Tom Foster: Good day, everyone. Welcome to our latest edition of Tom Talks—where I talk to really smart people about stuff. It might be cool stuff, it might be funny stuff, it might be sad, or it might be inspiring. But I always want it to be helpful to all of the viewers and listeners. I like to keep it short—about 15 minutes, never more than 30 minutes. You can watch it on our YouTube channel or listen to the podcast whenever—just trying to make it convenient for you.
So today’s talk is with an interesting fellow that I just recently had the pleasure of meeting and hearing speak at Ben Glass’s annual Great Legal Marketing Summit. Mike Mogill, you are the president and CEO of Crisp Video—a super high-quality video production provider. As a video producer myself and working with video companies, I can certainly say to you and everybody else what fantastic work you do and great products you do. I’ve seen you present, and you obviously know your stuff. I’m just happy to have you here, so thanks for coming.
Mike Mogill: Thanks for having me. It’s my pleasure. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Tom Foster: Before we get started, I just want to tell everybody that is listening (you might not be watching the video) but Mike and I took painstaking efforts to provide all the props that you see behind us because we are video dudes. Right, Mike?
Mike Mogill: That’s right. I actually have a video playing behind me on the screensaver on the TV too.
Tom Foster: High-tech stuff. Alright, well tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What’s this business about you getting into medical school and saying, “No, I’d rather be a video production company and entrepreneur.” That’s very interesting to me, so tell me a little about that.
Mike Mogill: Sure. I was born in Russia. My family and I immigrated here when I was four years old—two parents, two kids, two grandparents. They came here with $500 and they didn’t speak the language, but there was opportunity here. That was the reason why they brought us here. My father was an engineer and my mom was a nurse. When they came here, they essentially had to start over. My dad was a mechanic and my mom was a hairdresser. I grew up very much blue-collar. And ultimately (maybe I take this from my dad being entrepreneurial), I had my first business when I was 13 years old. It was a web design business. This was back in the GeoCities era. It is so awkward to think about it now. As a 13-year-old, I would have clients coming over, and my mom would let them in. I remember doing a website for a tutoring company, just because I figured out FrontPage. At the time, it was all so new. So that was the first one and that grew over time.
Coming from a Russian-Jewish immigrant background, if you weren’t going to medical school or law school then what the hell were you doing? I will say, I really did enjoy it too. But as I went through college and took the MCAT and got into med school, I spent a lot of time shadowing podiatrists. I just didn’t like what I was seeing in that profession. It could be for some, but it just wasn’t for me. Being entrepreneurial, I didn’t feel like they had a lot of control over the outcomes and the things they were doing in that industry, so that was important.
I essentially took a year off before going to med school. At the time the market collapsed, so I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant. Which for me—getting into med school, going through college and graduating with honors and all of that—my parents were thinking, “Where have we gone wrong with him?” To go from all of that to washing dishes, and this was right in 2008 when the economy was collapsing. And then I got another position scanning documents at a company. I was OCRing documents at the CDC. I spent two years there and got promoted to the Director of User Experience for CDC.gov. At the time, I bought a camera. I thought it would be a lifetime hobby to have. Who wouldn’t want to learn to take good pictures? For me, my hobbies become more than hobbies. So the camera turned into a photography business, which expanded into a video business. Ultimately over the years, one business led to the next and then we had Crisp. The story here just comes down to being entrepreneurial.
When I started the company I was looking for a better way to do things. Traditionally, I like to create a process, and the process for creating a video years ago was either to hire an agency, which was very expensive, or hire a freelance cinematographer off of Craigslist—which basically you roll the dice and you don’t really know what you are going to get or if you will get anything. Or you can hire a traditional video production company, which years ago, was largely creative and run by two guys with cameras who join forces, but they weren’t really focusing on the business goals—the goal of their client.
How do we help them achieve what’s important to them besides a good-looking video? I realized very early on when we started the company that clients care about how it’s going to help them in terms of attracting new clients, cases, and how it will make conversions. Because if bad videos converted better, then that’s what we’d be doing. That was an important realization for me, and then putting a whole process behind it and making sure we can maintain consistency, quality control and a good client experience. But ultimately, that’s how Crisp came about.
Tom Foster: Well that story was really cool, funny, sad, and inspiring. The classic entrepreneurial story. Thank you for sharing that with us, Mike. So you told us a little bit about Crisp, and that’s what a lot of us do—our hobbies turn into our businesses. And in your story there are a lot of similarities to my own, and that’s just fantastic. Tell us a little bit about what you were just talking about. Your videos are different than what you see out there for lawyers. We both know Jerry—a client and friend of mine for years—and he has his lawyer video studio where he teaches you how to do these question and answer more informational videos. You have a different flavor. Tell me a little bit about your strategy behind Crisp Video and what your differences are.
