How clients evaluate lawyers before they hire them

According to a recent study, prospective clients evaluate lawyers (and other professionals) before they hire them in a few common ways.

81% go to your website. (Do you have an effective website? Does it show what you do? Does it tell visitors why they should hire you instead of any other lawyer? Does it invite them to take the next step (i.e., call for an appointment or to ask questions? Does it capture their email address so that if they’re not ready to take the next step you can stay in touch with them?)

63% google you. (Is your website and/or blog optimized so that they can find you? Will they find favorable ratings and comments about you on sites like Yelp and Avvo? Will they find articles or guest posts by you on reputable blogs? Will they find interviews of you and articles about you? Will they see that you have received awards or been mentioned for your achievements?)

62% ask friends or colleagues if they’re heard of you. (If someone knows you or your reputation, will they say good things about you? Will they say you work hard and care about your clients? Will they say you provide added value beyond your core services? Will they say you are good at what you do? Will they say you are fair and honest? Are you asking your satisfied clients to rate you on these sites?)

60% use social media to research you, and 70% use LinkedIn. (Do you have a complete LinkedIn profile? Do you have a presence of any kind on other social media platforms? Do your social media accounts invite people to visit your website? Are you asking your clients to Like your page and share your content?)

So, you need an effective website and a decent LinkedIn profile. (Your profile will show up in search results, so don’t dismiss it’s importance if you have a consumer practice.) And, you need to do a good job for your clients so they will say nice things about you.

What do you think? Marketing isn’t really that difficult, is it?

How to build an effective website

Attorney marketing plan: time vs. money

I talked to an attorney yesterday who wanted to drive more traffic to his website. A plan to get more traffic to your website, like any attorney marketing plan, comes down to a choice between time and money.

Here is a list of the more common (and acceptable) marketing options for attorneys who want to get more traffic:

MONEY

  • Advertising (PPC, display, offline, direct mail, radio, etc.)
  • Hire a PR firm to get you coverage, interviews
  • Self-hosted seminars
  • Hire people to ghost write content or assist you in writing content

TIME

  • Writing a blog
  • Guest posts and comments on other people’s blogs
  • Writing articles for article directories, offline publications
  • Webinars/teleconferences
  • Public speaking, seminars
  • Write reports, ebooks, articles, audios, courses
  • Build an email list
  • Staying in touch with former clients
  • Social media networking
  • Youtube videos
  • Networking
  • Marketing joint ventures
  • Podcasts/webcasts/hangouts/interviewing experts
  • Interviews, panel discussions

Most attorneys can’t or don’t want to advertise. Or, they don’t have a big enough budget to compete with some of the bigger advertisers.

The problem is, most attorneys have even less time than money. At least that’s what they tell themselves. They could invest more time in marketing. They often don’t because (a) they don’t know how and/or (b) they don’t think they’ll see a return on their investment.

What if I could prove that one hour invested in marketing (the right way) would bring a three-fold return? In other words, if you’re time is worth $300 an hour, and I proved to you that investing one hour in writing a blog post would bring you $900 in revenue, would you invest that hour?

Of course you would. Yo mama didn’t raise no fool.

But here’s the thing. That blog post might bring you a three-fold return this month, and then again next month. And every month. There will always be new people searching for your content and your solutions.

No guarantees, of course. Your results may vary.

My point is that many time-oriented marketing activities have a long tail, whereas advertising generally doesn’t.

Your website content can bring you traffic and new clients for months or years to come. Networking and building relationships with new referral sources and joint venture partners can do the same. Building lists and staying in touch with people can provide you with a long term source of new business.

When you look at it this way, instead of worrying about how much time marketing is “costing” you, you’ll realize that every hour you AREN’T marketing is costing you.

As Wayne Dyer puts it, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

If you want more traffic to your website, get my Internet marketing course for attorneys

Content marketing for lawyers made even simpler

In Make the Phone Ring, my Internet marketing course for attorneys, I provide a comprehensive list of ideas attorneys can use to create content for their blog or newsletter. They can also be used to produce reports, presentations, articles, videos, and other kinds of content.

Whether you have my course or not, today I want to give you a homework assignment that will help you create ideas for content almost automatically. You see, it’s one thing to go looking for ideas when you need them. It’s something else to have those ideas coming to your in-box every day, filling your mind with raw material and providing you with a starting point for creating rich, timely and interesting content.

