Short Thoughts Blog
Questions about marketing specially for professionals
Why I Write This Blog
This Blog aims to introduce useful psychology knowledge to senior managers who guide professional firm's marketing content.
While the format, layout and technology of websites may be delegated to web development services, the main text is usually written by the firm's strategists.
This choice of words is a vital aspect of the implementation of marketing strategy.
It can make a 7-fold difference to responses.
Persuasive psychology makes it easier for potential clients to enquire, instruct and bond loyally with the firm to return for future issues.
This business psychology is all too easy to overlook because “it's only use-of-English – how hard can it be?”. But under-valuing this aspect of marketing design can be very costly – poor marketing costs roughly the same as good marketing but produces very different results!
The MORE Blog Index
STILL WORRYING about work at the weekend?
Best advice: Use this time constructively: visit your own website.
Be an outsider. Check it in client mind-set. Pretend you've never seen it before.
- Look for mistakes: wrong facts, missing explanations, duplications, contradictions, jargon, acronyms and so on. These can grow out of marketing-by-committee.
- Tune your mind to spot out-of-date content. It gives a lack-of-care impression.
- Then search for spelling errors.
Special mention - I've seen 'reposnsible' and 'laywer' - yes, even on national corporate professionals' websites. Spelling mistakes are said to deter 80% of clients. Especially on professional firms' websites? All too easily incurred when using out-sourced assistance.
- Next check your website against your leaflets and office signage for differences.
Because you can update your website in minutes, printed materials are vulnerable to being left behind.
- And finally, check your initial responses – email auto-responder and answer-phone messages.
These become invisible to the firm and may get out of sync unless you deliberately check them.
Ensure your Client-Attracting Pathway starts in Client-Friendly Marketing mode.
Later, check it continues all the way along the process: First-Enquiry to Loyal-Client.
7 Ways Your Website Scares Google Into Hiding It From Prospects
If Google is unimpressed with your website it will rank it down in any relevant search.
Then it displays your result somewhere distant from the top of the first page of results. Hidden away like this, you are unlikely to get many visits.
Squeezed Into The Wrong Marketing Box?
Statistics show... modern marketing methods don't do it for law firms.
- UK law firms aren’t happy with 70% of their new business enquiries (Law Gazette article)
- Attracting new business and retaining clients are in solicitors' top six worries (LexisNexis research "Stress In The legal Profession")
Not everyone trusts someone else's statistics, I know... but:
Firms are not engaging with the best potential clients in the best way.
And considering solicitors are concerned about their clients surviving the pandemic (LexisNexis Report: "COVID-19 and the Legal Industry"), improving client attraction processes might be a growing priority.
The professions are different!
Marketing for professional firms works differently to other businesses.
Never-the-less, most marketing agencies will try to fit solicitors, accountants and architects into their range of commercial templates, along with the embedded assumptions and limitations.
They may not even realise they are squeezing you into the wrong box.
Therefore, it's best if you initiate 'outside their box' projects...
Creating the most suitable marketing message to make your firm attractive to the clients you want to attract... must lie with you.
Well-worded websites win!
It's your words that convince people.
Pictures, colour-schemes and layouts catch the eye.
They provide a first impression.
Then the written word gets read: headlines, subheads, captions, text and quotes.
The ideas. The answers. The stuff that people searched for in the first place.
The aim has to be to provide what potential clients want to find. Which might be (very) different to what you want to prioritise!
Only the wise understand
- "The more I learn, the more I realise how much I don't know.” Albert Einstein
If you want your firm to be chosen by the types of clients you prefer, you have to design your marketing to attract them. Not for average, typical or any clients.
Probably, this means departing from 'normal'.
The path less travelled. Adventure!
This is not necessarily easy
Most professionals are careful about their work, their firm, their industry.
Their training encourages conservatism. For example: “The whole way in which lawyers are trained and the whole attitude of the legal sector is innately conservative.” (Legal Services Board discussion about legal technology)
It seems obvious that they will be conservative about their branding.
That probably makes it difficult to 'break the mould' and develop marketing that works better than normal.
Like, "It ain't broke, so why fix it?"
But recently, everything changed.
- While 71% of firms feel COVID-19 is an opportunity for innovation
- Only 56% of firms are currently using the time to plan their firm’s longer-term strategy
But revising their marketing strategy was NOT in the top 6 issues surveyed in the LexisNexis Report: "COVID-19 and the Legal Industry".
Does that mean it's unimportant?
Or is it an opportunity to outstrip other firms - if you are feeling adventurous?
Keep up, at least
The evolution of the legal marketplace, however, is beginning to OUTPACE those firms making only conservative changes and REWARDING those moving with the times.
(LexisNexis Bellwether Report 2018: The Culture Clash – Solicitor Confidence vs Client Power) (my emphasis)
This is not about the law. Or working as a lawyer.
It's about business. And working in the legal marketplace.
Or surge ahead?
The good news is that this innate conservatism creates opportunities if you are willing to take some small risks.
The more conservative your competitor-colleagues are, the smaller the changes needed to bring clients to you.
A recent LexisNexis Bellwether report “Is the Future Small?” found that solicitors preferred the better control, swifter decision-making and being more agile in the market-place.
