For decades, law firms were relatively immune from consumerism—people simply called the law firm with the biggest ad in the phonebook. Now, most clients take a more hands-on, critical approach when selecting a law firm or lawyer.
We recently sat down with Mandy Hicks, Director of Marketing & Communication at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP (ELPO Law), and chatted about why having an online presence is so essential for law firms, why collecting Google Reviews looks different in the legal industry, and how to create a great review collection program.
In this article, we’ll go over her advice for overcoming common review-collecting hurdles and share some of her best practices for getting more reviews as a law firm.
Social Proof and Legal Consumerism
It’s safe to say that in today’s consumer landscape, customers don’t only look at one form of marketing when making a purchasing decision. They consider a number of factors such as advertising, word-of-mouth, sponsorships, brand, and, possibly most important of all, social proof.
Social proof (such as reviews, social likes, “trusted brand” badges, and verified checkmarks) is a powerful tool that can convert online browsing into actual sales. A recent Trustpilot report found that 66% of customers said the presence of social proof increased their likelihood to purchase a product.
The reality is that peer-to-peer systems that implement social proof have become increasingly popular because consumer trust in advertising is declining. People are aware that retailers and brands are trying to sell them things. Because of this, consumers want help with their purchasing decisions. Social proof offers the authentic, transparent guidance that consumers crave but can seldom get from ads.
Reviews are one of the most popular forms of social proof, and they are critical for connecting with today’s legal clients. Most consumers (90%) will read a review to determine the quality of a local business. Furthermore, 72% of consumers report that positive reviews increase their trust in local businesses.
The Biggest Review Collection Hurdles Law Firms Face (And How to Overcome Them)
→Setting the Expectation to Leave a Review
So reviews are essential if you want to compete in today’s economy. But, sometimes getting those reviews is easier said than done. Mandy’s advice for getting your clients to leave a review after doing business with you is simple: ask them.
Let your clients know how and when you’ll send them an invitation to leave a review and explain why their review matters. Ask them to go into specifics when possible—not only will this help potential clients get a picture of what you can do for them, but it will also help boost your search engine optimization efforts.
Try to catch people where they’re most likely to reply by sending the review invite via text or email. And don’t wait too long to ask. Ideally, you want your clients to leave reviews while their experience with you is still fresh in their minds.
→Getting Buy-in From Internal Stakeholders
Not everyone understands the importance of reviews—getting internal stakeholders on board to start a review program might be difficult. When you approach on-the-fence stakeholders, it’s important to build the case for why reviews are important and have a clear-cut plan for how you’ll gather reviews and measure their success.
To ensure that your plan is in good shape before you make the proposal, Mandy outlined the following checklist:
- Decide which tool you’ll use for review management.
- Figure out the review “sweet spot.” How many reviews are you aiming for?
- Get clear on how often you’ll ask clients to leave a review.
- Outline responsibilities. Who will head up the review gathering effort?
- Choose how you’ll send review invites. We recommend email or text message.
→Managing a Review Program at Scale
Managing a review program takes consistent effort, and if you’re trying to do it all in-house, you’ll need the right review management tool on your side. When looking for a review management tool, Mandy suggests choosing something that allows you to:
- House reviews from various platforms (Google, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) in one centralized inbox.
- Template and automate review invites and follow-ups.
- Send review invites from an office (or other) phone number rather than from a personal cell phone.
- Track your progress and celebrate wins.
Mandy’s Best Practices for Encouraging Reviews
So, you understand the importance of reviews, you’re aware of the potential hurdles, and you’ve gotten approval to start your review collection program…but now what? How do you build a review-generating machine? Mandy shared some best practices to help you get started:
- Build the ask into your systems and processes. By making asking for reviews a part of your routine, you ensure that your practice has a constant influx of new reviews.
- Start by asking those who have already sung your praises or given you a testimonial in the past. Happy clients are one of the best marketing tools at your fingertips.
- Use clear language when making the ask. You might word your review request as follows:
“As you may be aware, our firm does not actively advertise via traditional outlets such as TV, radio, billboards, etc. Rather, we spend the large majority of our marketing dollars supporting our community and nonprofit events. Therefore, we rely heavily upon word of mouth to generate future business, and the largest voice box that can be used for this is via a Google review.”
What About Bad Reviews?
Negative reviews are a sensitive subject, but even the best lawyers get them. How should firms handle negative reviews—especially if they aren’t fully honest or accurate? It’s generally advised to reply to protect your reputation, and it can be helpful to have a plan to handle negative reviews before you get them.
First and foremost, when responding to bad reviews, make sure to follow ethics rules for your state. It’s also important to respond calmly; fighting fire with fire will only make things worse. Try to offer a proactive solution. You might consider giving the option for a one-on-one discussion (assuming this aligns with the ethics rules in your state).
Once you’ve responded to a negative review, be sure to keep tabs on that conversation. If a situation escalates, you want to be able to take immediate action.
And finally, do not lose sleep over a one-star review. As we’ve already said, even great lawyers get bad reviews once in a while. The best thing you can do is outnumber the negative reviews with positive ones. If potential clients see that the overwhelming majority of your reviews are positive, a couple of one-star reviews probably won’t be enough to drive them away from your firm.
Get Started Collecting Reviews
With the vast majority of consumers turning to reviews before deciding which companies they do business with nowadays, it’s more important than ever to make sure your online presence is in top shape.
Law firms face some unique challenges when it comes to collecting and responding to reviews, but with the right tools in your toolkit and a clear plan of action, you’ll be well on your way to creating a review collection program that will help you stand out from your competition.
Looking for more tips that will help you increase online reviews for your law firm? Check out this podcast interview with Mandy Hicks and Hally Pinaud, Podium’s VP of Product Marketing.