Standing Out from the Crowd as a Mediator

So you've done your mediation training and you've hung your shingle.

*crickets*

Now what?

*crickets*

You need to find a way to stand out from the crowd of mediators in your community. But how?

Today's question comes via my one-question ADR marketing survey. If you haven't already submitted your question, do it now! And be sure to share it with others who might be interested. Your participation will help me ensure that I'm covering all the ground YOU want me to cover in my upcoming webinar!

I'm going to say right off the bat that the person who submitted the question — let's call her Sally — is already doing a few things right. To stand out, first you have to stand up and be visible. Sally has done that in a few different ways:

  • She has a website.
  • She belongs to a couple of the prominent ADR organizations in her area. Presumably, she attends and participates in their meetings.
  • She's built up her LinkedIn profile.

These are a great start and really should be considered basic requirements.

Now, let's talk about the website. (I won't link to it here, out of respect for Sally's privacy — but I'll provide other examples to help illustrate what I'm talking about.) When people visit your website, you have a just a couple seconds to convince them that you have something special to offer — something that they want or need. This goes back to what I wrote about defining your brand. From Sally's website, I know at a glance that she's a divorce mediator, but I don't really know her brand. If I were browsing through a bunch of mediators' websites, hers wouldn't send a clear, unique message to me. But don't despair! I do see the makings of a solid brand statement in the text on the home page. It shouldn't take too much effort to build a great brand statement of 15 words or less from the key points in that text. Put that at the top of your website and you'll completely change your visitors' first impressions of your website.

Want an example? Obviously I'm partial to my own site, but I can point to one website that really stood out to me early on: Lisa J. Smith, Collaborative Divorce Attorney. Lisa's website hits you with her brand statement from the first second: "You Have Options... Choose a Divorce with Respect and Privacy." That's what she's offering and you know it right away.

A word on calls to action. Visitors to your website need a clear way to follow through on what you're offering. We call this a "call to action." Sally features her phone number prominently, which is great. In the example I gave above, Lisa lists her phone number and also provides a link to a form. Generally speaking, fewer calls to action is better than more; you want to avoid giving your visitors choice paralysis. I'm currently experimenting with only providing a link to my online appointment scheduling system, to help cut down on "tire kicker" calls. The number is still on my "Contact" page; it's just not the default call to action that I'm giving to people.

One final thing about Sally's website. The text is too small. Standard practice is at least 14 or 16 point font. Anything less than that is too hard on people's eyes.

How do you build a website with these features? If you don't have a website, or you're not happy with the one you've got, I can't recommend SquareSpace strongly enough. Think of SquareSpace as WordPress with all the essential plug-ins, less maintenance, and a friendlier user interface. Even with my background in computer science and web development, I love how easy it is to use. In 2015, Lawyerist.com had about a dozen nominations for "best law firm website" that were built on SquareSpace's Bedford template (the same one I use), and for good reason!

There are other things you can offer on your website to set yourself apart, such as blog articles (with a solid social media publishing strategy), free downloads, tools and calculators (see Skylark Law & Mediation's website for a great example) — really, anything that you think will benefit potential clients or referral sources and keep them paying attention to you.

I've focused on the website here, because it's really ground zero for how people first "meet" you and learn about your practice. But there are lots of other ways to stand out from the crowd and be noticed, including:

  • Reviews on ratings sites like Yelp or Google Business
  • Writing for journals like Family Mediation Quarterly
  • Hosting or participating in public outreach programs

... and lots more! Really, anything that involves contributing to the community of clients or referral sources, or that raises your visibility in the places where people are looking, is going to help you stand out from the crowd.