Whether you are just opening the doors of your divorce mediation practice, or you have been a professional family mediator for many years, considering these 4 Game Changing Tips with potential clients can be game-changers for developing your more successful mediation practice.
Partnering with Mediate.com, I here share the details of my own positive experiences at The Aurit Center For Divorce Mediation in a 90 minute webinar, “4 Game-Changing Tips To Build Your Divorce Mediation Practice.” These approaches can work to improve your own professional mediation success as well as enhance public perceptions of mediation as a better option for families going through divorce.
Developing Your “Brand” is Everything
The initial connection that clients have with their potential mediator and the ensuing touchpoints leading to their decision to move forward (or not) with divorce mediation are a series of critical moments. If mindfully approached by the mediator, these moments can greatly increase the probability that clients will retain you, as well as serve to build the foundational rapport relationship of trust with clients that will serve the mediator throughout the mediation process.
The first connection that potential divorce mediation clients have with their mediator is not when clients enter your office — or even when they first contact you by phone or email. The moment potential clients land on your website is the moment that you first connect with them. Family mediators should not underestimate the impact of this first online contact with potential clients. It is the moment the mediator begins to develop trust and rapport with clients.
As a professional family mediator, you are your business. Potential clients will decide to move forward with you as their mediator if they connect with you, trust you, and believe in your ability to help them. If the “product” they are buying is you -- their mediator -- it makes sense that your business branding — the look and feel of your business that creates some emotional response — should reflect who you are.
Everything matters when creating your mediation practice brand. Infusing your brand with who you are, and equally considering the specific needs of your audience, is a balanced way to approach presenting your professional brand:
- the intentional design of your presentation to the world (logo, font, colors, layout of your website);
- the substantive and strategic content (what is written on your website);
- the navigation of your website (the ease of how visitors engage with your design and content).
Each of these website features are opportunities to create initial trust with your potential clients. In a heartbeat, a potential client can visit your website and click away. But when even the smallest kernel of trust can be formed, it can grow. When genuine content speaks to your audience and your website design presents your practice in the clearest and most careful way, potential clients are more likely to spend valuable time on your website. And they are more likely to contact you for an initial consultation to learn more about your divorce mediation services.
Our Mediate.com, ”4 Game-Changing Tips” online training explores several actual divorce mediation websites that accomplish these suggested goals. We view these game-changing points together to assist you in designing your own optimized gateway to clients.
First Impressions Matter: Make Your Office Awesome
The trust you have developed with your potential clients based on the content and design of your website has led to the scheduling of a first appointment with you. Now, when the clients arrive at your office, it should be as awesome as your website! What a letdown it would be if the expectation created by your online presence was not reflected and matched within your physical office space. And so, your thoughtfulness about the details of your meditation space should be just as focused and methodical as how you approached your website.
Consistency is key. Connect your online branding to your office atmosphere. How can you bring the look and feel – the vibe – of your website into your meditation space and vice versa? If potential clients appreciated and trusted your website enough to schedule an appointment with you, this trust will be reinforced when they enter your office and experience some through-line of what attracted them to you in the first place. You have continued to build trust, and your potential clients haven’t even met you yet!
Considering every aspect of your potential client’s experience is also key. Imagine what they have been through before that moment they first step into your office: The prior conflict with their spouse that led to contemplating divorce; that led to researching divorce mediation; that led to finding you online; that led to the anticipation and anxiety about this appointment with you; that led to a sleepless the night before; that led to a nervous, or painful, or fearful drive to your office; and difficult walk to your office entrance; that led to the moment they open the door and step inside and take in your mediation office surroundings.
This is the moment for many that the divorce, perhaps for the first time, becomes tangible. Those first moments in your office are the beginning of the more formal end to their marriage. It is important that all who enter your office are made to feel as comfortable as possible.
The choices you make when creating your office environment are opportunities to give your potential clients a place that reinforces safety, simplicity, organization and comfort. Clients are looking to their mediator to guide them through a structured and peaceful process. Your office should be a place of peace, demonstrating to your potential clients that their mediator is organized and able to capably lead them through their divorce process.
Our webinar details certain game-changing ways you can upgrade your office to maximize benefits to your potential clients, and to your mediation process.
Give a Strategic, Structured Yet Flexible, Comprehensive Initial Consultation
I believe that when a divorce mediator’s initial consultation with clients is strategic in its educational content, as well as structured, but flexible, and comprehensive, that significantly more potential clients will move forward with divorce mediation.
In addition to client retention advantages, an equally important result to an intentional consultation approach is that the divorce mediator sets the framework for the entire mediation process. I have found that when opportunities for positively influencing the client’s mediation process are maximized in the consultation, this will positively affect your client’s communication, attitudes, and the quality of final agreements on substantive divorce issues. To that end, a purposefully designed and carefully executed initial consultation can set clients up to generate their most successful mediation outcomes — potentially the biggest game-changer for a more successful mediation process.
