The New Virtual Handshake – the time has come to learn how to move your personal touch online
BY Chris Wilkerson
A strong handshake is never going to go out of style. Attorneys have landed new clients with personal charisma at cocktail parties and social gatherings for generations, and that set of skills will always be important.
As the Internet becomes the most universal tool for business development, clients are more likely to find your firm online and that means your site needs to be as impressive as you are in person.
The Internet has been in widespread use for about 15 years now, and most businesspeople are comfortable using webcams and online collaboration tools to communicate with their attorneys. That means you can prospect for new clients all over the globe and you can expect businesses across the street from your office to be searching for professional services without regard to geography.
The funeral home operators down the block from your office, for example, may have had a great experience when they recently redesigned their website and choose to hire a web design firm across the country to do it. Now the funeral home director is more comfortable with the technology and more likely to go out and get the best experts needed and not settle for the closest when they do so. That will translate to all of the company’s business needs from accountants to, yes, attorneys.
This new dynamic is not going to vanish. Every year more of your clients will research your firm online and if you want the best clients, then your website will have to become your new front door, whether you are attracting businesses or everyday people who need their rights upheld.
Website analysis has shown that potential clients are looking at your firm’s website and comparing you with your competition before they make calls and set up meetings. Those potential clients are looking at your lawyer biographies and getting a first impression of you before they ever look you in the eye – an idea that was probably unthinkable just a generation ago.
The attorney bios on your firm’s website are every bit as integral to your prospecting as the country club membership you keep. If done right and updated regularly, the bios on your site will tell potential clients who you are and why they should hire you.
Marketing experts agree that it is important to tell readers where you went to law school, but it is not as important as telling them what you are good at and why they should hire you. In many ways, the information in the lawyer bio is similar to the information you share with a new potential client you meet at a social event. The first thing you share about your practice is your passion for the work. You tell people what you are great at and why people trust you to be their attorney. If they are still interested, then you might tell them where you went to school and what charitable organizations you support.
Many attorneys will find that more personal information on the website helps to make out-of-town clients comfortable working with you. Think about the photo of your family on your desk. Many of your clients are made more comfortable knowing you are just like them – they even ask how your family is doing. Your online presence will need to convey a similar humanity as you recruit more and more clients this way.
With this, your website’s landing page becomes your new front office and your lawyer bios become your new virtual handshake. Take some time to look over the lawyer bios on your firm’s website. Are you convincing your prospective clients that you are the best lawyer they could find in the practice area – not just in your hometown, but across the state and across the country? Are the blogs, press releases, articles, and short videos on the site positioning you to be the authority in your field? Is there a contact area on every page so clients can connect with the firm instantly?
Marketing experts have done studies that show prospective clients are not the only people who look at your website – your current clients are looking at your web page, too. That means the funeral home director you have had as a client for the past 20 years is now looking at all of the business services he or she uses and is making comparisons.
It might be difficult to imagine that technology will change your business model that much. After all, lawyers have been serving local clients and making a living that way for generations. If you need to be convinced, ask a travel agency how technology has changed their business model. Ask a print journalist or a bookstore owner how long it took for their industry to turn on its head.
Even staying in the world of professional services, businesses from florists and bakers to accountants and electricians have had to adjust their marketing strategies to survive in a world where clients find your firm online. In your case, though, those clients do not even need to be in the same geographical area.
You will not see this monumental shift in your clientele overnight. But during the course of the next few years you will inevitably see more clients coming to you from the Internet. The more time and attention you give to your firm’s website, the more clients you will get.
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