I am slightly partial to obsessions. If I find a dish I like at a restaurant on a Friday, I’m probably going back to get it at least 2 times that week. If I find a tank top, t-shirt, or pair of pants that I like, I buy multiple in different colors every year. So when I say I dig online business, I really dig online business. Online entrepreneurs are creative, interesting, fun, and somewhat quirky. At the same time, they have a lot to teach us about business.
Now I know there is a huge debate about whether attorneys should engage in the “practice of law” or the “business of law” as Mark Bassingthwaighte pointed out in this post. However, I think this debate misses the mark. The salient question is – how can we continue to serve our clients’ legal needs while keeping up with their expectations for business? In other words, how can we practice law and maintain the business persona that our customers expect.
I think online business is one of the best business models to look toward in answering that question. I find that no matter the industry, online entrepreneurs outpace other businesses when it comes to knowing and serving their customer. As a solo practitioner, I strive to implement the fundamentals that I’ve learned from observing online business, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results. The principles of the online world work, and here are some of the main tenets from my perspective.
The Customer is King
Online businesses are the bee’s knees when it comes to customer service. They know that online purchases are inherently risky prospects for their customers. Someone is handing over hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars to a person or company that they’ve never seen or visited in real life. So online entrepreneurs take customer service to new heights. They invest heavily in the overall customer experience including hiring staff dedicated to “customer happiness.” Online entrepreneurs also design their websites, courses, and materials for functionality and aesthetics, and they provide materials in multiple formats to accommodate different learning styles.
Too often, as legal practitioners, we forget that ordinary people are handing over their hard earned cash to us. We are so busy and overwhelmed by doing the legal work that the idea of making something aesthetically pleasing seems like a colossal waste of time. However, to your clients, going that extra mile sets you apart from the rest. We must find ways to dedicate ourselves to the work and “customer happiness” too.
Buying Should Be Easy
If you’ve made a purchase online recently, you know the process was about as simple as it can get. My nephew could do it when he was a toddler and couldn’t read. With a few clicks, you enter your credit card info, and you are done. If you use PayPal or have Amazon Prime, the process is even easier. Online businesses eliminate all barriers to making a purchase. They use clear “Buy Now” buttons that are easy to find and have FAQs readily displayed to handle any customer objections. Often, you can even live chat with someone to answer any other concerns that are not covered by the pre-written answers.
When it comes to working with you as a lawyer, is it that easy to make a purchase? I know lawyers that don’t even accept credit cards as a form of payment, and it is 2016. While I understand the concerns of those lawyers, it is an unacceptable position given the expectations of today’s clients. If you want to make money, you have to make it easy to purchase your services.
Give More Than You Get
You know why people buy from online entrepreneurs? Because online businesses give away a ton of free stuff, and they don’t give away stuff you don’t need like business-stamped memo pads and pens. They give away the good stuff like advice, tips in blog posts, ebooks, checklists, and Q&A webinars. By giving away quality free information, online entrepreneurs build trust and establish themselves as experts in their field.
I know many lawyers are concerned that if you give away the information for free, people will not want to hire you. However, the opposite is true. Once people see the value of the information you give away for free, they are eager to purchase from you. They appreciate the effort it takes to produce quality free content and know that you will work equally as hard if the client pays for your services. Clients also appreciate your generosity as a business owner and are more loyal to you because of it.
As attorneys, we are encouraged to work and work and work. It almost seems like a badge of honor in our profession not to have a personal life, friends, or interests outside of your legal work. However, in online business, work life balance trumps all. They set clear boundaries and stick to them.
Recently I signed up for an online course, and upon receiving confirmation of my purchase, I was informed of the company’s email response policy and business hours. They actually closed and took the weekend off (or at the very least stopped responding to clients during off hours). When I read this email, I thought, “it must be nice to work for this company because they value the work-life balance of their employees,” and just like that, I respected the company a little more. We live in a world that seems to be on 24-7. Despite this, people respect boundaries even for attorneys.
Show Your Personality
Online businesses are adept at being social. They respond to tweets and comments, host Facebook groups, and show their personality through their language, ideas, and posts. Prospects and customers respond favorably to these social interactions. Everyone wants to be in business with people they know and like, and online business owners use that to their advantage.
Lawyers, on the other hand, are still arguing over whether they have to put their picture on their websites. (Answer: Yes) If you want to create a truly impactful law practice/legal business, share photos, ideas, beliefs, and best practices along with your tips on the best ways to stay out of legal trouble. People will get to know you, connect with you, and ultimately feel comfortable enough to buy from you.
If you are reading this blog, you probably dig online business too. What have you learned from the online business model? Please share in the comments below, or just pop in to say “hey.” I love those kinds of comments too.
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®.