Small changes quietly introduced to make your marketing messages more client-friendly give you more control.
- Writing about the future you want to create - it's a small change in style with powerful results
- Making use of modern psychology research to introduce small nudges into your marketing
- Aiming to write client-friendly rather than image-boosting messages
Meaningless Marketing Myth
or Serious Starting-point?
Does your marketing attract the right clients for your firm?
Use this checklist to review the benefits Ideal Clients bring you:
- They Approach You Confidently
- They Respond Fully & Quickly To Your Queries
- They Return For More Help
- They Convince Their Friends To Call
- They Write Positive Reviews
- They Follow You On Social Media
- They Make Helpful Suggestions
- They Complain Less Than Other Clients
- They Pay You On Time
NB these signs of an Ideal Client are also:
- signs of a satisfied client
- signs of good productivity
- rewarding for you and your staff
Surely...it's worth tuning your marketing to Ideal Clients?
Even those clients who arrive, but are not be exactly Ideal, will be influenced by the suggestions they see on their way along your Client-Attracting Pathway.
Small improvements to a going concern can have large results in profitability, and that gves you the opportunity to improve more elements of the business.
✔ If you can improve several of the benefits above, that could be very helpful.
✔ If you could ensure that nearly all new clients produce any one of these benefits, that would also be very helpful.
✔ Or if you could do more than that, that could be extremely helpful.
Client-Friendly Marketing is 'tuned' to attract Ideal Clients and therefore help you create satisfied clients and happy staff.
How To Be More Attractive!
Few professionals think themselves unfriendly.
Most think their friendliness obvious. Some declare it in their advertising.
Client-friendly marketing is demonstrating friendliness through the systematic design of public-facing messages, rather than making a brief mention in passing.
It's not new, but it is rare.
Client-focussed vs User-focussed
Client-friendly is NOT the same as user-friendly. The former is about helping people find professional help; the latter is about making a website, automated telephone menu system or other technology easy to use.
Marketing is more than advertising. Advertisements in printed media, on radio or TV, or on the internet (ie your website), are the first step of your 12-step Client-Attracting Pathway. Every one of those 12 steps can deter potential clients, or develop trust and teamwork.
I have described the new generation of websites previously:
1. Websites Were Worded As If They Were Posters
First Generation websites were treated as a sort of digital billboard.
Big or small, their messages were descriptive. Essentially they were announcements. They make only modest attempts to interest Google. And they assume that the visitor's self-interest will propel them into making contact.
2. Second Generation Websites Are Invitations
These websites address the visitor's learning curve by setting out to educate.
They specify what the 'party' is – the opportunity that readers might want to benefit from. They are explicit in welcoming contact and they make it very clear how to RSVP.
And Google likes the way people like that.
How To Get Better Results
Some years ago, a series of tests showed the best combination of creative, list, price, timing and response vehicle was 58 times as effective as the least (Drayton Bird, marketing guru).
58 times as effective!
Somewhere between those extremes, 'normal advertising' may bring you average results, but if you want to achieve best results, you have to leave 'normal' behind.
For managers, the difference is about our mindset when writing our websites (and adverts).
Detour Round Deceptive 'Normal'
First Generation websites are written by managers asking the obvious question: “What do we need clients to know about us?” The assumption is that when people know what they need to know about the firm, they will find their way towards it. And to a degree, that works.
But it relies on potential clients understanding how your profession works enough to know what to ask for when. And that limits your audience unhelpfully.
Start Where The Client Is At
Second Generation websites (and leaflets and adverts etc) ask a more inside-out question of managers: “What do your Ideal Clients want to know?” That leads to a different answer.
Because some clients don't know what they don't know about your profession, they can ask the wrong questions. Or apply for the wrong service. Or avoid contact altogether out of embarrassment about their lack of understanding.
But not all managers are aware of this. I see recently-upgraded websites for national corporates who are still writing in announcement mode. And many TV adverts are the same: informative and perhaps interesting and but distant, impersonal, uninviting. So hardly anyone will respond.
See '5 Ways Solicitors Make Websites Much More Client-Friendly' for some general ideas.
Review Your Strategy
Advertising your services is generic. Advertising the benefits they bring clients is tuned.
Being rare, client-friendly marketing will help your firm stand out as more approachable than most.
For more about reviewing and revitalising the 12 steps on your Client-Attracting Pathway click on the free gift coupon here for a no cost, no-commitment 20-page ebook guide to growth for senior managers.
How Professionals Can Put Off Potential Clients
HEALTH WARNING – this information could harm your business!
More marketing does NOT bring more enquiries... if it's too good at putting people off.
How To Put Off Potential Clients
These five easy-to-understand and cheap-to-implement tips - collected from years of experience - top my ultimate guide on how to destroy interest and engagement on your website.
Note – technology plays a part in this, but the most powerful techniques are psychology.
Give Google confusing details
The vast majority of potential clients arrive at your website via Google.
So give Google vague, inaccurate or confusing information so it won't connect interested people with your website. Keep them off your website - the best way of putting people off!
Confuse visitors in the first seconds
We all search any new environment acutely when we first arrive – human beings are wired that way.
Make sure visitors pick up contradictions or confusions in those first few seconds. Make no connections to client's likely questions. Focus on projecting your brand rather than reassuring potential clients about how you can help them.
