especially when it’s in, you know, we definitely don’t want glaring typos, uh, awful glaring grammatical issues and yeah,
Anthony Verna: I’m just going to save that. I’m a lawyer, I gotta make it good. I don’t know.
Vik Rajan: And even when we, when we work with our clients, you know, we ask, we have an author, voice preference, ABP, it’s our jargon and it’s a couple of questions that we always ask our clients because it’s exactly that. It’s how colloquial can we be with this article? How verbatim can we be with how they sound on the phone? Because it is conversational. It is more engaging to be that way. It’s very, very much blogging, uh, best practices to just speak in the first and second person. I, we you, um, as well as to use numerals, use contractions. It’s okay. You know, look, we’re not going to say lol or use Emoji or anything. Now if that’s your personality and you wanted to show, you could, if it makes sense for your type of market, but by and large, we’re not doing that. So it’s still professional, but you can use contractions.
Vik Rajan: That’s okay. Even if you wouldn’t use it in a more formal setting. Um, you could use even, you know, some colloquialisms and phrasings. And, um, I remember, uh, one of our criminal defense attorneys, uh, were using all sorts of four letter words and I don’t even know if it’s allowed on this podcast. And he was essentially quoting, uh, one of his clients. I’m like, f this, f that. And I had to show a prospective client, like examples of our work and we have a website called recommended authors where all of our clients are cross promoted. And that was the first one. And he didn’t see me. We were on, we weren’t on like a zoom video call or anything back then. So I went red in the face and I stamped around that. I said, hey, look, here’s proof that all of the articles are very much custom.
Vik Rajan: They’re 100% our client’s words. It’s their personality because that’s how he wants to relate with his potential clients. He wants to show that, you know, he, he’s a salt of the earth guy and he could have a salty tongue as well. And that’s okay. Obviously other attorneys would not feel comfortable being like that on their website. So it’s okay to be the way you want to be, especially when it’s relevant to your type of clientele. Um, however, you know, from that aspect, it’s, you don’t have to worry too much about perfectionism in terms of getting it all in because they’ll always be more to say because there are books and books and you know, longer form articles, as we said before, written about this topic. And you know, grammar is important when it’s written, but when it’s on a podcast, we can speak in fragmented sentences and that’s okay.
Vik Rajan: Sometimes even more powerful. Likewise in the written world, it’s bullet points and the more bullet points, it’s easier to absorb and skim. And we really want people to kind of get the point of the article and then contact you. So it’s not really, we’re not educating them about the topic as much as inspiring them, not in the raw raw sense, but inspiring them to take action, which is basically to email, call you, set up a time, and obviously do business with you so that from a marketing standpoint, another reason, keep it short and simple and don’t focus so much on like, oh, it’s not yet perfect. It’s not exactly how you can always rewrite the same sentence. So long as structurally it’s correct. And then when it comes to video even more so it’s kind of taking podcasting to the next level and saying, look, be you be natural. You flub up a word, not a big deal. You’re always talking to people live and you, oh, you know, we’re always messing up words and saying [inaudible] but that’s no big deal. And it kind of gives you more flexibility to showcase more of your personality that way. Uh, even more than the written word where yes, more spelling and grammar is expected. So yeah, showcase your excellent work and work ethic, but don’t, don’t worry too much about fitting it all in.
Anthony Verna: When in terms of having second thoughts on a blog posts, in other words, yeah. Gee, I could have said x differently. I could’ve said white differently. Is that going to hurt you or help you from an SEO standpoint considering that if Google goes to the page and now sees that page updated in some particular fashion, uh, is that an SEO consideration at all? Or would it be better to put out a second blog post that adds to what the original set?
Vik Rajan: Yeah, and we blog posts you add to your website is in essence adding a new page to your website because every blog post has its own unique URL, its own web address. It’s very long. And Google considers that another page. So more pages, the better shows. You’re a complex website. It’s obviously now a new page, so it shows your, your firm is alive, the website is alive. So I use a very much a tree metaphor and analogy when it comes to SEO that the longer been around, it’s like the trunk and the roots. It’s deeper that Google is going to have respect and other people respect you established since let’s say 1984 so you’ve been around a long time. Um, and then you also want that tree to have fresh leaves because it shows that it’s still alive and growing and it’s still relevant and, and the content isn’t outdated.
Vik Rajan: So yes, absolutely more than correcting a previous article that are, that have a new post. Likewise, it’s up substantively. It’s not only like stylistically I couldn’t have said it better, but you know, laws change, regulations change, the market changes. You want to update your blog because something from even last year or a couple of years ago could no longer be accurate. Um, and I would suggest if it’s literally an accuracy issue, you should probably put something on that blog of here’s an updated article and link it to the new one so that because that, that article probably is going to be better index because again, it’s, it’s been around a while, but not necessarily. It goes up again into keywords and freshness, the variety, variety of, uh, uh, um, aspects and, uh, um, points to, to be made in terms of SEO Algorithm. But with that new article, to your point, Anthony, absolutely create a new post link to that previous one if you want even more context. Um, and then you gotta achieve everything you want.
Anthony Verna: Well, and this goes to your third point as well, which is to make sure that, that your blog is updated with some kind of frequency.
