Relationships and the Web
Your relationships with clients, colleagues and other referral sources ought to be the focus of your client development process and your web presence.
Lawyers regularly ask me questions about the secrets of law firm Internet marketing. While my response usually begins, “There really are no secrets,” if any Internet marketing magic does exist, it resides within the power of relationships. Of course, for most successful attorneys, this idea is neither novel nor secret.
However, conjuring the long-known magical powers of creating, nurturing and solidifying relationships via the global inter-webs tends to befuddle many experienced attorneys.
I find myself grossly overusing the following image. Nonetheless, it provides helpful structure to the ongoing processes of relationships, practice and client development and their interplay with the web:
Earning Meaningful Online Attention
If you have clients, you should jump down to “impressing your clients” and start there. It’s the most important part. However, if you don’t have clients yet, you’re going to be hard-pressed to impress them. For you, the most important part to relationships and the web should be earning meaningful attention.
For our purposes, earning it means, “Gain or incur deservedly in return for one’s behavior or achievements.” And meaningful means, “Having a serious, important or useful quality or purpose.”
Earning meaningful attention isn’t about “tricking” Internet users into clicking through to your sites.
It isn’t about confusing or misleading your potential clients.
It’s about doing “stuff” that people find interesting, useful or entertaining. It’s about doing “stuff” people love.
Most of the time, it begins offline.
The real world is usually the first place you begin to exhibit behaviors and reach achievements that are important. But it doesn’t end there. Who are the people and organizations that recognize your value in the real world? Those are the people you should begin engaging on the web.
Once you’ve earned some meaningful attention, you’re now faced with the even more difficult challenge of keeping it. One way to keep people interested is to motivate them to take action.
Sure, one of the actions you want people to take is to contact and hire you. But that’s not the only one. And it’s probably not the most compelling one for most people.
Other actions you might choose to motivate folks to take online are:
- Subscribing to the “stuff” you publish.
- Commenting on the “stuff” you publish.
- Sharing the “stuff” you publish.
- Writing about (and linking to) the “stuff” you publish.
- Complimenting you about the “stuff” you publish.
- Downloading the “stuff” you publish.
- Emailing the “stuff” you publish.
These actions go a very long way to keep people’s attention and earn even more meaningful attention. And yes, many of them are also very effective in terms of improving your visibility online generally and in search engines specifically.
Earning New Clients
By now it should be obvious that once you are successfully earning meaningful attention and motivating people to take action, you’re more likely to earn new clients.
Of course, it’s not as easy as this post may make it sound. There are all sorts of additional “bent arrows” that you must negotiate (i.e., pricing, competence) before someone is confident that you are the right person to help them.
And it’s a lot of hard work and it can take a long time. But it ought to be the foundation of your client development.
Impressing Your Clients
Once you have the honor of being selected (and paid) to represent another person, impressing them should be your primary aim. By impressing them, I don’t mean wearing fancy suits, talking over their heads or promising results your experience can’t deliver. I mean listening to them, empathizing with them, answering their questions and responding to their calls. That’s the kind of stuff that they will find impressive.
If you are able to truly impress them, they may even be willing to sing your praises. In fact, some will be willing to talk about how great you are. Some will even write about you online. Other people will read what they have to say about you. And yes, Google will read it too and that will help you appear more prominently online, too.
Of course, most people won’t write about you (especially if they’re not proud of the reason they had to hire you). But some will.
Either way, you’ve likely developed a powerful relationship with them. A relationship that will likely lead to earning more meaningful attention.
These are just some very simple ways that creating, nurturing and solidifying relationships can significantly improve your visibility on the web.
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. You can find more of Gyi’s writings in his “Optimize” column on Attorney at Work, on Lawyerist and on Avvo’s Lawyernomics blog. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.