Minimise the guidance you give visitors
Arriving at a relevant website is a bit exciting, but not knowing where to go to find what you want is disappointing.
Avoid indexes, directories, faq pages, explanatory notes. Relax assuming your would-be clients are telepathic and understand what you mean without you having to explain. Try not to provide any links to explanatory information. Above all, do not simplify issues as an introduction.
Insist that visitors do their own explorations like the supermarkets who change the shelves around.
Use jargonese or vague language
Professionals have to learn lots of facts and demonstrate their learning to seniors in the same profession. They are trained to write for factual completeness and accuracy, but not in explaining the relevant facts to likely clients.
Write about your services in any way that now comes naturally to you as though your clients were the examiners in your past. Keep your terminology as pure as possible.
Write in difficult-to-read layouts
Many professions are used to condensing large amounts of information into a few pages. However, most clients find that difficult.
Exploit this difference with extra-long sentences, larger paragraphs and fewer subheadings. Use a minimum of charts, graphs and illustrations. Don't introduce or summarise any webpages.
How To Put Off More People, More Often
Off-putting messages work more efficiently when disseminated more widely, more frequently and/or with more impact.
Implement these experience-spoiling techniques well and potential clients are likely to back out and leave you in peace and quiet.
PS No liability is accepted for any results of your trialing these techniques – the amount of harm generated for your Client-Attracting Pathway will vary for many reasons beyond anyone's control.
Quality vs quantity in marketing: which is actually more productive? Especially NOW?
If your marketing agency always remembers YOU are the employer and
- Thoroughly understands your business and your marketing aims
- Writes easy-to-understand content your clients engage with
- And usually pulls in more revenue than your previous marketing
THEN PLEASE STOP READING HERE.
Let's Check: Is It All Change In Marketing?
Dateline: 17th March 2020
All of us in business now risk disappearing under a storm of news about COVID-19.
There is so much worry, so many questions, too much fake news, so much new news.
- Should we cut back on our marketing, hoping to make more impact once the storm is over?
- Or should we keep going – aiming to be consistent and reliable?
- Or should we do even more marketing than usual to push through the clouds of distraction?
The evidence of previous crises is that many firms cut their marketing expenditure... and therefore get fewer enquiries and make fewer sales and come through the dip in a poor way. Those who maintain - or even boost - their marketing come through better off.
“The greatest danger
in times of turbulence is not the turbulence;
it is to act with yesterday's logic.”
(Peter Drucker, management guru)
Remember, boosting your marketing may NOT require more money - but probably DOES require more attention. Obviously, boosting unattractive messages could do more harm than good.
Quality is more important than quantity!
It's been said that bad marketing costs about the same as good marketing. Beware!
It's useful to understand more about the marketing industry. There is a ton of jargon, hype and bad habits out there. I've even heard professional marketing people complain about being bamboozled by their colleagues!
Here, let's look at one of the often-blurred dividing lines that had me puzzled for years.
Some Marketers Are Media Experts
These people know about how to put out your messages to the market.
- Website designers – some more technical than others
- Newspaper advert organisers.
- Facebook advert managers.
And there are more specialisations to do with radio, TV, leafleting, mailing lists and product placements in James Bond movies etc. There are many of these types of marketers – freelance, small businesses and national agencies.
The problem I've found is that most of them expect you to produce all the words, and the photos. They might be able to help with drawings, cartoons and even video technology – they often have artistic skills. But mostly, they'll want you to decide what your message is.
Other Marketers Are Message Experts
On the other hand, there are people who can help you with the words. And in general, they fall into two categories:
Journalists: people who are good at understanding your events and reporting them in understandable ways to readers who can simply enjoy the news.
Copy-writers: people who are good at understanding your future – your plans and ambitions – and describing them in eye-catching and engaging ways... and creating action-sparking messages to encourage readers to contact you.
Many people in business assume that because they are the experts on their business, they can easily write a productive marketing message. But, I'm sorry to say,
- many journalists disagree because business people often write as though their audience is other people in the same industry.
- and, worse, many copy-writers also disagree because business people tend to write about the facts of what they supply and ignore the motivations of their audience.
Managing Your Marketing Work
Because of all this, the best way you can approach your marketing is:
1. Find a marketing agency you feel in tune with - local or national, depending on your own size and the size of your audience.
2. Check whether they are media experts, message experts or both by looking at their work for previous clients.
3. Be willing to develop your message before you go out on media: increasing the volume of unattractive, mistaken or misrepresenting messages is a bad idea!
4. Test your audience's reaction to your message: its action-sparking abilities are more important than a designer's opinion of its eye-catching qualities.
5. Be willing to be uncomfortable with the eventual proposal. You are not representative of your audience, so once you've commissioned experts, any project will require you to have faith – but do check on its performance later.
But things change, as we're being reminded
- You may have spare capacity and want to attract more clients than before
- You may have changed your products or services and want to match clients better
- You may want to move up (or down) in your market by attracting different clients
“The entrepreneur always searches for change,
responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”
(Peter Drucker, management guru)
So strategy review is vital in designing, checking and changing your marketing message.
And having to work from home because of COVID-19 may give you a silver lining.
