First Consumer Impressions for Your Legal Practice

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A leading legal software company’s online ad says: “Before we’re lawyers, we’re human beings.”  The inference is that the productivity gains from their software allows more time with the family – but perhaps it’s appropriate to look at it differently: “Maybe it’s time to showcase our human side more often.”

After all, the heartbroken wife facing dissolution of her marriage wants an attorney with whom she can comfortably share the most painful of intimate personal details.  The couple facing financial ruin needs an attorney who can not only guide them but also explain in plain language the complexities of bankruptcy law.

Too often … no, almost always, attorneys in consumer-oriented practices try to attract new clients by convincing prospects that their legal acumen is superior and invite them to read their blog and bio to impress them with credentials such as law school attended, prominent judges clerked for, etc.  The prospective client takes it all in but can’t make heads or tails of it, then goes on to the next attorney offered up in the search engine only to get more of the same.

A confused mind says “no.”

Answering Legal Banner

For the average person needing help at their most vulnerable moment, your credentials are a given. They’re engaging you, the person, first and foremost.  Your credentials and track record with similarly situated clients is important, but not as critical as a comfort level.  Put yourself in this situation.  You’re a patient with a perplexing condition sitting between two highly qualified, brilliant doctors hotly debating whose treatment approach is best.  You’re in no position to make a qualified decision for one over the other.  It’s the same when it comes to the law – your prospective client is unable to discern legal nuance for the most part.

The Key Thing is Messaging

Legal Sophistication
Match Your Message With Your Audience

The key factor is messaging.  It’s no mystery that the copy for the teleprompter on the six o’clock news is written at a grade school level.  The same should apply to attorneys as well.  Don’t talk over the heads of your audience.  Your client attraction language should align with the legal sophistication of the client.  This is represented on the graph to the right depicting the propensity of consumption for legal services and the corresponding level of sophistication as a buyer of those services.

For example, the most sophisticated consumer of legal services is the general counsel needing to supplement staff or engage a specialist.  Further down the curve is the established business that utilizes legal services for a variety of reasons such as labor-related issues, complex contracts, M&A or litigation.  Still further down the curve is the entrepreneur needing guidance with business formation and documentation for a funding event.  At the bottom is the consumer who may never need an attorney or maybe only once in their lifetime. If this is your ideal client, your client attraction messaging shouldn’t be at the higher end of the sophistication curve.

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Client Engagement Criteria

The general counsel cares about your pedigree, standing in the legal community and experience with the type of work needed.  The established business looks at your track record, experience, and other practice-centric factors.  The entrepreneur focuses on specific expertise in business formation along with a deeper understanding the unique aspects of their business such as technology or vertical industry.  Regardless, the consumer wants a savior. Their need is rarely opportunistic but rather the result of some distressful condition or event.

So, what to do?

If you’re a B2B practice and successful, you’re probably messaging appropriately, especially if you’re a large firm with an established brand and healthy marketing budget, but, if you’re a consumer practice and struggling to get clients, it might be time to rethink your marketing strategy.  Your client wants and needs a relationship on three levels — personal chemistry, ease of communication, then competence.  Again, if you’re licensed and experienced, competency is a given.

The first rule of traditional sales training is to probe deeply for a prospect’s problem, tailor a solution, and hopefully close the sale.  Most top closers win if they solve the problem and are liked by the buyer. All things being equal, we buy from people we like. If things are unequal, we still buy from people we like.  In your case, the prospect coming to you has a very clear problem; no probing or tailoring a solution is required.

If you can establish a comfort level during that critical first encounter, just like the top closer, you’re going to win more often than not.  You do this by being a story teller.  Your story first, then your practice.  Lose the clichés.  The prospect has an unprecedented amount of information available, so you must stand out.

You must make the first consumer impression a fresh impression. Chuck Welnack

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