We’ve always been impressed with how most city-based law firms welcome their visitors. The well-appointed lobby area (often with killer views), the always polite reception staff, the fantastic meeting rooms, the café-quality drinks you get from immaculately-dressed waitstaff.
There never seems to be much expense spared to ensure you get a great impression when you visit. (As an aside, we were told by a very reliable source that a law firm recently spent $150,000 on a new rug for its lobby area. Nice!)
So, here’s a question: Why is it that law firms spend so much effort making sure these visitors get the first-class treatment, yet the bulk of the people who will “visit” them will be doing so online and there’s far less effort made to make these visitors feel special?
A recent study into first impressions made by law firms (conducted by CXINLAW) found that 55 per cent of online enquiries made through law firms' websites went unanswered. The same study also found that over 30 per cent of website visits were rated as dissatisfying, with poor content, resources and visual presentation.
Really? Doesn’t really add up when you think about that $150,000 rug. So, what can law firms do about making their digital visitors feel as special as the people who visit their offices?
Understanding your digital visitor’s journey
Anyone who visits your digital space – whether it be your website, your landing pages, your social media channels – is on a journey.
Some of the visitors are at the start of the journey and are visiting you for the first time. Others may know you or have been referred and are checking you out, while a good chunk of your visitors may already be valued clients.
Wherever your visitors are on their journey, you need to understand how to make them feel comfortable and move them forward.
In the physical office environment, this is usually done with class and hospitality. But in the digital world hospitality starts with your website.
Your website is your digital foyer. First impressions online begin with your home page and website. When potential clients arrive at your website, what will they see? Will it be fresh looking, easy to navigate and mobile-friendly? Or will it be slow to load, poorly designed with confusing navigation?
Here are 7 things to consider if you want your law firm to make an impression online.
1. Design of the times: Good web design looks good and improves usability
Good web design is an essential first step in making a good impression online. Not only will it make your website look great, but it will also make your website easier to use for your visitors. Poorly designed websites tend to perform poorly with Google Analytics measures such as high bounce rates (visitors who leave after only looking at one page), low pages read per visits and low time spent on your site. Web design has changed over the years, but some tried and true design principles remain.
2. Own your niche
Your content defines your firm – who you are and what you stand for – so make time for content writing for your website, your blogs, and social media channels. Make sure your content clearly defines your niche practice areas – your firm is stronger in some areas of the law than others – make sure it’s clear to visitors what your focus is – eg family law, employment or commercial. By doing this you’ll establish your firm as thought leaders in your practice areas, reinforcing your expertise with prospective and existing clients. So where does your content come from?
3. Blog with passion
The best law bloggers write about what they care about – so share your knowledge, expertise and passions. Blog posts can come from repurposed client advice, your take on the latest High Court case or a summary of recent changes to legislation. But whatever you write about, make sure you explain to your readers why it’s important and why you care about it. By writing with passion your readers will want to engage with your blog and be sure to come back for more.
Don't know where to start? Google what other legal bloggers, such as Amicae Curiae, are getting up to for some inspiration.
4. Attracting and retaining the best and brightest
Establishing your firm as a thought and market leader will not only help you win and retain clients, it will also help your firm with recruitment and retention. It’s only natural that the best and brightest candidates will want to work for market-leading law firms that inspire them to work hard and do their best work. LinkedIn is a no-brainer for law firms to get started, but don’t rule out other social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat and even Instagram.
5. Join the conversation – don’t just broadcast
Social is, well, social so make sure you’re not just broadcasting content but responding to comments and taking part in the conversation. Go to Twitter and search for the hashtag #auslaw to see what people are tweeting about Australian law right now. To get you started on social, organisations like the Law Society of NSW often provide online guides to using social media.
6. SEO: Can clients find you online?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) for your website is critical if you want your firm to appear in search results. If a potential client is searching for lawyers on the web you want to be on the first page of their Google search. If you’re on page 2 you might as well be on page 222 for all the good it will do you. This is especially true for practice areas that deal directly with the public like personal injury, family law, criminal law, wills and estates, and employment law.
Of course, SEO means getting the technical basics right for your website’s structure, with keyword research, on-page optimisation, and link building. But it also means continually adding new high-quality content to your site and amplifying your content through social media channels, while reaching out to bloggers and other publishers for links back to your website to keep you one step ahead of your competitors.
7. Mobilegeddon: Is your website mobile-friendly?
Earlier this year, Google changed its search algorithm to reward websites that are optimised for mobile viewing and punish those that aren’t mobile-friendly. The basic reason is that more and more people are searching for sites using their mobile devices and Google wants to make sure they get the best experience. The formal date for when Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm kicked in was 21 April 2015. And the result? A recent study shows that non-mobile friendly sites are disappearing from top Google results.
Is your website mobile-friendly yet? If not, you should be #mobilegeddon your act together!
A last message: Social media is your friend
Many law firms seem quite shy about using social media. However, the reality is that millions (or should that be billions) of people around the world feel right at home on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Why wouldn’t a law firm want to engage people in places where they feel comfortable?
It’s cheaper (and more effective) to network with prospective clients and employees than the expensive rug that greets your visitors in your lobby!
David Klein (left) and David Einstein (right) are co-founders and directors of digital marketing agency Orange Line.