Instead of your usual full and busy day, this is an extraordinary moment of freedom to review and revise your existing marketing. Get to work to make your message more attractive to the clients you really want to attract in the future – maybe from experts also working from home!
3 Predictions for SEO in 2020 - guaranteed (probably!)
Progress is still accelerating. Next year, certain niches will become mainstream.
More SEO (#seo)
The number of websites is growing exponentially. Finding what you want is becoming harder.
So Google frequently makes small changes to how it works. But in October 2019 it made “one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of search”. With these continual changes, Google makes SEO essential nowadays: we absolutely have to keep up.
Eventually, all business websites will catch up, and charities, clubs & personal sites will too.
Wider application (#psychology)
Beyond SEO is the work put into encouraging website visitors to engage and click on something.
For most businesses, especially professional firms, the website is the front end of a client-attracting pathway. While information providers (including video and music streaming services) can make sales directly, most professional services need to meet up first.
Encouraging a phone-call, an email or a webform response are key to moving on to the net stage. This is psychology more than technology. I call it Human Choice Optimisation (HCO).
More remote providers (#freelancing)
With technology being so able to help with team-working, SEO and HCO services can now be provided long distance.
Certainly a lot of communication is necessary to ensure alignment of ideas and implementations, but email, phone, video-conferencing all make this relatively easy.
The benefit is that results are cheaper as office-rental costs disappear. And results are probably faster, as distractions and internal meetings disappear.
And as marketers who understand human variety become more involved, the quality will be better than commoditised technology-based products.
Short-listing these providers will obviously work through websites. SEO and HCO providers' own websites will explain why they do what they do, helping business people new to these ideas learn about them. And then act – to make choices and make contact.
Boost Enquiry Numbers:
Make Your Contact-Us Page So Easy To Use
Most website visitors clicking through to your Contact Us page have not yet made up their minds.
(It's true a few will be past clients searching for your phone number – but they'll probably get that from your Homepage, won't they?)
On your Contact Us page, most first-timers are still looking for clues, still seeking reassurances.
Because you want enquiries, this is the Most Important Page on your website – its performance is critical to your website's productivity.
We've already discussed ways to provide reassurances at this last moment decision-point. And next I will show you how to adjust your subsequent processes to be the most productive and profitable they can be - see details at the bottom of this email.
Now let's look at the actual contact methods you provide. Let's see how they can be improved to make it as easy as possible for nervous potential clients to use.
Provide a choice of communication channels
Give people the chance to use their preferred method of contact.
Provide your general enquiries landline. Make sure the number is displayed in a large font size so that people using their own landline can see it easily as they dial. This will allow them to get it right first time, and to avoid any double-checking frustrations as they dial. Then they will be clear of mind and easy to help when they get through to your receptionist.
- You can also make the number into a very-user-friendly button to press on mobile phones. Because mobile phone usage surpassed desktop devices in May this year (2019), this is very worthwhile for private clients.
- On this subject, your answerphone message is an important function with make-or-break implications. Administratively correct messages can be very unfriendly and leave enquirers feeling rebuffed.
Provide your general enquiries email address. Make sure it is displayed as a functional link so that people don't have to type the whole address into their email app; they can just click on the link and their software will be automatically brought up for them.
- You can go further and write the title and even parts of the body.
- But do avoid “Enquiry via website”: while it's technically correct, it is dehumanising to the client and could raise sufficient negative feelings to stop the enquiry then and there.
Research says people hate these forms. They require lots of typing and on a mobile phone that's very difficult. Research also says that the fewer fields you present the more likely people are to try to use it. So consider the balance between putting people off and making it easy for admin systems to route or respond to the email appropriately.
- Avoid the word “Submit” - it implies loss of control and even surrender, which may inflame antagonisms already present in their legal circumstances.
Fax usage by the general public has shrunk to near zero. While this method may be important for some professional colleagues, it is unlikely to be used much by would-be clients.
5. Live chat app
This texting channel works for both mobiles and desktops, and will help hearing-impaired clients and those in very windy or noisy conditions. It is easily supported by reception staff.
This is an artificial intelligence version of live chat and can help in limited ways.
Motivating people to enquire
Nine out of ten people with a legal need do not contact a solicitor, according to the SRA. Some are just too nervous of the authoritative aspect of solicitors. They may be worried about looking foolish, confidentiality, loss of control, losing in litigation, fees or other things.
While providing choice will help people, offering too much choice can induce mental paralysis and rejection. Plain and simple has its attractions.
The challenge for you is to make your Contact Us page as easy as possible to use – both technically and emotionally.
Most law firms' Contact Us pages appear to be designed as after-thoughts. The assumption is obviously that potential clients will have made up their minds after reading the relevant parts of the rest of the website, and only go to the Contact Us page to get the mechanical details of how to make the enquiry.
But with a clear invitation, a summary of reassuring facts and a very-easy-to-use contact method, a higher proportion of website visitors will actually enquire. Some of these may be from the nine who don't currently contact a legal adviser, and others may prefer your new user-friendly style over your colleague-competitors' more traditional styles.
