For as long as the legal profession has existed, attorneys have relied upon word of mouth recommendations from clients and colleagues.
In fact, until well into the 1980s, particularly in some parts of the country, it was the only form of promotional activity allowed for attorneys. Law firm advertising—other than simple telephone directory listings—was considered unseemly.
Times, of course, have changed.
With the advent of television advertising in the 20th century, along with the dramatic implications of the Internet (which has, of course upended everything about legal marketing) how attorneys reach prospective clients has gone through many shifts and transitions and continues to do so on practically a daily basis.
Nevertheless, the word of mouth referral remains strong. It hasn’t disappeared, as some may assume — like many things, it has simply morphed into a digital-friendly version: namely, the client review.
And it is as powerful as ever.
But Do Prospective Clients Actually Read & Rely on Online Reviews?
Before going forward to discuss some of the challenges of online client reviews, we’d like to address the elephant on the page: Are prospective clients actually interested in online reviews and do they seek out these reviews before choosing a lawyer? In other words: Are online reviews a viable substitute for word of mouth referrals?
The answer is a definitive “Yes.”
Sure, Fortune 500 firms and other large corporations are not typically in the business of combing online reviews to retain local counsel for assistance. Their networks are already well-developed.
Yet, when it comes to the average consumer, the evidence suggests (and we know attorneys are all about the evidence!) that they both read and rely on online reviews.
In fact, one recent report posits that as many as 70 percent of clients are willing to travel to an attorney in an inconvenient location if that attorney has better reviews and higher ratings than another attorney located closer to the client.
So — 100% Yes, client reviews are immensely important and can have a tremendously positive impact on your prospective clientele; however, as many have learned the hard way: The opposite is also true. (More on that in a second.)
Online Reviews of Law Firms Build Steam
As online reviews have become increasingly more significant for law firms’ online presences, some have made a business out of providing online attorney review and rating services.
Though you’re likely aware of the big players – most notably Avvo, Lawyers.com, and Upcounsel – what has become of particular note is the proliferation of client reviews across a variety of online mediums and platforms, including Google and Facebook.
In fact, while professional review services like Avvo can provide helpful accolades, a prospective client is now just as likely to view customer feedback on Google and Facebook than research — or even thoroughly understand the significance of — something like an Avvo rating.
The Bane of Online Reviews — the Smear Campaign
But of course, the online review has brought with it some challenges. More than a few law firms with active online presences have experienced malicious negative review attacks, which can undoubtedly have long-term implications on the perception of your firm.
So, while online customer reviews can be an excellent way to reach prospective clients, there’s the problem of control — After all, it isn’t a simple process to have a negative review removed from Google or Facebook (even if it’s totally bogus), and replying cordially to negative reviews can never quite erase the effect that the review may have on a potential client.
Which brings us to an intriguing new trend in the online marketing world — namely, services that allow you to control client reviews through a handful of methods. And, on top of helping you control reviews, many of these services help you reach out to satisfied clients and collect positive reviews to post on your site.
Here are a few companies that we think deserve a look, along with some information on how much you can expect to shell out for their services.
ReviewPush monitors quite a number of sites on a daily basis for reviews, and sends an email notification when one has been posted for the attorney or firm. Within that email message, the attorney has the ability to respond directly to the review, allowing immediate turnaround to any public feedback you may receive online.
Additionally, the service allows for an unlimited number of offices or locations—particularly important for law firms with multiple offices. ReviewPush offers a free 30-day trial. Basic pricing is as follows:
- Single Location Basic $39/mo.
- Single Location Premium $49/mo.
- Multiple Locations – as you’d expect, the cost depends upon the number of locations.
GetFiveStars monitors a host of review sites, including the big ones listed above. A subscription generally covers up to five review sites, a number that should be sufficient for most attorneys and geographic locations. Detailed reports are provided on either a weekly or monthly basis.
The service touts itself as a method of encouraging happy clients to review you online at the review sites you select. For clients that you identify (and provide an email address), the service sends a customized email to initiate the feedback process. For those clients that you don’t have email address information for, the service also provides a landing page and kiosk mode for inputting those lovely reviews.
When a client provides feedback, GetFiveStars populates your website with the positive reviews. On top, you have the ability to “review the review” before allowing it to be posted to your site.
Also, for those clients that have rated you highly, they are then asked to provide content for Yelp, Facebook and “dozens of other business profile pages.” Basic pricing is as follows:
- $29.95 per location
- Discounts for multiple locations (e.g., 4 locations priced at $22.95 per month each)
ReviewTrackers “keeps an eye on every major review website,” alleviating the need for the attorney to search through review sites one by one. It also provides for an online mechanism—an “outreach tool” to request positive reviews from satisfied clients.
ReviewTrackers posits that it can automatically improve your reviews by 400 percent. They add: “Seriously. 400%. We’re not kidding.”
As with the other services, custom reports and analytics are a click away. The attorney’s dashboard of features is accessible on any web-enabled device, including smartphones and tablets. As with the others, one may quickly respond to reviews. Basic pricing is as follows:
- $49 for a single location
- Enterprise discounts for multiple locations
Is a Software Solution for You? Contact Black Fin Today
Though we expect the challenges of online reviews to be a continuing issue, it seems that some of these companies are doing a great job of providing services that can help law firms gain control over their online reviews.
If you’d like more info on how you can promote and control all aspects of your online presence, get in touch with Black Fin today. We offer comprehensive attorney marketing plans that take everything into account, from your web design and legal directory listings to your PPC ads and social media strategy. Fill out our online contact form to get in touch with our team today.