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4 Powerful Ways Attorneys Build Trust With Testimonials

Attorneys have traditionally been hesitant to include client testimonials on websites and marketing materials -- and with good reason. Even today, with relaxed judicial rules and codes of ethics, many states set strict guidelines for attorneys who advertise.

4 ways attorneys can use testimonials

Given the need to operate within the rules, as well as the general aversion you might feel about advertising, is it worth the hassle to include client testimonials on your website? The answer is a resounding yes, and it's informed by psychological and marketing research.

Here's a little background on the psychology of testimonials, courtesy of social psychologist, Robert Cialdini, a prominent researcher in the area of social influence -- or as marketers call it, social proof.

Social proof and marketing

According to Cialdini's theory, people tend to do what they see others doing. For example, we laugh along with the laugh track on a sitcom; we put a dollar in the barista's tip jar when there's already money inside it; and we check user reviews on Yelp before choosing a new restaurant for dinner.

There's been a great deal of marketing research around this idea of social proof. The results show that consumers are strongly influenced by testimonials and personal recommendations. Peer reviews are trusted by 70% of surveyed consumers.

In fact, testimonials and personal recommendations drive 20% - 50% of all purchases, while customer reviews account for an 18% increase in online sales. The implications for your law practice are clear: solid, sincere testimonials from former clients will encourage Internet searchers to trust you and choose your attorney services.

1. The power of first person stories

It's true. People forget facts, but they remember a good story. A simple, honest story told by a former client has the potential to make deep connections with readers, and validate your skills and qualifications far better than anything you might say about yourself. For example, something like this: "My ex-wife was moving out of state, and I was afraid I'd never see my kids again. Then I called John Smith..."

2. The power of association

Although not a direct testimonial, your professional affiliations can also help to build trust and credibility with potential clients. Consider adding a "trust box" to the end of your website, where you display the logos of your affiliated organizations. These might include state and local bar associations, local chambers of commerce, Yelp, Angie's List and other platforms for client reviews, or the Better Business Bureau.

3. The power of local influencers

While you probably haven't represented a national celebrity in the last few years, you may have worked with prominent local business owners or respected community leaders. A strong recommendation from a local influencer puts your successes into the public record and eases the fears of potential clients. If you've handled cases for well-known locals, don't hesitate to ask for testimonials.

4. The power of video

Marketing research shows that while only 20% of online visitors will read all the content on a website, 80% of them will watch a complete video. If you can locate a former client who's willing to record a testimonial in video format, by all means take advantage of this highly effective medium.

When to ask for testimonials

We’ve found that the best time to ask for testimonials is immediately after a victory. Clients are riding an emotional high at this time, and they're especially willing to provide a good recommendation. Better yet, their testimonials tend to be full of excitement. This window of opportunity declines with each passing day, so be ready.

Make it easy on everyone

We recommend sending the client a link to an online submission form via email. Upon submission, you receive an email containing the testimonial which you can then forward to your webmaster for inclusion on your website.

It may also be handy to prepare a simple questionnaire that encourages use of the first person. ("What problem brought you to me? How was your problem solved? How do you feel about the service you received?") To save hassles later, ask for consent to publish at the end of the questionnaire or form.

A few final notes about testimonials

You'll increase the power of your testimonials if they're accompanied with photos of the clients who provide them. You'll also get greater benefits from testimonials that appear in easy-to-spot locations distributed across several web pages. Note, as well, that separate pages devoted to testimonials will indeed be found online by prospective clients, but they are rarely read.

Keep in mind state courts set various restrictions regarding attorney use of testimonials. As a general rule, never use a testimonial that makes claims you, as an attorney, cannot ethically make about yourself, like guaranteeing results. Make sure every testimonial displayed on your website includes a clear and appropriate disclaimer.

Although it takes a little extra effort to collect testimonials, it’s well worth it -- especially if your goal is to establish trust and credibility with prospective clients. Remember, what you say about yourself is good but what others say about you is golden.

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