Last week at ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, Allison Shields and I chatted with lawyers about shaping their online narratives.
By now, you should understand that online reviews are part of the new word of mouth. You should also recognize that the foundation for word-of-mouth referrals is earning a reputation for providing excellent service to clients. However, while providing clients with excellent service is essential, it’s not always, by itself, sufficient. Here are a few ideas to help you translate your offline reputation for excellence to the web.
Even in the digital age, most people will look for lawyer recommendations from people who they know and trust. Therefore, your relationships with clients, colleagues and other referral sources should be the focus of your client development efforts.
While relationships are built in many ways, in the context of client development, the likelihood of these relationships leading to new business will depend, to a large extent, on your ability to impress people.
Obviously, what impresses people is all over the map.
Lawyers tend to focus on impressing people with outcomes. That’s why they list settlement amounts, verdicts and other successes on their websites. To be sure, those have various meanings to different people. However, lawyers tend to forget that many people don’t really know what a “good” outcome is.
On the other hand, most people know how it feels to be treated with respect, dignity, compassion and empathy. In my experience, most lawyers intend to treat their clients in that way. Unfortunately, it’s too easy to ignore, humiliate or merely fail to impress.
So, before you spend all of your time and money on attracting new clients, explore ways you can impress your current clients.
Too many lawyers who spend all their time and money “getting to No. 1 in Google results” end up finding out that, upon getting there, they have unhappy clients warning others to stay away. Happy clients lead to better search engine rankings.
Reviews: Lead Them to Water
No matter how people first hear about you, they expect to find more information about you online. What they find (or don’t find) will play some role in shaping their perceptions of you. It’s just common sense to deliver on what they’re looking for.
People expect to be able to easily find things like:
- Your website
- Contact information
- Your happy clients
- Other people speaking highly of you
- Answers to their questions
- Examples of your good work
- Evidence of your knowledge, skill and experience
- A sense of what it’s like to work with you
Further, if they don’t find what they expect to see, they probably won’t tell you. In other words, you’ll never know about the potential clients that you missed.
In fact, many people will not directly contact you on their first interaction. Many are more likely to wait and learn more. Perhaps they’ll:
- Follow you
- Download something
- Click play
In other words, you will have to nurture and persuade them that you might be the right lawyer for them.
Rethink Your Review Process
One part of nurturing potential clients is improving your review process. In many instances, happy clients want to sing your praises. Oftentimes, they simply don’t know how to do it. So, you might want to point them in the right direction.
While there are a variety of review sites you might consider sending them, I typically recommend prioritizing the ones that appear prominently in relevant searches. If you’re already listed on many review sites, you can simply search “your name + attorney” and see which sites show up. These are usually the ones you should point clients to first.
If you’re not listed on these sites, you might start with sites that appear prominently for relevant local queries.
Aside from providing an excellent client experience, the next most important part of receiving positive client reviews is probably timing and your process for encouraging them.
In addition to third-party review sites, it’s also worthwhile to include testimonials on your own site. Before you do, be sure to check relevant rules of professional responsibility. Some states have specific requirements for how client testimonials can be ethically implemented.
Typically, the two most important places to list reviews are:
- On your website, with proper structured review markup (i.e., schema aggregate ratings)
- On your office Google My Business pages.
Generally speaking, these will have the most visibility when someone performs a search on Google.
In post-Pigeon Update SERPs, legal directories have very high visibility:
This means that they will tend to be among the first listings that people searching for lawyers online are likely to see. Make sure that you are here.
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because clients are looking for them there. He is a co-founder of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency for law firms. Gyi writes Attorney at Work’s Optimize! column. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.