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Digital marketing is about generating leads and drumming up business—and often, there’s not much room in the conversation for empathy. Web visitors represent dollar figures, right? Is there even a metric for empathy?
Good news: You can center empathy in your marketing strategy and still achieve your business goals! In fact, you might even discover a whole new approach that attracts more clients while uniting your team around a core belief in the shared vulnerability of the human experience. (Don’t worry, there are plenty of KPIs for this, too)
This article explains how and why to tap into empathy, unique concerns for attorney marketing, and a quick primer on empathy in social media.
Tapping into empathy for your users
As an attorney, you know that feelings matter. People are highly emotional creatures who are led into action (for better or worse!) by the way that they feel.
But let’s be clear about one thing: Empathy-led marketing is different from emotion-led marketing.
What is emotion-led marketing? A marketer creates a buyer persona that includes emotions. Then, marketing materials are designed to capitalize on these emotions and manipulate an activated person into taking action or buying something.
Instead, when developing a website, let’s focus on empathy-led design.That begins by putting yourself in your client’s (or prospective client’s) shoes to better understand how a user feels about the situation that caused the need for legal counsel. Then, we design a website that empathizes with the user’s situation and offers a thoughtful solution.
Selecting the Right Imagery for Your Law Firm’s Website
Over the past 15 years, we’ve designed websites for nearly 2,000 law firms and often see attorneys overlooking the effects of imagery on the user.
Let’s imagine you were recently in a motorcycle accident that resulted in a leg amputation. In your search for an attorney, you find a firm that appears to specialize in motorcycle accidents. When you land on their website, the first thing you see is a full-screen image of a crashed motorcycle on the road with an ambulance behind it.
For attorneys, there are moral and business cases for avoiding triggers that could reactivate someone’s trauma—even if it means choosing a more abstract design for your website and marketing materials.
Lawyers need to steer clear of imagery that may attract attention but trigger a negative emotional state.
95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious, according to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman. Another study showed that emotional connection has a bigger impact than customer satisfaction on repeat business, referrals, and email open rates.
In other words, making people feel good and safe (i.e. empathy-led marketing) can help grow your practice.
Content that Connects
When developing your website and stepping into the shoes of your site visitor, be sure to take note of their pain points; these pain points should relate to the legal matter at hand and your business.
Unfortunately, when it comes to legal matters, many individuals have preconceived notions of what it’s like to be involved in a lawsuit or work with an attorney — these beliefs can lead to fear, anxiety and even dread. In drafting content for your website, be sure to consider all of these feelings and commit to delivering valuable information that will quell some of these concerns. Videos can be a great way for visitors to passively “meet” your team members and establish a level of comfort which often leads to more conversions.
When it comes to written content, consider the following:
- Answer the questions you know your visitors are asking. There is nothing that shows you understand your visitors’ concerns more than getting ahead of the questions they have and serving up the answers when they need them most.
- Make your content easy to read and ensure it’s sensitive to your audience’s feelings. Complex writing and legal jargon can further exacerbate feelings of uncertainty or anxiety. Creating content that distills complex topics for visitors can make legal proceedings seem less overwhelming.
- Showcase who your professionals are. All too often attorney profiles are sterile bulleted lists of accomplishments and bar admissions. Consider taking a more personal approach to this incredibly important web page(s). Now, this doesn’t mean list the names of your children here; instead showcase how and why you have a comprehensive understanding of your prospective clients needs. You might consider answering the following questions: “Why did you decide to specialize in this area of law? What is your favorite part of the job?”
- Create Calls to Action that speak to your visitors’ unique situations. Do your prospects value confidentiality above all else? If this rings true, you might consider keeping your web forms incredibly short and let website visitors know that they will speak directly with an attorney during a free/confidential consultation.
A note about empathy on social media
So, does empathy-led marketing work on social media, too? The short answer is yes—but the long answer is a bit more complex.
Social media platforms are largely image-driven, so your choice of imagery has an even bigger impact on your social KPIs than it might on your website.
On the one hand, you want images that grab attention. But on the other hand, your goal is bigger than a few Likes or a brief moment of attention, right? Your ultimate goal is to build relationships and eventually get retained.
It is possible to post sensitive images with empathy. In this situation, you should use a trigger warning, which is a brief notice at the top of the post that describes the topics and materials included. For instance, a graphic photo of a motorcycle accident could be accompanied by “TW: graphic photo of a motorcycle accident.”
Trigger warnings give users a choice whether to engage with material that may be difficult for them. However, if a trigger warning is necessary it is worth evaluating whether the content truly delivers value to followers or if it might do more harm than good.
Ultimately, provocative imagery may generate more attention but may deter certain prospective clients from engaging with your website and your firm.
Review and next steps
User empathy is too often overlooked in attorney marketing. However, empathy is a powerful and strategic design choice.
- Attorney marketing should avoid images that may activate a user’s trauma.
- Website content should address your visitors’ specific concerns.
- Trigger warnings can give users agency and build trust on social media.
Empathy-led marketing can help your firm generate higher-quality leads, improve referrals, and increase the lifetime value of clients.