"With the changes to the SRA Handbook coming in November of this year opening up the market to non-law firms it is more critical than ever that Law Firms and individual solicitors take a long, hard look at what really drives success. The time when to do nothing was an option is rapidly disappearing." (LexisNexis Bellwether Report: The Good Solicitor’s Skill Set, 2019)
If this is important to you, and you want to explore ways of improving your Contact Us page to stimulate more enquiries – or better-suited enquiries – please RSVP here.
How To Encourage Nearly-Clients Hesitating To Contact You
It is a human trait to hesitate before stepping into risky situations.
Entering unknown territory or interrupting someone perceived to be powerful causes most people a moment's doubt. Even when their own issues may be pressing, and they see you as their salvation, they may still delay.
So if we want them to act we aim to actively ease people's natural worries.
Build Essential Trust
There are various ways we can nudge them.
- Present an absolutely explicit invitation.
- And make it warmly welcoming.
- And make it dead easy to RSVP.
In a very recent survey of solicitors, the Bellwether Report says they feel that inspiring trust is the third most important attribute to thrive (out of a list of 22).
I suggest this is the factor that will help you encourage nearly-clients who are hesitating to contact you.
Unfortunately, solicitors are not known for their people-skills.
An IPSOS MORI poll in 2017 showed that the general public trust solicitors less than the ordinary man-in-the-street.
(Mind you they trust politicians a great deal less!)
What To Do?
1. Take a look at your competitor-colleagues' websites – their Contact Us page.
2. Check whether it has any form of invitation.
You'll find a very large proportion just give the facts: addresses, numbers, a webform and sometimes a map.
No invitation. No explanation. No encouragement.
Not making much effort to build trust...
3. Compare your own Contact Us page.
If it is similar, I suggest you replace that style with one more tailored to clients' needs.
To write an easy-to-accept invitation on your Contact Us page, include:
- A very brief summary:
- A short list of what problems you solve
- A reminder of what you provide before the legal work
- A recap of your proofs-of-ability
- An explicit invitation written as a real person
- And then provide methods of contact
- And make the phone number a button for mobile phone users.
(Much of this I have previously written about - like "Do you benefit from Law Society advice to clients choosing a firm?" Other compilations are available here.)
All this means that your website 'contact us' details will be below the fold, forcing people to scroll. They will read – or at least scan – your persuasions as they scroll to find it.
So all the positives will be foremost in their mind at this critical moment.
Long pages like this can double the number of email contacts you receive.
Secret Taxicab carries clients to new virtual entrance
Your Homepage is NOT your most useful webpage.
Everyone used to think so.
It seemed logical that visitors should come through the front door and make their way to their preferred area. Hence its name.
But search engines have turned that assumption on its head.
As a sort of taxicab service, they now take people as close to the best destination as they can. That means the best match between what they understand the searcher wants to find out and what is available on the internet.
This means your Homepage is NOT the most important one to work on.
Not even the second most important, in my opinion.
So all the designwork lavished on it is not worth as much as you would have thought.
Your Most Important Page
Instead, your attention should be on your Contact-Us page. If people visit your website but then don't get in touch with you, all your work has been wasted.
So once arrived, visitors have to be guided towards your Contact-Us page, and that page has to work at maximum efficiency.
Your Secret Second-Most Important Page
Search engines strive continually improve their machinery. Google made 3200 algorithm changes last year. On average, several times a day – including Sundays!
Recently, they have focussed on the page where all your most explicit answers are:
Your FAQ page.
Only 7.45% of solicitor's firms have a FAQ page – I checked.
Whether they all structure it most effectively (see below) is an open question. It needs more work than simply writing the words.
Here's how you can hail the cab to this secret opportunity
Google has recently created this is new opportunity, so now is the opportunity to overtake 92% of your competitors.
To help Google land potential clients in the best place in your website, and derive the most benefit for your firm, you need to do seven things:
- Make sure your FAQ page is structured in a Question and Answer format
- Make sure your FAQ page is suitably titled
- Make an index of all the questions at the top of the page for fast access
- Sort that index into categories to speed up access even more
- Make internal links from each Answer to your pages with further details
- Make sure your Structured Data fully informs search engines of the contents
- Notify Google directly of your update so there is no delay or confusion
If you have any Questions about this, please ask. I'll answer as quickly as I can.
Or if you would prefer this done quickly for you check this Website Revitalisation Project.
Just A Harmless Myth?
Competition between legal colleagues
Over-crowded? The legal marketplace? Really?
LexisNexis research repeatedly describes the industry as competitive:
1. “an increasingly competitive marketplace” What Clients Really Want
2. “competition heats up” Age of the Client
3. “competitors may find themselves scrambling to catch up” The Changing Face of Law
4. “increased competition” The Culture Clash – Solicitor Confidence vs Client Power
5. “The sooner firms take the leap across the divide, the faster they’ll outpace the competition.” The Race To Evolve
6. “The market for legal services is extremely competitive” 5 Ways Law Firms Can Add Value To Their Clients
7. “without a genuine competitive edge, there’s even more pressure on firms to compete on the basis of fees”. The Age of the Client
May I quickly check that? - please let me know:
Do you agree with all that research? Yes, that is how I find things here.
Or is your experience very different? We don't find a lot of competition.
Your answers will be treated confidentially
and will be used to discuss the issue in a following blog email.
