Starting this way can powerfully inform the viability of your business model….
The profession currently demonstrates a monumental spread of capabilities in online presence and activity… from the utterly incompetent one page set and forget through to the very active and easy to access (including transactional and assisted transactional) sites.
We can say unconditionally that the vast majority of legal websites are poor. They are unremarkable, internally focused, provide no competitive advantage for their firms, and few (if any) client benefits that can cut through…. Viz, About us, Our people, Our Areas of Practice, Contact us. Moreover, based on the evolving Google search rules, they are unlikely to feature on the first couple of normal keyword search pages – which means in practical terms, they don’t feature at all.
Over the last year, we have taken an approach to business planning that significantly elevates the website in the process, as opposed to the traditional one of settling strategy (of sorts) and then creating the site after the fact.
In the spirit of simple is good, we encourage the following model.
Obviously the usual internal and external scanning needs to happen. But focusing on the website in the first instance encourages the key questions of: How are we going to compete? Who is our target market? What things do they value? (eg, outcomes, process certainty, easy to work with, listeners, we come to you, pricing certainty, payment options, bail out options, the references from other clients, do we provide services online, face to face, or a combination?).
You must deal with all these questions on your site – either directly or indirectly. Marketing 101 says clients are motivated by benefits / i.e., what’s in it for me? So this is what you need to focus on. Large corporations and mum and dads will have different needs, but the principles are the same.
In our own case we even devote quite a bit of effort to explaining what we don’t / won’t do – which is beneficial as a filter for ourselves and our clients.
So the process is this:
- Look at your competitors, your target market, and your own capabilities and define the very specific benefits you are going to offer so as to compete
- Work out how you can succinctly explain these as value propositions – both verbally and visually – get some external help so that Google will elevate you
- Stand in your clients’ shoes first and your own shoes second
- Think clearly through your service delivery formula… yes – online is cheaper once its running, but often the set up costs are high
- For each value proposition, for your own internal benefit, prepare a simple narrative explaining why it is important and how you will execute it
- Then you need to get more detailed and work through the budget assumptions supporting each proposition – that is, what business levels, what people, what IT investments do we need to build into the draft P&L to support our plan? Remember, if your website is a central plank of how you will compete, then you need to build in a realistic ongoing cost of maintaining it and providing new information
- Convert all these into a draft budget… and be honest / try to analyse your revenue as clients rather than just $$$s per month
- There’s a good chance that your ideas will cost you way more than you thought (or alternatively you are being a bit soft with your analysis) and so you’ll have to go back to the beginning and ask what is essential to your business idea and what is optional…
By proceeding this way you ought to end up with a clear strategy that is consistent across your website and your actual firm, together with a budget that properly reflects the true costs of your service delivery. Give it a go…
Published: Queensland Law Society – Proctor, June 2016 p.54