Mike Mogill: Sure. Absolutely. One of the things we do different is the way in which we produce the videos—we’ve been told from the people who have seen them that we turn attorneys into superheroes or that our videos look like movie trailers. They are very, very high-end in terms of the production value. The reason why we do that is we realize that the legal industry as a whole is becoming largely commoditized or is certainly in danger of becoming commoditized. There is so much competition. I looked the other day on Avvo and in New York City, there were 5,500 personal injury lawyers. There are hundreds and thousands of competitors. We realized first and foremost that it is important to stand out. Most small firms, which are our clients, can’t compete against the giant firms which are investing in the TV ads, radio, billboards, and all that stuff. So how can they attract clients and cases when they can’t compete on market spin alone and at the same time when they are also competing against 5,000 other lawyers? The deck is very much stacked against you. So we produce these videos so you connect emotionally and engage, and most importantly you can articulate why someone should hire your firm as opposed to another firm and what makes you the obvious choice.
I know you guys do this all the time—and maybe it’s the reason why Foster exists. I visit so many legal websites and there is no compelling reason to hire that attorney. They could be a phenomenal attorney. We say the best cases go to the best marketers. I get criticism every time I say that, so that’s not to say that’s what I like. Unfortunately, that is reality. You can be an amazing attorney, but simply doing good work doesn’t always get you found. It doesn’t make you visible. At the end of the day, if the good attorneys aren’t advertising, then who’s left advertising? And that’s where we come in—helping those guys articulate their values and why someone should hire them. You can optimize for algorithms, which I think is very important, but at the end of the day, you've got to connect with a human being. If you can connect why they should hire you and that they should trust you—which is our goal through every video—then they are much more apt to pick up the phone and call you.
Tom Foster: That’s a great point that you make, and I agree with you about the marketing piece of it. And I just want to elaborate a little more on that and see if you agree with me. You've got to be a good lawyer to get business, period. But ultimately people work with people they like. So if you are a good lawyer and a good marketing lawyer at the same time, those two things together is the winning punch. You could be a bad lawyer in a big giant law firm that spends a bunch of money on TV and gets cases, but that’s not a scalable business—that’s not a scalable firm. You have to be good at what you do, right? Can we agree on that?
Mike Mogill: Absolutely. Within our videos, we are very careful in the sense that we are simply highlighting what’s already there. We are just telling the attorney’s story. Right?
Tom Foster: Yes. You and I talked a little bit about this whole obsession with Page 1 and all that stuff. But you and I will agree that when we talk to our lawyer clients, their best cases come from referrals for their brand. So the way that you produce video, and the way we produce video is similar in that we are demonstrating their brand—not in a bragging way like we are so great. Although you do have to demonstrate that a little bit—that you are great—but you can do that in a subtle way, not hammering in like on TV commercials.
Mike Mogill: You can be memorable.
Tom Foster: And making a connection with them through your stories. I saw a lot of your stories, and I’ll send links out to a lot of those great ones. The ones you showed at Great Legal Marketing were very well done and very professional. You obviously take a lot of time. There is a lot that goes on in the pre-production process—before you even press record to make sure that you have a great product for the client. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about that?
Mike Mogill: We say our value proposition in a way is helping our clients really discover their value proposition and articulate it. You are absolutely right that pre-production is really spending the time and trying to decide what story are we going to tell. Sometimes you work with a firm and they have a very compelling reason why they do what they do (i.e. something that happened in their childhood). You got a good story there, and they know it. But sometimes you got someone in South Dakota and you ask them why they do what they do, and they say, “I’ve never really thought about that.” It’s really spending time on that discovery and finding out what is unique to them.
If you look at some of our videos—some of these guys are super, super aggressive guys. And some attorneys reach out and say they want a video just that like guy. But when we do discovery, we find out that maybe clients aren’t hiring you because you're so aggressive in the courtroom but maybe your clients are saying you are so attentive and responsive and you have empathy. So maybe the approach shouldn’t be that you kick the door down and the building explodes, but rather one that is on the softer more emotional side—and clients will respond better to that. So it just depends and it varies by firm. You are who you are, and I think people respond better to authenticity.
