Note: The following is a guest post by Lee Frederiksen a managing partner at Hinge Marketing.
Understanding how buyers check out your law firm is an important element of creating the right messaging and marketing strategy required for growth and profitability. The more you know about your prospects’ purchasing behaviors and preferences, the more you can cater your moves to match their needs.
Here at the Hinge Research Institute, we recently conducted a comprehensive study on how buyers seek out professional services providers. We surveyed 1,028 professional services purchasers who bought services in a wide range of industries, including about 40% of whom purchased legal services. We also interviewed 130 high visibility industry experts (what we call Visible Experts) to better understand how their individual expertise has impacted their firms. Our results provided valuable insight into where buyers are looking when they’re checking out a firm and the importance of having expertise on your staff.
Why a Strong Online Presence is Essential for Law Firms
So, just how are buyers checking out professional services providers? According to our research, the number one method – identified by 80.8% of respondents – was “Look at their website.” In fact, three out of the top four preferred methods happen online, with “search online” as the second most popular response, “ask friends or colleagues” as the third and “social media” coming in fourth.
But what does this mean for your small law firm? Historically, many law firms have relied on referrals and references as their primary source of new business. And while references are still important, they are no longer sufficient for law firms looking to increase growth and profitability. A number of online techniques to seek out information have eclipsed speaking with references. To stay competitive, law firms have to be where their buyers are. Having a strong online presence is becoming increasingly essential for capturing the attention of today’s buyers of legal services.
Moreover, buyers want a variety of access points to check sellers out. We found that, on average, buyers use 3.2 different approaches to check out law firms. This suggests that simply having a great website isn’t enough – buyers will check out your social media presence, “Google” your firm, and check references.
How Buyers Identify Expertise in Small Law Firms
One of the best ways to set your firm apart from competing law firms is by staffing high visibility experts who lend credibility and increase awareness of your firm. This is what’s called the Halo Effect. For Visible Experts, the phenomenon means that buyers who have a positive view of an expert are likely to see their firm in the same positive light. In our research, we found that Visible Experts increase their firms’ growth, business development, billing rates, brand, reputation, and more.
Perhaps your law firm already has experts on staff. Are they visible in the marketplace, and have you convinced buyers that they are, indeed, experts?
On average, 4.1 factors influence buyers’ perception of expertise. Some factors are predictable, like if you come highly recommended by friends and colleagues and if you have a track record of success.
Other factors are more surprising, like the importance of soft skills. For instance, buyers value the ability to make a complicated subject seem understandable and being able to inspire confidence. Both responses suggest the importance of experts being effective communicators.
As a small law firm, you have stiff competition. You might be up against much larger firms with more resources and bigger budgets. By having a strong presence where your target audiences are seeking information and leveraging the talent and expertise you have on staff, you can position yourself to edge out the competition. Meet your buyers where they are and make your expertise and capabilities crystal clear.
The full research report is freely available for download from Hinge Marketing with registration here.
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Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is Managing Partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Lee can be reached at LFrederiksen@hingemarketing.com or 703-391-8870.
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