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First things first. If you haven't read my article about 4 Inescapable Lessons from Clio Cloud Conference 2016, you might want to go do that now. The legal profession has a lot of work to do, in terms of (1) streamlining business processes to reclaim lost time, and (2) taking marketing seriously. You don't need Gary Vaynerchuk to tell you that most legal professionals are falling far short of the minimum standard for online marketing, and that's just as true of mediators, arbitrators, mental health professionals, and others who do work in the legal space.
Having a Website Is Table Stakes.
I've mentioned before that marketing is storytelling, and there are various ways to go about it. But whatever marketing strategy you choose, there's one part of your story that you cannot go without, and that's your website. You just can't ignore your website — not even if you do all your marketing offline. Calling it "table stakes" is honestly an insult to table stakes. That's like saying breathing is table stakes for being human.
Let's say you get all your business through referrals, and a colleague or acquaintance gives a potential client your name and phone number. What's the first thing they're going to do? Chances are, they're not just going to call your number. First, they're going to get out their phone and look you up online.
They want to know about you. They want to learn a bit more about how you present yourself, what your approach is to the specific problem they need help with, and whether they think they'll be able to make a good connection with you.
If a potential client has a list of three possible choices for a job, there's a good chance they're going to call the ones with good websites first. (And notice that I said they'll be looking you up on their phones — your website had better be mobile-friendly!)
"But I already have a website!"
Maybe you do.
But far too many professionals have what really amounts to an online résumé — a list of practice areas, professional memberships, where they went to school, and a headshot. If there's any language to be found that speaks to how the services offered can address clients' problems, it's not featured prominently on the page — or it might not even be on the home page at all. It might be somewhere on another page on the site.
When you do that — when your home page reads like a résumé — you're basically putting the potential client in the position of being a detective, asking them to figure out how your qualifications match up with their needs.
That's not the position you want to put them in. Don't make them do the work. Do the work for them, and do it in a way that's persuasive and accessible.
Your Website Should Tell a Persuasive Story.
However people find your website — whether it's through a referral, or Yelp, or Avvo, or a Google search, your mission is the same. From the moment they hit your site, you want to start telling them a story that resonates with them and makes them even more likely to pick up the phone and call you, or fill out a form, or whatever mechanism you've provided for them to start engaging with you.
What we're doing here is guiding people through a sales funnel. At the top of the funnel, the biggest part, is the whole world of potential clients. The number of people who find and visit your website is even smaller. The number who actually contact you and become what we might call 'prospects' or 'prospective clients' is even smaller than that. And the number who end as your actual clients is smaller still.
That's not actually the bottom of the funnel — the bottom of the funnel is former clients who are so happy with your work that they become evangelists for your business.
Right now we're just worried about the second part of the funnel, where people are finding your website and you're trying to convert them into prospective clients.
The 6-Part Home Page Layout
There are lots of ways to design a persuasive website, so I'm not going to pretend that this is the only way. I'm not even going to claim that it's the single best way. There might be a way that works better for you and your business. But this is a way that has worked really well for me. My clients have often told me how my website spoke to them and made them want to call me about my services.
I'm not the only one using a layout like this. Amy Hoy of Unicornfree has described a layout for persuasive website copy that's very similar, although not identical. She's also written an article about it that you can find here. I like the vocabulary she uses and I'm going to borrow some of it here.
Here are the 6 parts...
Part 1: Your Branding Statement
This is the initial hook. It's the 15-words-or-less sentence that directly connects your services with the reader's problems, and gives them a reason to keep reading. If you haven't already created your brand statement, go back to Episode 5 to learn how.
Part 2: Describing the Problem
Now that you've gotten the reader's attention, you want to show that you really understand them. You do that by going more in-depth with the problems they're facing – the reason they're visiting your website in the first place. Keep in mind that they might not know anything about your services whatsoever. They might not know the difference between mediation and arbitration. They might have never even heard of collaborative law. Maybe they've even come to your website looking for someone who can help them file a complaint and start litigating, because that's what a friend told them to do. So this isn't the time to use jargon or make any assumptions about what specific services they're looking for. Instead, you're drawing them into a story — THEIR STORY — that starts with the burning problem they're trying to solve.