Thank you very much in advance, Dave
Which is the most important page on your website?
Convince People They Personally Will Be Better Off Approaching You
Tracing a first-timer's journey from “I've never heard of them” to “That's interesting, but...”
- You've attracted potential clients attention
- You've promised them an advantage from working with you
- You've found a way to prove that it's no empty claim
Now you have to convince them that all the above actually applies to them as individuals.
That means getting beyond “That's interesting” to “I want...”.
You'll probably recognise yourself in that situation. Discussing a new car with the salesman. Trying a different style of suit with the tailor or dress-maker. Discussing a home extension with an architect.
You feel warmly towards the product, and perhaps also fairly trusting of the professional.
But then what?
Generalisations and abstractions do not convince hesitant humans.
At this stage, the opportunity has to be relevant to you, the individual.
The process leaves the marketing arena of speaking to many and focusses down onto speaking to the one who is at the stage of deciding. The language of sales helps here: “Will it really work for me?”.
That question is not about the outcome of their professional issue.
It is about asking for an appointment to (maybe) instruct you to act for them.
So you want to encourage individuals to make contact while the issue is still 'live' and while there is a suitable window in which you can act. Normal hesitations – delays, jitters, stage-fright – may make matters worse for them and more difficult for you.
Part of your work is to put people at ease. Even in your marketing.
Remembering your own experiences in this situation – before you physically act, you have to be pretty sure in your own mind.
If you're not sure yet, there are voices in your head asking if it's a scam, if there's more you need to know, or maybe there's something better elsewhere. Action stays on hold. You're interested but not convinced.
Remember, it was only a couple of moments ago that they were browsing around five or six options on Google's search results page.
How can you convince first-time potential clients when you can't actually speak to him or her yet?
The most important page on your website
After all your work, leading these visitors from your introduction through various stages to the point where they would short-list your firm, you want them to contact you.
The place where you do your encouraging when it is the best time to do so, is your most important page.
Your 'Contact Us' page is where the action happens, if it's going to.
But if people hesitate on the brink, what can you do to help them act?
When visitors arrive on that page, they have accepted your proposition so far – up to a point. On that page, you have to edge them towards feeling convinced.
An explicit invitation helps to cut though uncertainties.
Here are three more subtle tactics that help.
FBI negotiators, used to dealing with frightened kidnappers, have found that summarising progress so far is really helpful.
It keeps people focussed, it reminds them of what they've agreed with so far, and allows a pause (because it's NOT pushy).
In that summary and/or after it, you can change your tone of voice slightly. Because you are repeating familiar chunks of information, you can speed up.
Say the same thing but in shorter sentences. Use shorter words, shorter paragraphs. If visitors read at the same pace, the message will speed up and help to reach what you could call 'activation speed'.
Most Contact pages only provide information: phone number, email address, office address, sometimes a map, often a webform.
Research shows people hate webforms – very few use them. So you could simplify their decision by giving them simpler ways to contact you. In e-commerce, one large button works very well – one press and the decision is made. The details come after: the decision is made as simple as possible.
In summary, your Contact Page is your most important page.
If it doesn't work then all your other pages just provide research data for browsers. It is the place where most websites waste space – they just provide dry information and leave would-be clients teetering on the edge.
Your other critical pages are the Home, Services, About and Error pages.
These five make up our smallest, fastest and lowest-cost re-tuning project.
What stops people who desperately need your advice from reaching you?
“There is evidence that only a third of people with a legal need seek any kind of third party advice.” (SRA, June 2017, Consumers of legal services – levels of unmet legal need)
There are several well-known reasons
In a democracy, we have free access to legal advice. So there must be powerful reasons why the majority of society do not seek the help they need.
The SRA discusses other research that has found that 63% of people do not believe that professional legal advice is affordable for ordinary people. That is a majority!
Such a powerful belief like that is likely to stop them before they make any attempt to explore the possibility. So they go for online chatroom advice or just cross their fingers and DIY by guesswork.
Also, more than three-quarters (76% of the public) believe that the justice system is not ‘fair and transparent’. They expect to be tricked or let down by professionals who put 'the system' above client's interests. (Though, or course quite what people image 'the system' to be will vary greatly!)
And worse, even more people (81%) find the justice system intimidating. So even if they make a start on searching for help, they are vulnerable to being put off.
The SRA concludes “It seems there is a difficulty for people accessing legal help, and, in parallel, for law firms attracting clients”.
A less-well-known reason
Another issue lies in psychological causes rather then economic or sociological areas.
The connection between these two difficulties (ie for clients and for firms) probably revolves around communication problems.
First-time clients have no experience in asking for help. They don't know the ropes. They are often already in an emotionally-charged state. They are cautious. Humans will do more to avoid a second loss than to regain the first loss – often by taking flight.
Solicitors may have insufficient training about interaction with potential clients. And they have detailed codes of conduct about contact with the public to maintain ethical activity but may also cast a miasma over this area.
Extending the SRA's conclusion above, it seems that both groups need encouragement to venture forth.
Invitation: the missing step
Human beings are very territory-aware. We verbally invite people into our houses. We wait for an invitation before entering someone else's house.
We check the signs before entering a shop. We hesitate ahead of an office door. We are diffident on arrival at a party even if we've been formally invited. We are politely cautious about these things.
