Easy Proofs To Reassure Would-be Clients
(Use Proven Marketing Rules On Your Modern Website)
80% of readers scorn unproven claims
'Normal Marketing' Methods Don't Work For Professionals
Many professionals' deeply focussed training takes them further away from marketing than they realise. In practice, tempted to emulate 'normal' marketing, they may be disappointed.
The fundamental stages of marketing are well-established:
- Get Attention – unread adverts gain no sales!
- Promise an Advantage – it's got to be worth-while.
- Prove It - “This is difficult to communicate too.” - THIS EDITION
- Convince People they will Gain – 'yes, you toocan benefit!'
- Ask for Action – the difference between advertising and educating.
"Your [ ] proof-material copy builds belief.
It furnishes evidence of the advantages you have promised. It makes the reader feel that his purchase of the product will be safe and wise; that it will indicate his good judgment, and vindicate it, too, if that becomes necessary."
(Victor O. Schwab, advert-writer extraordinaire)
[Compiled from MORE Marketing Tips - a short series on Reassuring Proof,
based on the Short Thoughts blog at more.consulting]
The nature of professional work makes marketing difficult.
- There are elements of traditional marketing that often can't be used
- The professions have difficult-to-describe aspects of their services
- The emotion-laden client is usually more sensitive about what to expect
So the professions cannot design their marketing materials exactly as other businesses do.
Table of Contents
"Providing Proof of our Promise is difficult"
Prove Your Promise Meaningfully
Reassure Potential Clients That You Impressed Your Previous Clients
Provide Proof Of Your High Quality Service (Before Doubts Stop Enquiries)
Providing Proof Of Our Promise Is Difficult
"differentiating the brand to deliver a competitive edge"
Bellwether Report "The Age of the Client" 2015
Qualified professionals have knowledge and skills that their clients don't.
And they often have permission to do things their clients cannot do. That is the basic advantage you offer.
The qualification itself is awarded as proof that you can provide the service.
But, that makes no basis for a layperson to make a choice between your firm and others. All firms have qualified experts - it shows no advantage to clients from your firm.
Your next client may just go to the cheapest, or nearest firm... or use any touchstone of their private preference. Their risk of a poor match between needs and skills looms large.
Providing Proof Of Your Advantages
Potential clients need proof that your claims are true - in terms they can understand.
The qualification means little to them – and post-nominal abbreviations mean nothing at all.
They don't understand enough of your profession to judge the differences between firms' and individuals' performances.
But professionals understand the territory well enough to make very sharp distinctions with neighbouring competitors.
And it can be a bit too easy to misjudge the gap between those viewpoints.
Complicating matters are three more influences on the situation:
Most professionals have a conservative tendency to understate the differences. There is a professional courtesy issue – “we are all colleagues after all” - that demands impartiality.
Most professions have confidentiality policies that surpass commercial norms. The ethical rules can seem to inhibit some marketing techniques – perhaps more than Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2007 - Rule 7: Publicity actually requires.
And there is often an aversion to appearing pushy in case of seeming desperate or greedy.
This all makes for a major communication problem!
Between service provider and service user there is a gap that can stop hesitant lay-people.
In healthcare, this calls for a good 'bedside manner' to explain technical things in lay terms. It is essential that the client understands what is on offer, or self-preservation will turn them away.
Yet another cause of difficulty is that website design is often an art-based activity.
So words for your website are usually contributed by the firm – and often written by committee. And that will often produce results some distance away from professional marketing methods. (I'm being a bit blunt here!)
It's true that the fee-earners are experts in what they provide.
But their training has not been in writing eye-catching headlines, easy-reading proof of advantages and welcoming ways to win enquiries.
This is where "devising a clear marketing and communications strategy, and, if necessary, using external consultants and mentors to plug knowledge gaps" becomes important, as the Bellwether Report (as above) says.
Ironically, it seems just as difficult to explain the advantages of a marketing consultancy input into this process, as it is for most firms to explain their advantages! Part of this problem is that marketing is seen as 'just plain English' and therefore easy for anyone to do.
But my Chamber of Horrors, gathered from far and wide, includes terrible spelling mistakes, obscure jargon and one website with no phone number on it (anywhere!).
Most importantly - uninviting (even dismissive) messages. An outsider's view can see these things as potential clients do, and being on your side, can warn you and suggest amendments that make remedial action almost instant.
I would love to chat quietly about how you would like to re-tune your performance of your client-attracting system. Please call 01983 614795 or email me here and we can arrange a convenient time.
Prove Your Promise Meaningfully
How to encourage that all-important
first contact from potential clients
is a common question for law firms.
