Professional service firm web copy: speak with me, not at me!

Many professional service firms’ marcomm tools suffer from navel-picking web copy. Sure, they aren’t the only ones, but in areas where a successful practice hinges on the personal touch, you’d think their marketing copy would at least involve you, right?

Wrong.

Take law firms. OK, maybe they are easy to pick on.  I put myself through university working as a paralegal; it’s a context I know fairly well.

At some point, most individuals and businesses need to seek counsel. With your physician, an attorney is the professional with whom you will have the closest – and possibly most dependent! – relationship. Trust, confidentiality, responsibility, reliability – maybe even caring – are as essential as subject-matter expertise.

Referrals and notoriety remain the top ways to gain new clients. Yet, in recent years, law firms have realized it is not enough to ensure durable growth in a highly competitive (not to say cut-throat) climate. They have invested in their Web presence, and some even have business development and/or marketing departments.

Lead generation is the primary reason for investing in a Web site. Web content aims to inform, educate, entertain. Web copy seeks to influence and persuade the reader. Professional services firms’ websites need an appropriate balance of both.

A Web site’s landing page is key to visitor retention. In other words, to get the prospect to click and discover the content of your website.

Are major legal practices’ Web sites speaking with their potential clients or at them?

To answer the question, I picked the top 10 American firms by revenue from the most recent survey available on the Internet (2007 figures) out of a listing on the world’s 100 largest law firms and captured their landing pages. You can see them all here if you like.

Call it a coincidence, if you must, but the No.1 American firm on the list is also the ONLY one to use you or your on its landing page.

baker-and-mckenzie

The Flash object in the middle of the page presents Baker & McKenzie’s four core values by speaking with the client or prospect. (The only criticism is that this is in Flash, which is not optimal for Web referencing).

The first item in the navigation menu on the top right corner of the page is “Supporting Your Business”. The rest of the global Web site does not disappoint. They’ve made it a point to frame interesting and catchy copy into a conversation with the visitor.*

None of the other sites on the top 10 list speak with the visitor, even if most of them are generally well-designed.

Compare this, if you will, with the landing page of a well-known, prestigious, New York City law firm, which is not on the top 100 list. Correction: it is not even the landing page. The visitor first has to choose whether he wants general information or career information. The entire site is in Flash, leading to clear SEO and accessibility issues.

The copy is mind-numbing.

sanitized

Passive voice, overwriting and not a single reach out to the reader.  Compelling copy?

What do you think?

*I have neither worked for nor hired Baker & McKenzie and have no relationship of any sort with the firm.

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