One way I sometimes describe marketing is “opening the door through which business will walk.” At a minimum, marketing in the legal context means making current and potential clients constantly aware of who you are and what kind of legal work you do. That’s “opening the door.” But by itself, that’s not necessarily going to motivate anyone to walk though it.
Marketing has to do more: it has to describe the kind of people or companies that you serve, the kind of solutions and assistance you give them, and how you do these things in a noticeably different and better way than others. That’s the kind of information that might persuade a client to walk through that open door and see what’s on the other side.
This is one reason I still find testimonials to be a highly effective form of marketing. A genuine testimonial from someone whom a potential client recognizes (a well-known company) or with whom they identify (“a single mother like me”) can be powerful: it details the kind of solutions you deliver and the people to whom you deliver it — ideally, with some distinguishing features of your personality or process.
At the same time, the testimonial has also become a critical feature of the buying process in every part of the consumer sector, thanks to the ubiquity of online reviews. Buyers are asking what other people think of a product or service before they buy it themselves:
- Amazon reviews are now so voluminous that they virtually constitute a massive content database and opinion clearinghouse all on their own.
- Mobile-friendly sites like Yelp provide potential customers with instantaneous access to reviews (good and bad) posted by previous customers.
- Simply by searching for a business on Google, you can read all the reviews and assessments of everyone who has used that business before.
As online tools continue to improve, and the ability to rate and review any kind of business continues to develop, lawyers will find themselves subject to the assessments of clients they’ve served before — for better or for worse. These reviews will be available online, to everyone, pretty much forever. As time goes on, they will keep building up until they create a reasonably accurate profile of the lawyer through a critical mass of client feedback, for all the world to see.
Given this reality, you might want to consider putting this phenomenon to work for your benefit. At the end of each client retainer, ask the client to assess you — first, personally and privately: how did we do? Did we satisfy you, did we meet or surpass your expectations, or did we fall short? One British law firm texts its clients every two weeks and asks to be graded (A, B, or C) on how it’s doing so far. While this is a great idea — asking for constant, real-time client feedback — you can at least start with one inquiry at the end of the matter.
Some of these client responses (hopefully, many of them) will be positive. If so, ask the client to share his or her positive assessment with the world — through Google Places, or Yelp, or whatever online review service seems most appropriate. The client can, of course, supply this feedback in the form of a traditional testimonial, to be posted on the law firm’s website or through a LinkedIn connection.
But considering how great client testimonials can be, and considering how widely read online review services are becoming, think about combining these two trends to promote how well your law practice served this particular client with this particular matter.