Use the familiar to build likeability and trust

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In the first season of the original Star Trek, in an episode entitled The Corbormite Maneuver, the Enterprise crew encounters an alien ship that threatens to destroy them. The pilot of the ship is a bellicose, scary-looking creature who warns the Enterprise of their impending doom.

We later learn that the scary creature displayed on the Enterprise’s view screen is actually a manikin with a synthesized voice. The real pilot is a small childlike alien, played by a young Clint Howard, who maintains the ruse as a way to protect himself.

We like the story because the good guys survive the danger with a ruse of their own. Captain Kirk tells the alien that if he destroys the Enterprise, his own ship would be destroyed, due to the presence of Carbomite within the ship’s hull. There is no such thing but it allows the Captain to buy some time to confront the alien and defuse the threat.

We also look the story because it seems familiar.

Indeed, the same theme was used in The Wizard of Oz, some thirty years earlier. The Wizard is portrayed as powerful and threatening, until we see the man behind the curtain and realize that The Wizard  is actually a gentle white-haired old man.

Familiar themes help moviegoers become more engaged in a story. They are also used in marketing to educate prospects and generate trust.

When a prospective client or referral source sees that they have something in common with you, they are more apt to like and trust you. Your mutual interest also serves as a natural icebreaker.

If you have a small R2-D2 on your desk, for example, prospective clients will see that you are a Star Wars fan. Even if they are not, they might be less intimidated by you, relax, and open up.

Movies and popular culture are just one way to use familiar themes, but it is a good one because they are so well known and because they invoke the emotions of people who remember them. If you are an estate planning attorney, writing about what to do when a loved one has a terminal illness, for example, you could do worse than referencing the 1970’s book and film, “Love Story”.

In your marketing, presentations, and conversations, look for ways to connect with people by using familiar themes, examples, and stories. They can help you show people what you offer and build trust in your ability to deliver.

More ways to build likability and trust

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Marketing to people who don’t like lawyers

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They’re out there. People who will tell anyone who will listen how much they don’t like lawyers. They go to great lengths to describe their bad experiences, how they were cheated or lied to or how their lawyer was incompetent or in the pocket of the other side.

True or not, they are angry and passionate about their dislike and distrust for members of our species.

There are others who aren’t necessarily angry but who have been conditioned to be anti-lawyer by a friend’s experience or by what they see on TV or movies. They think lawyers are arrogant or mean or uncaring.

And then there are those who simply think lawyers charge too much. They may be jealous of our income or lifestyle, real or imagined, or jealous of the fact that we don’t seem to work hard compared to whatever they do.

I’m sure you can think of other reasons why people hate lawyers or don’t trust lawyers or are quick to tell the latest lawyer joke making the rounds.

The question is, how do you market to these folks.

A few thoughts.

First, prepare for it, especially if you target consumers and small businesses. “I don’t like lawyers” is an objection, and like any objection, it is best handled before you ever talk to the client. Put something on your website that deals with the issue up front.

Talk about how some lawyers give others a bad name but that most are honest and hard working and want the best for their clients. Talk about why lawyers charge what might seem to be exorbitant fees, and say something about the costs of running a practice.

Talk about some of the issues clients sometimes have with their lawyer, such as the failure to keep them informed. Explain what a lawyer should do and what the client can do if their lawyer doesn’t do it. Explain the recourse that is available, i.e., how to file a complaint with your bar association.

Use this as an opportunity to explain your policies, procedures, and safeguards on those issues. Tell them what you do to keep your clients informed, for example. Explain when and how you seek permission before you do certain things. Tell them how you handle delays and contingencies.

In other words, don’t run from the issue, turn it into a selling point.

Second, make sure clients and prospects know that your door is open. If they have questions or something bothers them, encourage them to contact you and tell you about it. You want to know because it helps you do a better job for your clients. Make it easy for them to fill out a form to communicate with you.

Third, if allowed, make sure your website provides testimonials from clients who talk about the great job you did for them, how you were patient with their questions, how you always got back to them, and other “trust factors”.

If testimonials aren’t allowed, provide “success stories” wherein you describe cases and matters you have handled that a good outcome. Talk about how you copied the clients on everything, and other things you did to keep them informed and happy. If possible, include stories about clients who came to you after they had a bad experience with another lawyer and what you did to fix things.

