SOURCE: THE NATIONAL LAW REVIEW

Do you want more clients? If so, you’ll need to reach prospects with effec­tive mes­sag­ing. If it strikes a chord with your tar­get­ed audi­ences, they will reach out to you. If the prospect is a good fit with your brand, he or she will agree to retain you.

This will take some per­sua­sion on your part dur­ing the process, so you will have to be a good lis­ten­er and know the prospect well. With some knowl­edge of psy­chol­o­gy and how peo­ple make deci­sions, you can craft mes­sages that may increase your suc­cess rate.

Many fac­tors go into writ­ing effec­tive law firm web­site con­tent and mar­ket­ing mate­r­i­al. These can include search engine opti­miza­tion (SEO), the tone a law firm seeks and the tar­get audi­ence, as well as prac­ti­cal issues like how long the piece should be. No mat­ter what it’s about or the intend­ed read­ers,  fla­vor­ing writ­ten mate­r­i­al with lan­guage that could tug on the reader’s psy­che is a good idea.

How we make decisions

We don’t nor­mal­ly make deci­sions in cold, log­i­cal, dis­pas­sion­ate ways. Most peo­ple use men­tal short­cuts, known as heuris­tics, to save time and our lim­it­ed brain pow­er. Sim­pler ques­tions are pre­ferred and in the long run, our expe­ri­ence may teach us that heuris­tics, as illog­i­cal as they may seem, result in pos­i­tive out­comes most of the time.

As a prac­ti­cal exam­ple, we don’t have the time or ener­gy to study all the data before choos­ing what to eat for break­fast, so we use a short­cut. What do your friends eat for break­fast? Do you asso­ciate bagels with pos­i­tive mem­o­ries of hav­ing break­fast with your grand­fa­ther? These things may have more of an impact on what you eat in the morn­ing than nutri­tion­al labels.

When peo­ple choose which attor­ney to hire and which ones to pass by, the deci­sions may have more to do with hunch­es, emo­tions and bias­es than objec­tive, observ­able facts. Two heuris­tics that can come into play are fear of loss and social proof.

Fear of loss: the power of negative thinking

Psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies have shown that, gen­er­al­ly, we will risk more to avoid a loss than to obtain a gain. Our fear of los­ing what we have is greater than our eager­ness to gain some­thing that we do not. (De Mar­ti­no, B., Kumaran, D., Sey­mour, B., Dolan, R. Frames, Bias­es, and Ratio­nal Deci­sion-Mak­ing in the Human Brain. Sci­ence. 2006; 313(7587):684–685).

Do we cal­cu­late all the pos­si­bil­i­ties to deter­mine the chances of gain­ing or los­ing, then do the math to estab­lish how much we are like­ly to lose or gain? For many of us the answer is no. We equate los­ing some­thing we have as being worse than miss­ing out on a gain.

This involves fram­ing the issue in a way that empha­sizes the poten­tial loss over pos­si­ble gain. An effec­tive approach by a per­son­al injury attor­ney could be to claim that an acci­dent vic­tim will lose out on a big­ger set­tle­ment by try­ing to nego­ti­ate one on his or her own. Because of the person’s igno­rance of the law and how insur­ance com­pa­nies han­dle these claims, a set­tle­ment may be less than one that could be obtained with an attorney’s help.

Social proof

Social proof is a term used in the book Influ­ence: The Psy­chol­o­gy of Per­sua­sion by Robert Cial­di­ni, PhD. It is why we ask friends to rec­om­mend a plumber, look at cus­tomer reviews when decid­ing which lap­top to buy or use Cham­bers and Part­ners to nar­row down which attor­neys to hire. We rely on the expe­ri­ence of oth­ers and assume that if they’ve had a pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence, chances are good that we will, too.

Instead of con­sum­ing infor­ma­tion and doing the work nec­es­sary to decide ratio­nal­ly who should rep­re­sent your busi­ness in an employ­ment dis­pute, you seek out oth­er busi­ness own­ers or attor­neys to ask for sug­ges­tions. Might a rec­om­mend­ed attor­ney do a ter­ri­ble job? Yes, but we’re will­ing to take that risk if it short­ens and sim­pli­fies our search.

Rat­ing sites, client tes­ti­mo­ni­als (even though they might be lim­it­ed by your state rules of pro­fes­sion­al con­duct), tes­ti­mo­ni­als by oth­er attor­neys and case stud­ies are all exam­ples of social proof that could be pow­er­ful tools to per­suade a poten­tial client to call your office or fill out your online con­tact form.

Conclusion

These are just a few ways that law firm mar­ket­ing can lever­age psy­chol­o­gy to influ­ence poten­tial clients to act. Web­site con­tent and mar­ket­ing mate­r­i­al can have many short-term goals, but, ulti­mate­ly, if they don’t per­suade read­ers to at least con­sid­er your ser­vices, what’s the point?

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