There is a lot in the press and in business journals about reputation management. Everything that applies to a restaurant or an auto mechanic applies doubly to you, an attorney. In fact, your reputation is what encourages customers to walk through the door.
Given that nearly everyone you talk to has gone online at some point during the attorney search process, online reputation management for attorneys is vital. In fact, a bad reputation can cripple your practice.
According to a survey from BrightLocal, 82% of consumers say that they use online reviews to help choose a local business.
That means that 8 out of 10 of your clients, or more, have used online reviews to help them decide to hire you.
Reputation management for attorneys is maybe even more important than your real-world rep!
Why does a law firm need reputation management?
Many law firms spend their marketing budgets on costly marketing initiatives like redesigning their websites or paying for advertisements. They neglect to take into account customer feedback and review sites.
Online reputation management is a very important topic. Reviews are extremely important. Negative online reviews can ruin a marketing campaign and make it harder for your target audience to connect with your law firm.
People's emotions and wallets dictate buying decisions in the legal sector. Legal costs can quickly add up. People will not wait until they know all the facts to decide if there is negative feedback about your company online.
Are you able to create a website that is attractive to customers? Perhaps you have even dedicated a large budget to thought leadership via blogs, videos, and webinars.
However, if a potential client sees your online reviews and finds that there are very few reviews or many one-star reviews, nothing will matter. They will start looking at your competitors to compare them. Your marketing budget was spent to attract potential clients to your law firm's competitors.
It also works in reverse. You can make the marketing budget of your competitors more profitable by collecting a lot of positive online reviews.
What can you do to make it easier for others? Manage online feedback and be proactive. You can take control of your online reputation by responding to clients' reviews.
What Can Reputation Management Do for Your Law Firm?
Online reputation management (ORM) can seem like an inscrutable issue that’s too complex for the average attorney. In truth, it’s a matter of putting in place a simple plan and keeping control over your reputation online.
Here are the most fundamental steps:
1. Optimize your Google My Business profile
Every business can claim a Google listing on Google Local/Google My Business. This is probably the single most important piece of internet real estate you’ll find. When someone googles for an attorney in your area, they will usually get Google Local business listings. This shows the attorney’s name, address, and Google reviews.
Make sure that your Google My Business listing is perfect. It’s the number one resource for most clients for getting a hold of your and learning who you are.
2. Claim your name on attorney listing sites
There are a huge number of attorney listing sites. These are great places to put your information and create links to your website. Importantly, for those people who use these sites, the ratings and reviews can change their minds.
Here again, make sure that your information is 100% correct on the site. Potential clients who land on these sites will need to use that information to contact you.
3. Ask your clients for reviews
Many clients don’t want to admit that they hired an attorney because the reason they needed one. Many, however, don’t mind posting reviews online.
Ask every client if they would post a review for your services online, wherever they found you. Don’t ask for 5-star reviews or coach them as to what to say. Let them tell the truth. If everyone who posts a review writes the same thing, it will become apparent that they were coached.
Most people trust online reviews the way they trust personal recommendations. Those reviews are gold for a law office. It’s like having a brand advocate online pushing clients to you.
4. Post-law-related content to your website and as a guest blogger
While every case is unique, there are some generalizations that you can share with readers. Talking about what they need to know about divorce in your state or how to handle an arrest can go a long way to building your reputation as an attorney.
As an example, imagine that someone’s son has been arrested for a crime. Mom has no idea how to deal with the police or what to say to an attorney. She doesn’t want a public defender. You write an article that guides her, and him, through what to do now and how to handle things going forward.
Simple ideas, like don’t discuss anything with the police but cooperate and get your attorney there ASAP, can help the mother, who isn’t in jail, have a plan.
For her, this builds trust. You’ve already helped her out and she’s much more likely to call you for help.
Post content on your own blog, as well as guest blogging on other people’s blogs.