Fourth, make sure your website has lots of substantive content. Explain the law and procedure and process for handling cases, negotiating and drafting documents, and the like. Illustrate your points with cases and matters you’ve had as examples. Let prospective clients thus see you “in action,” helping clients, solving problems, saving the world.

Of course much of the above applies to prospective clients who don’t have any trust issues with lawyers but might have unanswered questions about what you do and how you do it.

Most people who say they don’t like lawyers still hire lawyers. When they have a problem or need something a lawyer can provide, they will hit up a search engine or ask someone for a referral. When they do, the above steps will make it more likely that you’ll be the one they choose.

More about how to build trust: The Attorney Marketing Formula

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Is your online presence costing you business?

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Our washing machine is failing so we’ve been shopping for a replacement. My wife spent lots of time reading reviews before making her selection. Unfortunately, the one she wants is slightly too big for the space occupied by the current machine. There is a cabinet overhead and the lid of the new machine wouldn’t clear it.

We went to a store to see if there was anything we could do. We talked to a friendly sales person and asked about switching the positions of the washer and dryer, which would solve the problem (our dryer is front loading), and the sales person told us that they do this all the time.

Only they don’t.

According to another sales person at that store, due to legal concerns, their installers won’t move the dryer. We would have to buy a new dryer, which we don’t need. He also pointed out some other issues with respect to the position of the existing hookups.

Was the first sales person telling us what we wanted to hear? Was the second sales person being overly cautious?

We didn’t know so went to another store and asked the same questions.

That sales person told us there should be no problem switching the machines, but he would check with their installers and let us know.

His shirt indicated that he was the head of the department and we wondered why he didn’t already know the answer to this question. In addition, he made absolutely no eye contact with us while he said “no problem.” My wife and I walked away thinking we couldn’t trust him.

Now, do you think prospective clients go through a similar process when they are shopping for a lawyer?

Yes indeed. And if they don’t trust you, they won’t hire you.

If a lawyer doesn’t have a website, many clients will pass them over, even if the lawyer was referred by a friend. In addition, according to one study, 75% of consumers say that not having a professional email address (you@yourdomain.com) is an important trust factor.

I’ve mentioned this before. If you have a generic gmail or hotmail or aol email address, you’re probably losing business.

Prospective clients don’t hire lawyers they don’t trust and if you don’t want to lose business, you need to tick as many “trust” boxes as you can. Start with your online presence, which is what they see first. Your website doesn’t need to look snazzy, but it should look professional, be easy to navigate, and have lots of good content.

And when they come to see you, make sure you make eye contact and tell them the truth, not what you think they want to hear.

The 9 elements of an effective website

 

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Judgments about trustworthiness are made in less than a second

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According to new research, “people only need to meet someone for less than a second before they decide how trustworthy they are.”

Yikes.

When you meet a prospective client they make up their minds about you instantly. In a single glance, the jury decides whether or not to trust your client or witness. When you are networking or speaking, you are judged before you say a single word.

It has to do with the human face and how our brains process the image. I’ll spare you the scientific details behind the research but the process occurs at a subconscious level, and quickly.

We used to think that people make up their minds about us in the first minute or two, giving us time to make a good impression. You know, smile, make eye contact, show people you are interested in them. Now we know that by the time we do that, people have already made up their minds about us.

Now what? We can’t change our appearance. Our face says “trustworthy” or it does not. All we can do is move forward with the things we’ve always done to make a good impression and earn trust. We’ll thus reinforce the person’s first impression of us as trustworthy, and thus strengthen it, or we’ll counter their first impression of untrustworthy and, one hopes, overcome it.

But then I’m assuming it’s possible to overcome a bad first impression. It has to be. If it were not, it would mean there are people walking around with a face that tells everyone, “you can’t trust me,” and there’s nothing they can do to change that impression. I know life isn’t fair but I think that’s going too far.

How to improve your trustworthiness. Click here.

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Build trust by admitting a flaw

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A well-known copy writing principle for making an ad or offer more believable is to admit a flaw. When you admit that your restaurant often has a two hour wait to get seated, or that it takes 23 minutes of bicycling to burn off the calories in a can of coke, as a recent Coke ad declares, you appear more trustworthy.

Sometimes, your admitted flaws are benefits in disguise. The two hour wait for a table suggests that you have great food and that it’s worth the wait. The Coke ad was thought to be an attempt to counter a film in which, “a health advocate states that a child would have to bike for an hour and 15 minutes to burn off the calories in a 20-ounce Coke.” By comparison, 23 minutes doesn’t seem so much.

