The Conversion Blueprint for Professional Services Firms

Increasing conversion rates for law firms, surgeons, accountants, and other professional services firms is one of the most impactful elements of a successful digital marketing strategy. Surprisingly, very few business owners place value on the practice, and many don’t know what conversion rate optimization is, or why it’s important to their business.

What is Conversion Rate?

Most commonly, conversion rate is seen through the lens of lead conversions on your website or web property. As an illustration, let’s say 100 people visit your website monthly.

Of those 100 visitors, if seven of them call your phone number, you have a 7% conversion rate (seven of the 100 visitors converted into a lead).

Why is Conversion Rate important?

It comes down to the finances of your marketing efforts. To illustrate, imagine you are in the garden watering your flowers, but you realize there’s not enough pressure coming from the hose. As you walk back to the faucet, you notice a large leak in the hose. It’s water you need, but it isn’t making its way to the end point.

Does it make more sense to ignore the hole and keep cranking up the water pressure at the spigot? Or might it be a better idea to first fix the leak in the hose?

The same concept is mirrored in analyzing online conversion rates. Back to the example above – let’s assume your website gets 100 visitors a month and you currently convert 7% of your website visitors. Assume each customer has an average order value of $100. So, for every 100 visitors you have, you make $700.

For most digital marketers, this is a sufficient explanation and interpretation for small business clients. It is focused on the micro – what happens in one specific environment (a website, or pop-up lead form ads on Facebook, etc.). But there’s another lens through which conversion rate can (and should) be viewed – let’s call it the macro-conversion rate.

What if you wanted to make $1400/month? Well, you could either:

  • Increase Traffic (i.e. increase pressure at the spigot). This would mean you’d have to double your existing traffic and increase your visitors to 200/month (though simply growing your visitors rarely translates to the same conversion rate).
  • Increase Price. This would mean your product needs to double in price and the average customer would be worth $1,400 (the difficulty here is significantly increasing the price will decrease the conversion rate – the process can still work to achieve your new $1,400/month goal, but it is hard to estimate).
  • Increase Conversion Rates (i.e. fix the leak in the hose). To fix the leak, you’d have to double the conversion rates of your 100 visitors, so 14 out of every 100 visitors will convert into customers. The difficulty here is you can get more people to call you, but there are limits on how many additional conversions you can yield, if all other elements remain equal.
  • Some or All of the Above. The best solution is to first fix the hose (optimize for higher conversion rates), then intelligently scale up your traffic to maintain higher conversion rates. As the conversions grow, you can adjust and test the price to make sure your offer matches the demand of the market.

Macro Conversion Rate

Taking a step back from a specific website or web property, the macro conversion rate more heavily considers the user journey (consumer behaviors differ by industry, product, or service offering).

The goal of the macro conversion rate is to position your brand in as many places as possible on Page 1, because the more times your brand name is seen for a particular query, the more likely a user is to engage with you and not your competitor.

Consider the modern SERP. For heavily-trafficked search queries, you’ll see four ads at the top of the page, possibly a knowledge box, possibly some videos or images, then the Local pack, then six or seven organic results.

Imagine if for a given query, you had a PPC ad at the top of the page, and you also had a spot in the Local pack. Further, what if you also showed up in the organic search results? What impact do you think that would have on the average consumer (hint: you’re likely the one who’s going to get that phone call).

And as a peripheral element, though still crucial, there is the concept of third-party query validation. Let’s say of the seven organic links, two of them are for industry-relevant directories (say, Yelp or If you also had prominent listings in those directories, then a potential visitor would have seen your name three to five times, in various formats, across three different channels: Google PPC ad, Local map listing, organic listing, and directory listing(s).

Because of this changing and increasingly competitive landscape, it is imperative to focus on having a consistent message for a specific audience. Modern digital marketing success is predicated upon a consistent, omnipresent digital presence.

Here’s where most newbie digital marketers fall short: Leads/conversions/phone calls are usually described to a client in a last-touch attribution narrative (e.g. “You had 10 phone calls from Yelp last month”).

But what happens if somebody does some initial research and finds your website. Then a few days later, they do more research and click on your PPC ad. Then a week later they find you on Yelp and decide to call you from there.

How do you know what marketing effort delivered that lead?

Assisted Conversions

Very rarely do people buy blindly online. Sure, there can be impulse buys (the result of boredom-based Web browsing, or one martini too many).

But those are rare, and even those fall subject to modern human nature – checking your website and product, then heading back to Google to run a few more related searches, checking your reviews across 3-4 different platforms (Google Reviews, Yelp, Facebook, Industry review sites, etc.), and eventually finding their way back to you at some point.

Sometimes it’s the same day. Sometimes it takes a week. And sometimes it could take a month or more for that visitor to decide to call you.

When people visit your site (and other web properties) multiple times before converting, that’s a great thing, and one that is commonly overlooked in reporting and analysis. Assisted conversions are important to track because it gives you great insights into your industry’s customer journey and buying cycle.

A good marketer with industry experience will be able to point this out and guide you on the right path. For example: Criminal Defense attorneys are often immediate-need based (e.g. “It’s w2:00am and I’m in jail because I got arrested and I need help NOW!”) whereas family law attorneys often see a longer, more research-based approach. Though some may wish for it, nobody gets divorced on an impulse.

