When we start working on a law firm website project, we ask our clients: “What do you want your website to accomplish?” One of the most common answers we hear, often delivered with an irresolute shrug of the shoulders, is: “We really just need an online brochure.”
We hate hearing this term—“online brochure”—because it sets such a low bar for what should be a law firm’s strongest marketing asset. A law firm website should look great and function flawlessly, sure. That’s table stakes. But done right, it can be the fuel powering a marketing engine that tells a compelling story, attracts ideal clients, generate leads, and turn leads into new business. Best of all, by incorporating the right mix of marketing automation technology, it can work for your while you’re busy working for your clients.
Sounds good, right? But I know what you’re thinking: “We don’t have the time or the money to invest in a new website.”
I get it. For too long, the law firm website design process has cost too much and taken too much time. Many law firms spend tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of dollars on new websites. And the process can often take 6 to 12 months to complete, if not more. Website projects often begin with great enthusiasm, and then limp to the finish line, launching with ambivalence and mediocre results.
It doesn’t have to be this way. How do I know? Because we’re doing it differently.
We’re thinking outside of the box. We’re identifying the best technology, leveraging it, and making it work for our clients. We’re refining processes that enable seamless collaboration, and counseling our clients on the best ways to obtain internal consensus and streamline decision making (often the biggest impediments to progress). Because of this, we are able to launch law firm websites in 30 days or less, and the results are strong. In our experience, the best sites are the ones that sprint, not limp, to the launch.
The most recent example of this streamlined website launch process is our own new website. We have been toying with the idea of launching a new site for some time, and on January 19th, we were struck by inspiration which coincided with an unexpected small window of free time. We had not written a word, nor completed a single element of design, but 10 days later, on January 29th, we launched our new site. You can check it out here. It’s a reflection of our agency focus, which is to help law firms bring Client-Focused Clarity to their marketing and websites. By achieving clarity of message, and attracting ideal clients by telling a compelling story, law firms can attract more business and grow.
While 10 days may be a bit too aggressive of a timeline for a law firm, 30 days is entirely possible. We know because we’ve done it. Here’s how.
Week 1 - Define Audience and Craft Compelling Story
Each website project begins with a “blueprint” process during which we help our clients cast a clear vision based on the direction they hope to take their firm, and the ideal clients they hope to attract. This vision unfolds in a story told through the website. But it’s not the story of the law firm itself – it’s one that positions the firm’s ideal client as the hero of the story. The law firm’s role is to play “Guide” or “Trusted Advisor” (Yoda) to the “Hero/Client” (Luke Skywalker), and this must come through on your website.
Talk about your clients’ challenges more than your own accolades. Don’t market your practice areas, market the problems you solve. Repeat the story of your ideal client back to them. Then tell your own story by sharing your wisdom, and demonstrating that you’re in this together with your clients. These issues are nuanced, but vitally important to the success of your law firm website. Story, which requires an understanding of audience, characters and key objectives, is the glue that binds an effective website together, and the magnet that attracts others to it.
Accomplished by end of Week 1: Direction is established; ideal client defined; and key messages are crafted which will form the foundation of copy and design throughout the website.
Week 2 - Copywriting and Design
Copywriting and design are important storytelling tools. Function is critical, but so is form. Our approach to design and copywriting is sophisticated and minimalist. In 1918 William Strunk Jr., in The Elements of Style, urged writers to “omit needless words.” We adhere strictly to this principle, both in terms of copywriting and design. All that is necessary, but nothing more. If it’s part of the design, or written on the page, it must have a purpose. You only have mere moments to grab the attention of a website visitor. Both design and copy must tell a compelling story that cuts through the noise.
Accomplished by end of Week 2: Design and copywriting is completed; it happens fast because we’re working off the clear blueprint established in Week 1.
