Developing our Legal Mastermind Podcast (launching soon) has been truly eye-opening. It’s been a while since I’ve been out of an in-house Director of Marketing position, past the years of consulting and freelancing, and growing our talent and resources to provide results for our clientele that we can solidify as industry-leading.  Though we have a strong pulse on everything related to SEO and digital marketing trends, there are some crossroads that still intersect at traditional and digital that are very much worth exploring.  Chase and I had a recent conversation with Mark Homer, CEO of Get Noticed Get Found (podcast pending).   While we are still observant of traditional aspects (advising on creatives for print and media, intake processes) and aspects of business development and internal processes (technology vendors and hiring practices), our conversation provided the impetus to take a step back and delve into a concept we often just skitter on and take for granted: what referrals and word of mouth prospects are doing before they actually call you.

Have you ever been in a situation where a colleague or lawyer pal has said, “I talked to so and so and I’m sending them your way – expect an email or call from them soon,” and then you never hear from them?  You might not think too much about this, but there is a very real possibility that they did a little research about you before they planned on reaching out…and they may not have liked what they saw.  Now, they might have weighed options and gone with a first choice, but what’s the sense of speculating?  Keeping your brand airtight online through different channels could have a much larger impact on your law firm than you realize.  Mark said that in the first 3 months, with a thorough plan (one that I’ll be developing here myself), you can see at least a 20% increase in traffic coming in from your law firm name or attorney name(s).  But let’s first start with the stats from a 250-participate survey, as we generally do to avoid conjecture, on how people would proceed with a legal referral.

Our question for participants was a straightforward one: let’s say you have a legal issue and a friend/family member provided the contact information for a lawyer and said they are confident in their abilities.  Answer the following:

The first question after the preface was “On a scale from 1-10, how important would it be for you to still research the lawyer even though your family and/or friends said they were a good lawyer?”

Get ready for this one!

The average answer was 8.67 out of 10!  The Mode was 10 and the Median was also 10, so weighting this question makes it a 9.47.  Let’s get this straight, the average person answered about an 8 in previous studies when saying “reviews are an important factor when researching a lawyer,” but a 9.47 when saying “researching a lawyer is important even if a family member or close friend refers them.”

This is an incredible number that shows the state of how people still need social validation to confirm they are making the right choice.  In other words, consumers have officially moved in a direction that they basically trust the reviews and feedback of complete strangers as much or in some instances, even more than their own trusted immediate circle. This is an extremely crucial and paramount takeaway when reevaluating how important it is to understand and gauge how you are represented online.  We’ve discussed nearly the point of exhaustion how important reviews are, but this truly shines another light on that, but reviews are hardly the end all be all this discussion.

To drive this home, let’s take one last example, provided by Mr. Homer of GNGF.  In 2019, if someone sees their neighbor’s lawn, sees it in immaculate condition, the greenest on the block, not a weed in sight, and asks who the landscaper is – if they look them up online for their contact info and see low ratings and complaints, even though they look across the street and see their amazing work, they are still not going to be very likely to contact them.  The same applies to your law firm.

The next question was, “About how much time would you spend doing the research on the lawyer?”  The average answer was 41 minutes, with a Mode of 30 and Median of 30.  A half an hour is more than enough time for anyone, no matter how tech-savvy, to know about all the lawyers on the website, read reviews on any website you’ve ever received reviews on, your participation on social media and in the community, and probably even drop by a bar website to confirm you are in good standing.

Speaking about your website, we asked two questions there as well:

Would a severely outdated website affect your decision to contact the lawyer?

Average 7.057
Mode 10
Median 8
Weighted 8.22

 Would no website at all affect your decision to contact the lawyer?

Average 7.32
Mode 10
Median 8
Weighted 8.33

 I love this question because frankly, a crappy website is about as bad as having no website!  We don’t have to go into details about why this is, but long story short your website truly is the definitive representation of your firm online, and outdated is often equated to quality for consumers.  Not always of course, but why risk it?

The last burning question you’re probably thinking of now is, what websites are people using to find out more about the lawyer?  We have that for you here as well:

A Bar Website: 7
Avvo: 17
BBB: 4
Facebook: 4
Findlaw: 2
Google: 117 5
LinkedIn: 6
Wiki: 7
Yelp: 38

Other miscellaneous included Glassdoor, which I do find interesting as far as internal reactions to the company, along with Lawyerist, Legal Match, Martindale, Legal Shield, Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, and YellowPages (nice!).  The Wiki answer was interesting to me – would like to look into that further.