Your assignment is to subscribe to three types of newsletters (blogs, RSS feeds, ezines, etc.):

  1. Other lawyers. Find lawyers both in your field and also in other fields and subscribe to their newsletters or blogs. You may start out with seven or eight and then cut back to the best three or four. You’ll get ideas for your own articles, which may include commenting directly on theirs. You’ll also see how often they publish, how long their posts are, and what types of posts they write (case histories, news, commentary, etc.)
  2. Your target market. Read what your target market is reading–news about their industry or local community, for example. Also read the content produced by those who sell to or advise your target market–vendors, consultants, businesses, and other professionals. You’ll learn about the news, issues, causes, and trends that affect your clients, prospective clients, and referral sources. You may also identify new marketing opportunities as you learn about those trends and the people associated with them.
  3. Something different. Subscribe to content that interests you and has nothing to do with the law or your client’s industry. It could be hobby related or any kind of outside interest–tech, travel, food, sports, news. I get lots of ideas by reading outside my main areas of focus, and so will you. You’ll be able to create richer, more interesting content. And it doesn’t matter if your readers don’t share your interest. Not everyone follows sports, for example, but on some level, everyone can relate to sports analogies.

Content marketing for lawyers is relatively simple. Subscribing to other people’s content makes it even simpler.

Get Make the Phone Ring and get more clients on the Internet. Click here.

How to handle negative reviews and comments

I just read a post on the subject of dealing with negative comments on sites like Yelp and social media. The author says, in a nutshell, that if the statement is factually untrue, and you can prove it, you can ask the site to remove it. If it is an opinion, the author says to, “add a comment to the post explaining your rational [sic] in a non-hostile way and how you plan on addressing the situation.”

I disagree. I would not respond to negative reviews in a public forum. Doing so only invites more negative comments, from the original poster or from others who side with him or see the need to defend him.

An opinion is an opinion. If they didn’t like something, they didn’t like it. Right or wrong, it’s their opinion. Any efforts to defend or explain yourself will only make you look bad. As much as it might hurt, it’s almost always best to ignore these comments, at least publicly.

If you can identify the client who made the post, reach out to them privately. See if you can resolve the issue. Apologize, make amends, offer satisfaction. Do what you can to win back the client, or at least make them see that their public comment was too harsh and retract or amend it.

The author recommends encouraging visitors to the site or thread to contact you privately by email, so you can respond to questions or comments. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. You want people to communicate with you, of course, and that includes negative comments. But if you “make an appearance” on the forum or in the thread to extend this invitation, you leave readers wondering why you didn’t respond to the negative comment(s).

The better way to handle this is before it occurs. Make sure your clients and others who engage with you and your staff are openly and repeatedly encouraged to contact you if they have any questions or concerns. Let them know that if they are unhappy about anything, you want to hear about it. Set up mechanisms that make it easy for people to contact you, even anonymously. And remind them to do so. When people know they can blow off steam directly to you, they may be a little less likely to do it publicly.

One thing the author of this post and I agree on, if you do have negative comments, ask some of your happy clients to post positive comments. If you have enough positive comments, you can effectively bury the negative ones. People are smart. If you have twenty positive comments and one that is critical, most people will put things in context.

I know many attorneys resist getting involved with social media and review sites like Yelp because they don’t want to invite negative comments. But these will occur, if they occur, regardless of your involvement. The better course of action is to be proactive. Set up accounts and invite your clients to share their views. I suspect most will be positive. If an unhappy individual comes along, perhaps even the losing party in an acrimonious case, there will be no need for you to defend yourself, your other clients will do it for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to handle negative reviews. What do you do, or plan to do, about negative comments?

Make the Phone Ring is my course on Internet marketing for attorneys. Check it out here.

Marketing legal services: minimal effort for maximum return

Would you do any marketing if you didn’t have to?

I’m not talking about “internal” marketing–treating clients well, staying in touch with them, creating an environment that is conducive to referrals–I’m talking about external marketing–ads, social media, speaking, writing, videos, networking, and all the other things everyone says you need to do to bring in new clients.

I wouldn’t.

Why spend the time or money if you don’t have to?

If you didn’t have to do any external marketing, imagine how that would feel. No guilt about what you’re not doing, no forcing yourself to do things you don’t want to do.

If you don’t like social media, guess what? You’re off the hook. Go spend the time cranking out more billable work. Or take up a hobby. If you do like social media, you can do it for fun, not because you need to bring in business.

The same goes for speaking and networking. Do them if you enjoy them, stay home if you don’t.

If your internal marketing is working, you’re getting repeat business and referrals without any additional effort.

The phone rings and people want to hire you. You don’t have to find them, convince them, or cross your fingers and hope they have the money. When they call, they’re pretty much ready to go.

Nice.