You should also be posting to Facebook. That might seem like a strange place for legal information, but when locals follow you and see your name, they’re more likely to recommend you to a friend in trouble.
5. Respond to both positive and negative reviews
“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing anything.”
You’ll get negative reviews occasionally. In fact, many consumers have learned not to trust someone who has a spotless record; it looks fake. A negative review gives you a chance to recover and show people how you treat clients.
When you get a negative review, even if it’s completely fake, you need to respond calmly and professionally.
First, thank them for their review and express sympathy that they weren’t happy with the service they received.
Next, have them contact you away from the review site. Invite them to email you or call to talk about their situation.
After you’ve spoken to them and done what you can, go back to the site and put up an update that says that you’re glad that you spoke and you hope that they are satisfied with the outcome.
How you handle negative reviews is as important as getting positive reviews.
Negative reviews can be tempting for attorneys. It's tempting to ignore positive reviews. This may partially be true. However, it is much more effective for legal reputation management if the lawyer responds to each review.
An attorney who responds quickly to positive reviews shows that he/she cares about the clients and that he/she is open to communication. This could make a positive impression and encourage clients to continue hiring the attorney.
A prompt response to client reviews can make a bigger impression on potential clients who haven’t yet purchased services from the attorney. A client might notice that an attorney has a lot of positive reviews... and the attorney responds to everyone in less than a week.
The potential client may choose a lawyer based on their attentiveness and care.
This is an easy job to delegate, but it's best to have at least a personal touch. These are some guidelines for responding positively to reviews:
- Thanks to the client.
- You can use your name or the name of the practice in the review, as long as you include any key keywords for SEO purposes (i.e. "Thanks for choosing us as your agent to prepare your real-estate contract of sale!"
- Keep it brief.
- You might want to mention something personal but not anything sensitive or embarrassing
- Add some marketing - remember, others will be reading this and evaluating your service based on what they see. Remember, paralegal work is charged at paralegal rates!
- Invite them back - "Remember, we can always be reached for any future legal issues!"
Negative reviews are a real pain. Negative reviews can feel like a failure in the world of lawyer reputation management. It is the exact opposite of what you want to achieve.
It's important to not panic or react too quickly if you receive a negative review. Every business that has been in operation for a long time will eventually get a negative review.
Although you can use the review platform's procedure to remove them, it is often time-consuming and requires a lot of proof. Sites like Yelp or Avvo are looking to be trusted as sources of unfiltered consumer information. What credibility would they have if every review had five stars?
In fact, having a few negative reviews mixed in with a lot of positive ones can make you more credible. It is important to solicit positive reviews. A mix of positive and negative reviews is a good way to get a glimpse of the real company.
This only works if you respond properly to negative reviews. Your response to negative reviews speaks volumes about how you conduct business. If you respond to a negative review, it could help get the reader to reconsider your company. Here are some ways to respond to negative reviews:
- Recognize the problem. Don't ignore the issue, even if your client disagrees with you. Accept your credibility and say thank you to the client for bringing this up. Example: "Thanks for your feedback and for informing us about the issue."
- Apologize. Even if you believe you are right, apologize. Although many attorneys are reluctant to apologize because it implies guilt, it is not the courtroom. It's the court-of-public opinion and you and your client were part of the same team. It's not about apologizing for what you did but the outcome for a client who is unhappy.
How to Choose the Best Reputation Management Company
Get started on your online reputation management today. One of the things you’ll notice is that it’s surprisingly quick to reap rewards. As you build your positive reviews, you’ll get more and more business.
Don’t get overwhelmed. This is a project that can be done piece by piece. Plan to claim your Google My Business profile this week and your Avvo profile next week.
You can speed up the process with the help of an online reputation management company. They can do much of this work for you and make sure that everything they do is SEO-friendly and links together well.
That said, this is a project that you can do if you have the time. It is always more productive and cost-efficient to hire someone to handle managing the reputation of your law firm. Contact NewReputation today for a free consultation.
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