The 38 Yelp is probably not what lawyers are wanting to hear due to their general inimical reputation in the legal industry.  Google, presented in both a manner of searching for the law firm/lawyer and researching the results and also taking into consideration the reviews provided by Google My Business is the clear standout approach to consumer research in this scenario. Nevertheless, let’s a put a 5-point plan in place for some of these items and talk about the plan you need to officially keep your brand and your firm reputation airtight.  Referrals and word of mouth are a steady stream of clients for any law firm, no matter how big or small, and ensuring their path is integral to sustainability.

Claiming and Completing All Profiles and Directories Online

Citations and directories are not only important for many SEO reasons but frankly who knows the random ways that referrals are going to try and find you?  You can see above plenty of one-offs prefer websites like Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer (and wikis), so it is important you have consistent and accurate information across all websites and directories out there.  It’d be a shame to lose a client because of an outdated URL, phone number, or address.

Here is our definitive guide to legal directories:

In addition, creating cohesion with NAP (Name, Address, Place) can go a long way – many people are familiar with Yext, but we’d much rather you go through a vendor such as BrightLocal or Whitespark.  We have deals with them from buying in bulk for customers, so if you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on this one, contact us, but make sure you keep reading this blog too.

The Basics of Online Reputation Management

Have some negative press about you?  That’ll keep referrals from coming in a jiffy!  Online Reputation Management basically does two things simultaneously – puts a plan in motion to create positive press surrounding the firm to come up higher in results to push down the negative press, and also come up with a plan to attempt to remove or suppress the negative press.  For more information on ORM (entire agencies are set up just to handle this) please see the following resources:

Let’s Talk About Your Website

If your website hasn’t been redesigned in the past 5 years, that’s all it takes to become outdated online these days, especially if you haven’t catered to mobile.  In the instance of 10 years, there’s not even a question.  We have some resources on how you can update your website at the very least.  If you want to give some consideration to your home page at the very least, I would recommend the following resource:

This considerations are very important for your most important page on the website, if you aren’t planning on doing a complete redesign for your website anytime soon.

Generating and Featuring Positive Reviews

We may have some of the most extensive resources out there for generating and keeping positive reviews online.

Social Engagement and Consistency

Having a strong presence on social media is just one way to legitimize your firm online. Most law firms these days have one or more social media profiles and a steady stream of followers. When deciding which platforms to pay attention to, it’s important to do some research to find out where your potential clients are going. Generally, law firms do well with a Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile; however, you might find that platforms like Instagram also work for you.

The key is to choose a few platforms and post to them consistently. Once you have decided on the platforms through which to engage your audience, define a posting schedule that ensures your followers can stay regularly updated with your firm. This also involves researching the best times of days and days of the week to post based on when your followers are most active. Your Facebook schedule, for example, may differ from your Twitter schedule simply because the behavior of your Facebook and Twitter followers may differ. You might also consider planning a unique content strategy for each channel to make the most of your social presence.

If you’re still wondering whether posting on social media is important for law firms, check out our blog post on just that topic:

Time for a Re-brand?

What if everything else we’re doing is more or less sound, but our actual law firm brand and perception is holding us back? Vanessa Schaefer of Clockwork Design Group (guest on our upcoming podcast and a font of information on branding) talks about in a recent blog  going into detail about how much firms forget how their firm is being represented; both online and offline.  Branding isn’t just logos, letterhead, and taglines.  It’s adopting a philosophy and culture from an aesthetic standpoint, quickly.  Since it is so creative, getting on the same page and finding commonality is tough, and lawyers may be suffering from branding inconsistency and outdated-ness more than they realize.

Intake Too?!

We could go all day about more and more reasons we’re uncovering why a coveted and valuable referral may not convert – it could even start with the beginning of your intake process.  Answering the phone unprofessionally, taking a day or two to respond to an email…or not at all.  At this point, I’m sure there’s more than enough to reflect on so let’s stop here and start considering your next moves should any of these aforementioned issues be a possibility in your marketing and branding mix.  Our close friends at Intake Conversion Experts can easily uncover if your current intake situation is less than optimal.

Captivate Word of Mouth with a Referral Reinforcement Strategy

Running a successful business is not an easy task. To succeed, you need the support of dedicated professionals who believe in you and want to see you take the lead in your industry. At Market My Market, we have helped many law firms attract and retain quality leads by maintaining all aspects of their websites, managing their online reputation, helping them generate stellar reviews, and more. See how we can provide a long-term strategy for any or all of these potential issues during a free consultation with me. Let’s chat and see if you referral network is as secure as you’d hope it is.