How effective is your website?

Recently, I’ve searched several times for a lawyer (or other client service provider) only to discover that he or she doesn’t have a website, or that it’s woefully out of date.
In the past, websites were expensive to create and difficult to maintain, so web developers tended to charge quite a lot for their work. Indeed, many would hold the websites hostage so that only they could make updates and changes. No more! 

The bottom line is that you must have an up-to-date website. In today’s market, the failure to do so tends to sends the message that you aren’t in step with today’s economy or even our modern culture. Period. 

Your website must connect with your potential clients and address their needs and questions. For years, websites functioned as pretty (or not) online brochures. No more.

Your website must let potential clients know that you understand their needs. Programmers created a word I love: grok. To “grok” (as best I, a non-programmer get it) means to understand on a deep, almost visceral level. Your website needs to let your clients know you grok them and their concerns. 

The first way to communicate deep understanding is to use website copy that talks to your clients about their concerns, not at them about your experience. Which approach do you find more persuasive and helpful when you’re searching for something online you need? 

Far too many websites open with something like, “Here at Black & White, our lawyers have 500 years’ experience in handling real estate, intellectual property, and personal injury matters.” A potential client needs to know that you understand something about their concerns before they care about your experience or credentials. Start where your clients are. 

Two effective ways to communicate with potential clients via a website: describe client concerns using declarative statements, or ask “pull” questions. “Pull” marketing is marketing that is intended to prompt someone to self-identify as your potential client or to repel them if they don’t meet your client profile. The purpose of these two formats is identical, and both can be effective. 

As you’re drafting your website copy, pay attention to the number of times words like “you” and “your” are used compared to the frequency of “I”, “we”, “mine”, or “our”. You should have many more “you” and “our” words than “I”, “we”, “mine”, and “our”. Otherwise, you’re most likely talking at your readers, not to them. 

What if you’re in a big firm and you have no control over your website? If you’re in management, this is an issue you should examine. If not, recognize that the website is unlikely to change based on the input from a single lawyer — whether associate or partner — and figure out how to make your biographical sketch more attractive to a potential client. 

What should your website feature? 

  • A home page that talks to your potential clients.
  • Biographical sketches of each key player, focused on appropriately detailed descriptions of the individual’s experience that will show a potential client the match between that experience and the matter he or she is considering. The sketch should also include experience and credentials that serve as objective indicia of your competence.
  • If the firm is small, shorter sketches of the firm personnel that a client is likely to meet, especially those who are likely to be the client’s first or frequent contact points.
  • Articles written by or about the firm’s key personnel.
  • Presentations made by the firm’s key personnel.
  • Links to blogs maintained by the firm or its staff.
  • A subscription form for the firm’s newsletter, with a description that lets subscribers know what they’ll be receiving and an offer that will encourage subscriptions.
  • Directions to the firm’s office(s), including narratives for the most common approaches and a map.
  • Full contact information.
  • Appropriate language to comply with your state’s ethics rules.

Review your website today through fresh eyes. Ask someone who’s never read it to take a look. And then develop a time-based plan to ensure that you fix what’s broken. If you don’t have control of your website (meaning that you or a staff member can update the website on a moment’s notice), you need to correct that immediately. (Large firm lawyers are, of course, excepted from that rule.) 

If you don’t have a website, or if your website is out of date and you need to start from scratch, drop me an email and I can make some cost-sensitive suggestions. 

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