The Power of Visual Beauty

I've built six websites using Squarespace since January this year, and am working on my 7th and 8th sites.  Building websites from scratch is but a small part of my services, but it's been an enriching process on several levels. I've worked with business owners and organizations that span the gamut: lawyer, painter, professional photographer, musician, personal stylist, church.  Some clients needed to digitally showcase their work. Others wanted an online space for their community that would draw new members and increase their sense of fellowship and fraternity. For one client - an attorney - the website has generated not just more traffic, but contactable (and potentially convertible) leads, which we continue to cultivate through consistent e-mail marketing, social media and online and in-person events.

There is much to be said for how to make your website "great". Written content certainly plays the most important part, given how Google and other search engines rank sites in searches based on their SEO.  Google and other search engines demand that one's website contain not just relevant keywords, but content that provides value to the visitor who is searching for guidance, if not a specific solution. It's no longer enough to stuff your website with keywords. In fact, keyword-stuffing would only get you black-marked by the world's most powerful search engine as less than worthy of high rankings. Long-tail searches are the norm these days, and your written content should cater to this. 

Plus, Google does pick up the keywords used in the descriptions you give to your images when you set them up in your website architecture. So it's not entirely true that images do little to help give you visibility. Ask any SEO expert and she'll probably confirm the same.

This post, however, is NOT about SEO and the like. Instead, I want to share what I've learned about the power of visual beauty. The visual experience for your visitor cannot be discounted when you're putting together your website, or updating it. Certainly, there are those who are much better trained in this field, who are much better placed to talk about the power of visuals, both digital and otherwise.

 

But I can see - from the responses I get from people who saw my portfolio online or provided feedback to my clients - that visuals really do count. The visceral appeal of beautiful, well-taken images help keep a visitor on a site, and quietly compels her to click through to other parts of the site. Haven't all of us experienced this?

 

Conversely, we also react negatively to less than appealing graphics or pictures. Ever been to a site that has images that are badly taken (i.e. not professional), out of context, dated and lacking even a modicum of artistic appeal?

The reality is that we're all drawn to beauty. If you want to draw the attention (and keep it) among website visitors, you've got to have beautiful, crisp, clean photographs. In a text-weary world, having enough "white space" and well-placed images can do a lot to boost your website's appeal.

Admittedly, some could say that creative professionals such as sculptors, or musicians or even photographers have much more opportunity to use their photographs to connect with an audience and build a brand. Their work is already pieces of art, ready for the perfect photograph.

 

I have a slightly different view: even if you're an attorney, a well-taken picture of you for your bio, or at a speaking engagement, or working with a client, can also be highly compelling. The point is the "well-taken" part of it - "professional but approachable" is entirely achievable with a good photograph.

 

In short, if you have limited marketing funds, then spend your money on paying a professional photographer to take your head-shot. First impressions really do count, and in today's text-weary world, a picture can say a lot about you. And if you need what I consider "supportive" images i.e. stock images that enhance your brand (look and feel) or a blog post or other content, there are thousands of beautiful copyright and royalty-free images available online. These can help to deepen your website visitor's emotional experience when used to create breaks in content that give the reader some relief. I use such images, for myself, and for my clients. There are great websites that offer royalty-and-copyright-free use of images (e.g. Pixabay, Negative Space, Dreamstime etc.), and I've never left them empty-handed when searching for something that works for a client, whatever his or her business or profession.

 

In all of this, it is little wonder that Instagram has become a leading player in the digital marketing and social media world (just ask the Millennials). In fact, visuals now play such a big role in marketing (which is really mainly digital marketing), that providers such as Vimeo now offer stock videos. 

 

This is a masterly move. Marketers like myself are always on the lookout for better design and graphic content.  Speaking of which -- I've been in search of some beautiful video footage for a client's website, and just found a few wonderful options. I'm convinced it's going to entice her first-time website visitors to explore the rest of her site, and get to know the value she offers, and at the very least, pique their interest. Isn't that what good website content is all about?

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How An Onboarding Process Helps You Hold On To A New Client

An on-boarding process is essentially the process by which you take on a client after she has contracted for your services.  I tend to see it as going beyond the signing of a retainer/engagement agreement.  It is how you begin the actual working relationship, by setting expectations and creating an understanding between you and your client

A clear on-boarding process achieves the following:

  • captures more information about your new client's needs so that you can serve her better
  • sets your new client's expectations by giving her a clearer idea of your work process

This typically creates confidence in your firm's attentiveness.  Most people are intimidated by lawyers, and this discomfort is often magnified by the perception that lawyers "talk down" to lay persons.  In addition, lay clients are not immune to suspicions that attorneys use their knowledge and expertise to retain an "upper hand" in the working relationship, thereby leaving the client feeling like she is being held hostage. Where trust is at such levels, it is likely that a client would have cold feet and decide not to retain your firm, or terminate the relationship. Hence, anything you and your staff can do to ease discomfort for your client and provide transparency can only strengthen their commitment to working with you.

Even if a prospect has already signed a retainer/engagement agreement with your firm, the on-boarding process will serve to put their minds at ease as to how you will manage their case and stay in communication with them throughout the process. Your on-boarding process can expand/further explain aspects of the engagement agreement (e.g. how hourly rates are tracked, which items will be billed and why, how often bills will be sent to the client etc.). 

An effective on-boarding process typically begins with providing your prospective client with a short questionnaire.

That form should capture her name and contact information, and set out a list of questions that gives you a much better of her needs, concerns, goals, timelines and budget.

Beyond the administrative goals such questions fulfill, the real value of this information is to give you a sense of where your client's anxiety lies. It also can reveal to you (and her) deeper facts that may impact the outcome of her case. Open-ended questions about concerns and goals can sometimes also allow the client to be more candid with you. Having a questionnaire before her will allow her time to give more consideration to some of the facts of her case. 

The questionnaire should also provide a field for how she came to know about your firm and its services (e.g. search engines, social media, a friend or family member, other professionals in your network etc..). This is invaluable information as to what is working for your firm in terms of generating new business/leads.

Use the onboarding process to enhance client comfort with your team.

It's always a good idea to include the contact and biographical information of your team as part of your on-boarding packet for the client. Providing your team's bio and contact information will help the client feel that there are other people supporting her, in addition to yourself.  Let her know that she can contact your paralegal at a specific email address and number about certain types of questions that relate to paperwork and filings and forms. 

And don't forget your privacy policy.

Most people who engage an attorney expect a minimum amount of confidentiality. Re-state your firm's privacy policies when it comes to handling client information and communications between yourself and your staff and clients.  This privacy policy statement can be included in the on-boarding packet you provide to the client.

You are likely to have spent a fair amount of time and money (e.g. on marketing) acquiring your prospects. It would be a real pity to lose them at the very last moment due to an uninspiring onboarding process.

You can take your first step towards having an effective onboarding process by contacting me for an onboarding documentation I've created for small law firms.