Week 3 - Development
Here’s where we are able to move at lightning speed relative to most website projects. In a typical law firm website project, the design process, itself, typically drags out for weeks, if not months. At that point, once design is approved, the project moves into the development phase. Most law firm websites utilize the WordPress platform. WordPress is great...if you have a developer who really knows what he or she is doing. Even if you do, developing in a WordPress environment still takes quite a bit of time – again, weeks if not months.
For years we’ve worked with WordPress, and delivered lots of great sites to clients using it. But no more (at least only in special circumstances). We’re now using SquareSpace to create our clients’ websites. It’s an elegant and powerful platform that makes it far easier and faster to create a powerful website for a client.
Some WordPress purists will argue that WordPress is superior to SquareSpace in certain respects, such as search engine optimization. We disagree. That’s an argument that reflects an old interpretation of what SEO means in the modern world of search and content marketing. Even if it were true, we believe that the benefits of SquareSpace, in terms of simplicity, elegance, built-in features, flawless mobile responsiveness, and ease of updating, vastly outweigh any potential drawbacks. We’re not just speculating here – we use SquareSpace for our own site. I encourage you to check it out on both desktop and mobile devices and see if you identify any shortcomings (and remember, this is a site that was created in 10 days!).
Accomplished by end of Week 3: Development is complete and test website is ready for client’s review.
Week 4 - Testing, Refinement, and Technology Integration
Law firms are paying huge amounts of money (too much in our opinion) to design and develop new websites, and investing even more to drive traffic to the site via spending on advertising, events and content marketing. Despite these investments, most law firm websites are doing little to nothing to capture the traffic and convert it into new business. If your website isn’t playing an integral role in generating and nurturing new business leads, then you’re missing out on a big opportunity. During Week 4 of our website process we help our clients create systems to both drive traffic to websites (using tools such as content marketing, search engine optimization, and digital advertising (social media and Google AdWords)), and then turn that traffic into leads.
The websites we design also take into account the fact that law firm business development doesn’t happen all at once. Most new business opportunities arise only after a period of nurturing of the prospective client. Trust must be built over time. We help our clients overcome one of the biggest challenges of law firm marketing, which is the lack of time and resources needed to consistently engage with leads to turn them into clients. The law firm websites we design include email based automated marketing systems that work for our clients while they’re busy working for their own clients.
During Week 4, we also work with our clients to make any necessary tweaks to design and copy, and test technology and marketing automation.
By day 30, we’re ready to launch.
The timeline that I’ve laid out above is fast. That’s good – the best projects tend to move quickly and with a sense of urgency. But of course a fast pace like this is not appropriate for every firm. For example, a large law firm with 500 attorneys, 45 practice areas, and lots of stakeholders who need to weigh in on decisions, is not going to launch in 30 days. Nor is SquareSpace necessarily the right platform for them, as they likely have specific technological needs that can’t be addressed via SquareSpace.
Large law firms are different, and we approach large law firm website projects differently, but with no less sense of urgency, emphasis on value, or priority on achieving Client-Focused Clarity.
For the overwhelming majority of small to mid-size law firms, however, there is no reason that a stunning, lead-generating law firm website can’t be launched in 30 days.
Want to know more? I’d be happy to talk about your website objectives, challenges you may be facing with your current site, and provide you with more information about our process and pricing. Please contact me at Jay@hcommunications.biz, 313.432.0287, or simply click the button below to schedule a free consultation. Your website is your most important marketing asset. Let’s work together to get it working to grow your law firm.
Could you use a bit of help in defining your target market, and positioning yourself as an expert with clients, potential clients and referral sources within a niche?
I am currently accepting applications to my Elite Lawyer Coaching program, which involves one-on-one strategic consulting and coaching to help lawyers set and reach their business goals in 2018. If you’re interested in dramatically growing your practice this year, contact me at 313.432.0287 or firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to define clear goals, create a specific plan of action, and ensure accountability as you work toward achieving your objectives. Let’s chat soon, as I only have a few slots remaining for new applicants. Also, please check out my new book, The Essential Associate, which is now available for purchase.