Vik Rajan: Yeah. Consistency is key. Frequency even more so
Anthony Verna: how, how do you measure that? Because first off, as, as, as professionals, whether, whether you’re doing it for professionals or we’re doing it ourselves, there is a time constraint on, gee, how often, how often should I put up a blog post? Also, how often does inspiration hit me to say something in my area? Oh
Vik Rajan: yeah, sure. So, you know, in one aspect, you know, we want to solve the inspiration issue. It’s, you know, it’s like me going to the gym. If I only went to the gym when I felt inspired to work out, um, I, I’d essentially look the way I look. So that’s the problem. That’s the problem right there. So I need to kind of get over the inspiration aspect and realize it’s that it’s about perspiration just made that up. But that is really, it’s work. It’s a consistency effort and this is a marketing strategy, not just the musings of life. And in that sense, we need to help our clients come up with a consistent, um, bank of ideas and get them thinking that whenever a client asks them a question, whenever they get, whenever they are answering a client or a prospective client by email, um, whenever a another attorney kind of just ask them a quote unquote quick question.
Vik Rajan: These are all potential topics for the blog. So we have a tool called blog brainstormer. It’s literally blog, brainstormer.com anyone can use it. It’s just kind of an open, it was a Google document that we made into something that looks a little cooler, but we may actually go back to a Google document because it’s easier to print and there’ll be a new version of our probably in May, 2019. Um, so the blog ways from our helps our clients come up with topics. That’s the easiest issue to Colorado to tackle. And then when it comes to time, you know, of course here there’s a foam barker plug, but that aside of using a service like phoneblogger, um, it’s again, it when you’re focused on keeping it short and simple and knowing that grammar and spelling are important, but everything else should be bullet points. Um, it enables you to kind of get more posts out there.
Vik Rajan: However, when it comes to frequency with SEO, Google is a sponge, so more is more, but when it comes to staying top of mind to some extent, less as more because you can very easily overstay your welcome. And if you blog too much or post almost too much on, even on social media, you’re going to venture into like eye-rolling territory. Where are they going? Here he is again, it’s like I wonder if he’s not busy enough. You know? So that’s that. You have to be careful because it’s like, unless they know that you’ve got affirm and you’ve got staff and Paris staff, etc. You’ve got attorneys on staff, et Cetera, where your job is the rainmaker and this is your job. And then at that point the, you know, they’re like, all right, I get it. Because that’s all you do all day. It’s markets, so okay, fair.
Vik Rajan: You’re writing blog articles all day, but the rest of us actually have to work with clients. So from that aspect, you don’t want to create resentment. And I would say, look, one blog post a week is great. Two a month is fine. Every other week is fine. A lot of our clients do that and they do well, if you can’t do that, look, something is better than nothing once a month. I know everyone can do, you can carve out time to really get it done once a month. Now with video blogging it’s even easier. It’s more efficient with video blogging, I say minimum once a week because it’s so easy to do, especially the way we do it. It’s very comfortable and convenient, but as you kind of get used to it, you could do more. So, um, once you get over the kind of coming up with the topics, you know, kind of jotting out a 400 word, 500 word post really isn’t that difficult.
Anthony Verna: Uh, Vic, how, how, how do you, how do you recommend that somebody posts the, um, and the video blog then to the site for maximum SEO boost, which is really what we’re all looking for when we’re doing the store websites.
Vik Rajan: So I would highly suggest people keeping it simple. Use Youtube and youtube will give you an embedded code, which essentially the copy and paste thing that you can put into your website and your website will kind of take care of the rest. If it’s wordpress, it’s going to be even easier to, to embed a youtube video. If you have Squarespace or any other kind of platform, they all going to work with youtube very effortlessly and seamlessly. It’s gonna all work. And the reason from an SEO standpoint, youtube itself as a search, people go there to kind of get their questions answered. Of course, it’s owned by Google, so it’s highly optimized. Google prefers youtube over other video platforms like Vimeo, etc. So it’s, you know, that’s the easiest. But then when you’re sharing the videos on social media, which I highly suggest so that people know you’ve done something, you want to upload it straight to that platform, it’s called native video as opposed to sharing the youtube link.
Vik Rajan: So click a button and post it on to, you know, upload it to Linkedin, upload it to Facebook. Um, you know, kind of annoying to Kinda having to upload everywhere. But look, you don’t really, hey, you’re not really uploading it everywhere. Most likely you’re going to pick a platform that makes sense for, for your type of practice. And even if you kind of want to be quote unquote everywhere, it’s going to be Facebook, linkedin, and youtube. Unless you’re purposely creating special type of videos for Instagram. But that’s a whole different world. Instagram has its own issues where they want vertical video, they want one minute video. You know, that’s a whole [inaudible] that you have to kind of judge if that’s your kind of market, which it may be if you’re an entertainment lawyer. It makes sense. Uh, you know, it depends on the practice area. So from that aspect it, I don’t mean to dismiss it, it’s uh, it’s its own beast, but for the most part you’re going to be great with video. For Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube, very easy. We make it even easier cause the review page is all integrated. So you just click a button and everything is automated. But even when you do it on your own, it’s not that, uh, not that difficult.
Anthony Verna: All right Vik, thank you. We’re, we’re out of time here, but uh, before we go, I will give you one last commercial. How can people find you?
Vik Rajan: You can email me. Vik@phoneblogger.net yeah, ask me any questions. I like email. Obviously you can find me on all the social media platforms, but email is easiest.
Anthony Verna: All right, sir. Thank you so much for being on. Thank you, Anthony. Well, hope to do it again.
Vik Rajan: Yeah, likewise. Thank you, sir.