On the other hand. . . (yeah, the fine print). . . I can’t promise you that internal marketing will always bring you enough new business. Your clients may want to send you referrals, for example, but not know anyone who needs you right now.

And. . . even if your internal marketing bring you plenty of new business, there’s nothing wrong with bringing in more.

So. . . in order to hedge your bets, you might want to do some external marketing.

What do I suggest? What is the best use of your limited time? What has the biggest potential return for your effort?

A content-rich website.

Because when someone is referred to you, the first thing they do is go online to check you out. No website and you scare them off. And, if your website is nothing more than a listing of your practice areas and contact information, it’s not enough to show anyone why they should choose you instead of any other attorney.

“Content” means information, not about you but about the prospective client. He’s searching for answers. He’s looking for proof. Your content provides those answers and that proof.

And it’s so easy to do.

Start by writing down ten or twenty questions clients and prospects typically ask you about your area of expertise. Then, answer those questions. Talk about the law and procedure. Describe the risks and the options. Point them towards the available solutions. Include some stories of cases or clients you’ve had, to illustrate your points. Post these online on a website or blog.

Now, when someone goes online to check you out, they will see that you know what you are talking about and that you have helped other clients to solve these problems. You haven’t just told them what you do, you’ve shown them.

In addition, when people go to a search engine, looking for information about their legal issue, your content brings them to your website. The same thing happens when people share your content with their social media contacts.

Marketing legal services (externally) really can be this simple.

If you have a website, add content. A single article you post today could bring you new business three years from now. If you don’t have a website, start one. Add some content to get it started and once a week or so, add more.

While it’s not quite “set it and forget it” marketing, it’s about as close as you can get.

If you need help starting or growing a website or blog, this is what I recommend.

How to market by email (NOT)

I got an email this morning from a guy trying to sell me his Internet marketing services. You’ve probably seen emails like this a thousand times.

The subject says, “Schedule call”. The email starts, “Are you getting the most out of your Internet marketing efforts? More than 80% of businesses and consumers research products and services online before making a purchase, creating a massive opportunity from an effective campaign.”

Blah blah blah. Yada yada yada.

He goes on to tell me how great his company is and asks to schedule 30 minutes on the phone to tell me what they can do for me.

Now if this guy knew ANYthing about Internet marketing, he would not be doing this. This is NOT how to market by email.

Yeah, I know, he wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t working. Lucky for him, there are plenty of people who know even less than he does about marketing and if he sends enough of these emails, he will get some business. But not nearly as much as he could if he was doing things the right way.

I’m not being critical of his email because it arrived unsolicited. I don’t get bent out of shape when I receive unsolicited email. But. . . don’t subscribe me to your list without my permission and make me DO something to get off of it. So guess what this idiot did?

Oh no you didn’t! (Yes, he did.)

So. . . instead of simply deleting his email and parting friends, after I unsubscribed, I clicked and identified the email as SPAM. As others do the same, eventually none of his emails will get through to anyone’s inbox.

As I say, this dumb bastard doesn’t know anything about Internet marketing.

But the problem with the email isn’t that it arrived unsolicited. The problem is that the email is a stinker.

It should be blindfolded and executed by firing squad.

You don’t need to see the entire email. All you need to know is that it’s all about the company and not. . . about ME.

There are some bullet points that attempt to suggest benefits: “Maximizing social media for business development,” and “Ensuring your website stays up-to-date on search engine. . .”.

Zzzzzz.

Boring. Weak. Trite.

Stuff we’ve seen so often our eyes glaze over.

And I don’t want to “maximize social media for business development”. I want clients. I want people to hire me and pay me. I want more people to find me and sign up for my list so that more people will hire me and pay me.

Okay, what is he offering? Even a poorly written email can be effective with a strong offer.

Hmm, . . a 30 minute phone call. . . so he can try to sell me something. . . yeah, thanks but I’m just going to have to pass.

Even if I liked his email, it’s too soon in our “relationship” to close for a phone call.

What could he have offered that might have gotten me to click?

Information. A report, for example, with tips and advice about how I could beef up my Internet marketing, get more traffic, more sign ups, and more clients.

I might have at least taken a look.

If the report delivered good information, I might have been open to learning more about his company and what he can do for me.

Most lawyers aren’t going to send out unsolicited emails. But if you do, that’s how to do it. The same goes for your ads, speeches, and articles. Or when you are networking.

Don’t talk about yourself. Don’t go for the close the first time you communicate. Talk about the prospect. Offer information.

Let the information demonstrate your knowledge and experience and sell the reader on hiring you or taking the next step.

There. Now you know more about Internet marketing than this guy. Please don’t subscribe me to your list.

