Here’s how it works:
A client experiences something from you that was far beyond what was expected. They tell other people about their experience. Those other people consider hiring you.
A long time ago, people were much more limited as to how they could share their experience. They might share their story over a meal, while talking on the phone, or at a party (in fact, they still do).
Today, however, there are a variety of additional ways people share their experience. They email it. They text it. And while face-to-face and phone-to-phone sharing is limited to those participating in the conversation (and perhaps the more nosy in the immediate vicinity), there are now a variety of much more public sharing tools available.
Now people tweet their experience. They update their statuses. They leave online reviews and they blog about their experiences.
And so, you might think to yourself, “It sure would be nice if our clients were sharing the positive experiences they have had with us.”
But it might not be so clear how you connect all the dots. So where does one start?
At the risk of stating the obvious, this all starts with a client experiencing something from you that was far beyond what was expected. This might mean that you were able to use your knowledge, skill, and experience to get an unexpected outcome.
However, more likely, it means that you stood out in other ways. Maybe it means that you spent more time listening to your client than they expected. Maybe it means that you spent more time explaining or updating your client than they expected. Maybe it means you did something else that you would expect every other lawyer to do, but that your client didn’t expect.
Lead the Horse to Water
Once you’ve provided the “better than expected” experience, you might be done. You client might head straight home and rave about you online.
More likely than not, they will need a nudge. But how do you nudge your client to evangelize your “better than expected” service without belittling what your relationship with them means? Is it even possible?
Of course, the answer is that it will vary from client to client, as well as, your ability to exercise good judgment in your approach.
Obviously, before you encourage anyone to review, rate, or otherwise endorse you online, or anywhere else for that matter, you should see what your state’s rules of professional responsibility permit and prohibit. Some states are much more restrictive than others when it comes to testimonials and other endorsements.
It should go without saying that if it’s difficult for your clients to find you online, and find a clear way to express their positive experience, it’s much less likely to happen.
So, you should consider claiming and completing various online profiles. It’s free. It doesn’t take a lot of time. It makes it much easier for your clients to leave reviews should they so choose. I’d start with Google Places. I’d also look into other local search profiles and review sites.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
No matter how hard you try, it’s likely that some of your clients will feel they have had a “worse than expected” experience with you. These folks are as important, if not much more important in terms of their impact on word of mouth referrals. In fact, as you would probably guess, they’re much more likely to likely to “spread the word” about their bad experience than your clients that absolutely love you.
So it makes sense for you to monitor what is being said about you online. While there are a myriad of ways to do this, one of the easiest and most affordable (it’s free) is Google Alerts. By setting up a Google Alert for your name and firm name, you can receive notifications when your either appear somewhere online and get indexed by Google.
With alerts, you can quickly decide how, and even if, you respond to the negative feedback or otherwise manage the situation.
Do You See What “They” See?
You should also periodically “Google“, “Bing“, and even “Avvo” yourself. Type your name and firm name into search engines, social media sites, and even major legal directories. “See what your prospective clients see” when they look for you online. It just might make a difference as to whether they even decide to contact you, let alone, hire you.
Regardless of how you feel about internet marketing generally, how some lawyers are using internet marketing specifically, and even if you have a “completely word of mouth practice”, you are ill-advised to ignore the web altogether for one simple reason:
Your clients, and the people they know, are using it.