Does this sound like your firm?
It’s a new year and you want your firm to grow and prosper. You have tried lots of different marketing activities over the last few years but you did not see any home runs. You are not sure which of your activities have paid off the most or the least. Your revenues are flat or perhaps you had a good year because of one case that has now settled.
This is what I would recommend you do:
• Decide on a plan. Write it down. It really can be short and easy to implement. For example:
“We will grow the tax practice. We will do this by focusing on our retail clients. We will meet with them individually and ask about what tax challenges they are facing. We will see what we can do for free for them to solidify the relationship (maybe a webinar, in-house program, free audit). We will then meet with our non-tax lawyers in the firm and see which of their clients could use our services and repeat the webinar, audit or in-house program for them. We will become active in a local retailers association and try to give our webinar, in-house program to their membership. We will try to lead/head a ‘tax solution’ committee for the association.”
Marketing plan done — you are off and rolling. You now know what your objectives are, where to spend your nonbillable time, which industry you need to understand and exactly what clients you need to meet with and think about. Share the plan with everyone in the firm so all can jump on board and help. They can’t help or support your efforts unless you keep them in the loop, so be transparent.
• Announce successes and praise your people — regularly.
When you win a case, when a new staffer or lawyer joins the firm “family,” when someone provides a client with exceptional client service, announce it internally. Let everyone learn by the examples of others and let everyone celebrate the achievements of one another. This is great for morale, which is a key element to the delivery of top client service.
• Have an outsider “audit” the experience of being your client.
You need to know how clients and potential clients are being treated at all points of entry into your law firm. These points include your website, your website contact page, e-mails, your phones, sitting in your reception area, sitting in your conference rooms and much more.
I conduct these for firms on a regular basis and it is amazing to me how many problems we have identified — the majority of which are very inexpensive and easy to fix. Invest in this audit.
Remember: Your clients have many, many choices of great lawyers. Don’t push them away unknowingly because of simple mistakes and oversights — like not having someone regularly check the e-mails coming in from the “Contact Us” section of your website — believe me, this happens.
• Train your staff and attorneys on what exceptional client service is.
Great legal work does not equal outstanding service. If you have not heard of BTI Consulting and the studies it does as to what corporate counsel of the United States’ largest companies say about why they use certain firms and not others — you should.
The survey reveals that outstanding service by a firm and its lawyers and staff results in higher client retention and revenues. As a result, teach your firm all the basics — from how the phone should be answered (there are plentiful examples on YouTube) to how attorneys and their secretaries can stay on top of important developments facing a client and his or her industry. Solicit lawyer, staff and client input on how you can ratchet up the service you provide.
• Make sure that every marketing activity has a follow-up action.
Instill in your lawyers that just because they have lunch with a referral source once — or write an article, or give a speech, or entertain a client — they are most certainly notdone. Every marketing activity requires a follow-up action with the same audience.
It takes multiple and meaningful communications with a target for them to keep you in top-of-mind status. “Meaningful” in this case translates into something that makes the targets’ world better — helps them in their job, furthers their business objectives, makes them happy and stress-free — you get it.
• Make sure your firm gets the maximum bang out of every marketing activity.
Speeches should become articles. Articles should be posted on JD Supra and on your website and tweeted about. Articles should become very short notices to clients. And notices to clients should become a story idea for a reporter covering the area. And, of course, speeches should beget more speeches and webinars and in-house programs for clients.
• Go out and visit your firm’s clients on your nickel.
Talk to them about what is keeping them up at night. Talk about how you can be a better service provider to them. Don’t sell the firm at these meetings — just listen. Then act on their feedback. Don’t meet with clients at all if you are not going to act on their feedback.
• Tell your lawyers and staff to look for ways to save clients money and provide services that add value to their business or lives — but do not appear on the bill.
Believe me, this is critical today; I have a list of 30-plus ideas of what you can do in this regard. Put yourself in the clients’ shoes and figure out what would help them on a personal and professional level — and do it for free.
• Probably most importantly, be a cheerleader for the programs and tactics you want your lawyers and staff to follow.
Lead by example. You want your lawyers to look first-class — then dress by example. You want them to go out and ask their clients how they can improve, then have a meeting where the lawyers hear what happened when you conducted such an audit. Report on the good, the bad and anything else the client said. It is all important information. If you want them to go out and market within their comfort zone, vocally support them in their efforts and recognize what they are doing as valuable.
I am rooting for you. Get up, get started, get going. You will see that this stuff really works.
Stacy West Clark has been helping Pennsylvania lawyers and law firms expand their practices for 20 years. She is a former attorney with Morgan Lewis & Bockius and was its first marketing director. She is president of Stacy Clark Marketing LLC (www.stacyclarkmarketing.com).•