Plenty of attorneys are skeptical of online reviews because they’re apprehensive about putting their image in the hands of a person outside the firm.

That’s understandable, but the time to hesitate has passed.

People love online reviews, and if you ignore them entirely, you’re failing to take advantage of a powerful marketing tool. Not only that, but you’re neglecting a key element of your law firm’s image—and are doing so at your own detriment. Instead of hanging back and taking a “what will be will be” approach to online reviews, it’s far better to be proactive and ask clients to write them. You’re being participatory and nurturing a body of positive reviews that will help you appeal to future clients.

In this post, we’ll quickly review the benefits of online reviews, and then present a basic plan for how you can effectively ask for them in the normal course of business.

Why law firms should ask for client reviews

Before we get too far into how to ask for reviews, let’s quickly look at why you should ask for them.

The foremost reason is that your potential clients pay attention to them. In the most recent U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey, 35% of the respondents who used an online source to find an attorney looked to online reviews. This is noteworthy because in that same survey, 71% of respondents who ultimately contacted an attorney only ever reached out to one lawyer. Together, these two statistics show that most legal clients are keenly interested not just in what you say about yourself, but what others say about you and working with you. You don’t have much time or space to capture interest, so why leave one of the few sources of information clients consult up for grabs?

A secondary reason: Online reviews will boost your visibility with search engines. Google’s algorithm takes into account many features of an online presence, and one of them is whether people have taken the time to write you reviews. Think of each review a client writes as a very small rung on the long ladder toward where you want to be—right in front of a prospective client who’s looking for a lawyer just like you.

How lawyers should ask for online reviews

When a matter concludes, politely and concisely ask your clients if they’d consider writing a review for you. Don’t push too hard (no one likes feeling obligated), but do make the request. FindLaw research has shown that simply asking results in more online reviews than saying nothing.

Here are five do’s and don’ts to help you make asking for reviews smooth, easy, and effective:

Do – Be Systematic: The only way you will get in the swing of asking for reviews is if you’re consistent about it. The sooner it becomes a habit, the better. If you have a checklist for closing out a matter, add “Ask for review” to that. You can also use software that automatically sends a short, polite email with a link to the relevant review site. If your marketing budget permits, that may be the easiest and most effective way, since it doesn’t require any extra thought or effort on your part.

Don’t – Be Too Heavy-Handed: Online reviews work because readers perceive them as authentic. It would be unwise (and ethically dubious) to go too far with telling a client what to write. It’s fine to say, “I hope you can speak to what it’s like to work with me” or “I had hoped you could talk a little about how my fee schedule and approach to client matters worked for you,” but don’t go much further than that.

Do – Exercise Judgment: Not every client needs to write a review. If a relationship didn’t turn out as you had hoped, it isn’t necessary to solicit a review from that client. There’s very little to be gained, and you’re better served spending your time and energy elsewhere.

Don’t – Let One Bad Review Turn You Away: Chances are that at some point you will get a review that’s less glowing than you’d like. Don’t let this turn you away from seeking out reviews. First, it looks suspicious if every single review you have is five stars. That isn’t realistic and might make potential clients think something’s amiss. Second, if you can respond to a less-than-enthusiastic review fairly and with restraint, you’ll show your future clients that you’re a professional. In other words, you’ll take a potentially negative scenario and turn it into a positive one.

Do – Respond to Reviews: Once a client leaves a review, write a one- or two-line response. Something like, “It was a pleasure working with you,” or “Thank you for trusting me to handle your matter” is sufficient. The goal here is to demonstrate that you’re friendly, attentive, and responsive. (That last quality being especially important since unresponsiveness is a typical gripe clients have about their attorneys.)

In a sense, asking for online reviews isn’t so different from many areas of life. It may seem strange or unfamiliar at first, but once you get to a place where it seems natural, it will be significantly easier. Our complimentary guide “Making Online Reviews Work For Your Law Firm” explains in detail how you can use reviews as a business development tool and how they can enhance your firm’s overall brand.

 





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