When small law firms are competing for attention and clients in a flooded marketplace, they often have to work hard to be noticed and quickly gain trust.
The common misconceptions that become roadblocks to on-boarding new clients can include:
· You won’t have the capacity/expertise as a small firm
· You will be very expensive
· I don’t need you until there is a problem
· As a lawyer you will be inaccessible/unapproachable
While dealing with these misconceptions is about education, you first need to be seen and listened to. Some of the principles I teach lawyers that break down these barriers and effectively build trust are below.
1. Clarity and consistency of brand
People trust a brand they understand, that clearly communicates what it stands for and its points of differentiation. Furthermore, a brand that is consistently demonstrated through company and team member alignment develops trust because it appears strong and purpose-driven.
2. Visibility and staying top of mind
A law firm that produces regular, quality content that demonstrates their expertise, contributions and values will pick up a relevant audience and stay top of mind with them going forward. Getting this right in the online space has now become essential to be competitive in professional services such as law that rely on referral sources and repeat business – you want to stay fresh in the minds of these people!
3. Reputation risk management
Lawyers are a group who in particular need to protect their credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of the public, in order to have a thriving client base and be seen as go-to advisors. Law firms need pro-active strategies, including processes, policies and staff training, to take responsibility for their perception online and prevent PR problems from coming up.
4. Personal branding for leadership
Experienced lawyers can be seen as leaders in our community. Leaders are trusted because they have a wealth of knowledge, solve big problems and demonstrate purpose and values in their approach to their work. Strategically building the personal brands of leadership teams, lawyers and other client-facing staff and providing training to empower these staff members about how they represent themselves, both in-person and online, are important ways that pro-active and forward-thinking law firms are building trust through demonstrating leadership.
5. Building relationships
It is still the case – in fact, I’d argue, it is now more than ever – that people want to do business with people, and ‘nothing beats a handshake’. While a great online strategy is essential in this day and age, it must work as a support and leverage for your face-to-face and on-the-phone relationship-building efforts – i.e. REAL human interaction. This is always the quickest way to gain trust. Law firms and other professional services and advisories are now working on a strategic approach to LinkedIn that focuses on building meaningful business relationships, combining this with networking, client contact and other real-life efforts.