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Word-of-mouth advertising is the most powerful way to generate new business. We lawyers innately know that what is said about us becomes our reputation. What we don’t always realize is that we can influence and even improve it.
Gossip, at the nadir of the scale, is trash talk that will arise no matter what we do. But praise from influential people is at the zenith and has a power of a third-party endorsement. Indeed, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to50% of all purchasing decisions, according to the McKinsey Quarterly.
Its influence is greatest when clients are buying a service for the first time, or when services are relatively expensive—factors that make people do more research, seek more opinions and deliberate longer than otherwise, according to the McKinsey.
Following are the top 10 ways that lawyers can take to amplify their good word-of-mouth:
- Deliver work on time or early. It goes without saying that we must do good work. But what impresses clients is when you produce results fast. Business clients can’t necessarily assess the quality of your legal work, but they immediately recognize work that is done ahead of schedule, on time or earlier than expected. Put another way, timeliness is appreciated more than the work itself.
- Ask your clients to recommend you. 57% of corporate counsel report they will consider hiring an attorney based on a single peer referral, according to “The Attorney Hiring Zone: Top Activities to Win New Clients,” by BTI Consulting. We actually have to ask clients to recommend us, because ordinarily they are supposed to do this. They have no idea how we build our clientele. But we know that when a colleague from another company calls them looking for a lawyer, we want them to mention us.
- Get in front of an audience. The person at the podium is automatically given expert status. Public speaking produces word of mouth, because conference attendees naturally talk about the speakers they heard. To get the speaking gig, you must contact conference organizers nine months in advance or respond to their regular call for speakers. It is worth the effort.
- Pick a social medium and be active in it. Google+, JDSupra, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are all options. To get business people talking about you, lawyers have a LinkedIn profile, so this is a mainstream approach. Search “Groups” and join a business group that has in-person meetings, and start a discussion that people will talk about.
- Get quoted in the news. You don’t need to hire a PR agency, just start writing a blog, because that’s whom news reporters call. Further, make note of the reporters, bloggers and TV producers who cover your area of the law, and connect with them online. When they do call you, drop everything and speak in sound bites to give them a good quote.
- Attend a conference with a client. Ask clients what meetings they go to and suggest you join them. This puts clients in a position to introduce you to their colleagues. They might just be looking for someone like you, and at the very least you’ll learn something about the client’s industry.
- Join an organization and become visible in it. It’s no good to join and just warm a chair, listening to the speaker. Your long-term goal should be to get on the board of directors, whom everybody recognizes and talks about. Your short term goal is to do a chore for the president, who has only one way to reward you: with an appointment.
- Start a video channel on YouTube. People who have heard your voice and watched your body language are more likely to retain you. You can Create a Professional Video Studio for Under $1,500 as I did or simply hire lawyer video expert Gerry Oginski. My favorite channel is by law firm Tully Rinckey, which has 150 videos online, mainly clips from TV news reports (see #5, above).
- Ask clients for testimonials. Of course, check your state ethics rules first. Ask clients for whom you just saved the day to write comments or appear in a video about how they feel about you. Put the testimonials on your website as I do. This is word of mouth reduced to writing, and it’s very powerful marketing.
- Take your client’s temperature. That is, get client feedback to be sure they’re satisfied. 52% of law firms fail to do so. Getting feedback will uncover any problems, so that you can prevent bad word of mouth. Simply asking clients will impress them, and they’ll speak highly of you.