Audience is key
It’s not uncommon for law firms to come to us looking for answers as to why their audience is failing to engage with their written content. More often than not, there’s a number of reasons contributing to their poor engagement and conversion rates. Whether it’s a matter of not having a pointed message, coming across as unprofessional or abrasive, or a litany of design issues that are turning their audience away, there’s one clear certainty – if you’re not drawing prospective clients in and engaging with them in a way that is both accessible and helpful, they’ll look elsewhere for representation. And when you think about it, who could blame them?
This means it’s absolutely necessary that the words you’re using are crafted specifically for your audience. Not only that, but it also means that you have to carefully consider if any of the words you’re using might be pushing people away. Are you coming across as cold and distant? What about comical? Despite the direction some firms have been taking, there are very few people who want to hire the “fun” firm. Instead, what most prospective clients look for is someone who can understand where they’re coming from and make their problem disappear. Playing to any extreme sets you in a position to only catch outliers. By finding and standing on the ideal ground for your specific audience, you can make sure that they have no desire to go elsewhere.
Lost in translation
We’ve coined the term “JD Speak” (a modern-day version of “legalese”) to refer to firms that use language that your Average Joe might not be well-versed in. Many firms assume that using this kind of language is key to establishing their place as a professional and showing their prospective clients that they can get the job done. For better or for worse, we live in a day and age predicated on options (if I search “Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney” on Google, I’m bound to have thousands of different firms to choose from). So, when there are a litany of options, I’m going to find the person who speaks in a way that draws me in and establishes their professionalism through their ability to meet me on my level.
The first step in deciding on how to best write for your audience is to decide on who your audience is. If — as many tax attorneys have found — your clients are primarily attorneys themselves, then it’s infinitely more appropriate to use legal jargon and test the limits of your vocabulary. Obviously don’t take it to such extremes as coming across as unlikeable, but you can flaunt your academic know-how if it strikes your fancy. However, if you’re a real-estate attorney working with homeowners who have gone into foreclosure, you’re going to want to be a lot more down-to-earth with your language. No matter which side of the equation you land on, it’s important that you understand the audience you’re writing for so you can plan accordingly.
Average Joe and Jane
When writing for laypeople, there are a few questions to ask yourself about the content you’re putting out there:
- Am I writing for my peers or for potential clients?
- If I hadn’t gone to law school, would I understand half of what is being said?
- Are my accolades boosting my reputation or forcing my readers to sort through even more information?
- How much “fluff” is in my writing?
The first question we ask our clients when we’re discussing a strategy for their online content is the following: “Who are you writing for?” In other words, who is your ideal client, how do they walk, talk, and act. Knowing who you want as clients helps you answer the first question quickly and definitively. If your peers are your potential clients, knock yourself out. But if your potential clients — as mentioned before — are unlikely to have the same level of education as the people staffing your firm, it’s a poor choice to test the limits of your vocabulary.
It’s always important to know who you’re writing for. You’re a lawyer, one of the most respected and education-intensive careers in the United States, so you have every right to be proud of your accomplishments. However, there is absolutely a line for how much space your accomplishments should take up. When potential clients have to read through multiple accounts of your career successes, they’ll assume you’re more concerned with what you’ve done than what you are planning on doing. This is why letting potential clients know about your status as a “2016 Maryland Superlawyer” is a great way to show your current success and expertise. But if I write about my 2009, 2011, and 2013 accolades, not to mention all of my awards from law school, and then throw in some other facts about my expertise for added measure, it becomes readily apparent that these things are of great importance to me. Clients aren’t concerned about what’s important to me, they worry about what’s important to them – namely, that I’m capable of fighting for their interests and making them a part of my current success.
Finally, one of the most difficult traps to avoid is the issue of “fluff.” Fluff is when there is unnecessary content that can detract from the meaningful material you’re presenting. The easiest way to sort out this material (besides having a third party come in and vet it) is to read over what you’ve written and ask yourself, “Does this benefit my readers?” If the answer is no — whether it’s an entire page or simply a sentence or two — get rid of it immediately. In this case, more is not more and less is not more. What you need is just the right amount to convince potential clients that you’re the best person for the job.
Even images can be fluff. Anything that detracts from your message needs to be cut. Consider the above image as an example. While it’s a beautiful photo, it has nothing to do with what we’re discussing. Hence, fluff.
When all is said and done
Writing for an appropriate audience should be the aim of every law firm; unfortunately, many firms fail in this regard. Ask yourself the almighty question, “Who am I writing for?” Once you have a clear idea of the kind of audience you’re presenting to, you can be certain that your content will at least be in the right arena and you can narrow it down to make sure it’s engaging and effective. Once you decide if you’re providing content for laypeople or other professionals, run through your content and make sure you’re not tripping on any of the major problem areas. Then, you can focus on making sure that the content you provide is worthwhile, of the highest quality, and helps push your audience in the direction you want them to go.
If you’re unsure how your firm’s website is performing in its engagement of potential clients, take advantage of our free inspection. Less than half a minute of your time can be all it takes to get a better understanding of how you can use your website to get more clients.
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