For lawyers, admitting a flaw may be a good strategy in a trial, in a negotiation, or in speaking with a prospective client. The trick is to find something about you, your client, or your position, that shows a vulnerability, but doesn’t go too far.

Telling a prospective client you don’t have a lot of experience with his particular matter, for example, may be admitting to a flaw that causes the client to look elsewhere. On the other hand, your honesty may be exactly what the client needs to hear for him to decide that you’re the lawyer he wants.

Admitting that clients may have to wait up to thirty minutes after their scheduled appointment time to see you, because you’re so busy, may be an effective strategy. But maybe you better start serving great food.

Want more ways to build trust? Get this.

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Trust me, I’m a lawyer

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We all know that if people don’t trust you, they won’t hire you. And trust is not automatic. You have to earn it. 

Many people will give you the benefit of the doubt, at first, especially if you were referred to them. But their trust can be lost in a heartbeat.

My wife used a referral service she likes to have some roofers come out for an inspection. First one, great. On time, friendly, plain spoken. He showed her photos of some minor issues that need work and gave her an estimate. She liked what he said and he’s in the running.

Yesterday, the second one showed up (from the same referral service), but there was a problem. He couldn’t get up on the roof. It seems he had a short, fold-up ladder, which he transported in the trunk of his car, and it wouldn’t reach. When my wife asked why he didn’t bring a longer ladder, he explained that he would need to drive a truck and the gas would be too expensive.

Done. My wife instantly knew this guy wouldn’t get the job.

He said he could send someone with the truck later in the week. Right, after waiting for this guy to show up and experiencing his bewildering lack of preparedness, my wife will happily sit around waiting for one of his guys to show up. Guess again.

“I don’t trust him,” she told me. And I don’t blame her.

So now, he’s not getting the job and he’ll get a bad review on the referral service website.

Booyah.

Prospective clients aren’t looking for a reason to hire you so much as they are looking for a reason to disqualify you. And it doesn’t take much. If you are unprepared, if you squawk about your costs of doing business (build the gas money into your fees, bub), if you do anything that says “unprofessional,” that’s it. You’re off the list.

Anything can knock you out of the running. Someone doesn’t like your photo on your website because you look mean, or there is no photo on your website so they can’t look at your eyes, or you didn’t call them back right away, or you yawned on the phone and sounded like you didn’t care.

Anything.

Am I saying you have to meet certain minimum standards to even be in the running? Yes. Getting the basics right only gets you in the game. If you want to get the job, you have to do even more.

Yes, it’s hard. You have to be ever vigilant and pay attention to detail. When you are in a service business or a profession, it’s not just the quality of your work, it’s about the entire client experience.

But hey, you’re lucky. At least you don’t have to schlep a ladder.

Want more referrals? Get The 30 Day Referral Blitz

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The only good lawyer is a dead lawyer

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In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of people don’t like lawyers. Hey, a lot of lawyers don’t like lawyers.

But why?

Because we help bad people get away with bad things? Because we’re mean? Because we earn a lot of money for doing nothing?

I guess there are lots of reasons. Most of which we can’t do anything about. But there’s one reason we can do something about.

A lot of people say they don’t like lawyers because we can’t be trusted. We lie. We don’t keep our promises. We say one thing and do another.

A lot of people think this. As long as they do, the legal profession will continue to be looked down upon and lawyers will have a harder time winning our clients’ trust.

What can we do about it? We can start by making sure we always keep our promises.

The other day I had a phone appointment with a lawyer. I called at the scheduled time, as we had arranged. The lawyer was “in with a client”. I was told the lawyer would call me back.

But he didn’t.

An appointment is a promise. Two people agree to meet or talk and they schedule it in their calendar. When someone doesn’t show up, they break that promise.

So, here’s the thing. If you want people to trust you, you have to do what you say you’re going to do. If you have an appointment, you keep it. If you say you’re going to call someone or you say you’re going to do something, you do it.

There is no gray area. There is no best efforts. As Yoda says, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

If there is an emergency, okay, people understand. But you’ve got to tell them.

If you need to re-schedule, okay, that happens a lot. But you’re got to tell them.

Otherwise, they think, “flake”. “Doesn’t keep promises”. “Can’t be trusted”.

And people don’t want to hire lawyers that can’t be trusted.

Have you noticed how a lot of Texans who use the word “lawyer” intentionally pronounce it “liar”?

Now we know why.

If you want to learn more ways to build trust, get this.

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