According to Forrester Research, around 97-98% of your website visitors leave without taking an action or identifying themselves. They were interested but not convinced.
According to recent analysis by Chartbeat, most people don’t read your entire blog post. In fact, a full 10% never scroll at all, while the majority stop after scrolling through about 60% of it.
And of those who do read your work, 79% of users just scan a new page - only 16% read word by word.
Really disappointing, isn't it?
However, to get realistic, this suggests that visitors need to be convinced fairly early on:
- firstly to keep reading
- secondly to take action
Prepare to prove your proposition
Accepting this task is often the first step to changing your marketing.
In the professional world, one's word is often meant to be, and is taken as, your bond.
However, outside that world, people are more skeptical.
That's disappointing too.
But these days, everyone has to be careful, what with scams, fake-news and hate-speech.
Street-level survival demands constant checking for ulterior motives and hidden agendas.
This means that to convince these people, professionals have to do more than they might usually expect to.
Creating credibility with statistics?
If your first reaction to that is skepticism... that shows how hard this is.
We all know there are “three kinds of falsehoods – lies, damned lies and statistics”.
(Historical Note: This seems to originate from Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, as quoted in the Manchester Guardian, 29th June 1892, although it's often attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century British Prime Minister, following mention in Mark Twain's autobiography.)
So the statistics we use have to be relevant, obvious and unchallengable.
Breaking down the challenge makes this a do-able project. Actually - it doesn't have to be hard.
In the earliest stages, many potential client's concerns are relatively simple.
They relate to the welcome and care they will get rather than the outcome you will create.
Therefore, you can provide internally collected statistics on these concerns with a fair confidence that they are relevant.
An easy way to select which measures to collect is with this checklist of what clients really want. I suggest beginning with 3 rather than all 10 on the list!
Your presentation of these statistics has to be understandable to your typical client.
Describing your research results in three paragraphs of academic text will probably put people off. Adding footnotes about confidence levels, degrees of freedom and more technical stuff will make sure of it!
Simple numbers, percentages, and ratios will do well. (And they don't give away too much private information either!)
Diagrams like these below are even simpler and easier to understand. They are intuitive and much more impressive.
Most people retain the impression rather than the details.
So the rule-of-thumb is to give enough rather than every detail.
While professional firms' internal statistics carry weight, an independent survey carries more.
Client satisfaction scores are so subjective – and so easy to disbelieve – that an authoritative external validator is necessary.
For internally collected statistics, include a date. And update the figures at reasonable intervals.
If possible say how many clients were asked - this will look familiar to people who are used to seeing this sort of proof on TV adverts etc.
Not Very Sexy Maybe... But Persuasive
- Good statistics build goodwill - quietly and effectively.
- Choosing a few key measures is not hard.
- Collecting figures systematically is not hard.
- Converting totals and ratios into diagrams is not hard.
- Creating reassuring headlines and explanations to accompany them is not hard either.
Yes, it takes a bit of judgement and a bit of time.
But the powerful impact this can make at critical steps can make a huge return on the effort.
Turn disappointment into direction
If you would like some inspiration about how to be more persuasive with a few key statistics, please do get in touch to start a free no-commitment chat. Email here, or phone 01983 614795.
Reassure Potential Clients That You Impressed Your Previous Clients
Opinions from existing clients are the best answer.
They mean much more to new clients than adverts or even newspaper reports. The difference is that existing (or previous) clients know what you do and what you're really like.
That counts for much more than what you describe in an advert or webpage, or what a newspaper journalist says.
How Testimonials help new clients relate to you
People like real-life reviews – they always have.
Over the past few years, third-party review websites like TripAdvisor, Facebook and TrustPilot have grown.
People have become increasingly used to checking them before taking expensive action. So if your competitors show them, an absence of testimonials on your website can be disconcerting.
It's a shame, but testimonials are a bit less effective than they used to be. People tend to skip over them rather than read them diligently. It depends on how and where you show them - there are ways you can attract the eye.
However, they do help to counteract the occasional bad review you might get. And they work better if they are present before that happens, rather than hastily uploaded afterwards.
How to use Testimonials to best advantage
The best way to benefit is to ask clients for their experience with your firm in their own words. And saying that this would be most helpful on your website and leaflets to reassure others considering approaching your firm.
The Ideal Testimonial is clear and well-written, explains a little background and provide a few specifics – especially numbers – about the difference you made for them. Aim to guide people to write all that in several sentences: one liners don't really impress people much.
“I found XXX firm very helpful, they made the entire problem bearable and tackled it much better than I was going to. I had felt alone with the unfairness of a really bad experience. I didn't know where to start. In the end I got a settlement more than double what I first expected.”
If possible, a head & shoulders photo accompanying it adds to enormous credibility.
