Is your website merely a marketing-like object? Or is it a conversation with the person you'd most like to have as a client?"
Marketing-like objects plague the landscape. Some look like websites. Others seem like advertisements. Still others are social media posts. They all read like they want money for something. But the thing about marketing-like objects is they don’t matter. They aren’t making a case. They lack persuasion. There’s no clear voice. They’re devoid of anything resembling a resonant message.
Welcome to a symptom of the overcommunicated culture. Everyone knows they need a website. They just don’t know what it’s supposed to say or how to say it.
You know what to do in an interview, right? You’re not likely to sit with a prospective client and speak in bullet points or empty advertising phrases. “Good to meet you. I can handle your business law, tax law and estate planning needs. I’m dually qualified as both a business attorney and tax accountant.” (Most of that verbiage is from a website I visited just for the purpose of this exercise. It's on Google page one. How much do you think that helps?) In an interview, you speak conversationally. You’re interested and interesting. You make sure your words matter to the person opposite you. You make points with relevance and resonance. You are you. You do not behave like a placard that says, “For all your legal needs.” So...does your website reflect that?
You know what one thing is missing from so many lawyers’ websites? The lawyer. The expanse of high-priced real estate at the top of the home page is often given over to a photo of Lady Justice or the Constitution or a court building or a gavel or some other anonymous stock photo speaking to the idea of, “Law.” The writing is often stilted, uncomfortable contortions of lawyerly language that boil down to three words: “I do law.” On one website home page, the first sentence is 58 words long. And those 58 words might as well say, “You need an estate plan and I do that.” It’s unfortunate. This lawyer is obviously better than what is a failed exercise in keyword stuffing. It will not appeal to Google, and will probably be penalized for lack of relevance. And it will not appeal to the prospective client, who will penalize it for the same thing.
But then, there’s always the About page. That’s where the website shows a glimmer of hope. In the bio, that lawyer comes to life for a brief, shining moment. There’s a glimpse of the person one might meet in the interview. Then, in stumbles a contorted, 43-word gymnastic sentence about discovering a passion for helping the client’s compliance boat navigate the complex and dangerous seas of compliance, assisting businesses of all sizes and of various industries in establishing and maintaining regulatory compliance. Instead of all that, how about saying: “Man, I love the puzzle of regulatory law. ” It might not sound like a lawyer. But remember: Nobody wants a lawyer. They want a relationship.
The website is a place for the lawyer to be the human who chose law. That’s who the prospect wants to hire. The prospect is a human who has come to your site, most likely as the result of a referral. This human has a problem to be solved. The only person who can solve it is you. So, your persona can hide behind generic keywords and generic writing about generic things law. Or, your website can portray you as The Answer to the age-old question, “Should I talk to this lawyer?” And the only way to get there is by entering into a human conversation that your prospect is already having.
That might sound strange from a guy who’s written branding books. But the reality is that never have more gurus been banging the drum for branding—without ever understanding it or explaining what it is.
Branding for lawyers is especially challenging. Unless you’re a DUI or PI attorney, it’s difficult to see how you’re going to brand yourself.
In reality, it's a simple concept to understand and embrace. But it is difficult to execute, especially for oneself. In fact, the Firm Appeal brand took months—purely because we are branding consultants trying to brand ourselves. A self-portrait in branding takes longer. Once you think you’ve got it right, you then have to show it to objective pros—who tell you it’s wrong and where it needs work.
But it’s worth it. Done well, branding helps the prospect make a decision. A good brand is emotionally evocative. And emotions drive decisions. Emotions inspire action. Intellect? Intellect leads to conclusions. But a brand that makes the prospect say, “This feels right” is what leads to choosing you over another.
But what is brand? Brand as we define it at Firm Appeal is: The one way your core client should feel about your firm.
For a lawyer, a better way to consider brand is as persona. Unless you’re the “Top Gun DUI Attorney” (a Los Angeles brand) or “The Law Tigers” (a national brand) or “The Attorney Who Rocks” (an Austin PI brand), you’re not likely to dress up in a catchy suit of branding clothes and bang the drum for your brand of law. Persona is subtler.
Think of persona is a 10% sliver of your personality magnified 10 times. It doesn’t have to feel tricky or unclean. It doesn’t have to make you feel like a carny. Persona lets you bring focus and feeling to your website and marketing materials. You can let your core client feel one way about your firm. You can be decisive and evocative without bringing the hat and cane. You can be all business—but smart business. And that ends up being money in the bank.
IT IS PRESENTED AS A TRUTH THAT "Without SEO, lawyers die." What if you defy this ostensible truth? In a business where referral is king, SEO is useful. It just isn't a silver bullet. Instead, be human. Be evocative. Be the best part of you. A search engine can't understand that. But your client can.
Blaine Parker writes good words for good lawyers. Learn more at Firm Appeal.