Tom Foster: I like that and agree with that 100%. You create a custom experience for every client. You find out what they are about. What is their value proposition? What makes them different? It’s the same thing. People are going to buy from people they like. It’s best that you are authentic to who you are because if you are trying to be like the other guy and doing everything that the other guy is doing on TV and online and you’re just replicating, you are going to be disappointed because you will get the wrong kind of clients coming in the door and they are going to be disappointed in you.
Alright, so let me ask you this question because I love this. Does video really work? Does it really get cases and clients?
Mike Mogill: Great question. The answer is both yes and no. I’ve seen both instances. There are people who reach out to us and have produced videos with two or three other companies and they weren’t effective. Then they reach out to us and want to know how we are different. I completely understand that. It’s realizing that you can get the components right in making sure the messaging is right and the emotional connection is there, but videos only work when you can get them in front of the right audience and get them in front of people. Video is not going to be effective if no one is watching it. When we see a previously produced video on another attorney’s website and they say the videos haven’t worked, I look at them and say, "No one has actually watched the videos, so how do you know? How do you know they aren’t effective?" So I think the data is really important—being able to look at it and see if I’m actually getting this in front of my audience. One of the best things to do on a website is to put the video at the top. It always surprises me when I see videos buried at the bottom. If you are investing in these to improve conversion, then put the video at the top. If that’s the thing that helps people connect with you, then make sure it’s the first thing they see. Video works when you can get it in front of the right audience. I think the actual placement and implementation is just as important as the actual production of the content.
Tom Foster: Do you help your clients with all of that?
Mike Mogill: Absolutely. We’re vested in their success and it’s in our best interest if they see value in this and can actually attribute that they are getting clients and cases because of the video. There are different ways to know if you got it on landing pages or if you have a special tracking number, but the one I prefer—although it’s more anecdotal—our clients tell us their clients are saying they hired them because they saw their video. You should be hearing these things. Clients will mention it when you ask them where they came from. They should mention the video, and that’s how you know it’s effective.
Tom Foster: That’s true. If you do have a compelling video, they often will mention the video as to what turned them to you. Another one of our clients—Dave Frees, who is an estate planning lawyer—comes down here and shoots videos (just green screen videos) where he is answering questions, but he does something really cool. He is answering questions that his perfect clients ask him all the time, but then he will introduce another question in the video. Like, if you are interested in this question, then you should go type in and do some research on this particular question. Of course, they type that in and who do they see but his next video. So there are some really cool tactics that you can use with video.
Back to our original question: Does video really work? Of course, it works if it is done correctly, and that’s the point. So just like anything else, if you put out a crappy newsletter, it ain’t going to work. If you do a crappy campaign or a terrible website, that stuff isn’t going to work. So it’s not the tactic or the tool, but it’s how you use it. What I like about you guys is that you take the time—your whole team. Ben and I had lunch before I met you, and he told me all about it—the production—and he was very impressed. You know what? It’s hard to impress Ben Glass. So that was really cool, and I like that. It shows you really care. I met you and your staff, and I can tell. I’m an intuitive person, and I can tell that you do. As you know, there are a lot of snake oil salesmen out there that are just trying to get a buck and move on. But I like the fact that you are working with them to make them more successful.
Mike Mogill: I don’t know that in the past five years that anyone has hired us to produce a cool-looking video. It’s asking yourself: "What is the value of differentiating yourself and being able to share with clients why they should hire me and what sets our firm apart?" And even doing so, with our videos, we are not having attorneys say, “I’m the best and these are all the great things about me.” That comes out through your client testimonials and through the story narrative. The attorneys speak to why they are doing this and the values they have in their firm—those types of things that people can connect with. If they don’t connect with you as who you are or what your story is, then all they see you as is a lawyer and that’s a commodity.
Tom Foster: You said something here that is really important. How do you distinguish yourself? And video is probably the very best way to distinguish yourself from the riffraff. Changing your website color or design, that’s not a significant enough thing. Like moving web companies because somehow this other web company has some great ability that this other one doesn’t—and sometimes this is true—but it’s the tools and how you use the tools (website being one and video being one). And I agree, I think that video is really the differentiator, and you can change it frequently. And doing the testimonials. There is nothing more powerful than a video testimonial from a client that you have helped.
Mike Mogill: Absolutely.
Tom Foster: Tell us a little bit about your service. How do you work with people?
