How would you like your clients (and prospective clients) to think about you?
Would you want to be seen as a capable, experienced legal professional? Would you want your clients to feel confident in your judgement and advice? Finally, would you want them to believe that you are the right person (or firm) to dig them out of a hole, to help them avoid potential pitfalls or to advise them on the best way of achieving their aims? Probably, yes.
So, is that what your website says about you? Is that the conclusion your clients will come to when they find you on-line or receive a newsletter from you? That’s why your website is important.
Is your website working as it should?
Apart from word-of-mouth recommendation, your website and your newsletters probably have the greatest influence on whether a client decides to get in touch. Which prompts the question – is your website really working for you as it should?
That’s a deceptively simple question – because what you ‘say’ is not always what your clients ‘hear’ and that is particularly true when what you are selling is a service rather than a physical product.
It is not difficult to make bold claims on your website, it is easy to add your academic qualifications and to list your areas of expertise. But how do you ‘prove’ that you are the professional you claim to be? How do you make your claims to expertise credible to the layman? If you were selling a physical product, you would list the features that a customer would use to assess quality and value. Clearly, that’s not an option for a service so you have to find another way to demonstrate the ‘quality’ of your legal advice.
Almost certainly the single most effective way to do that is good quality content – for both your website and your newsletters.
‘Content’ in this context means advice and comment that will both engage readers and lead them to conclude that you are an authority on your subject. That’s not always an easy balance to strike. It must have enough legal content to appear authoritative, but still be accessible to the average non-lawyer reader. It must be on an issue that concerns clients and it must avoid being too vague while not being so definitive that the reader jumps to conclusions.
Almost everyone finds creating content like this difficult and time consuming – which is why it is frequently better to get an expert to do it for you.
What does the client want to know?
Effective content requires a mental leap to go from thinking ‘what am I good at?’ to ‘what does the client want to know?’ and thinking like a client rather a lawyer is not always easy. As a general rule, clients are not so much interested in an exposition of the law as they are in how it applies in their circumstances. Articles about ‘what happens if ……?’ are more likely to appeal than articles setting out ‘what the law says is …..’.
Even more difficult for lawyers – and for other professionals to be fair – is overcoming the fear that you might give away too much good advice for free. After all, providing professional advice is how you make your living, so giving it away ‘for free’ sounds foolish.
In practise, however, it is almost impossible to provide so much advice in an article that a client concludes they don’t need your services. Why? Firstly, because a client’s individual circumstances will always create a degree of uncertainty about whether your advice can be directly applied in their case. But secondly, and much more importantly, few, if any, clients have the confidence to act on your advice on their own initiative. Yes, they want to understand what is going on and why some things are possible and others not, but do they have the confidence to apply that knowledge in practise? No.
Don’t be vague or use ‘legalese’
The reason for not going in to too much detail is not that the client might decide that they don’t need your help, but that you will lose the reader’s interest with too much ‘legalese’. But in an attempt to avoid giving away too much, there’s a temptation to be vague with the result that the reader doesn’t get enough information to convince them that you have the expertise they are looking for. And that, of course, defeats the point of adding content in the first place.
There is no doubt that creating content is difficult and often time consuming. But not having good quality content on your website or in your newsletters is even worse. Content creates opportunities, starts conversations, prompts enquiries – and they are the lifeblood of every law firm.
If you are struggling to add content to your website or newsletter and would like some help, please complete this short form.