I have a recurring sinus condition. It’s nothing serious, but it does affect my quality of life on occasion. So, after a few years of ineffective treatments, I decided to find a new doctor.
It’s important to know that I was already seeing a specialist. And while this guy was no joker, I sensed that I wasn’t getting cutting-edge care. So, I decided to seek out an ace. I wanted to find one of the world’s leading sinus specialists.
So, what did I do? As you might guess, I asked around for some referrals, performed some online research, and then used all of this information to compile a short list of possible doctors. Finally, I selected my man: Dr. Satish Govindaraj at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.
What does this have to do with legal marketing?
At the time that I was looking for a doctor, I didn’t think that this had anything to do with legal marketing. However, in retrospect, my experience reveals much about how people are now finding professionals -- including lawyers -- in the age of the internet. Here are just a few of the lessons that I learned:
- Referrals are just a start
I got lots of referrals -- some from experts whom I highly respect. However, in all cases, I did my own research on each of these doctors. Why? Because I could. Checking out their bios online took just minutes.
I think that this point is particularly important because I often hear lawyers explain that they don’t need to invest in their website since most of their business comes from referrals. They don't realize that a website is (increasingly) a tool that helps turn referrals into clients.
- Online bios matter
The professional profiles I read varied greatly in style and substance. For example, take a look at Dr. Govindaraj’s bio, which is chock full of valuable reputation-enhancing information and compare it to that of another doctor who came recommended. The difference is striking. Based on their bios, I quickly put doctors into two groups: practitioners and thought leaders. The practitioners didn’t make it to the short list. I was looking for a leading expert.
- “Thought leadership” content matters
What I found most compelling about Dr. Govindaraj was his thought leadership work. I glanced down his list of publications and immediately saw that he was writing serious articles about topics that concerned me. Clearly he is on the vanguard of his field.
- Good content matters
During my research process, I found myself watching an hour-long online video of a medical lecture. Why did I dedicate an hour of my busy schedule to watching this? Two reasons: (1) the video was well produced and easy-to-watch, despite its technical content, and (2) the video contained cutting-edge insights relating to the exact problems I was facing.
The lecturer would have been tops on my short list of doctors if he wasn’t located 2000 miles away. While distance was a factor in my decision, we’re finding that it’s less and less of a concern for people looking for highly specialized attorneys.
Why is all this important?
My experience reveals how -- over the past 10 years -- the internet has fundamentally changed the way we search for professionals. Information is now much, much more easily accessed than ever before. People now have the tools to make their own judgments. And increasingly, they are.
How do you take advantage of this?
In the internet age, the advantage goes to those professionals -- be they doctors or lawyers or consultants -- who most skillfully use the web to demonstrate their cutting-edge expertise. It’s becoming clear that those professionals with the most reputation-enhancing content will be positioned to win the business. This may sound obvious to some people. However, judging by the number of flimsy one-page bios on law firm websites, most of the legal industry isn’t yet on board.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dion Algeri, Great Jakes and others. Great Jakes said: Thx for RT. Glad you agree @nsteckman "…a website is (increasingly) a tool that helps turn referrals into clients." http://bit.ly/fW0g2d […]
I used the same approach when I was selecting a podiatrist for a foot problem. The doctor who got my business was the one who had the most impressive bio – primarily because of his involvement with writing the “bible” of podiatric surgery. Had he not put that on his website, I may have easily chosen another doctor.
For most of us, the notion that an attorney should write his bio as descriptive/robust as possible is “a firm grasp of the obvious.” This article is a clever way to make that point with attorneys.
Director, Marketing & Business Development
Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller, LLP
Robert, excellent post. In reviewing the Google Analytics data from our clients’ websites, it is clear that the attorney bios are among the most visited pages on the sites. It would be foolish not to have a well-written bio. In fact, I believe it will soon be crucial to have a video of the attorney on each bio page. Again, based on the Analytics data that we see, videos are also among the most highly visited pages on our clients’ sites. Why not combine both things – the attorney bio page with an embedded video of the attorney speaking to his audience to demonstrate his expertise.
Another thing that should be considered is that consumers really do not have the knowledge-base to evaluate the expertise of an attorney. They can hypothesize based on the attorney bio, the depth of content and the substance of the website, etc., but most consumers choose their attorneys based on two things – referrals from their trusted friends and their “feeling” about the attorney after visiting their website. Effectively, you chose your doctor based on those two things – although I think you put more thought into it than many consumers do when they choose an attorney. You were looking for a “thought leader”. Attorneys can present themselves as thought leaders with strong content on their websites and blogs if they don’t have a lot of publications or presentations to put on their resumes. (Another thing to note about our Analytics data is that we don’t see many people drilling down to the in-depth CV of attorneys. Most of them just read the short bios.)
Referrals are a different matter. In the old days, you got referrals from your friends. Since the advent and explosion in popularity of FaceBook, “friends” means something entirely different. The key to third party endorsements in today’s social media age is “reviews” (which are, effectively, testimonials). If you haven’t bought something from Amazon recently, you should do it – and check out all of the ratings and reviews for everything you are considering buying. Many people won’t buy anything on Amazon without reading the reviews first. Guess what… It won’t be long before people won’t hire an attorney without reading the reviews too. That means that you need to get lots of reviews on the major social media sites such as Facebook, Google Places, City Search, Yelp, etc. There are lots more, but you get the point. If you don’t have an effective strategy to generate positive reviews about you and your law firm, you are missing the boat. Particularly since Google Places is now a major component of almost every result when searching for an attorney, you need to generate positive reviews – lots of them.
I couldn’t agree more with this article. Though I hold fast that not many people will Google “law firm San Diego” and pick an attorney based solely on what they find from that search, I DO believe that people will look to Web sites as the next step – after being given a referral, or seeing someone speak at a conference, or reading about a firm who handled a high profile case. It is important that a Web site be an easily navigated resource for these potential clients, rich with relevant and CURRENT information that will help decision makers make decisions. Thanks for sharing, Robert!
Re the comment from Sierra that she doesn’t think people will choose a lawyer from a Google search, I have to disagree completely. I get contacted all the time from people who were online looking for information related to their legal issue and found my website. They weren’t referred, they didn’t hear me at a conference, they were just trying to learn about their topic and found what I had written. I agree that someone is not going to find a lawyer by typing “law firm San Diego,” but I do think they may choose a lawyer as a result of what they found searching “San Diego DUI lawyer” or “San Diego adoption lawyer” or “California appellate lawyer,” etc. Perhaps this varies depending on the area of practice, but if your practice is marketed to the general public then Google is absolutely a great way to draw in new business.
In addition to current information, attorney bios need to reflect the individual attorneys’ personalities. Unfortunately, most of the attorney bios are just a resume listing which never seem to change from day to day…
Rainmaking Trainer & Coach
I agree with Jaimie. Attorneys need to be more human. Unless your prospective clients are general counsel of large companies, they are not going to be able to relate to a list of your legal accomplishments on your CV. People relate to people. That is why I encourage clients to incorporate video into their bio pages – it creates an opportunity for a prospective client to get comfortable with you.