“Ideation,” “drill down,” “ping back,” “think outside the box.” These are words and phrases that end-of-year surveys included among the most annoying and meaningless business jargon. There’s another term that should be on these lists but isn’t. Let’s change that.
Can we band together to banish the use of “online brochure” as a term to describe law firm websites? I despise this term because it suggests that a law firm website is nothing more than a directory to review a biography, find a phone number or get directions — a modern day phone book without the coupons.
A law firm website should be, or at least it can be, an exciting place for clients to learn new things. It should be an inspiration to take action toward goals and the first stop on a prospective client’s buyer’s journey. Done right, a law firm website can be the engine that drives a law firm’s growth.
The unfortunate truth is, however, that many law firm websites are nothing more than online brochures. Again, let’s change that. Here’s how.
1. Clearly Define Your Audience So You can Tell a Compelling Story
The first step is understanding who you want to attract to your firm’s website. Start with what I call the “defining question,” which is: Who do we serve?
The unequivocally wrong answer to this question is “everyone.” The right answer derives from a careful analysis of where your business comes from, and where you want more business to come from. Don’t conflate the two. A large percentage of your revenue may come from clients that suck up your capacity but are low margin. A small percentage may come from a smaller subset of clients that, if you could attract more like them, could have a transformational impact on your practice.
If you keep doing the same things, you’ll have the same results. Conduct an 80/20 analysis and determine what types of work, from what types of clients, is most profitable. Your firm has limited resources, so deploy those resources toward the highest return-on-investment activities. Stop being a firm that positions itself for low-margin work as an insurance policy to “keep lawyers’ plates full.” This feels safe, but it’s stopping you from growing.
Have the courage to change. Craft your website to attract clients that will drive growth.
Once you understand who you serve (or want to serve), turn to the “focusing question,” which is: What does my ideal client need to know, understand or believe before they will do business with me?
This question takes into account the buyer’s journey that prospective clients must travel before they are trusting enough to move forward with an engagement. Business development is a process. It rarely happens all at once. By taking the time to dig deep for answers to these questions, you can cast a clear vision for your website that reflects the direction you hope to take your firm and the ideal clients you desire to attract.
Your website should tell a compelling story that reflects your clients’ journey and demonstrate understanding and empathy for the problems your clients’ face. Talk about their challenges more than your own accolades. Don’t market your practice areas — market the problems you solve. Remember, clients aren’t buying legal services they’re buying outcomes. Then, and only then, tell your own story by sharing your expertise and demonstrating that you’re the guide who can help them along on their journey.
The story, which requires an understanding of audience, characters and key objectives, is the glue that binds an effective website together, and the magnet that attracts others to it.
2. Call Clients to Action
Prospective clients are often anxious and confused before hiring a lawyer. This anxiety stems, in large part, from the lack of clarity about the process involved in moving forward. They wonder, “How do we get started?” and “Through what means and how often will we communicate?” Something as simple as a desire to not sound uninformed and ignorant about next steps can serve as an impediment to scheduling a consultation.
This begs the question: When someone visits your website, is it clear what action you’d like them to take next? Should they call, email, stop by the office or fill out a form on your site’s contact page? What will happen after that?
Too many law firm websites, both large and small, lack prominent calls to action and, as a result, miss out on opportunities for engagement. You may be so close to your business that it seems obvious that someone should pick up the phone and schedule an appointment, but don’t assume that a potential client knows this. Create call-to-action buttons that get top billing throughout your site. If you don’t, you’re making your potential clients work too hard to retain your services.
3. Offer a “Transitional Call to Action”
Most website visitors click away and are never heard from again. They’re not ready to act — at least not ready to pick up the phone or send you an email — so you need to offer an opportunity to stay engaged with your firm, but on their terms. This is accomplished by creating a “transitional call to action.”
A transitional call to action offers something valuable, called a “lead generator.” Website visitors can access the lead generator via your website in return for giving you their email address. The email address goes directly into an email service provider (such as ConvertKit or MailChimp) so that you can continue the engagement by sending them valuable information via email. Then, when they’re ready to take action, you’ll be top of mind.
A lead generator is a resource, such as a checklist, downloadable document or a series of instructional videos. If you focus on health care, it might be something like “5 Things Every Hospital Administrator Must Know About HIPAA.” If your firm serves privately held small- to mid-size businesses, it may be “10 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating an ESOP.”
Keep in mind that this tactic does not often lead to immediate new business. That’s why it’s called a transitional call to action. Rather, it’s something that invites a potential client to engage in a conversation with you over time. It’s a cup of coffee, not an engagement ring.
4. Leverage “Social Proof” on Your Homepage
When potential clients visit your website, there are two questions they are probably asking themselves: “Does this law firm understand me?” and “Can it help me solve my problem?”
The first question is answered through client-focused storytelling. But you also need to establish authority and expertise. A potential client wants to know you have what it takes to guide them where they want to go.
Use the internal pages of your website — your about page, practice area descriptions and attorney biographies — to dive deeper into expertise. You don’t want to clutter up your homepage with too much copy.
To quickly demonstrate authority in a way that connects, but doesn’t sound braggadocious or overbearing, feature “social proof” on your homepage. Social proof is a term from psychology that refers to someone or something’s level of perceived credibility. Are you attached to people, brands or institutions that are recognizable and perceived as trustworthy? If so, that affiliation encourages others to perceive you as high quality, too.
Here are three primary forms of social proof you can leverage on your website homepage:
Testimonials. Place a few short quotes from satisfied clients on your homepage. This allows others to know that you’ve served others with similar issues who are happy with your services.
Client logos. Feature logos of business clients that you’ve worked with on your homepage. This provides instant credibility to potential clients that you’re equipped to serve them too.
Case studies. Even if you can’t name the client, go a bit deeper on the circumstances and results of a successful engagement by creating a case study. Potential clients assume that if you could do it once, you can do it again.
A Lead-Generating Law Firm Website Is Within Your Reach
Are you tired of spending tons of money on your website, and more on digital advertising and SEO, with no real return on investment? Can’t stomach (or afford) another major update to your firm’s website in hopes that this time things will be different? The good news is that your law firm website likely doesn’t need a complete overhaul. It may just require a few simple tweaks to turn it into your most important marketing asset into a lead-generating machine.