Similarly, our first time at a new dentist. Or a new barbers. Or even a new restaurant.
And especially, our first day at a new job!
The more hesitant we are, the more we feel we need to be invited. We become aware of what we could lose. We need the clear message to encourage us to take these risks.
Sometimes these potential losses are more imagined than real, but even so...
It takes a lot of nerve or indifference to walk into a lawyer's reception without knowing what sort of welcome to expect.
Invitation in advertising
All marketing aims to encourage new clients to approach your firm when legal advice and action is relevant to them. Almost all law firm advertising (adverts, websites, leaflets, business cards, etc) show a telephone number and an address.
But very few show any invitation. The emotional tone is “Here's the info', it's up to you now”. It's not surprising that even well-pre-disposed – referred – potential clients are hesitant to get in touch.
Old-style adverts used to include a cut-out coupon for reply – an obvious invitation. Direct mail (junk mail as we often call it) also ends with an explicit “Please call” or “Please reply”. Even party invites end with RSVP.
So we are expecting hesitant clients in a nervous state to enter unfamiliar premises uninvited. Or even call by phone to make an appointment, uninvited. Or email... uninvited.
An easy step forward
Many law firms' websites claim to be friendly. But to omit an invitation is not only daunting and in a waydiscourteous, but also self-defeating!
To prevent people who desperately need your advice being stopped from reaching you in this way, a simple invitation will surely help.
This offer to lay-people should probably be even clearer than your usual communications.
The wording is critical. Just as the law relies on careful use of words, so does marketing.
Your best invitation is to write as person-to-person as you can. Without knowing their name at that stage, you cannot get very personal – but you can be personable!
Adding a few pleasant words to a website takes only moments. Most explicit on your Contact Page, this invitation can run thematically through your website, your leaflet and your adverts.
Website changes may be quick but this is not to be rushed at in a random sort of way.
Any additions must fit congruently with everything else. A few politenesses scattered around an intellectual treatise is more likely to produce disbelief than anything else.
The opportunity also allows new messages about other aspects of what clients want, and what the firms wants – to the possible benefit of both.
Redesigning this first stage of the 'first-enquiry to loyal-client pathway', there is much more you can do to show yourselves as available, welcoming and caring.
I'd like to invite you (explicitly!) to chat if you are too busy to concentrate on these details. Ask me to do it for you on 01983 614 795. Or email here.
Clients think we're NO DIFFERENT to our competitors: so how can we attract them?
“My product is very similar to that of my competitors;
the price is the same, and our delivery is the same.
How can I get the customer to buy from me, instead of the other man?”
65 years ago, Alfred Tack, sales trainer, wrote that*.
“All things being equal, the customer will always buy from the salesman he likes best.”
Check with yourself for a second: do you do the same?
If the only difference between two shops is how nice the staff are,
do you prefer to go to the 'nicer' one?
Alfred Tack wrote this in the days of the travelling sales representative.
Nowadays that job is often done by the website.
And for professional services, people enquire through the website as a first step, rather than actually buy (instruct you) through it.
So maybe we should update his advice:
“All things being equal, the client will always enquire through the website he likes best.”
This seems doubly important with professional services as they are invisible until they are in action.
People can't see what they will get beforehand.
So clients focus on feelings: they would rather work with professionals they like and get on with.
That all leads on to the question:
“How can I make our website more likeable?”
(I don't mean 'like' in the facebook sense, I mean 'more engaging'.)
My advice is this:
Rather than only describe your team as friendly in one sentence – demonstrate friendliness:
- Aim to welcome visitors rather than simply announce who you are
(so that means your Homepage)
- Aim to make your invitation to call or email as friendly as possible
(at least on your Contact page)
- Aim to be as likeable as possible in your writing
(ie everywhere else!)
Differentiate Your Firm: write a likeable website
1. Aim to actively welcome visitors rather than simply announce who you are
The great majority of professional websites focus almost entirely on proving how professional their services are. There's nothing wrong with that subject, but would-be clients want more reassurance than that.
So I suggest you write your Homepage as you would want to be greeted by another professional firm in a different sector – for instance, private healthcare. If all of a sudden you found you needed these services quickly, what explanations would help you feel comfortable?
This means writing in a conversational tone - if not actually to your audience in the first person, then at least with their point-of-view in mind.
2. Aim to make your invitation to call or email as friendly as possible
In a new situation, most people feel uncertain and nervous about what to do, especially in the earliest stages.
So rather than simply providing contact information, include at least one sentence on your Contact Page that actually invites contact.
Many Contact pages look more like administrative application forms then invitations...
Say that they are free to get in touch, or even ask them to do so with a 'please'. And remember to echo this on every other page where you leave your contact details.
3. Aim to be as likeable as possible in your more detailed writing
On every other page, write in a friendly tone rather than an authoritative way. First-time clients will usually be much more sensitive about how they might get on with you than almost anything else.
Imagine yourself weighing up a consultant surgeon – trust and reassurance comes first, techniques and implications come second.
So provide information about languages spoken, cultural variety, gender variety as well as years of experience and specialisms etc. Give the information potential clients want.
* 1000 Ways To Increase Your Sales, 1954, Cedar Books
Can Marketing Help Us Work Smarter?