As a minimum, try to present 3 testimonials. Less suggests a lack of clients, more is overpowering and risks being skipped over completely.
Give each testimonial the most evocative headline you can to overcome any lethargy/cynicism.
Follow three rules to maximise performance
Focussing on three 'rules' helps you to narrow a wide area of marketing work down to a do-able project.
Choose ideal clients, not typical clients
Today's testimonials will guide tomorrow's enquiries.
You are creating your future. So show the testimonials likely to attract the work you want in 3 to 6 months time.
For example, in commercial work, be careful of showing too many national or celebrity names in case it puts off the local SME's you want to attract.
Encourage 'signed' stories
Un-named or part-named stories seem weak.
And in today's heightened awareness of fake news, unsigned and anonymous stories could actively damage goodwill.
If possible, also include the town those clients come from to demonstrate your coverage area.
Organise a series of angles
Spread the positive aspect identified around.
So rather than all your stories praising warm welcome, limit that angle to one of them. Then include others that praise speed of response, ease of team-working, reasonable fee rates, etc., and where possible, success in the legal matter.
Where professionals are mentioned by clients, aim to get several included. Showing just one leaves questions as to the rest of the team. So perhaps seek to get one staff member into each testimonial.
How to get methodical
Collecting Ideal Testimonials can take some work.
Some firms and some departments will find it more difficult than others due to the nature of their work.
But real-life opinions can make a significant difference to how would-be clients feel about your firm. If their legal matter is not overwhelmingly urgent, their natural hesitations can be mollified to good effect by believable testimonials.
So once collected and effectively presented, they can work for you for years. Their potential return on that time investment can be huge.
Provide Proof Of Your High Quality Service Before Doubts Stop Enquiries
Qualified professionals have knowledge and skills their clients don't.
And they often have permission to do things their clients cannot do. That is the basic advantage all professionals offer.
But the qualification awarded doesn't help non-professionals to make a choice between your firm and others.
Quality of service is an easy differentiator - if you can prove it.
Impressions are a composite of many small things...
People notice all sorts of small things.
Especially when hyper-alert due to anxiety... Even more especially when trusting experts.
Your perceived quality can drop if a lack of consistency emerges from your small communications.
A few examples of unintentional oversights:
- Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, duplication mistakes will reduce the credibility of the text. I've seen 'laywer' and 'reposnsible' on national and regional firm's websites.
- I saw a series of photos of a firm's Partners taken against a nice old brick wall. It was a nicely traditional background, except that it showed a different angle of the bricks in every photo. The unconscious message seemed to be that amateur snaps were acceptable - and the implication was perhaps that the service might be similar...
- A regional firm who 'prided themselves' on being client-centred showed an automated newsfeed on the homepage – which was entirely industry news of little interest to the clients they professed to help.
Appearance, Ambience and Assistance
Here is a fairly long list of quality factors to help you check that your whole presentation is consistently professional.
These re NOT professional issues in the usual sense - they are professional client-care issues.
They're all small issues. There's nothing mysterious here, or demanding ponderous effort.
It's more a matter of being methodical.
- Adverts, including leaflets and websites: Do your adverts and leaflets keep up with your website changes? Do they speak clearly to ideal clients or announce to anyone?
- Letters and emails: Are they easy to read for your intended readers? Do they convey your message clearly or do they accidentally confuse? Do they actively prompt necessary action?
- Proposals and plans: Do you explain why you suggest the plan, or simply describe it? Do you offer updating meetings and plan revision meetings? Do you explain risks, benefits, timescales, etc?
- Personal and premises presentation: does everyone look, sound (and even smell) professional in every contact they have with clients? Mystery shoppers can give you surprising insights.
- Prices, their range, flexibility and explanation: Do you take the opportunity to remove imaginary barriers some people have about solicitors fees? Do you manage expectations of timely payments?
- Liaison during service delivery: Do you offer various frequencies of liaison during your work. Do you check how they felt about it afterwards? Do you actively plan quality and quantity?
- Back office: Do your telephonists and receptionists have a welcoming and efficient personal manner? Are your reception area, meetings room and toilets a bit more than 'just presentable'?
- Professional service: From introductions to completion reviews and client satisfaction surveys, do you manage the whole service the client receives – or just the professional job?
Proving your firm's promise takes more than a few sentences
I go into these issues in greater detail, tracing step-by-step the contact points a client will usually have with a professional firm in an article on the website.
What I call your Client-Attracting Pathway goes from first-enquiry to loyal-client with 12 possible steps.
You can tune each step with a trouble-shooting approach. But it is better to overhaul the whole system to ensure maximum performance – which in the long run is best for your firm.