Need help with Internet marketing? This shows you what to do and how to do it.

Long blog posts, articles, and emails, or short?

How long should an article or blog post be? Right, long enough to say what you have to say. If you can communicate your information or message in three well written paragraphs, great. That’s what it should be. If you need 2500 words to get the job done, that’s what you should do.

But there are other considerations.

It is well known that long blog posts (articles), I’m talking 2000 words, or more, tend to get more search engine traffic and incoming links. Longer posts tend to be perceived as authoritative and rank well with search engines and human beings (social media sharing).

On the other hand, the objective isn’t just traffic. It’s clients and sign-ups for your email list. To accomplish that, visitors have to read your content and see how smart you are and what you have to offer. If your content is long, they may save it “for later”. I don’t know about you but I’ve got gigabytes of saved articles (and pdfs) that I’ll probably never get around to reading.

Also, if you write to your email list frequently, as I suggest you do, you may overwhelm them with too much content. They either won’t read it or they will unsubscribe from your list.

How frequently you post or write, and how long individual posts should be, does depend on context. Are you writing for consumers or business people? If you’re writing to professionals and providing valuable and relevant content, they will probably make the effort to stay with you. Consumers may not, but if are writing about the very problem that currently plagues them they’ll read every word.

So, the answer to the question of “long or short” is a very lawyer-like, “it depends”. The best course is to have a mix of both.

Write longer, authoritative articles and posts for search engine traffic and to address issues prospective clients want to know about. Write shorter posts to engage your readers and allow you to contact them more frequently.

One thing you can do with longer material is to break it up into segments. Three 700 word posts instead of one with 2000 words. In addition to giving readers the impression that there’s not “too much to read so I’ll save it for later,” it gives search engines three opportunities to find you. (Make sure each of the three parts is optimized for different keywords).

So, this post is around 400 words. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Learn more about internet marketing for attorneys. Click here.

Internet marketing for attorneys and handymen

My wife and I hired a handyman yesterday. She found Dan on a review site for trades people. He had nearly 100 positive reviews, more than any other on the site.

Dan doesn’t have his own website. He probably thinks he doesn’t need one. He’s got all that business coming in from the review site and I’m sure he also gets lots of referrals.

But what if that review site shuts down? Yes it does happen. Sites that aren’t making money, sites that are mismanaged, sites that get sold to someone who has different ideas.

Just like that, Dan’s online presence would be gone. All the business from that site, gone.

Then what?

Okay, he would still get referrals. But when the people getting referred go online to “check him out” and find nothing, what do you think they will do? They’ll go find someone else, that’s what they’ll do.

Now then, how about you? What kind of online presence do you have? Do you have a website? If you don’t and someone goes online to “check you out,” what will they find? Bad stuff? No stuff? Don’t you want them to see some good stuff?

If you do have a website but it is hosted on a site that you don’t own, what will you do if that site goes away?

It won’t happen? That’s what everyone who had their sites at Posterous.com said, just before they shut down.

You need your own site. Hosted on your own account. www.yourname.com.

Directory listings and reviews on other sites are fine. Having a page on your firm’s site is fine. You still need your own site.

I get a lot of emails from attorneys who use the email account at their current employer’s law firm. joelaw@myemployerfirmname.com But what happens when they leave that firm? They lose that email address.

A year from now, if someone has a referral and wants to email them, they can’t. They don’t work here anymore. Do they track him down? Who knows.

So, if you’re not ready to create your own website, at least get you own domain name and your own email address that will never change. you@yourname.com

Here are some of the resources I use and recommend for domains and hosting.

And here is my course on Internet marketing for attorneys.

And, if you need a good handyman. . .

Social media marketing for attorneys is not that important

If you don’t have a robust social media marketing strategy in place you could soon find yourself left behind. At least that’s what everyone is saying.

This recent article in Entrepreneur is typical. It says that more and more people, especially younger ones, increasingly discover websites through social networks, less so through search.

I say it doesn’t matter. Social media marketing for attorneys isn’t that important.

Let’s think this through.

Joey Prospect has a legal problem and needs a lawyer. He goes to his favorite social network and asks for a recommendation. If his contacts have said recommendation, they provide it and a link to the lawyer’s website. If they don’t have the link, they tell Joey to do a search on the lawyer’s name.

What does this tell us? It tells us that nothing has changed. When someone needs a recommendation, they ask people they know. Yesterday, they may have phoned. Today, they go online.

If someone knows you and thinks you’re a good egg, they will refer people to you (your site) when asked. The people asking for the referral and the people giving the referral may be connected through a social network, but in the scenario above, the lawyer doesn’t have to be connected to either one.