So if you’re not sure of the typical consumer journey in your particular niche, then assisted conversions will help you identify lead time to convert, what types of content are engaging, and how you can capitalize on those elements.

Brief Recap So Far

Let’s take a second to put those pieces together. With macro-conversion optimization, you’re positioning your brand to be seen in as many relevant places that your target client is looking, and to have them engage with your brand and land on your website.

Micro-conversion optimization helps you take those additional potential clients, provide them the relevant and compelling content they need to feel secure with you, and deftly guide them to call you and not your competitors.

The conversion Rate Optimization Blueprint for Professional Services Firms

How, then, do professional services firms apply this information specifically to their businesses? Professional firms are held to higher and more stringent standards, in the workplace and online. Google abides by the EAT and YMYL philosophies. EAT acronym stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness” and YMYL stands for “Your Money or Your Life”.

This is a topic thoroughly discussed elsewhere, but suffice to say, for professionals, their websites and content is held to a higher standard. Attorneys can’t have anything on their site that could be misconstrued as legal advice. Doctors can’t have content on their site that compels a visitor to think they have received medical advice.

More importantly, though, is because these business types are often more expensive than the average household purchase, there is undoubtedly more research conducted. Empirically we know that the average legal consumer views 3-5 potential law firms, and then validates those firms on third-party websites. They look at reviews. They look at social media. The read blogs and watch videos.

This is why a conversion optimization program is crucial for firms in the professional space. You need to understand how the landscape has shifted into a user-centric bent and adjust your strategies accordingly.

How to increase Assisted and Direct Conversions

Getting down to brass tacks, there are some battle-tested tweaks you can make to your online presence to kick your conversion rates into hyper-drive. Here are the key conversion criteria – the crucial foundational elements of digital presence – for professional services businesses.

Key Conversion Criteria

  • Trust. Does your website look like medieval elf created it? Does your content address their concerns? Do you provide testimonials or reviews or other past client feedback? Until you’re able to speak to the person directly, your online presence has to explain to them why you’re trustworthy.
  • Validation. If your website talks about how great you are but 85% of your online reviews talk about poor communication, or a rude staff member, you’re going to be out of luck.
  • Accessibility. Did you know 72% of modern professional services consumer expects a reply to an email or voicemail within 24 hours? More surprising, 35% expect a reply the same day.

With these pieces addressed, now you can fine-tune your conversion platform to prompt your visitors.

  • Chat. Do you ever wonder why so many websites use chat now? Sure, it can be obnoxious when you go to a website and get inundated with popup after popup. But it’s effective. The rise in chat usage is strongly correlated to the rise in mobile device usage. Many chat providers offer full-time agents, some offer multiple language support, and some of the chat bots allow a visitor to schedule an appointment with you directly from a chat bubble. It doesn’t matter if you think something might be offensive or intrusive. What matters is what your ideal clients want, and today, many want access to chat.
  • Phone. Most smartphones today are savvy enough to read a phone number on a site, even if it is not tagged as a click-to-call button. Conversion 101: have your phone number big and bold at the top of the page (if your website allows for it, consider a sticky header with the click-to-call phone number). Have callouts throughout the body of your content with your phone number. Have a CTA in the side bar with your phone number.
    Pro Tip: I’ve seen this be really effective when the CTA also says something like “Our phone lines are open. No waiting, speak to an attorney now!”.
  • Email. Nobody likes long email forms. No matter how much you prefer having a lot of detailed information about a prospect, empirically you prohibit 3 leads for every long form filled out. Keep it simple and concise. If you’re worried about wasting too much time on weeding out bad prospects, then you have an intake issue, not a conversion issue.
  • Visuals. People respond to aesthetically pleasing things. Your website doesn’t have to be the prettiest, but it’s worth hiring a good photographer to capture the essence of you, your staff, and your office. These types of images are incredibly compelling and increase the likelihood of a visitor calling you.
  • Colors. The most successful online businesses continue to test and tweak color schemes. Does the red hue on a Contact Us button affect our conversion rate? (The answer is Yes – most large companies invest significantly into A/B testing to find the right mix for their users). Also, do the colors match your brand? A black background with a brick red accent probably isn’t best suited to a plastic surgeon’s site, for example.
  • MicroCommitments. Realizing that most people do not convert in their first interaction with you, consider a smaller, lower commitment request. A common example is asking visitors to sign up for your newsletter or download a free guide. There will always be freebie-seekers, but if you provide value with these commitments, and the visitor is a true potential client, then you’ve taken the step to foster that relationship for the future.
  • Videos. Professional videos have gotten a bad rap. Spoofs have been created to discuss bad attorney commercials. Nobody wants to see some boring person sit at a desk in front of a wall of books and talk for 7 minutes about how great they are.  But videos can tell a great story. Use them more strategically. Also consider whiteboard animations, and stop-motion videos. These can be made quickly and easily, and with the right marketing partner, pretty affordably.
    Pro Tip: Instead of one long video, create a dozen 45-second clips that answer a specific FAQ.

In my next post, we’ll dig into some specific case studies and I’ll provide a few hacks to help you jumpstart your conversion engine. Meanwhile, what are your tips and tricks for ramping up conversion rates? Discuss in the comments!

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