This article first appeared in the March 2013 issue ofModern Law Magazine (Issue 5 with an ABS Supplement) where there is plenty more excellent content well worth reading.
Question: Marketing has moved on from the days of all-day lunches with wine but what is it your clients feel is being lost in the world of direct / online marketing and what do you recommend companies ensure in their bid to get more work?
Answer: If you check the tracking analytics for your online newsletter, you will find that fewer than 35% of the people you sent it to have actually opened it. Even less will have “clicked through” to read any of the articles. This is great information and tells you how best to work with them, but what about the other 65%?
Online communications and social media are essential, but not enough. Many simple things that worked in 2007 – before lawyers retrenched due to the recession – are still good, although what works best for you will depend on your clients, geography and the characteristics of your people.
There is a long list of potentially good marketing activities, but these are my Top 10:
Know and play to strengths, but dig deep to find them.
Aim to create opportunities to meet face-to-face early on with people aged over 40 to establish a strong, trusting relationship. Subsequent exchanges online will make more impact (at any age) if you’ve agreed that’s how to keep in touch.
Always check at that stage what is the best way to stay in touch and make sure that’s recorded and shared with your colleagues.
When you talk to clients, business partners / introducers and prospects, explore their world – their business and their family – not just today’s legal problem.
Discover their passion, share that with colleagues and make sure the client knows you know about it. Lunch, breakfast, coffee, dinner with other business advisors and their clients all work – but so does a walk in the country.
Make it relaxed and try to talk their language.
Adopt JFDI – too often, lawyers spend a lot of time considering all the options and don’t quite get around to doing it. So if there is an idea to be explored or actioned “Just Do It!”
Be willing to pick up the phone to renew contact, to arrange to meet or to follow up on meeting at an event or even online through Linkedin.
Invest in some hard copy newsletters and bulletins to get them on desks as well as e-communications, but actively manage the database to focus on the right people to keep production and distribution costs down.
Ask clients how they want you to stay in touch when you make first contact. New client inception forms should always include the question. Then do what they ask; not what is easiest or cheapest.
The best way to develop an innovative legal practice and services is to get out there, talk, listen and be prepared to be candid with the people you meet. Ask clients what they want and how much harder they can push your boundaries to deliver something better for them … which is generally good for your business too if you get it right and prepared to adapt.
To expose and test new ideas, it helps to start with an open mind and to treat any relationship as a blank sheet, with as few preconceptions as possible. Even the nature of client and partner relationships is changing rapidly; as are ways of working, communicating and accessing legal know-how that are likely to be attractive going forwards; particularly then enable lawyers to deliver more value for less cost.
However, lawyers are trained to work within defined rules and to use their knowledge to find legal solutions for their clients; not to collaborate with them in building business solutions together. That has to change, so there is a need now to invest in new skills and development of a new mindset.
Lawyers need to be inquisitive enough to dig deep to find better ways of working that can make the relationship more attractive for all involved. If that’s not achievable when all avenues have been fully explored – it’s time to look elsewhere.
Lack of understanding of process and technology inhibits lawyers from exploring the host of opportunities available to improve communication and add value to the experience of involving a law firm. Unfortunately, the IT and process minded managers still rarely get the chance to go face-to-face with the client to explore the options, so these invaluable discussions therefore tend not to happen even now.
So what can senior management do to initiate new strategies that will make enough of a difference to get and stay ahead of competitors? Throwing new ideas gathered from the real world into a melting point and working them through one by one creates a remarkable focus and drive when intelligent lawyers allow themselves to forget about the legal work for a while. This approach produces results time and again However managers need ammunition to work with; also permission to be controversial and radical about how the legal services are provided and about the nature of the relationships that could be developed with clients, prospects and others.
Lawyers who have been willing to collaborate with their management team to explore relationships deeply with clients and other contacts – and who have been prepared to look for support to do this effectively – have generally been successful in introducing innovation that “sticks” and grows. Novel ideas and approaches that make good business sense can develop in this environment in a way that lawyers and others working within a law firm would never have contemplated on their own.