In Praise of Client-Centered Content

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By Rachel Reynolds

When you love what you do and believe you have a great law firm, it’s tempting to talk about yourself and use a lot of “I/me, We/us” language in website content and marketing collateral.  While we’re all about high-fives for great work and excellent outcomes, it’s really important to remember that content needs to be client centered.  This means your content needs to speak to the reader’s emotions, concerns and successes – not yours.

This may feel like you’re flipping content upside down at first, but the more you practice client-centered content, the more natural it becomes.

It’s important to remember why potential clients are reading your website in the first place.  With law firms, it’s usually because someone has questions and is trying to find answers.  Never underestimate the power of useful information in converting users into leads and leads into clients.  That’s why client-centered content is critical.

Of course, your content must also contain SEO keywords and phrases so that search engines and readers can find you in the first place.  But after arriving at your website, the quality of your online content is paramount in determining whether — and for how long – a reader stays there.  Minutes and seconds matter in the world of consumer engagement and Google rankings, so the longer a user stays on your page, the more likely it is your page will rank with Google and the reader will become a lead.  

Hear What the Experts Say

Travis McAshan, founder and managing director at Glide Design in Austin, Texas talks about client-centered content this way:

“Not only does a customer-centered site do a better job of selling, but customer-centered content can make or break your site’s ability to create quality conversions. You should be doing more than just defining your services and puffing yourself up. You should be reaching out to the customer like you were standing right in front of them.”

McAshan, whose web design and marketing firm serves clients in multiple industries, offers five tips for writing customer centered content:

  • You can use “you”.

When you write, pretend that you’re speaking confidently to someone you know. You’re never lecturing. You’re engaging in a helpful conversation in which the other person’s voice isn’t heard but is anticipated and valued.

  • Write in a conversational style.

Strive to write in a conversational style. Just remember, the more friendly and approachable, the better. Use common words not business jargon, which will draw the reader closer.

  • Tell the readers what’s in it for them.

Speak to the significant benefits for readers. Focus on their needs, not on yourself.  They want to know, “what’s in it for me?” Of course, you have an agenda, but you can’t connect to your readers unless you write to their self-interests, not your own.

  • Speak in the reader’s language.

Your style and your choice of words should match your reader’s style. A letter to baseball fans should have the slang and punch of a sports column. [A more serious and compassionate tone works when your reader is looking for a lawyer to represent them in a divorce or car crash].

  • Be a mirror.

Ultimately, the best content isn’t really about you, your business, or even its products and services.  The best content is about your customers. Your content should be a mirror. When prospects read it, let them see themselves: their hopes and fears, their values and dreams, and their best idea of who they are or would like to be.

Looked at another way, Jennifer Leigh Brown, columnist at UX Booth, a publication by and for the user experience community, states that more content is not always the answer.  Rather, the quality and focus of the content is key.

In her article titled “Customer-focused Content: Creating Content People Want and Need,” Brown writes:

“Regardless of business or industry, audiences expect engaging, useful content tailored to their needs. They will quickly dismiss content (and an organization or source that produces it) that is irrelevant, poorly executed, or disingenuous. Prospects and customers do not want company and product hyperbole or sales pitches, regardless of whatever trendy package it’s in. They want help, insight, and applicable information. This requires a customer-focused approach to content creation.

“Customer-focused content is informed by knowledge of the target audience and presented in a way that connects with them. Organizations that are customer-centric can differentiate themselves from the competition by producing content that delivers greater value. Focusing on addressing the needs of audiences first sets the foundation for meeting business goals and achieving greater success. Despite this, content creation is often driven by what internal stakeholders want, subjective requests, or guesses at what people need.”

Brown cautions against making the following mistakes with content, which happen when the intended audience is forgotten:

  • Touting how great an organization or company is.
  • Focused on selling products or services.
  • Laden with hyperbole and buzzwords.
  • Dense, complex, and written from an internal point of knowledge or view.
  • Lacking clear value or benefits.
  • Disconnected or disjointed across customer touchpoints.

“To avoid making these mistakes, start by putting the customer at the beginning of any content conversation. Instead of “Marketing needs a video on x” or “the sales team wants to promote y” change the focus to the target audience. “Career-changer Jane needs help solving x problem.” Before any ideation about content topics, formats, and channels, start with understanding the who, what, and when drivers behind the content creation.”

