|By Dan Couvrette, CEO, Family Law Magazine, Divorce Magazine and Divorce Marketing Group.|
We’ve helped divorce professionals market their practices for the past 15 years–primarily family lawyers, mediators, financial planners and accountants. We have created products and services, including building websites (which we are going to talk about today) for ourselves and www.divorcemagazine.com, but also for family lawyers, mediators, financial planners, and others who are serving the divorce market.
Now, I’m not mentioning this exclusively to sell you on using the products and services of Divorced Marketing Group. Rather, I’m making you aware of this information because these facts influence our point of view. We look at websites and other marketing products from the perspective of a divorcing person. What are they looking for? What information do they need? How can you influence and persuade that person to contact your firm?
I’m going to show you two and possibly three websites today to illustrate what, in our opinion, makes for a good website. Now, none of the websites I’m going to show you are terrible. They’re all actually quite good websites – but they can all be improved. This is what you have to keep in mind about your own website. It’s not a fixed item; it’s something that is in a continual state of improvement and development.
The internet is going to continue to evolve and develop, and if you are committed to your business, you should be committed to participating in the ongoing development of your website. What many people see as a good looking website, we often see as a missed opportunity to impress, to better persuade, to better encourage, or to better connect with potential clients. And a little later on in the presentation I’m going to take you to those websites.
I want to say up front that, obviously, it is impossible to cover everything that should be covered in a presentation about what makes for a great website. I’m not going to talk about search engine optimization at all in this presentation, but what I hope to do is to give you some tools so you can better review your own website, or use it if you are thinking about revamping or rebuilding a website. I’ll only have time to focus on four or five main points about things you should consider when it comes to a great website.
So, lets get started with a few of the possible things that you want to consider when deciding what makes a great website. By the way, they’re not in order of importance, but some things will be more important for you, depending on your marketing and business goals, your aspirations, what type of practice you have, etc. It’s always general, and you’ll want to get more specific to your own needs, of course.
The first item I have is actually three items. It’s vision, purpose and unique selling proposition. I’ve combined these elements together because there is an overlap between each item, and if you don’t have a clear understanding of the vision of your practice, the purpose of your practice and the unique selling proposition of your practice, you will not be able to, of course, convey that information to a potential client on your website. If you’re not, how can your message on you website possibly be clear?
Now, for full disclosure, I’m an old guy. I’m 56 years old and I can remember people in business courses years and years ago telling me that if I want to be successful in business, I was going to have to be able to clearly and in an interesting and compelling way be able to tell people what I do, what my business is, how they can benefit from it in what was termed a one minute elevator pitch.
Well, times have changed. We’re now on the Internet more than we’re in elevators, so this is where you need to capture the attention of people, but you don’t have one minute anymore. You probably have about 10 seconds to capture a person’s interest, at least to capture it to the point where they’re willing to keep on looking.
So we’re going to look at, as I mentioned, a few websites to see if we can get a sense of the firm’s vision, their purpose, and the unique selling proposition. But, of course, you will also want to do the same thing and take a look at your own website to determine if you get a clearer sense of your firm’s vision, your firm’s purpose, and your unique selling proposition.
Let me explain just for a moment what a unique selling proposition is by giving you an example. I’m going to use my own firm. Right up front in this presentation, I mentioned that Divorce Marketing Group understood the divorce market better than any other firm. Now that’s a pretty bold statement but, from our point of view, it happens to be true.
There is no other Divorced Magazine in the world, other than ours. There’s no other divorce related website that has broad a range of divorce related articles, subjects and resources than Divorce Magazine does. There’s no other firm in the world that produces divorce guides for professionals. There’s no other firm that produces newsletters with the range of products and categories of articles that we produce. No other firm does seminars for divorcing people like we do, etc. We are 100% focused on the divorce market. That’s our unique selling proposition. We’re a marketing firm that’s 100% focused on the divorced market.
So, you need to look at your own business, your own practice and figure out what is my unique selling proposition. What differentiates you from all of the other lawyers, mediators, financial planners, accountants, etc? What makes you unique? You can answers those questions on your own after this presentation.
