When I visit law firm websites, I’m typically doing research — or reconnaissance, if you will — with the intent of suggesting to lawyers how they can improve their current setup. In doing so, I come across countless websites that are screaming for help. Some are outdated, some simply lack personality, and still others are devoid of the basics like evergreen content or well-written lawyer bios. But what seems to be commonly absent across a majority of law firm sites is client testimonials.
Law firms that embrace digital marketing as part of their business strategy understand that client testimonials are a hot commodity, as they should be — because they work.
There was a time when testimonials were delivered by word-of-mouth, and they usually resulted in referrals. At the same time, “No news is good news” was the mantra for law firms because it meant that silent clients were happy clients. Those days are no more with the advent of social media and numerous websites that thrive on good and bad reviews of just about anything you can buy.
Even today, however, it is not easy to convince even your most satisfied clients to take a moment to publicly review your services. In contrast, dissatisfied clients can’t wait to spread the word about a case gone bad, and to trash you in every public forum at their disposal. Unfortunately, today, there are a lot of public places to do just that.
Slips Happen: The Sting of a Bad Review
Bad reviews make having an ongoing strategy of collecting good testimonials even more important to your business and your reputation.
What’s interesting about client testimonials is that they show up in places where you might least expect them. The most obvious places are on websites such as Avvo, Lawyers.com or Justia, where there is a built-in function for capturing client comments. But lawyer reviews are also popping up on sites such as Facebook, Google and Yelp. Yes, Yelp has morphed into a hot spot for all sorts of reviews — ignoring it could mean that a bad review goes unnoticed by you, but not by millions of consumers.
There is no way to stop people from writing negative comments about you online. The best way to avoid a bad review, of course, is to try to prevent it from happening by providing good service, regular communication, and to set realistic expectations from the start.
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve done all you can to avoid a negative review, there is still the potential of one slipping by you and being made public. Bad reviews tend to declare your guilt without the presumption of innocence. So, be proactive by stockpiling reviews that tell a more positive story, ones that are more meaningful and helpful to those who may be seeking your services.
The mantra for today’s lawyer should be: “To combat bad press, you must bury it beneath a mound of good press.” This means that for every bad or mediocre review, you need at least five or more good to excellent testimonials to turn down the din.
The Power of a Great Client Testimonial
To gain the most traction from a client testimonial, you need to present it in a thoughtful, detailed and honest way. The most useful testimonial tells a story. For example, a client of yours describes a situation that resonates with the reader because the reader might be facing similar circumstances. That connection then compels the reader to seek your guidance. Stories are powerful and meaningful and can be persuasive marketing tools.
To boost your marketing, you can apply these stories to a video, where they become even more influential. Seeing someone speak about their situation and their experience with your firm is better than any marketing or advertising you could buy.
How to Solicit Client Testimonials
Never ask a client to evaluate you based on your lawyering skills. It’s not their strong suit and it won’t result in a good testimonial. The reasons your client might be satisfied with your representation will likely relate to your personality, hospitality, attentiveness, honesty, composure under pressure, and confidence. They will want to assess your ability to return calls within a reasonable time, or whether your office is welcoming and tidy or in total disarray. And, of course, they will want to evaluate you based on their satisfaction with the outcome of their case.
To get the most beneficial testimonials from your clients, first you must ask. Second, make it easy for them to respond by providing them with some guiding questions:
- Describe “the before”: What led you to retain me as your attorney?
- Describe “the during”: What was it like working with me? Did I understand your dilemma?
- Describe “the after”: What has changed? How was the problem solved? Did I reach the outcome you wanted?
Some lawyers use surveys to collect information from clients after the representation has ended. Surveys are a perfect way to gauge your client’s satisfaction with your services and assess your performance so you can identify areas that need improvement or additional services to offer.
No matter how you choose to approach your clients, reach out soon after the end of the matter while the situation is still fresh in their minds. But always get written consent to publish the testimonial and to use it as part of your marketing. And, of course, check your jurisdiction’s ethics rules. (Read “Ethical Considerations in Boosting Your Online Reviews” by Mark C. Palmer,)
What you ultimately want from a testimonial is for it to convince the reader that you are the right lawyer for their problem. No amount of marketing spiel will accomplish that. Seeing what others have experienced while working with you is the best way to help potential clients reach the conclusion you want.
Related: “Tips to Get More Clients Now and After the COVID-19 Crisis” by Mike Ramsey