First Impressions Convey Your Image,
Even if You Don’t Want Them To
by Trey Ryder
Lawyers often go to great lengths to design handsome offices so they make
a positive, command-ing impression when prospective clients come into
their office. First impressions are key to individual attorney marketing
and all law firm marketing efforts.
But your prospects may decide not to meet with you if their first
impressions are negative. And many times, their first impressions are
formed long before they reach your office door.
First impressions are often made by one or more of the following.
Evaluate how you measure up in these areas.
1. Yellow page ad. I recently reviewed the new yellow pages for
the Phoenix metro area. As in many large cities, lawyer listings and display
ads consume over 100 pages. Leafing through the ads, I hope the lawyers
and law firms those ads represent have more integrity and character than
I would conclude from the appearance of those ads.
In an effort to get noticed, yellow page ads are getting more
and more graphically outrageous. No doubt, some of the ads are consistent
with the image of the lawyer(s) they represent. Also, no doubt, some well-respected
and capable firms would shudder to think prospects draw conclusions about
their firm based on the appearance of their yellow page ad.
Does your yellow page ad accurately convey the image you want
for your firm? I hope so because your prospect’s first impression
may come from your yellow page ad.
2. Display ads. Similar to yellow page ads, prospects can draw
a number of conclusions from your display ads. Does your ad convey a dignified,
professional image? Or does it make you look like a low-end law firm?
Does your ad speak softly and clearly to your prospect? Or does it scream?
3. Brochure. Does your brochure provide all the information your
prospect wants? Or does it leave out important facts that would help your
prospect decide to hire you? Is your brochure crisp, clean and neat? Or
did you reproduce it on an old copy machine, resulting in a poor photo
and black marks throughout?
Every negative conclusion your prospect draws from your brochure
creates a negative perception about your firm. To your prospect, your
brochure IS your firm. Is your brochure everything you want it to be?
Neat. Clean. Attractive. Crisp. Precise. Informative. Easy to understand.
Easy to follow. Complete. Helpful. Friendly. Personal. Are you pleased
with the image your brochure conveys?
4. Business cards. Are they crisp, clean and professional? Is
information on the card easy to find? Are the type size and font easy
to read? Do they look like traditional lawyer cards? Do they convey the
image you want prospects to receive?
5. Stationery and envelopes. After one of my articles appeared
in print, a lawyer sent me a letter by mail. Picture this:
Outside envelope: Smudged rubber stamp with the lawyer’s
name and return address. “CONFIDENTIAL” scrawled in
handwritten ballpoint pen.
Inside stationery: Name and address typed at the top. “Attorney
at Law”, “Telephone” and “Facsimile” were
photocopied onto her letterhead from someone else’s letterhead,
in a font often used for engraved stationery. Then her phone numbers were
typed in after those words. “Serving the legal profession since
(unreadable year)”. Then all this was photocopied onto Classic Laid
stationery, so everything appears to be a second- or third-generation
photocopy. Then (yes, there’s more) the unreadable year in “serving
the legal profession since...” was overwritten in ballpoint pen
to read what I think was 1979.
I can’t imagine prospects would hire this lawyer if they
first saw her letterhead. What’s more, I can’t imagine this
lawyer could be as bad as her stationery. But I may be wrong.
Do your stationery and envelopes convey the image you want to
project? Your letterhead and envelope may be the first thing your prospect
sees. Make sure it represents you well.
6. Web site. Fortunately, lawyers and law firms exercise a great
deal of control over the appearance of their web sites. This is one area
where you can easily convey a dignified, professional, upscale image.
Is the appearance of your web site consistent with the image you want
for your firm?
7. Telephone reception. The person who answers your phone is
critical to your marketing success. You can create powerful, effective
marketing in every area, but if you have a weak person answering your
phone, you’ve got problems. You want the person who answers to be
friendly, informed and efficient. The person calling your office can notice
a weakness on the telephone in the first three seconds. It’s a negative
impression you don’t want to make.
The person answering the phone should be the highest paid person
in the office, other than you. When prospects call your office, are they
greeted promptly by someone who makes sure their calls get to the proper
person without delay?
8. Voice mail message. I recently concluded an assignment from
a long-time friend and attorney. When I called his office and got his
voice mail, his message was a real disappointment. I know him to be a
positive, upbeat person. But his voice mail message didn’t reflect
that. He spoke in a monotone that made him sound bored and uninterested.
Clearly a turnoff to someone who doesn’t know him, like prospective
When you’re fortunate enough to have prospects calling
your office, make sure the message they receive -- even a voice mail message
-- is professional, upbeat, friendly and inviting.
Everything prospects see, hear, and read about your firm creates
an image in their mind. I urge you to work overtime to make sure the impressions
you create on prospects are consistent with the images you want to convey.
In addition to attracting new clients, you should design your
attorney marketing program -- and all law firm marketing efforts -- to
convey, refine and polish your firm’s image so you always -- always!
-- make a positive first impression.
“7 Secrets of Dignified Marketing”
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