Item number two: your message.
When you look at the text on your website or you’re about to create text for your website, you need to keep your client’s top of mind. How are they feeling? What are they looking for? What information’s going to make a difference to them? You might think from the point of view of the first questions that clients ask you when they call. Or, if you tell somebody that you are a family lawyer or financial planner or etc, what are the questions that those people ask about you?
For instance, while sharing your credentials may be of interest to potential clients, sharing how your credentials and your experience will help the potential client save time, save money and reduce their stress and anxiety will go much further to convincing them that your firm may be a better choice than the next one that only lists their credentials on their website.
From a design point of view, that means that your website must be user friendly. The language must be simple, straightforward and understandable. It also must be displayed and delivered in a way that’s easy for the divorcing person to understand. Of course, legal and financial jargon must be kept to a minimum, and you must point out to them on your website exactly what you think they will be looking for.
Keep in mind that images and graphics are more eye-catching than text. This is a blessing and a curse because if your images convey the wrong message, the visitor may not read the text and explanation of what you offer. As an example, many family lawyers still have pictures of legal books, gavels and courthouses on their website. What message does this send to a potential client? Well, it probably reinforces the message of the gravity of the situation, but it doesn’t exactly provide reassurance that the lawyer is compassionate, understanding, will do everything he or she can do to minimize cost and minimize stress of divorce.
On the contrary, these images just might leave the visitors with the impression that their divorce is going to be a battle if they use this lawyer. All the evidence from the pictures, which as you know, a picture is worth a thousand words, would lead them possibly to believe that. If they truly believe that their divorce is going to be a battle, this may persuade them to choose this lawyer–so there’s a positive and a negative to both of these.
One of the things divorce professionals often seriously underestimate is how perceptive potential clients are to the message they receive from their websites. So please, take a fresh look at your website and try to determine what messages you are sending out to the world. Is it one that says that you understand what people are going through? That you’re compassionate to their concerns and needs? That you offer them alternatives (possibly litigation, mediation or collaborative)? That you have answered their basic questions on your website so that you are helping better inform them? Does it say that you under stand that divorce is more than just a legal issue? That it affects their whole life? If the only thing that people will take away from your website is your credentials and how to get to your office, then they’re not coming back and they won’t recommend you, either.
Item number three: understanding the Internet user’s habits.
First of all, visitors don’t look or read your website in the same way that you do. They scan websites, and they see bits and pieces of the site. So you’re hoping that the bits and pieces they see are actually going to persuade them to stay on your website, or be impressed enough with what they see that they will come back to your website, or they will refer your website to someone else.
There is a whole science that has been developed regarding how visitors scan web pages and how to make your website more likely that people will keep on ready and finding information, but ultimately the test is: what compelling reasons do you have to get people to continue to look through your website? What compelling reasons do you have to have people come back to your website? What compelling reasons do you have to have them connect with you?
As an exercise, you might ask a couple of your friends who have been through a divorce, and who have not been to your website, to sit with you for 10 or 15 minutes. You really need some fresh eyes on this one. The idea would be that you would have them take a look at your website for maybe 15 or 20 seconds, ask them to stop looking, and then ask them what they get as the main message.
Now, of course, they know who you are and they probably know you so they are going to be a little bit influenced by that. But you want to see what their take away is when they look at your website for a short period of time. After that, you can also ask them what they found to be interesting about your website. Ask them what they found to be distracting about your website. Ask them what they found to be helpful about your website and lastly, did they have a sense that if they were to stay on your website longer, that they would get the information that they would be looking for as a person who is contemplating a divorce or going through a divorce?
I’m going to talk for a moment about design. Given that you have so little time to influence a prospective client on the internet, it is imperative that the website look good, but equally, if not more important, is that your website be clear in what it offers. In other words, if people can’t easily find what they need, and if the website’s content doesn’t connect with your visitors and fill a need, the website has failed and the people are gone.
