I'm a little tired of content marketing.
That statement might make you bristle. After all, content marketing has been all the rage for a few years now. Every marketer worth his or her salt has discussed it in webinars, blog posts, and social media.
I'll be the first to admit that I talk about too. Quite a bit even. You can't ignore it outright.
What troubles me, however, is the pedestal on which content marketing sits. There isn't enough discussion about all the marketing that needs to be done.
I definitely believe in the power of putting out bait for potential clients. Online articles capture online searches, leading to clients. This is, without a doubt, good. I won't argue with a strategy that produces clients.
However, I'm always wary of putting all your eggs in one basket. Considering the number of times I've heard that phrase, there's got to be some wisdom in it. I'm sure you would agree.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how clients actually find your practice during their journey to select an attorney. Every step in the process represents an opportunity for you to "capture the lead" and move them from lead to signed client. I'll give you a couple of tips for how to make this happen in your practice!
Why We Need Many Eggs in Many Baskets (More Marketing in More Places)
You may or may not already understand that a client's journey isn't a straight line from point A to point B. They don't wake up one morning and suddenly declare, "Today I shall hire an attorney!" The process from legal problem to hiring you hits a few bumps along the way. And it starts long before the decision to even call a law firm, much less hire an attorney.
Most people enter the legal world suddenly and unpleasantly. They were struck by a car. Or they were arrested. Or realized that there just wasn't any money left. Or are finally facing down an untenable marriage. There are plenty of reasons for people to need an attorney and few of them are happy occasions.
The initial problem usually triggers a "research phase." The person wants to know more information about their problem. Do they even have a problem? What is the most simple solution? Can they handle this problem themselves? Already, we're examining marketing in a different way.
This is often where content marketing comes into play. You create content that talks about these first questions potential clients are asking. Obviously, there are ways to create better content than others - it's a pretty popular discussion we have with our members. But the idea here is to be available at the start of this process with this content.
After the research phase, potential clients enter a "sorting phase." They start comparing attorneys to one another and try to figure what firm(s) may be a good fit for their needs.
Being the Attorney Who Stands Out Above All Others
In order to win during the "sorting phase" clients go through, you need to make sure you have a couple of key elements in place.
First off, you need to make sure any review sites that could show up with your name are managed properly. Have you claimed your Avvo page? If not, that's a great place to start. You also owe it to yourself to generate fresh reviews on Google.
At BenGlassLaw, Ben's personal injury and long-term disability law firm, we work hard to get a steady stream of five-star reviews on Google. These reviews keep us at the top of local search results and drive people to call us. There are 45 five-star reviews for BenGlassLaw as of this writing. Now, you may start with zero, so don't look at the big number we have and despair. It is the result of asking for reviews regularly over the past couple of years. If you're not even asking for reviews right now, then you have a great place to start. Just start asking for them! (Don't bribe anyone for reviews and always obey the ethical rules of your state. Members of GLM with questions about reviews can always reach out to us for help.)
When talking about reviews, we say, "Reviews are the way people find us and the reason they choose us." It's a powerful tool, and you will stand head and shoulders above other attorneys when you gather positive reviews.
Another way to stand out is to produce a "Unique Selling Proposition" (USP). Your USP should be a reflection of how you deliver your services differently from other attorneys.
I know what you may be thinking: "But my service is the same as any other attorney's!" It may seem that way, but there is almost certainly a way you conduct business that sets you apart. For example, at BenGlassLaw we tell people "Request our free information before you speak to the adjuster or hire an attorney." That's certainly a different message compared to other attorneys.
Another simple message you can deliver is, "One simple, 25-minute conversation with us can provide you with the answers you need about your legal problem." What's so different about that message? First off, it's just 25 minutes. The specificity of that number creates greater confidence in your knowledge and abilities. Additionally, the word "conversation" is different from a consultation. Most people don't know what they get from a consultation. A conversation is easier to understand and not as scary.
Next up, the potential client moves to the "selection phase."
Developing the Selection Criteria (Teach People How and Why to Hire You)
This may be the most important step so far. Your average citizen doesn't know how to go about hiring an attorney, and they almost certainly don't know how to decide which one is better than another.
You have an opportunity to help develop the criteria someone uses to hire an attorney.
For people in Northern Virginia, we developed a list of questions they should ask any attorney before hiring him or her. These questions range from what results has the attorney achieved for previous clients to whether or not the attorney is board-certified. Not every state or even every county will have the same criteria. Make it specific to where you practice.
I would recommend at least five items on the list you recommend to potential clients. And, of course, make sure the items are all things you can check off if they call you! We regularly get new clients at BenGlassLaw who come to us after using our criteria to interview other attorneys, only to realize that the other attorneys just don't match up. These clients sometimes travel 100+ miles to meet with us after looking at almost every attorney in their community.
The "Alternate Path" that Speeds Up Your Path to New Clients
If the steps above seem like they could take a while to develop, I do have good news for you.
Right now, there people in your community who are ready to hire an attorney. They've gone through the process above. There is just one problem: they landed with the wrong attorney!
I'm not talking about a bad attorney. I just mean they contacted an attorney who doesn't actually handle their type of case.
Simply put, there is a big opportunity for you to increase the number of referrals you receive for your practice.
Attorneys in your region are receiving calls right now from clients who they can't help. They would be more than happy to send these folks to an attorney who can help them. You could be the recipient of these referrals.
As a matter of fact, this is often the first thing we help attorneys achieve. It's not difficult to do, and you can start getting new clients in less than 30 days. All it takes is simply reaching out to a small group of attorneys in your community and offering them a place to send these potential clients.
Of course, you don't want to "hit the phones" and cold call a bunch of nearby attorneys to get them to send you cases. That's not a great use of your time. All you really need to do is send 25 or fewer attorneys a simple, one- or two-page letter describing your offer to handle the cases they don't (at least the ones within your particular practice area).
If your state allows it, you can offer referrals fees. Alternatively, offer referrals back to the other attorney and/or to make the referring attorney the hero in the process. The most important part of the process is to show the respect you have for the referral process. A referral is a reflection of the referring attorney's reputation. Honor your commitment to treating the new client like a VIP. And always, always, always reach out to say thank you when you get a new client referred to you!