Mike Mogill: We are big on service and providing a Ritz level of experience. I know that traditionally it is seen as a painstaking process, and this is never the case with us. We do pretty much everything—everything from the creative and the storyboarding—and, of course, our clients are welcome to be as involved in that process as they like to be. Some choose to be more involved and some choose to be less involved, and that’s okay. We come to them. We work all over the country. We have a few international clients as well. So we actually come to the attorney’s office. Typically, we spend a day during the week or on the weekend, and we film them, client testimonials, their team, and landmark their community. I always joke that we probably have located every courthouse in America. If you watch our videos, there is probably a courthouse in about 80% of them. Once the video is shot, 7-10 business days we turn around the edits. What people see from the outside looking in is they see these great videos and great marketing and all that, but I’ll say from business owner to business owner the thing I’m most excited about is being able to have the internal operations—the process and logistics to be able to do this consistently whether it is in Atlanta, California, Chicago, or wherever, and be able to maintain a consistent level of production quality. So the content you see on our website is the same that every attorney gets, and we maintain turnaround. We’ve never missed a deadline. And to be able to do that 40-50 times a month—I’m so proud of our team for that. It’s not me, it’s the Director of Operations. I’m the idea guy. In terms of doing that, I think it is very unique.
Tom Foster: Yeah. We’re the chaos creators, and we need those people to take our big mess and make it work. Okay. We’re running out of time, but I want to ask you a couple of little questions here. Tell me one of the craziest things that has happened to you since you have had this business?
Mike Mogill: Oh wow, okay. We’ve filmed at the United Nations. We have had a lot of really great opportunities, and we’ve shared a lot of interesting stories. I don’t know if the crazy ones would be a business owner’s horror story. I’m actually writing a book; it will be out next year. Don’t read it at night, it will keep you up. I don’t know. The craziest one has maybe been giving a car away. I’ve never done that before. We gave away a Tesla to a client this year in April. We’re actually doing it again. It’s one of our client rewards referral program. We were debating about some of the things we can do to reward our clients, and it was either an Apple watch or a car. Once I got that in my head, I had to do it. So maybe that’s the craziest.
Tom Foster: I think that is the craziest, and I wish you hadn’t said that on here. Now everybody is going to be looking for a Tesla from me, and I’m going to have to up it and give them a space shuttle or something.
Mike Mogill: Right. A boat, a plane, or something like that.
Tom Foster: A boat? That’s good. So is it your used Tesla you give them?
Mike Mogill: No. We go and actually buy this thing at the dealership for them. It’s not a lease; they will actually own the car. So the one we gave away in April, I think it had like 600 miles on it by the time we gave it away. People didn’t believe me when we announced that we were giving a Tesla away. So we went to the dealership and filmed the video of us actually paying for it and driving it off. So now that we have actually given one away, the second one we are not dealing with all that doubt. It’s interesting. But I will say, I never anticipated giving a car away. I knew nothing about that. For anyone from the outside looking in wondering how I could just give a Tesla away, the answer is, I just decided to do it and went to the dealership and bought it. It’s that simple.
Tom Foster: Good for you. So tell me: What’s the future for online video? Last question.
Mike Mogill: The future is very bright. Five years ago when I had just started the company, all I would hear is, “Why are you doing that? You’ll never be able to compete with the agencies. Nobody wants video; it’s just TV commercials, and no one is interested in video on the web.” That was an interesting bet to place because you fast forward five years and video is dominating content online. It’s how people consume everything. The future is extremely bright. You look at every social platform—even Facebook, the entire newsfeed has become video—it’s how people are consuming news and all different types of information. I think it’s just because you can communicate so much more in video than you can through a blog post or a photo or something like that. And also, I think our attention spans are getting shorter, so people would rather watch a video than read something. So I would say that the future is very bright, but as with anything, content these days has become somewhat of a commodity. So simply just having video, having blog posts, or having a website is not enough. Just as you said, it’s how you do it, how you differentiate yourself and executing it the right way because there is a lot of noise with all content types including video.
Tom Foster: So the future is bright. You got to wear shades for video. Mike, thank you so much for chatting with me today. How does somebody work with you—if somebody is interested in getting some high-quality video?
Mike Mogill: Just visit our website www.CrispVideo.com, and there is a button right on the side if someone wants to reach out to us. The way we do it is not a simple “add to cart.” We got to make sure we are a good fit for each other, but we’ll do a strategy session and discuss your goals. And if there is a good fit between us, then we will move forward. And if not, that is okay too. We’re not for everyone. For anyone listening, if their goal is just to get a ton of volume, then there are a lot of other ways to do that. Our clients traditionally are looking to attract better clients and cases and ones that are more in line with the types of people they want to work with—more so quality over quantity. So we’re not for everyone. That’s okay. But either way, that’s how we do it—we do a strategy session. Just visit our website.
Tom Foster: Mike, thank you so much for your time. Great talking to you, and I will talk with you soon.
Mike Mogill: Thank you for having me.