We see many websites that from a design point of view look pretty, but suffer from delivering an unclear message or lack sufficient content and information to encourage people to keep looking through the website or come back to the website. One of the facts about divorcing people is they’re not always ready to move forward when they’re doing their research.
They could be three weeks away from a divorce, they could be three months away, or they could be three years away. You want their experience of coming to your website to be memorable, so that there’s a better chance of them coming back to the website.
So let’s take a look at a website and hope all of you are in front of a computer so you can actually log on and look at a website. I’m going to give you the website address. It is www.feldmanlawoffice.com. Let me say once again that this is a website that works. Once you get on the site, you’ll see that it looks very pretty, and I’m just going to give them a free review of their website and point out what works about the website, and things that I believe could be improved with the website.
One of the first things that will be obvious to you is that there is the navigation at the top. You can see Home, Firm Overview, Attorneys, Practice Areas, Representative Clients, Articles, Sources and Contact. Below that is their logo, their firm name, and then rotating pictures. There were five or six pictures that came up on the site, and they were presenting their unique selling proposition within the picture by saying things like ‘protecting your family, compassionate’ and that sort of thing.
If you scroll down the page you will see that they’re a Boca Raton Family Law firm, you’ll see on the left hand side that they list their practice areas and there are links on the left hand side to their various practice areas. Towards the bottom on the left hand side, you’ll also see representative clients, and you’ll see articles. On the bottom of the home page, you’ll see legal cost, post divorce and social security after divorce. Then you will also see that there’s navigation at the bottom: Home, Firm Overview, Attorneys, etc.
Now, scroll back up to the top of the page and click on representative clients. One of the things you’ll notice is that the bulk of the screen is covered with that picture. I have two problems with this. One is that I would rather see the information that I’m looking for than to see this picture again. The second problem I have with this picture is that this looks to me like a happy family. I happen to be going through a divorce.
The picture was a picture of a happy family and now I’m looking at another happy family and I’m wondering: gee, do I really have the right website? I’m going through a divorce, not that I want to show pictures of people crying, but maybe this isn’t the right image. Maybe if you were to show a picture of a family, it might be the kids in the middle and the parents on either side. Just a suggestion.
The other concern I have about this page is that if you look through the practice areas of this firm, they’re all divorce related. Even the estate planning is divorce related. It relates to divorce, yet the clients of the firm are EuroBank and other businesses. So, as a consumer, I’m a little confused as to whether this a divorce firm. Or do they deal mainly with businesses? That’s just one thing.
I like the white space on the website. You’ll notice on Representative Clients, they have the legal books. Instead of looking at that big picture, I actually would prefer to be looking at more information, the information that I’m after.
The other thing that I want to point out this site has been built by FindLaw. I have nothing against FindLaw. They build lots of great sites, but one of the things I want to point out here is that people often put resources on their website that are basically doing them no good and, in some cases, are doing their website harm.
This website’s resources, if you look through them, are sending people away, for the most part, to websites that are potential competitors. Google, MSN, Yahoo and FindLaw itself is a site where you can get information, but it’s also a site where you can find other family lawyers. So they’re sending people away from their own website to other places where their competitors are.
I don’t recommend that. I recommend that if you’re going to send people away from your site, you send them to sites that are non-competitive and provide real true information and resources for divorcing people. So you might send them to things to do with child support or child custody information or something like that through the government. These are just a few points.
Again, if you click on any of the tabs, what you’ll find is that that big picture and the logo comes up at the top, and so you’re really cut off from seeing what you’re trying to find: which is the information and resources. The other thing I find about this site is that, navigation-wise, it’s a little disjointed in terms of where the information is.
If you scroll down the page under the practice areas, you’ll see that it says Representative Clients and it says Articles and then, when you scroll down a little further, you’ll see a section in the middle that says Frequently Asked Questions and then there are three categories: Legal Costs, Post Divorce and Social Security. I’m not quite sure why that’s off to the right hand side like that, and I’m also not sure why it’s not categorized differently so that the categories are more comprehensive.