Besides, most lawyers don’t actively engage with prospective clients through social media, nor do they need to. Most prospects don’t think about legal issues unless and until they have one and probably don’t have anything to say to a lawyer or want to hear anything a lawyer says until that occurs.

So, it’s a good thing that your clients and contacts are networking through social media. It’s good that social media is growing as a means for finding recommendations.

But, let’s keep things in perspective. If you handle legal issues that most people don’t want their friends to know about, you’re not going to get a lot of referrals that way. “Does anyone know a good criminal defense lawyer? Yeah, just got arrested for narcotics trafficking, a-gain!”

Search isn’t going to go away. So, lawyers need a website and some basic SEO in place because Joey Prospect is going to want to visit that site to see what the lawyer can do, and if the link is not provided, he is going to “google” the lawyer’s name.

Focus on building a great website with lots of quality content (i.e., solutions). This will (a) let people find you through search engines, (b) show prospects what you can do to help them, build trust, and convince them to choose you, and (c) allow people who know you or find your website to share your content with their networks.

You should provide an easy way for visitors to your site to connect with you via social media, i.e., you should have accounts with the major social media platforms and icons that allow visitors to connect with or follow you. And you should provide share buttons which make it easy for visitors to share your content with their networks.

Let everyone else worry about the networking.

However, social media is a great place for lawyers to network with other professionals. Use it to find and engage lawyers and other potential referral sources and joint venture partners.

And, if you advertise, you should probably allocate more dollars to ad buys on social media.

But don’t get hung up on the idea that you need to have a big list of social media contacts and you need to be conversing with them every day. You don’t. Social media marketing for attorneys, at least the way most people talk about it, just isn’t that important.

Learn more about social media and marketing online for attorneys in my course, Make the Phone Ring.

Negative reviews of lawyers

Apparently, some attorneys have interpreted my suggestion to post a review of your competition on your website to mean, “post a negative review” and don’t like the idea. They think a negative review will reflect badly on them in the eyes of prospective clients or cause the legal community to see them as a trouble maker.

Fair enough. But I never said you had to post a negative review. The point of my post wasn’t that you should report negative information about another attorney in an effort to dissuade prospective clients from hiring them. The point was to mention this lawyer’s name so that when someone searches on that name they will find your site, read your review, and look at what you have to offer.

You don’t have to post negative reviews of lawyers.

You can post a neutral, “here’s what I know about this firm,” review. Talk about what they do, how many attorneys they have, how long they have been around. Basic information you may know about them or can find on their website.

Or, you can post a positive review. Describe cases where you have worked together and how they were always professional and courteous. If you have witnessed them in court and thought they were good, say that. If you have talked to other lawyers who know them and think highly of them, repeat what they have told you.

You can almost always find something nice to say about another lawyer. (What would you tell a jury about them if you were defending them?)

And yes, a neutral or positive review will make you look good in the eyes of prospective clients and keep legal wolves from baying at the moon. But while this may be the safe approach, it may not be the intellectually honest one.

If you think your competition is a scoundrel, if you have proof that they don’t play fair or they are borderline incompetent, if they have numerous complaints against them, do you think it’s right to sweep this under a rug? If your sister was thinking about hiring that lawyer and asked for your opinion, would you lie (by omission) and let her hire them?

You can post a negative review. If it’s fair and you can back up what you say. Will you make some enemies? Probably. The lawyer you outed won’t like you, but so what? Other lawyers may look down on you for breaching the code that says “we protect our own even when they are bad,” but again, so what?

You may make enemies but you will also make friends. You will be admired for being honest and protecting the public. You will be seen as a leader and you will attract people who want to know you and follow you. People will write about you and link to your blog. They will ask to interview you. They will hire you and refer cases to you.

On the other hand, the odds are that your competition isn’t all bad. So, post a balanced review. Comment on the lawyer’s strengths and positive aspects, and also comment about their weaknesses or shortcomings. Talk about the positive first, then the negative. Or, if negative is too strong a word, comment on their differences.

One more thing. If the idea of writing a review about another lawyer makes you queasy and you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. There are other ways to mention the names of your competition.

You can comment on one of their cases you are familiar with.

You can comment on their ads or their website.

You can create a post that includes them in a “directory” of attorneys in your area who do what you do.

You can promote the charity event they are sponsoring. Or congratulate them on getting married, having a child, or winning an award.

If you want more search engine traffic, it doesn’t matter what you say about them. Just make sure you spell their name right.

Learn more about internet marketing for attorneys. Click here.