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“Show, don’t tell,” is a catchphrase commonly used to urge writers to craft material in ways that allow the reader to experience a story by immersing themselves in it. The concept has an important role to play in marketing when it comes to showing the target audience the benefits of a service or product versus simply telling them about its features.

Features can be defined as surface statements or facts about the product, such as its specifications, what it is made of and how it functions. Benefits, on the other hand, demonstrate what the product can accomplish for the target audience.

One of the biggest differences between features and benefits is that the latter appeals to audiences on an emotional level. While both share a symbiotic relationship when it comes to developing effective marketing copy, benefits are more powerful of the two in converting potential clients.

A product may have numerous compelling features. However, simply listing them puts the focus on the product rather than the customer. Using a features-centric marketing approach assumes the audience is already knowledgeable about a particular topic and puts the burden of understanding it on them. It is simply not good storytelling. For example when buying a laptop, its features might be that it has a 500 GB hard drive and is 13 inches in size. The potential customer is left to connect the dots between the technical specifications and how they will benefit from them.

While the features may sound vaguely positive, as standalone facts they might not make much sense or sound appealing to a customer unless they are familiar with computers. A benefit of having a large hard drive is that you will not run out of space for storing music, photos and videos. A benefit of having a compact-sized laptop is that it is portable and easy to carry when traveling. On the other hand, a customer might assume a 13-inch laptop is inferior in performance due to its smaller size. When you leave your audience to draw their own conclusions, there is a risk of them drawing the wrong ones.

Among the numerous goals a law firm has, focusing on the importance of speaking to the benefits their practice offers should be a priority. Knowing the difference between a fact and a benefit when describing a law firm is one of the key steps to marketing success.

All too often lawyer marketing focuses on facts. Potential clients, however, have little interest in dry facts about a particular law firm. The hiring of an attorney tends to be event-driven. Most prospective clients are looking for a lawyer to solve a specific problem that has arisen, whether it is a slip and fall accident, a business dispute or an impending divorce. In such circumstances, the individual seeking legal help is likely to research law firms in the relevant practice area.

What they want to know is how an attorney can help them answer their questions, file a lawsuit or obtain a successful outcome in a case. Putting emphasis on how one’s services can promote a positive outcome or prevent a negative consequence is much more effective. As a result, focusing on communicating benefits rather than highlighting facts when forming your message is essential.

Although facts lack the ability to make emotional connections with the target audience, they still matter a great deal. They act as the “proof” for your benefits by verifying the claims that are being made. Once you convince a prospective client on what your service can do for them, the facts and details ease their decision-making. For example, an attorney may share the benefit of having courtroom experience to help clients secure the desired damages in wrongful termination lawsuits. The fact that the law firm has already achieved a number of successful outcomes then adds credibility to the benefit.

There are many ways attorneys can use relevant facts to market their firms effectively. Most firms already have the basic information they need. The data in a law firm’s case management system can inform marketing decisions regarding how to sell benefits to potential clients. Each law firm has its own trove of practice information such as:

  • Types of clients and past clients who have been represented
  • Number of cases taken on per month
  • The amount of time it takes to resolve a lawsuit
  • Resolution of litigation; whether the case was settled, dismissed or won on an appeal
  • How many cases have had successful outcomes
  • How many hours over a year are devoted to a particular area of law
  • Membership in legal organizations
  • Awards won

Attorneys often focus their marketing efforts on describing their practices. In doing so, they dwell on facts without explaining the benefits of those facts to their prospective clients. The key difference lies in saying what your firm is and can do versus how the individual can benefit from the firm’s expertise and experience. The goal is to make such facts relevant to the target audience. While law firms cannot make promises nor create false expectations for a certain outcome on the client’s part, discussing their experience based on a history of positive results is likely to boost a client’s confidence in them.

For example, instead of stating “I am a personal injury lawyer” or “Our lawyers have been practicing corporate law for over 30 years,” attorneys can say, “I strive to protect your rights in court” or “I help companies comply with and take advantage of state and federal laws.” The second set of approaches connects with the target audience by focusing on how the law firm can help a potential client achieve positive results or prevent negative consequences.

Features and benefits must be framed correctly. For example, an attorney claiming they are a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys or that they have acquired Super Lawyers peer review honors probably does not mean much to most potential clients. Instead, explaining the benefits of such features offers some context. An attorney can say that because they belong to such organizations, they are able to stay abreast of the latest developments in courtroom techniques and settlement approaches. This in turn means the prospective client has a greater chance of successfully settling their case.

Client testimonials can also be used in benefits-focused marketing as they provide potential clients with real examples of how people experienced positive results through your law firm’s services. Client testimonials are a form of brand storytelling, which is what makes content meaningful. They describe how your law firm was able to solve a problem for someone, thereby strengthening the emotional connection between your brand and the target audience.

Law firms can achieve the desired marketing results by concentrating on using a marriage of facts and benefits to communicate to potential clients how their services can solve their specific legal problems. When confronted with a decision of which law firm to select, a potential client is likely to prefer the one with obvious benefits rather than a plethora of facts. With a benefits-centric approach, it becomes clearer to a prospective client why they should choose your law firm over a competitor’s.

About Author

Dipal Parmar is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine and legal content developer for mid-sized to large law firms.

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