Of course, legal costs is something that people are concerned about and then post divorce and social security, but perhaps the category might be better if they were considering divorce, going through divorce or post divorce. Just a suggestion.
Let me take you to one other website and, for full disclosure, it’s a website that the Divorce Marketing Group built. This website address is www.fmbklaw.com. I’m going to talk about what works with this website and also I’m going to point out, even though we built the website probably about five years ago, what should be improved.
Now keep in mind that every website is built from a design point of view, trying to hit all the elements that are going to be important from a navigation, etc, point of view, but they’re also built from the client’s perspective, and looks at how clients want to present themselves, the image they want to project, and so on.
In this case, the client wants to project a very clean, simple and straightforward home page–and you can’t get more clean, simple and straightforward than what you see here. So that’s a preference. From a search engine optimization point of view, and I said I wouldn’t talk about this at the beginning, but I do want to point out that this clean, simple page, may be somewhat detrimental for search engine optimization purposes because it really lacks much content.
The content is obviously very thin, so we use internal pages to promote this website. But it would probably benefit the firm if we had more text and more keyword search oriented text on the home page. It’s definitely a tradeoff and, again, we work with the client and try and find a happy medium.
On the website, if you’re still on the home page, I don’t think you can get clearer navigation than what you see here. From this page you can click on whatever you want: Attorney Profiles, Litigation, Family Law, Estate Planning, Probate, you can go to the Articles, Newsletter, etc. It’s very easy to find out what you’re looking for on this website, because it’s so simple that it’s not confusing in any way.
There are an adequate number of resources. One of the things I didn’t mention about the Feldman website is that, yes, there are some questions and answers on there which I didn’t go into, but what you’ll find, by and large, is that there’s not a lot of compelling reasons for people to come back to that website.
In Feinberg Mindel’s case, there are some reasons for people to come back to the website. If you click on Newsletter, for instance, you’ll see that the March 2011 newsletter comes up. You can also see towards the bottom of that page that the past e-newsletters are there going back all the way to 2004.
If you can create a newsletter yourself or buy a newsletter, this is the sort of thing that impresses people. It gives people information and resources that they can use. It’s an announcement to people that this website is going to be kept up to date, that there’s going to be new information coming out of this website, that if the newsletter is of interest to them in March, they may find it of interest in April, May, June and on. They may also tell their friends, and you’ll see on the left hand side of this page, it says, “Email this page to a friend”. You can enter a friend’s name there. You can also sign up of this newsletter so that this firm has a chance of getting connected with a potential client, whereas if there was no newsletter, there might be, of course, less of a chance.
If you click on top of the page, put your cursor over where it says Articles and Cases in the navigation in the top and click on that, you’ll also find that this firm has divorce guides. Again, for full disclosure, we produced these guides for them, but what I want to point out is that there’s something that people can take away from the website. So you may want to create something for your own website, whether that’s a checklist or whether it’s an information piece about things to look out for as you go through your divorce or critical mistakes that people make as they go through their divorce.
In this case you’re certainly welcome to download any of these guides from this website. The benefit of having something like this is, instead of just looking at the information on FNBK, the information is on your computer. Now the divorcing person who downloads it may delete it from their computer, but at least, for the time being, as soon as they click on it, the PDF is downloaded from their website.
Plus, there are no strings attached to downloading the guide. You don’t have to sign up for anything, you don’t have to pay anything, so it gives you the best chance of connecting with it.
If you look into the News and Media area, you’ll see immediately that the firm has been used by the media many, many times. That leaves an impression that there must be something going on with this firm since the media keeps on using them as experts. They must know what they’re talking about. However, the potential downside of this is that a client may also get the idea that if I’m used by the firm, they’re going to be talking to me about that media.
So one suggestion that I have which I’m going to mention to this client is that perhaps they should put something on here that says: we don’t speak to the media about our clients, we only comment on other cases. So, like I said, a website is something that’s continually in the process of evolving.
I’m going to wrap this up now. I want to thank you for your time.