Part 3: Imagine a Dream World
Once you've described the reader's problems, it's time to offer them a vision of a world where those problems have been solved. If they're afraid of a contentious, public divorce, then you paint the picture of a private, respectful divorce. If they're worried about damaging their kids in divorce, then you describe a family with divorced parents who are co-parenting effectively. If they're afraid of the financial impact of divorce, then you describe a divorce process that's efficient and where all financial decisions have been made with everyone's long-term interests in mind. If they're afraid of losing their identity in divorce, then you imagine a world in which they're confident and purposeful post-divorce.
I've used divorce as an example here, but the same thing applies to any service or product you might offer. You're helping the potential client or customer to understand that their problem, which they now know you understand, can be solved. There is a world in which that's possible.
Now, when we call this a "dream world," that's not to say that this is a world that can only happen "in your dreams." You're not making any unrealistic promises. And you're certainly not implying that this will, without any doubt, be their reality. You're just offering a notion of what might be possible for them.
Part 4: Your Services
By now, if the potential client is still reading, they're wondering, "How do I get to that dream world?" If they're not reading, it's because you're not speaking to their problems, their fears, their hopes and dreams. That could be a problem with your writing, or it could just be that they're not the right client for you. I always know when I get a call from someone who hasn't seen my website, because the vocabulary they're using isn't consistent with what I've written.
At last, this is where you can start talking about your services. Specifically, you want to talk about the services that fit naturally in the story you've been telling — the ones that can help a client solve their burning problems and achieve something approximating the dream world you described. If you want to link to other pages that go into these services more in-depth, this is the place to do it.
Part 5: Social Proof
Social proof is information from people other than you that helps inspire confidence in your services. For a restaurant, for example, Zagat points, Michelin stars, or Yelp reviews are good social proof. For a service professional, client testimonials are good social proof.
Notice I still don't say anything about myself here — my bio or professional memberships. People generally don't care about that stuff so much. They care about whether you provide a service that's well-suited to their problem. Social proof can help assure them that you not only provide the service, but that others have been happy with the work you did for them.
If anyone is still curious about where I went to school and what organizations I belong to, that's what my "About" page is for. I don't put it on my home page.
Part 6: Call to Action
Finally, the call to action is what turns the website visitor into a prospective client. The call to action is very easy to find and gives clear instructions on what they should do next. For an ADR business, it's probably going to be instructions on how to contact you. On my website, I have the same call to action at the top and bottom of the home page.
And that's it. Six very straightforward parts to a home page that tells a persuasive story about your business.
What's the Story, Again?
It might not be quite obvious what that story is, when we're dissecting the 6-part layout piece-by-piece like this. So here's the full story, in a nutshell:
- Welcome, website visitor! I have a good idea of what you're looking for... (Part 1)
- ... and I understand your problems well enough to describe them in detail. (Part 2)
- Let's imagine a world in which those concerns have been addressed. (Part 3)
- In fact, I offer some services that are designed to do just that... (Part 4)
- ... and people have reported being happy with those services. (Part 5)
- So if you'd like to know more, here's how you can get in touch with me. (Part 6)
It’s a short story, but it’s a persuasive one.
You Can't Please Everyone.
What if someone finds your website and this story doesn't resonate with them? Well, remember that you're not trying to be everything to everyone. You're trying to attract your ideal clients — the ones who want what you have to offer and will benefit from it the most.
If you're telling a story about mediation and someone in the middle of a really high-conflict case finds your website, and they're looking to hire their 3rd attorney in as many years, they probably won't get past your branding statement, which is chapter 1 of your story.
That's by design.
If you wanted high conflict clients, you would have told their story instead.
But if you really want to build a business around ADR, that has to be the story you're telling, including — especially! — on your website.