Many law practices grow by traditional word-of-mouth, but it is tough to stay competitive if you don’t pay attention to the modern word-of-mouth — namely online reviews. According to a study Yodle recently conducted, three-quarters of consumers say having online reviews either sets a local business apart from its competitors or is expected of local businesses. However, many businesses — including law firms — aren’t doing anything to secure these reviews: Less than 10 percent of consumers have been asked to write a review of a local business even though 90 percent are willing to do so if asked — provided they have had a positive experience.
Lawyers can be reluctant to ask clients for online reviews. It’s awkward, and they don’t want to risk giving up control of their marketing messaging. In today’s world of oversharing, though, you need to move past these concerns. People, particularly those who grew up in the digital age, will be suspicious and disengaged if they can’t find any third-party testimonials online about your practice.
Five Ways to Get Started
You need to establish the infrastructure and process to build an effective online reviews machine. Follow these steps to avoid missing out on the critical opportunity to establish credibility online for your practice, and also always be mindful of any rules about online reviews outlined by your state bar association.
1. Find out what your clients are already saying. You can only start managing your online reputation if you know what is already being said and where. Search online for your law practice. Sites like Google and Yelp, and attorney listing pages like Avvo or Martindale may show up with reviews of your practice that you didn’t even know existed.
2. Determine the best sites for receiving reviews. Decide which sites you want to get reviews on by researching where your competitors are securing testimonials, checking out what review sites show up in Google searches when you use keywords related to your practice areas and location, and asking industry peers for their input on the most influential sites. Once you have prioritized the sites where you want to get reviews, establish a page there for your law practice if a page doesn’t already exist. When you ask your clients to provide an online review, you can now tell them specifically where to post it.
3. Get the reviews you need. Use these steps to successfully secure reviews from clients:
- Ask for one when your client is smiling. Make every interaction with your clients as positive as possible by going above and beyond to help them. Ask the client to write an online review as soon as you see that knowing look of appreciation.
- Be bold with your clients. Just come right out and confidently ask satisfied clients to share their feedback in an online review. Your sheer enthusiasm and positive attitude is often all it takes to motivate somebody to help you.
- Make it easy for them. Provide clear links to where you want clients to write their review, or simply ask them to write the review in person on a mobile device. Not only does this kind of courtesy remind the client you value his or her time, but it increases the likelihood that you’ll get what you want.
- Get your staff on board. Explain how important online reviews are to your business, and encourage them to request these reviews from every satisfied client. Give them explicit instructions on how to include the “ask” in their interactions with clients.
4. Respond to the reviews you don’t want. Unless you’re dealing with someone who is clearly unreasonable, you generally should respond to negative reviews. It shows both the person who posted and potential clients that research your business in the future that you truly value and listen to feedback.
Keep your response brief, apologize if necessary, and describe what you’re doing to resolve the issue. You can also use your response as an opportunity to draw attention to your strengths. For more complicated issues, offer to take the conversation offline and resolve it privately. At all costs, refrain from giving in to the natural instinct to fight back. By not appearing defensive or giving private details, you will help your online reputation, protect clients’ confidentiality and prevent possible disciplinary action.
5. Maximize the value of reviews. After working hard to win a glowing review, it’s important to get the most mileage out of it. Feature new reviews on the homepage of your website and create a dedicated testimonials page to be the home for all reviews. Most people who are potentially interested in working with you will invariably end up on your website and it’s a great way to showcase how much your current clients value you. Also share your reviews on your social media pages and consider how to insert them in other aspects of your marketing strategy such as email marketing campaigns.