How do clients buy? By category.
To set the stage for winning more, lawyers have to understand how business-to-business buyers of legal services make their purchasing decisions today. Corporations often segment their work based on:
Category 1: Volume of repetitive matters (frequently referred to as commodity work);
Category 2: Important day-to-day matters; and
Category 3: Strategic, high end, or bet-the-company matters.
Today, they seldom hire one law firm to handle all three of these categories. Similarly, they consciously or subconsciously segment their outside counsel as fit to handle only one category of matters. The leaders of law firms that are in Category 1 want to go up-market, trying to sell Category 2 services to their clients. This is commonly rejected by clients, however, because (consciously or subconsciously) they have erected barriers that are difficult for the law firms to penetrate. Clients have boxed-in their law firms based on their (right or wrong) perceptions of them.
Category 2 law firms really want the plum Category 3 work – the highest end, most strategic matters. With rare exceptions, they won’t get it – and they will waste a lot of time and money going after work clients simply do not want to give them. Strategic planning and diligent positioning can alter clients’ perceptions, but it is virtually impossible to jump categories inside the confines of a client relationship, especially to jump from Category 1 to Category 3. Don’t waste your time. Focus instead on practice management and relationship and process improvements that will make your clients happy and loyal, and that will make the category of work you own as profitable as possible.
How else do clients buy? With emotion.
For Category 2 and 3 work (and sometimes Category 1), buyers of legal services make their purchasing decisions on two levels. When they are considering hiring lawyers or firms, they create a shortlist of features they can intellectually evaluate – a lawyer’s expertise, experience, jurisdictional background, geographic suitability, fee arrangements, etc. These are all items they can check off a list. But when they are choosing the one lawyer or firm to hire, they are making an emotional decision, where they focus on how they feel about the lawyer – do I trust him? Do I like her? How would I feel if I got stuck on the tarmac next to my lawyer for five hours? Would it be painful? Or a party?
A friendly, familiar, conversational voice is important for your visitor to want to connect with you.
The two-levels of hiring – intellectual/technical and emotional – have been proven for more than 25 years, in thousands of interviews with corporate counsel and senior executives. Lawyers who live in their heads and who have impressive technical resumes may dismiss this research. But then they wonder why, when on the shortlist numerous times, they do not get chosen. This is why: with expertise and qualifications being equal (or perceived as equal), he or she isn’t as likeable as the person who got hired.
Your bio overview.
- First 140 characters of the bio are current, compelling and relevant for SEO benefit. Count all letters, punctuation and spaces, and ensure that your most important keywords about your practice are appearing first. Avoid starting your bio like this: John Smith is a partner and chair of the labor and employment practice at ABCXYZ law firm. This is likely what will appear in Google and other search engine results when searching by that lawyer’s name. This information doesn’t move the needle in hiring – don’t waste this valuable real estate on your titles (your titles will appear elsewhere in your bio). Rather, tell what you do.
- Overview paragraph – the first two to three sentences are descriptive of the work the lawyer does and the types of clients the lawyer represents. After the 140 characters, focus on enriching your bio with additional keywords, such as types of clients, industries, and subject matter strengths. If you are a noted expert in SEC enforcement matters, Family Medical Leave Act claims, or SBICs and BDCs, this is where it should live.
Then, create three-dimensional (3D) bios.
Based on the analytics that we track, more than 40-70% of visitors are viewing your bio pages. Thus, your goal should be to keep visitors on your lawyer bios longer – and convert visitors to viewing more of them each visit. This is where the cash lives in your firm. Pour an extra cup of coffee and ask your web administrator or marketer to show you the Google Analytics for your website – see how many different lawyer bios any one visitor opens, and check the average length of time a visitor spends on them. Then, focus on improving this number and duration. You should design and write your bios to accomplish this goal.
In the hundreds of client interviews we have conducted, here is what I have learned about how clients choose their lawyers. In today’s landscape where competition among attorneys is stiff and it is harder to differentiate one from another, they must provide more insight into why they should be hired. Why are they the expert? What makes them the perfect fit for a client’s problem? You must prove you are the right fit, and there are three ways to do this. I call it “3-D Bios:”
- Demonstrate expertise
- Prove relevancy
- Show humanity
All three “dimensions” must be present for lawyers’ biographies to work hard for them.
- Demonstrate expertise:
- Show specific experience: Remember the three questions: What have you done? For whom have you done it? What can you do for me?
- Include client case studies or stories that prove what you know and your approach to getting things done. This often gets into how you did what you did, not just what you did.
- Depending on the nature of your practice (for example, if you represent a lot of start-ups or technology companies), include client logos, with their permission, of course.
- Prove relevancy:
- Important keywords that are relevant to your practice should appear in the top 140 characters (characters, not words) of the bio overview. When someone is Googling, or otherwise searching for your name, it is important that the 140–150 characters that show up in the search engine description are those most relevant to your practice – and the expertise that people are buying from you – today. Consider the disconnect for your future buyer if you are supposed to be the expert in global trademark protection and your Google search description does not even mention it.
- Feed current blog and Twitter posts into your bios. Social media that proves you are current and on top of the subject matter in your practice gives the people evaluating you comfort and confidence in your intellect and grasp of today’s issues.
- Feature a book the lawyer has written – or something else notable, such as white papers, an important speech, a short video about a trending topic.
- Design an infographic, which highlights trends in the lawyer’s practice or industry. For example, number of patents in the energy industry over a ten-year period of time, or a US map showing the number of states in which the lawyer has handled litigation.
- Show humanity (to get hired, look for ways to short-cut the pathway to trust):
- New lawyer photos – “magazine-style” (large format) photos that show personality and approachability. Some lawyers do not like getting their photos taken, so they use the same tired photo decade after decade. In today’s world of selfies, where current photos are pervasive, it is critical that the firm website posts current photos that actually look like the lawyers who work there.
- Include a short video that tells a memorable story about a case and how you handled it. Of course, do not name a client name unless it is public record and you have your client’s permission, but do discuss unique issues or circumstances. For example, did the case come in at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night and the court filing was due Monday morning at 10?
- Include an “after hours” tab or feature – content that describes the lawyer’s passions outside the office. This can include community board service, volunteer work, travel, sports and events, books you are reading, the fact that you are training for a triathlon, or your family and pets. Show how interesting you are!
- Prove accessibility – include your mobile phone, assistant’s name/info, your team’s contact names/info (if you aren’t reachable, it ensures that your client has access to team members without you being a bottleneck), and instant messaging contact information. Law firm technology staff will sometimes prohibit instant messaging, but certain types of clients rely on it – and they want their lawyers to use it.
Read these for strong examples of 3-D bios – congratulations and thanks to Texas law firm Gray Reed for these examples. Note the first-person introductions and the tab called “When I feel most at home,” which ties directly to the firm’s strategy and tagline, “Feel at home here.”
If your bios aren’t delivering on all these important cylinders, they aren’t working hard enough for you. There is definitely a new world order when it comes to hiring lawyers and how it’s done – let us help you position your lawyers so they are exactly in the right spot for future success.