It’s late on a Friday afternoon, and you are finishing up your week’s to-do list so you can leave the office at a normal hour. You have no clients coming in this afternoon, and your assistant/receptionist has left early.
You get a call at 4:45pm – it’s a potential client with an urgent matter. “Can you meet at 6:00?” she asks. You could use the work – so you stick around. While you have her on the phone, you ask her a few questions so you can be better prepared for your meeting. Before she arrives, you straighten the front office to make it welcoming. When she gets to your office at 6, you’ve taken a few simple steps to make a good first impression, increasing your chances of winning a new client.
What preparations have you made for potential clients researching you online? Even those “word-of-mouth” referrals are vetting you. What will he find about you and your practice? Will your online presence encourage him to pick up the phone and call you or will it make him run in the other direction, straight into the office of one of your competitors? Does it leave the potential client indifferent about you?
While some attorneys aren’t yet ready to use the internet to pursue new clients, you must at least provide well-organized, complete information for those word of mouth referrals vetting you online. (You don’t want potential clients running for the hills.) This means, at a minimum, updating and monitoring your “digital real estate.”
Three important areas for you to review include:
Your Bio on Your Firm’s Website
Your LinkedIn Profile
Attorney bio pages are the most visited pages on law firm websites. What kind of first impression are you making? If your bio is all about you, it’s time for an update. You need to convey what you do, and how you help your clients. Why should someone choose you over another attorney?
One way to think about this is to define your unique value proposition. This article on value propositions is an excellent resource to get you started. (Pay special attention to the “6 Templates to Help You Flex Your Value Proposition-Writing Muscles” about ¾ of the way down in the article.) I know it’s challenging to limit the services you market, for fear of missing out on a new client. In a world where your potential clients are empowered with information and options, you need to be cautious about casting a wide net. Clients want to know that you can help them with their specific problem. You can’t be all things to all people online.
Make sure your contact information is easy to find. Check to see if someone can click-to-call you from their mobile device. While you are at it, check the format of your bio from your smartphone and tablet if you can.
Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn has over 350 million users – including your clients. LinkedIn has also evolved into another search engine of sorts. When a prospective client searches for you on LinkedIn, he or she can see any mutual connections. Then the prospective client can contact a mutual connection to continue their vetting process.
You’ll want to make sure that your LinkedIn profile has a nice headshot of you (keep it professional, no ghost-arms from the person you cropped out of the picture please). Complete the Summary section . You can repurpose the value proposition you wrote for your bio to do so.
When is the last time you Googled yourself? If you never have, or it’s been a while, put it on your to-do list for this weekend. Better yet, set up a Google Alert (instructions here) with your name and/or your firm’s name so that you’ll easily be able to stay on top of things posted about you online.
In a recent study from Moz, 67% of online respondents cited online reviews as fairly, very or absolutely important to their purchasing decisions. For attorneys, one of the biggest online review sites is Avvo. If you are a licensed attorney, you have an Avvo profile – and no, Avvo will not remove your profile because it’s public record. Your Avvo profile will likely be on the first page (if not in the top 5) of Google’s search results when a prospective client searches “your name + attorney” or “your name +city you practice in.” Because Avvo’s prominence, I recommend claiming your profile and completing it.
How to Handle a Negative Review
You’ll definitely want to have a plan in place to handle a negative review. Respond in a calm and timely manner – don’t fan the flames. Instead, respond online and ask the person who posted the negative review to speak with you offline. If he or she agrees, and you can handle the issue to his or her satisfaction, you can politely ask that the reviewer update the review online.
Managing your online reputation requires consistent effort, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. There are so many opportunities for lawyers to use the internet to proactively meet and build relationships with new clients they’ve never even met. At a minimum, though, you’ll want to make sure you are providing those word of mouth referrals with the information they need to feel good about you and the service you provide so they will schedule that consultation.