Smart lawyers turn their bios into a marketing magnet that generates leads, as opposed to a mere resume or a CV, which recites only your education and experience. The trick is to turn a feature of yourself into a benefit to the client. In other words, if you've done a particular activity, you need to answer the question, "So what?" If a client knows you've done something, how does that benefit them?
A "feature" is what something has, like a car with four doors or a new improved formula. A "benefit" is what it does for clients: "This car has four doors to accommodate growing families."
Here's how to tell the difference: When you hear a product claim, ask the question, "So what does that do for me?" If there is no answer to that question, you just heard a feature. If there is an answer, you just heard a benefit.
For example, consider a hardware-store drill. You look on the box and it tells you the volts and amps and RPMs, but what you're really buying is a hole. If you're buying lipstick, it can have a fancy formula, but what women are buying is something that makes them more attractive. And the same thing with pants. If it's got Lycra panels, what you want is to look ten pounds thinner.
Benefits bring new business
This analysis applies directly to lawyer bios. Benefits are what will generate leads for you; they are going to turn your bio into something that's going to make people call you. If you're trying to reach businesses that want to retain you for legal services, they are looking for business benefits. They want to:
- Make more money
- Keep more money
- Save time
- Cut costs
- Reduce risk
- Importantly, they want you to make them look good
If a CEO client has a troublesome issue that he must present to the Board of Directors, you can work with the CEO to put a good spin on it; you've just saved the CEO's job and made him look good. Or, if its litigation and you're working with the CEO, you want the company to look good to the shareholders. Those are the sort of benefits that clients are looking for.
If you look at a lot of attorneys' bios, you'll find few there are not a lot of distinctions or differences between them. Many partner bios begin with "Mr. Jones is a senior shareholder and is chair of the firm's corporate practice group. He has 25 years experience." So what? These are features.
Let's revise it to say:
Mr. Jones is a senior shareholder in the firm's corporate practice, and can counsel you through your corporate transactions with the confidence and expertise clients seek. With more than 25 years of real-world experience, he knows how to bring many time- and money-saving solutions to your business problems.
Let's look at some of the changes. I kept in "senior shareholder" and "corporate practice" but the "so what?" is that he can "counsel you through your real estate and corporate transactions with the confidence and expertise clients seek." So, I extended the feature into having a benefit from the client's perspective. And what does having "more than 25 years of experience" mean for the client? "He knows how to bring many time- and money-saving solutions to your business problems."
What lawyers need to do is to provide proof points when they make an assertion in a bio. They must have some evidence or examples of what the assertion means for the client.
Common features in bios
Another common feature that appears in lawyer bios is the fact that they lecture or speak on particular issues. What might be a potential benefit?
- It shows you're up to speed in the latest trends and news.
- It shows people want to hear what you have to say.
- It makes it sound as if you are frequently in front of people like your client, so you're up to speed with their business.
However your bio must spell out these benefits expressly.
Another feature that shows up on a lot of lawyer bios is "He has testified before the State Legislature, and has assisted legislators and their staff in drafting laws." If I were a client that was affected by their legislation, what would be the benefit to me of the capability you have identified?
It shows you may have some influence and credibility. It demonstrates that you know how those laws are interpreted and executed. It may show that the lawyer has helped the Legislature pass certain bills into law. Again, it's taking a capability and turning it into something that matters to the client.
Some features have no benefits for clients, like she has "been an active member of the County Bar Association where she has served on the Bar Council." Clients expect you to belong to a bar association. They have no idea what the bar council is. The only benefit that I can see is to other lawyers who may send you a referral. However, for clients I would add "and many other lawyers refer their cases to this person, who is considered a 'lawyer's lawyer.'"