Marketing is often thought of as an interface function: mainly for attracting clients.
It's true, that is usually the primary function...
But the disciplines of marketing can help inside the professional firm too.
- Encouraging coherence in a dispersed team
- Simplifying paperwork to save time and reduce stress
- Improving client satisfaction to boost repeat business
These are all about communications-led human issues, rather than professional knowledge, skills and judgement.
Simple, cheap and easily accepted methods can make work easier, more productive and more profitable.
1. Enhancing Teamwork
Professional work varies case-by-case. Almost by definition, things change each time. An important part of the work involves adapting techniques to achieve the required result.
In a team, there will usually be different personalities as well as different cases. Managing the variety to keep the business efficient within the professional ethos takes time and effort.
However, tailoring the routine methods and the paperwork that supports them can help. The relatively new psychology of 'nudging' seeks to help change behaviour in gentle ways. It can help team members work more coherently – quickly, smoothly and cheaply.
2. Easier-to-use Paperwork
Administrative systems can cause stress for professionals - usually in unintended and accidental ways.
But diaries, forms, databases and websites can be redesigned to make more sense for the professional task in hand rather than the administrative task. And in doing so, this can improve the quality of records.
3. Encouraging Client Bonding
Repeat business comes from happy clients. The client-care aspect of daily work can have questionable relevance to the immediate professional task, and yet it is essential for the business.
This means tackling glitches in the working relationship as soon as possible. And proactively building a good working relationship. Encouraging team members to give this area attention can also benefit from 'nudging' systems.
Work smarter, not harder!
Stress affects professional firms – accountants, architects, bankers, IFAs and IT consultants, with teachers at the top of the list and solicitors coming second.
Productivity is reduced by too-high stress levels, and lowered productivity causes stress... sometimes in a circular fashion.
Rewording some key parts of your systems can help on both counts.
Do you think it might be worth exploring?
Does Your Website Give Potential Clients What They Really Want?
Your website has a vital job to do in attracting more enquiries.
The Law Society, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, The Guardian and the Citizens Advice websites advise people searching for and choosing a solicitor.
In total, they list 10 issues that potential clients feel important.
These marketing research clues can help you.
When people search for professional services, they want quick answers to a few key questions. These are natural questions about preliminary preoccupations before the professional matter is addressed.
Including these answers on your website will make a good impression. People will be impressed by this evidence of your helpful caring attitude, and they in turn will:
- be more likely to read the rest of your website more thoroughly
- be more likely to shortlist your firm than your colleague-competitors
- and be more likely to email or phone you sooner
Of course, not every interested visitor will want all ten answers. But the more answers you provide, the more likely you are to reassure more people enough to actually enquire.
The new LexisNexis research white paper "Client Experience: The new differentiator for law firms says:
"Client experience is emerging as the new frontier on which law firms are competing.
This is not surprising in the larger context of professional service firms: big four accounting firms and firms in management consulting have been through a similar journey.
However, a focus on client experience is new to many law firms, especially in the light of past research that shows persistent disconnects between them and their clients. The repositioning has not been easy. Many have invested in client facing technology, but payoffs are slow. More generally, law firms appear to be struggling with the question of how best to improve their client experience to the point of differentiation."
The results of the Quick Self Assessment will be a unique-to-you review - which I hope helps you in planning your website update, most obviously your About Us page. This is a small example of how you can become more client-experience focussed.
(If I might be able to help with that, please just send me this email and I'll call you.)
All the best, Dave Simon
Law Society advice to clients choosing a firm:
"weigh three important considerations"
“Our advice to consumers is to make decisions about the legal services you use based on a balance of considerations. Price is of course important, but so also are the range and quality of services you get for your money, and the client protections offered by the provider.” (Law Society, 6 December 2018)
Do you help potential clients choose your firm by providing those three sets of information?
The law is all about the right choice of words.
So is marketing your business.
"Client protections" and "quality of service" seem to be least often written up on firms' websites.
Most websites are designed as announcements.
Their evident job is to inform potential clients how the firm can help. They list the services provided. They often provide a little 'human interest' background too.
- But law is increasingly competitive - 3000 more solicitors every year.
- And more people check law firms websites than ever before - perhaps 96% of them* - even if they already have friends' recommendations.
There is more you can do to attract enquiries.
Potential clients entering a new professional area for the first time are likely to want as much reassurance as they can get. This easy-to-overlook aspect of your presentation makes a difference to their assessment of your firm and hence your number of enquiries.
Beyond your website design, development and refresh project:
1. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) may get you in front of more viewers.
2. HCO (Human Choice Optimisation) makes it more likely people will chose your website from a Google list, enjoy it and then contact your firm in real-life.
It means introducing as much welcome into your website as possible. And making your invitation to get in touch as explicit as possible. With only small changes to your preferred style.
This new tone feels more friendly to your potential clients and also sets you apart from your competitors. It's especially important if you already describe your people as "friendly" - with the rest of your website demonstrably confirming this.
I do hope this is useful, Dave
PS Evidence suggests that only around 10% of people buy on price alone.
Therefore the Law Society's other two considerations must be more important to more clients.
* Source: Google Consumer Survey, Nov 2013