Kevin O’Keefe had a provocative post yesterday that talked about the overemphasis some lawyers place on their firm websites, in terms of their online business development programs. Here’s the money quote from Kevin:
“Law firms and their attorneys need to get over the fact that a website is not the only way to do marketing and business development on the Internet. Heck, it’s not even in the top 3 or 4 best ways to get work.
Lawyers and law firms get their work via relationships and word of mouth. Period.”
I encourage you to link over and read the above post, in case I’ve misinterpreted what Kevin’s saying; but I have to disagree. Completely disagree.
I’m very confident in my position that the law firm website continues to be the foundation piece for executing business development online — and that includes relationship, referral, and word-of-mouth marketing. Not having a website, or a poorly executed website, can be one of the most serious detriments to the online sales chain. Bad firm websites are a roadblock that stops every other law firm online activity in its tracks.
Great online relationships help business development, but only when law firms can properly articulate their business proposition. What is the firm’s business offering? What differentiates this firm from its competitors? Do you have any kind of track record on which I can base my hiring decision?
Let’s face it: lawyers can have outstanding online reputations or be well regarded online commentators. But if their firm website doesn’t back that reputation up, contact conversions (emails, phone calls and contact forms) die at the doorstep; traffic simply won’t convert to contacts. Most legal marketers have seen this happen at least to one of their clients’ websites over the years.
Online commentary and reputation are excellent ways to bring people to your door. But very few will pass over the threshold if you can’t even explain what business you’re in.
Look, this isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a head-to-head competition between online marketing tools; we don’t need a Twitter-versus-Website celebrity death match. The reality is: it’s about balance. Social media, reputation building, relationship marketing — these are all significant tools. But they are only going to be effective if the firm puts the effort into its website — make it communicate!
And don’t forget the co-dependent relationship: law firm websites become wasted effort when lawyers retreat to their offices and abandon their reputations and online participation. Firms that strike a balance are never sorry.