Will this be the year that you break bad internet marketing habits?
1. Resolve to Earn Positive Reviews
When people ask me what the most important thing they can do to improve their web presence, I usually answer: earn more positive reviews from clients.
No matter how someone hears about you, they expect to be able to find information about you online. Even people who are referred to you by a friend are likely to want to know what your other clients think about you.
Furthermore, as Greg Gifford notes at Search Engine Land:
Customers want to read honest, unbiased reviews on third-party sites. They simply don’t care about (or trust) the reviews on your testimonials page.
This is true for legal services consumers too, a/k/a potential clients.
Obviously, earning honest, unbiased reviews starts with delivering exceptional service. However, it doesn't end there. Many lawyers would benefit from implementing systems and processes for encouraging happy clients to sing their praises online.
Of course, be sure to check with your State Bar with regard to whether or not encouraging testimonials is permissible in your state. Some states have very specific restrictions relating to lawyer testimonials.
The nature of some practice areas make it more difficult to earn online reviews. For example, your happiest criminal defense client is likely to be reluctant to post how grateful they are for their acquittal. On the other hand, they may be willing to say something more general about how you listened to their concerns, answered their questions and treated them with respect. Remember, testimonials don't necessarily have to speak directly to the specifics of the representation.
If you're looking for places to send happy clients, here are a few suggestions.
First, focus on Google My Business. Hopefully, if you're growing your web presence, your Google My Business listing is what will show up for local relevant legal searches.
I can't tell you how many lawyers who are spending a lot of time and money trying to "rank number one in Google" who don't have a single review. This is particularly problematic when competitors appearing in the same results have reviews. Even if you're the first listing, potential clients are skipping over you and contacting firms lower on the page who have validation from clients.
After locking-down Google My Business, I encourage you to perform various searches on your name, firm and relevant local searches. Take note as to which sites have the highest visibility in search results. Start with those. Some of the most common sites that you'll likely see include:
Make it easy for people find out what other people think about you.
2. Resolve to Be More Social
I get it. You're a lawyer. You're busy.
However, have you noticed that lawyers that tend to spend more time investing in relationships tend to get more business? They do.
Make this the year that you commit to investing more time in creating, nurturing and solidifying relationships. Look, I'm not suggesting that you spend your entire day on Facebook and Twitter. But how much time do your conscientiously budget every week for relationships? My guess is not much.
Take inventory of the people who send you the most business. Are you regularly connecting with them? Thanking them?
A big part of the true power of the internet for client development is the efficiency with which you can stay in touch with the people who are most likely to send you your next client.
Spend fifteen minutes every morning on your relationships.
Make more friends. Be online.
3. Resolve to Measure Better
Finally, make this the year that you actually measure your client development activities. Set goals for yourself and your firm. Define what a successful 2016 would look like.
From a logistics perspective, implement client relationship management tool. Your physical address book or rolodex simply can't keep up.
Track new clients and fees back to their original source.
If one of your goals is to earn new clients from the web, implement systems to track phone calls and web form fills. Measure how many people are opening your emails and figure out why some people aren't.
Figure out how much you can spend to acquire a new client that makes business sense for your firm.
If you're spending time and money on activities and advertising that isn't helping you reach your goals, stop doing it and paying for it.
Make 2016 the year you add accountability and transparency to your client development.