Why Small Law Firms Need to Think More Like Angie’s List and Less Like Amazon

Why Small Law Firms Need to Think More Like Angie’s List and Less Like Amazon

What do you think of when you hear the word “marketing”? Like the vast majority of us, you probably think “retail.” You might think of that retail powerhouse Amazon. Or maybe Apple, a really strong consumer product brand.

The problem is, those brands sell products. In contrast, a law firm provides a service. So, if you’re looking for some online marketing inspiration shift your gaze to the contractors on Angie’s List.

I can hear some of you thinking: “Great. I’m supposed to compare my firm to a plumber now?” Not really. As a profession, the practice of law is obviously on a different level.

Still, there are some practical marketing strategies you can learn from successful service providers like electricians or remodeling contractors. First and foremost, they’re acutely aware of the distinction between products and services:

  • Selling products often causes businesses to focus on features, uses and advantages one product may have over a competing item.
  • Selling services requires a focus on outcomes, risks of inaction and the provider’s proven expertise.

Generally speaking: Retail customers compare, service consumers consider.

When you look at a typical Amazon product page, you’ll see that it’s trying to convince you to add that product to your cart based on a combination of X features at Y price. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you might also weigh differences in delivery dates and shipping costs.

A service provider on Angie’s List approaches marketing differently. An interior remodeler will show you outcomes—how her work improved the homes and lives of her previous clients. Before-and-after photos of a remodeling job are a picture-perfect example of this in action. She’ll discuss the risks of not using her service­—unaddressed water damage or mold, for instance. And she’ll provide evidence of her expertise: BBB accreditation, testimonials and (particularly important to Angie’s List) ratings and reviews of her business.

Viewed in aggregate, all this information offers a much more personal message than a typical retail message. The remodeler takes advantage of that consideration process and invites potential customers to imagine how much better their circumstances would be if they chose her business.

It’s not all that different for small law firms.

You probably know this in your gut already. You wouldn’t put out a Facebook or blog post that was just a list of your services or practice areas. You need to engage legal consumers personally. You need to tell them a good story about your services. One that is specific enough to feel genuine, yet generic enough to allow them the chance to visualize a similar outcome for their own legal issue. This is a powerful message, and something that a “feature list” of your specialties simply cannot deliver.

A successful home improvement contractor knows this. He can tell you about the one surprising discovery he made on that unusual stucco house in St. Cloud. He’ll tell you how his crew discovered and overcame the challenge. The story will demonstrate that his contracting business knows its stuff. And it will resonate with the potential customers facing similar situations.

Likewise, an attorney could tell a story about, say, a teenage client who was pulled over while driving. He was sober, but he had friends drinking in the back seat. The story would not only discuss a difficult situation, but also how the attorney’s work led to a satisfactory outcome for the client.

You undoubtedly have similar stories of your own to tell potential clients. These would be specific cases that demonstrate not only your skill and real-world expertise, but also your caring.

Take some time to identify stories like this and develop them for use in your online marketing. Remember to keep a service mindset during this process. Think like an Angie’s List user and maybe even take a page from HGTV. Tell your audience a story with a clear before, during and after. Explain the initial situation and your client’s goal. Identify the risks or discoveries that stood in the way of that goal. Then show how you were able to overcome those challenges to deliver an outcome that delighted the client.

It’s true: Your firm’s work isn’t quite comparable to that of a building contractor. And hearing about how you practice law might not be as much fun as seeing photos of a dream kitchen renovation. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two from how professional services present themselves online. The tools you use might be worlds apart, but your customers have more in common than you might think. In a sense, they’re often looking to you to make repairs in their lives.

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