Your Law Firm’s Website and a Client’s Fear of Loss

Most law firm websites are designed to emphasize the status of the people who, in their view, are the most important to the firm’s success. No, not their potential clients, but their own attorneys. This shortsighted focus can be a major contributor to the website’s poor conversion rate.

In marketing terms, website conversion means persuading your website visitors to take the actions you want them to take. For most law firms, that means motivating potential clients to contact your firm.

Too many firms fail to connect the dots between website design and the ringing of their receptionist’s phone. Consequently, firms and designers tend to focus on aesthetics at the expense of effective marketing. In today’s crowded online marketplace, it’s critical that every site element be designed to support the conversion of visitors to clients.

Creating compelling marketing requires an understanding of the psychological factors that drive consumers to act. When attorneys design websites with their own status needs in mind — showcasing their long and impressive bios, prestigious awards and dignified, formal headshots — they are overlooking a powerful, motivating force: the legal consumer’s desire for status. For attorneys, that means appealing to consumers through a powerful channel — the threat of loss.

The Fear of Losing Social Status
Indeed, the desire for social status is one of the most important factors driving human behavior. It’s vital to understand that, as one study found, negative social signals and experiences predict psychological behavior more strongly than positive ones. Why is that significant? In western societies, where employment and income are widely perceived to be core factors of social status, the threat of loss of status through loss of income or position can be powerful motivators.

For instance, websites for criminal defense attorneys can be more enticing if the messaging zeroes in on how a guilty verdict can jeopardize a defendant’s future employment and earnings. Statements that address these emotionally charged issues — “If convicted of a felony, it may be difficult for you to find work” — are more effective motivators than generic promises to “protect your rights.” Even less effective are it’s-all-about-me headlines such as, “Your best defense is an experienced, successful attorney.” While that statement may be true, it doesn’t speak to a potential client’s deep-rooted fear of loss.

Ultimately, status is one of the most overlooked — and yet one of the most important — motivators that influences how consumers evaluate attorneys through their websites. The want for status can be just as strong for attorneys as potential clients. This can lead to conflict when attorneys are designing their websites. In the end, attorneys must decide who their websites are for – themselves or their prospects.

If you’d like to learn more about the psychology of your potential clients, read the FindLaw white paper, Why Most Law Firm Websites are Designed to Fail: Logic, Emotion and Today’s Legal Consumer.

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