When writing copy for a website, lawyers need to learn how to talk less about their degrees and qualifications, and more about the problems that they solve. Marketing experts call it describing benefits, rather than features.
Illustrating the Principle
To illustrate the principle, here is a description of some features of the 2004 Volkswagen Golf HPA R32 contained on a website for car buffs.
“The 3.2-liter DOHC 24-valve VR6 V-6 is chewing on twin BorgWarner (formerly KKK) K04 turbos and exhaling 450 horsepower.”
Does that mean anything to you? I’m not that interested in cars, so I don’t know what the heck most of that means or whether I need it. I do know that having a lot of horsepower can be good, but I don’t remember how much is “a lot.”
Just Creating Confusion
Here is some more information about that 2004 Volkswagen Golf: It will do 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds. Hmmm, now that’s starting to sound like a benefit I would want. It sounds like it can go fast or at least quick, but again I don’t really know what scores on 0 to 60 are impressive. And it is a Volkswagen, so maybe that isn’t all that fast. I had a Volkswagen Beetle in the 1970s. It was no speed demon.
Could your potential client be in a similar situation when she looks at your website or other marketing materials? I took a look at a few websites for estate planning lawyers. One of them says on their home page that they “create and implement tax-saving strategies that harmonize with non-tax priorities and values.” Most clients will like the idea of “tax-saving,” but will they get the point of the rest of that?
The website goes on to say that the lawyers “assist in drafting wills and durable powers of attorney, establishing and administering trusts, creating lifetime gifting strategies and forming tax-minimization strategies that ensure the distribution of clients’ assets according to their wishes.” That’s a mouthful. As a potential client, how do I know whether I need those things? I certainly want to distribute my assets according to my wishes, but is that a capability that sets this firm apart?
Back to the features of cars: the 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo does 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds. Well, that changes my impression, because a Porsche 911 is a sports car and supposed to be fast, right? So 3.1 seconds must be fast. Or maybe I’m just confused, because that Volkswagen is only .2 seconds slower than the Porsche. Again, do your potential clients understand how what you do matters to them? Does your website make it clear, or just create more confusion?
The Impact of Talking About Benefits
To continue my analogy, let’s compare the previous car features to information that really means something to me. As I said, I’m not really interested in cars. But in 1991 I bought a red 1991 Dodge Stealth RT Turbo. Here’s what mattered to me about it.
- That car was fun to drive. It had a “four on the floor” transmission that let me feel in control, with a fifth gear that could kick it up if I wanted to lurch forward.
- It caught my attention because it looked snazzy and sexy and powerful. I want to be snazzy, sexy and powerful, don’t you?
- It had a gadget that shifted the car from “touring” mode to “sport” mode. In sport mode the car went from an ordinary smooth, quiet drive to a rough and tumble, “feel the road” drive, with a deep, primal, powerful “rumba-rumba-rumba” sound coming from the muffler. Although that’s more macho than I need, I mostly used the touring mode, I had fun switching to sport mode just to impress my passengers. I especially liked it that when I made the switch, my 4-year-old foster son would cry out “Yeehaw!” like he was taking the ride of his life on a bucking bronco.
- The car was fast. It would reportedly do 160 mph. I couldn’t say whether that was true. I mostly drove the speed limit and only once drove it 100 mph. That was on a mostly empty four-lane highway between towns. It was about sunrise on the road to Austin, and some testosterone-pumped jerk kept pulling up next to me and revving his engine. I finally got fed up with him, punched the accelerator and left him in the dust. Yeah, that was a benefit.
- What I really liked about the car, however, was that it was quick. I drove the crowded freeways (correction: speedways) of Houston every day. In that arena, “he who hesitates is lost.” When I entered a freeway or had to change lanes, I could accelerate instantly to jump into any opening available before the gap closed again.
- As a current blogger says about that car, “As launched in 1991, the Stealth was very exciting. It was packed with features that were only offered on Supercars of the era. What made the Stealth appealing was its price. ”
Now, if what you want is to be able to maneuver in traffic, plus have fun and feel sexy and powerful when you drive, all without a car payment that rivals your mortgage, aren’t those descriptions compelling? The descriptions include some features, which lend credibility, but they mainly focus on the benefits a buyer like me wants. That description is more persuasive to the uninitiated than a list of how much horsepower the car has, what kind of engine it has, or even how quickly it will do 0 to 60. On top of that, putting the information in a story form drives it home and makes it more memorable.
A Law Firm Demonstrates Benefits
Compare the previous law firm website copy to what I found on the website of another estate planning firm in the same city. A client quote was featured prominently. It said, “From the greeting at the front office and then the great representation of the law staff, I felt at ease from the beginning.”
A succeeding paragraph says “Whether you are looking to prepare for the future, need assistance with guardianship, or need help probating an estate, you can find comfort in knowing that our team of specialized estate lawyers will be protecting your interests no matter how big or small….Our goal is to keep you informed, prepared, and as stress-free as possible.”
A lot of potential clients know they need a will, but just thinking about it makes them anxious. They know they need to get busy and wrap up the estate of a deceased family member, but they feel overwhelmed and intimidated, so they avoid it. These lawyers are making it easier for the client to act, by speaking to what the client really wants.
Use Analogies and Metaphors
Back to cars, my Dodge Stealth reportedly did 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds. My Lexus GS “performance sedan” reportedly does 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds. So now I know that the 2004 Volkswagen Golf was really quick. I would never have known that from a description of the features alone, because I didn’t understand their impact. It can help to provide your prospective clients with comparisons or analogies to something that you know they will comprehend.
So, can you tell a story about how the relationships you have established have created a benefit for a client? Did something get processed with less resistance because you’ve been able to establish a reputation for honest dealing? Were you able to get a meeting or a phone call with someone without enduring weeks of delay because they know you won’t waste their time? Are you able to prepare client documents faster and more cost-effectively because you have a streamlined system? Do you explain complicated concepts in plain English? Figure out what your clients really want, and speak to that in your marketing materials.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.