Your Web Content Either Helps or Hurts You

There’s very little in-between where web content is concerned.  Your content either engages readers and draws them in or causes their eyes to glaze over.  Within the first few seconds, you either “hook” a reader or their mind wanders and they’re thinking about what show they’ll watch on Netflix tonight and which toppings to get on their pizza.  Or worse yet, they’re already clicking over to your competitor’s site in search of better information.

So, what kind of content helps your law firm where readers are concerned?  Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

Your reader is probably traumatized, worried or unhappy.  Be compassionate.  Most visitors to law firm websites have a problem they’re trying to solve.  They’re going through a difficult ordeal (bankruptcy, personal injury, death of a family member, divorce) and they need someone they can trust to help them through complicated legal issues.

Establishing trust and credibility is essential.  Law firm website readers are often dealing with highly personal and confidential information, and they want to know that you are professional, trustworthy, authoritative, and possess expertise.  Demonstrate that you are highly regarded and trusted within the legal field.  

Define the “win.”  Website readers are looking for reasons to choose your law firm above all others.  They want to know what you can do for them and how you can make their lives easier.  Remember, they’re likely going through a very hard time and they’re trying to find a peaceful port in a turbulent sea.  They want to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Client testimonials on your website can be particularly effective at helping to “define the win.”  When other satisfied clients write a few sentences about why they like your firm and what you achieved on their behalf, this can be very persuasive to website readers.  Customers listen to other customers.  Client reviews posted on Google My Business (GMB), Avvo, SuperLawyer and other legal platforms can also be persuasive.

Design matters.  When we speak of content, we’re referring to both the written word and the visual design of your website.  Make sure that your web design is user-friendly, intuitive and not overly cluttered.  Site visitors should not have to work hard to figure out where to find the information they need.  Where design is concerned, clever never surpasses usability.  Make navigating your site effortless.  

Figure out what sets your firm apart and make that part of your brand.  Establishing your firm’s “differentiators” – those qualities that are specific, unique, concrete and actionable – is important.  Your brand should stand for something, and your firm’s performance should back it up over time.  By determining what your firm does better than any other law firm in the region, you can begin to build a buzz in the market and generate word-of-mouth referrals.  Stay away from “undifferentiators” that are broad and general promises to consumers, and instead focus on narrow and specific positive qualities and performance, especially if you’re a smaller or boutique law firm.

Anticipate Readers’ Questions

Most visitors to law firm websites have questions and they’re trying to find answers.  By anticipating readers’ questions and proactively answering them, you engender trust.  You also set yourself up as an authority on these issues and prove your expertise.

A question-and-answer format for web content can be especially effective on practice area pages.  Whether that means you ask a question in a headline and then answer it in the text below or you actually use a “Q” and “A” outline, that’s up to you.  Either way, it helps a reader easily identify the information that’s most important to them.

Client-Centered Content Is a Win for You and Your Readers

Remember that law firm website readers may be hurting, confused or scared because they’re facing big, life-altering problems, so be compassionate and reassuring.  A little kindness goes a long way.  Whether a potential client has been in a vehicle accident, is going through bankruptcy or divorce, or has just been arrested, these are huge issues they are facing with serious consequences.  Make sure your tone respects their concerns and delivers quickly with answers to their questions.

Keep the focus away from your own accomplishments and your products and services, and instead focus closely on the needs and goals of the reader.  Let’s recap:

  • Give readers what they want with client-centered content.
  • It’s far less important what you say about yourself than it is to create feelings of engagement and emotional satisfaction in the reader.
  • Those first few seconds are critical in hooking a reader and keeping them on your page, so make sure you are giving them the information they’re looking for.
  • Time on page boosts your Google rankings and increases the chance of converting a reader into a lead.
  • Anticipate readers’ questions and answer them proactively, particularly on your site’s practice area pages.
  • Establish right off the bat your firm’s authority and trustworthiness and reinforce these themes with persuasive client testimonials.

If you do these things, your website will contain targeted, compelling content that engages and satisfies your reader.  The importance of client-centered content cannot be overstated.  It’s what keeps a reader on your page and prompts them to call or contact your firm.

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