Are you losing referrals you didn’t know you had?
Over the past few years there has been a plethora of data and statistics describing how consumers utilize online search, review websites, social media, and mobile devices to look for local businesses. While we believe all of this data is correct in the direction things are heading, we also noticed that a lot of our analytics data still shows people visiting our clients’ websites from Google search are using a ‘branded keyword’ search, that is, typing in the firm name or the name of an attorney at the firm. While we feel that encouraging referrals is a strong part of the marketing mix for a profession like legal, we wondered how that was fairing in the age of mobile and online search and how the data that is being reported for general local business surveys compared to the legal industry.
This past summer, we commissioned a survey, asking questions about consumer behavior when faced with a potential legal issue. Surprise: the results are in and show that referrals are, in fact, not dead.
When asked where they would begin researching when faced with a legal problem, about 60 percent of participants said they would look online via a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing – not a surprise. In the first few stages of looking into a personal legal issue, the Internet is a seemingly safe and private place to research your issue.
According to the survey results, though, almost 70 percent of people would ask for a referral from a friend if he or she — or someone they knew — actually needed to hire an attorney. This confirms our belief that word-of-mouth is still very powerful when someone actually needs to find an attorney.
Another interesting data point that came out of the survey was that after someone receives a referral from a friend, their next step is not typically calling the law firm. Our survey showed that almost 65 percent indicated they were most likely to visit the firm’s website before calling, instead.
What does this mean? From our research, we can infer that the steps a majority of people take when they have a legal problem are:
- Research on the web.
- Ask a friend for a referral.
- Look at that lawyer’s website online.
- Call the law firm.
This highlights the point that your website (and overall web presence) need to support the referrals that you are receiving. How do you transform a referral and website glance into a call? The answer is in your website design and content. Besides a strong website design and structure — easy navigation and a good search engine ranking — what else are people looking for?
The survey results confirmed information we learned from our own heat-mapping tools: people are more likely to look at attorney profiles before picking up the phone. When visiting the law firm’s website, about 87 percent said they would pay more attention to the profile of the attorney.
All of these aspects — the referral, your web presence, your home page, attorney profiles, and other website content — are key components to converting a referral into a client.