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December 18, 2006

Internet Is Equalizer for Savvy Solos

While this column appeared more than a year ago, and I would update it to include blogging, the fundamentals remain the same....an internet presence is a must.  It is money well spent. If you have limited dollars to invest in a "presence" and you must choose between an actual advertisement in the yellow pages and a website/blog on the internet, you must choose the internet, first.

Now that we are securely entrenched in the Information Age there is one undeniable truth: if your practice does not have a presence on the information highway, fondly known as the Internet, you will not exist for many clients. A website in the 21st century is the equivalent of a Yellow Page ad last century.

However, there is one major difference. The Yellow Pages of the 20th century were where you primarily let clients know your telephone number and street address. When clients today go to the Internet to find contact information, consciously or unconsciously they are, in fact, looking for much more. They are looking to validate who you are by doing, what is in their minds, preliminary research; getting a leg up on who you are before the initial consultation.

Granted, a web page you've designed is well-crafted advertising; the content solely within your control. But by virtue of your website's design and the type of content you can include, it can ultimately become a brilliant interactive electronic brochure. Well designed and user-friendly, a website has the ability to sell the potential client on hiring you before or after the initial consultation. Or, it can turn them off.

Psychologically, by having a presence on the web, you've gained status with a potential client. For the client, it is the equivalent of having seen your name in the newspaper; it gives you some measure of credibility. Conversely, if they can't find anything about you on the Internet, you will lose some credibility even if you came highly recommended. The Internet has become the number one source for validation of who you are and your credentials. Not having a presence on the Internet, primarily through a website, is no longer an option if you wish to run a successful business. (And for those of you who are curious, mine is under construction at www.buildasolopractice.com.)

Will they still call if you cannot be Googled? Probably. But rather than already having been sold by first, a recommendation and second, "their own research" on the web, you have to spend more time selling yourself during the initial consultation. You are combating an unconscious negative.

Unlike the Yellow Pages, a website gives you a relatively inexpensive way to reach your potential clients with custom designed information that can be constantly updated. Just as important, it gives all those who would refer business to you the opportunity to do so simply by reciting your website address or being able to say, "Google his/her name. You'll find everything you need to know."

Your client gets an opportunity to know you before ever meeting you, see a photograph of you and/or your staff, be sold on your services and philosophy and learn about your areas of concentration. In your own website you can post your biography, a resume, testimonials, a mission statement, philosophy, prestigious awards, publications, give directions, answer e-mail inquiries, discuss current law, become an information source, create a blog, even have a potential client's computer call you directly upon reading your website to set up a consultation.

And because this advertising tool is so critical in today's competitive marketplace, it is worth having someone who understands your audience and who is truly skilled in the designing of web pages create your website. They should understand the ins and outs of the Internet.

We all have "friends" who will do it for free or very inexpensively because everyone fancies themselves a web page designer. However, while I am one who always believes in cost-cutting, this is one area I caution you to not be motivated by cost cutting. A bad web page can cost you business and send the wrong image of you and your firm into cyberspace for light-years to come. A great web page is worth every penny you will spend.

Susan Cartier-Liebel is solo practitioner, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. She can be reached at SCartier_Liebel@comcast.net. Copyright © Susan Cartier-Liebel (2005) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.

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Susan Cartier-Liebels always-excellent blog, Build A Solo Practice, LLC has an article up about building a web presence for solos. In the article, she does a nice job of contrasting web-based advertising with print, and shares several tidbits o... [Read More]

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