Like it or not, your law firm website is the most visible and accessible picture of your law firm and how you do business. Lawyers in law firms typically fall into three camps: 1) they hate their website; 2) they think their website is fine; or 3) they are indifferent (i.e., it’s not a priority or their job). Regardless of where you land, you might assume that your firm website is perfectly planned to only display what your website committee has authorized, but in fact, every website unwittingly reveals a law firm’s soft underbelly.
Visitors Want To Know Very Specific Things
Your visitors are making a series of conscious and subconscious decisions about you that, together, form what is often a lasting (and perhaps unflattering) impression about you, your lawyers and your law firm. Buyers of legal services have a lot on their minds as they peruse your website; they have their agenda and the least they expect from you is that you are a mind reader so you can serve up answers to their pressing questions. For example, they want to know:
- Are you relevant?
- Do you have the expertise they need?
- Have you done this before? For whom? And when?
- For what are you and your law firm known? What are your most lauded strengths?
- What is your geographical reach?
- Are you largely specialists or generalists?
- Can they afford you?
- How transparent are your business practices?
- How will they feel about you when they work with you?
- Will you define “being responsive” the same way they do?
- Will they trust you? Will they feel confident in their decision to hire you?
- Will they like you?
- How do your peer firms regard you?
“But, no one hires me because of our website.”
Er, yes, they actually do.
But, we know plenty of lawyers who say, “No one ever hired me because of our website,” which happens to be a self-fulfilling statement. If these lawyers aren’t investing in their website and ensuring that it’s smart, current, easy to use and engaging, no one will hire them after visiting the website. This attitude fails to recognize the digital sophistication of buyers of all ages and ignores the fundamental shift in how business-to-business buyers buy.
Two important statistics will hopefully help you understand the exponential rise in digital B2B decision-making: According to Forrester, “67% of the [B2B] buyer’s journey is now done digitally” and Gartner (formerly CEB Global) highlights, “B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales.”
To complicate things a bit more, it’s important that lawyers realize that the journey to purchase anything, legal services included, is much more circuitous than it used to be. Why? Because of social media and mobility.
Buyers Are Checking You Out On Google, LinkedIn and Twitter. Are You Passing The "Relevance Tests?"
Based on interviews with corporate counsel and senior executives, with additional data gathered by and reported on by Green Target and the Zeughauser Group, study after study, social media is increasingly important to the lawyer vetting process. Boiling down the buying journey to its highlights, here is how it now goes:
- A prospect has a business opportunity or problem.
- The prospect seeks referrals from trusted friends or colleagues. (This is still a relationship business. Actively cultivate referrals from clients, competitors with conflicts and other business associates.)
- The prospect turns to Google to see what surfaces about the lawyers. This is the first “relevance test” your lawyers must pass. How relevant is Google’s snippet of text to the work each lawyer is doing today? (If it’s off point, this is a problem.)
- Based on the search results, they go to LinkedIn and Twitter to vet the lawyers further. This is the second relevance test. Buyers want to know if you are part of today’s conversation. What are you thinking? What is your point of view? What are you talking about that matters to them and addresses their problem or opportunity at hand? If you have no active or current presence, you might as well be invisible to them.
- Then they go to your website, and this is where your most direct business development opportunity is.
- Let’s say, however, that your website looks dated and undifferentiated, it isn’t mobile friendly (much of this vetting will be done on mobile devices) or accessible to visitors with disabilities, your bios and bio photos aren’t current, and bios don’t include specific experience . . . then what happens?
- Your prospect leaves and starts screening the next lawyer on their short list.
All of this is happening behind the scenes and you have no idea it is taking place. The opportunity to engage with that prospect is gone – likely forever.