Aspects of your consultation can be designed to immediately help lower conflict between spouses prior to their substantive mediation. Normalizing feelings and acknowledging common dynamics related to divorce may support acceptance and help diffuse ongoing conflict. Mutual awareness of common divorce related behaviors and misconceptions about the divorce process can help spouses reboot and make a commitment to a different way forward. This reduces emotional obstacles to beginning mediation and supports a more productive mediation process.
Essential to the beginning of your initial consultation is to give your potential clients a roadmap of what you will cover, and then follow it! Map out your own approach that makes sense. Our roadmap informs clients that during the initial consultation the mediator will explain: (1) how mediation works and compares to litigation; (2) how our specific process works so they know exactly what to expect; and (3) that you will answer all of their questions. This gives them relief that they are going to get what they came for, and establishes the limited purposes of the consultation. By making good on your promise and proceeding to give a clear and detailed explanation of mediation, you build trust and better prepare clients to navigate the process should they choose to move forward.
This structured consultation approach also models how you as a mediator will structure their entire mediation process. It sends a message that you will create a sense of stability throughout their divorce mediation. However, your ability throughout the consultation to also be entirely flexible, at any moment, will also model how they too can be flexible moment to moment, which will can be critical to in mediation.
Throughout the consultation, the mediator should also carefully choose the words and tone taken with potential clients. While the content of the consultation will be relatively consistent, your delivery may differ depending on the people you are meeting with and the mediator they need you to be. This personalized approach with potential clients illustrates that you care about them and their children’s well-being. Communicating your confidence about their ability to do the work of divorce mediation helps to give them a sense of security that —yes, they can be successful.
Performed comprehensively, you will also have given clients what they want and need: someone they trust who is standing by with a plan to help them through one of the most difficult and painful periods in their lives.
Let Your Agreement to Mediate Be a Star
Meeting you and receiving a foundational mediation education at their consultation has deepened potential clients trust in you to guide them through the mediation process you have capably described. Now, all that remains is their decision to move forward. This decision is memorialized in an Agreement to Mediate. Incorporating your Agreement to Mediate within your consultation, rather than waiting for your first mediation meeting, can also be a game-changer.
Mediation is rooted in the concept of informed consent. As mediators, we ensure as best we can that spouses enter mutually acceptable agreements in an informed manner. Therefore, in our practice, we believe it is representative of fundamental mediation values to review with potential clients their potential Agreement to Mediate before they decide to move forward.
Taking the time to read through and explain your Agreement to Mediate closes any gap in ensuring that potential clients understand everything they need to know before deciding to enter mediation. It fully empowers potential clients to understand exactly what they are signing up for and, depending on the content of the Agreement, sets important expectations and critical boundaries for the mediation process.
Potential clients also feel taken care of when the mediator takes the time (on their own dime, if the consultation is complementary) to read through the Agreement with them. This cannot be said for many other situations when a professional does not offer to read through and explain a contract for services in detail. This differentiates you from other professionals, as well as mediation from other professional situations, which we believe is appropriate and helpful.
There is no right or wrong length or style for your Agreement to Mediate. Surely, great minds may differ about what should be included. Our approach, consistent with other areas, is comprehensive. About one half of our one-hour consultation is spent on explaining the Agreement to Mediate. When finished, potential clients most always comment about how this preemptively answered their questions. Universally, they thank us for communicating the information in a detailed and straightforward way.
Yet again, the mediator has increased the level of trust that clients feel about the potential mediation and the mediator. Now, all that is left for potential clients is to move forward. Some will decide at this point, and others down the road. But, as a professional family mediator, you have done everything possible to best educate potential clients about the benefits of mediation and how you can help them through a better divorce process. You have done right by your own mediation practice, and done right for the mediation field.
In our 90-minute training at Mediate.com, I read through our Agreement to Mediate that The Aurit Center for Divorce Mediation uses in our consultations and explain the significance and benefit of certain clauses.
Building your divorce mediation practice requires layers of building genuine trust in your relationship with clients. Developing your “brand” to ensure optimal engagement with your website is the initial surveying of the land. Your client’s experience in your office breaks more ground. An effective consultation then pours a concrete foundation of trust. Your comprehensive Agreement to Mediate creates the framework for the rest of mediation to succeed. Taken together, you will have built trust that you need in minute-one of your first mediation meeting, and will continue to build trust as the mediation moves forward.
When you love what you do, care about your profession and your approach, practice building is something that can help you connect to more than just your clients — it will also help you to connect to yourself—which in turn strengthens your connections to the professional work and your clients. Enjoy the process!
Credit to my wife and co-founder of our center for divorce mediation, Karen Aurit, who created this systematic approach with me. Together, we cherish the benefits and our ongoing professional and personal evolution.
For more, check out Michael Aurit's 90 minute webinar, “4 Game-Changing Tips To Build Your Divorce Mediation Practice.”