This is a guest post by Christina Canright, the President of Canright Communications in Chicago. Her firm loves to help companies create presentations, websites, marketing materials that are distinctive, compelling, and effective.
One of the most important sales tools a company has these days is its website. It’s often one of the first impressions a potential customer has about your firm. Often I hear owners or principals in firms say they don’t want to bother with their site. I get one of two responses: Either they’re embarrassed by their site, and don’t want to spend the time and money to rework it. Or they say they have a site they just had done, and it is “fine.”
Considering how much a website could do for the firm, those responses essentially amount to wasting a valuable sales resource. Many firms will put a lot of money into making their reception area look impressive and comfortable, because they understand the value of that impression. The website is in that same category, except it can be set up to deliver leads and tell a lot about your firm before a potential client even contacts you.
But what if the firm decides to go ahead and redo its site. Here are the five most common mistakes I’ve come across:
1. Looks like everyone else – impersonal. Many sites try to look like each other, or follow what the trend is for websites. They start with a home page with too much content. These often feel cold and impersonal. If you try to find a phone number, you get sent to a form. A site needs to reflect the firm’s personality – whether it’s “we play tough, nothing is too difficult for us to tackle” or “we listen to you and will handle all your legal issues with expediency, so you don’t need to worry.” The tough players will have an in-your-face site; and the service-oriented firm will have a warmer, more accessible feel. Professionalism comes through for both.
2. Internally focused on the company rather than externally on the client. Frankly, clients don’t care that much about your company’s mission. What they do care about is: What can you do for them and what kind of reputation do you have? And when you focus more on the benefits you offer, your prospect senses you will focus on them-and you more readily differentiate your firm.
3. No resources that support specialty practice areas. This is where a firm can show what it knows and what it specializes in. Client alerts and articles in your areas of expertise show what your firm and its people feel passionate about and have special expertise in. A firm can gain a lot of credibility if it provides client briefings and backgrounders on especially complex issues. It helps to include articles written not only for law journals but ones written for the general public.
4. No calls to action. Many sites make it difficult for interested people to contact the firm and get access to any resources it does offer. Use download buttons and links that are obviously buttons to click on. Guide them on the site to what you want them to do, whether it’s calling you, downloading issue briefings, reports or white papers. Buttons also make it easier for them to see where to sign up for a newsletter or how to access your blog if you have one. (You should.)
5. Photos that don’t relate to what the firm does (pictures of the city) – artificial. There are exceptions to this, but because so many sites use the city they live in as the main home page photo, it’s best to stay away from a city photo. (One good exception is how Sanchezdh.com integrated the city with an oversize image of Sanchez, the founding partner.) Look for images that are compelling but not cliché. How many law firm sites have the Scales of Justice as a dominant image? How many have people sitting around a conference table? How many use stock photography and models rather than real people? Every firm can find creative ways to present its work without breaching client confidentiality. Find a design firm that can help you come up with something fresh.
Some websites that work: