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Are lawyers well placed for high impact, low cost marketing?

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The uncertainty of our post-Brexit economy remains a cloud upon law firms

I’m guessing that like me you are more than a little Brexit-ed out so the last thing you want is yet another post outlining pontificating on the potential fallout once the UK leaves the EU.  However legal experts are now starting to fear that Brexit and, more specifically, the nervousness that surrounds it could very exacerbate or even accelerate the current decline in the profits being generated by regional law firms.

We are already seeing firms press pause on their marketing and business development so they can save a bit of time and money until the picture is clearer but is that really the right tactic?

A man much wiser than me once said “when times are good you should advertise, when times are bad you MUST advertise”.  I think that is a sentiment regional firms would do well to employ during these strange times.  Actually my view is they should replace ‘advertise’ with ‘market’ and then employ it, because if your commitment to marketing is going to generate the maximum return you will need creativity and focus, not tick-box cheque book exercises like buying ad space.

Focused marketing will yield greater results and will cost less than many forms of advertising

So how do you create an effective marketing plan that operates on a low cost/high impact basis?  Your watchword has to be focus – focus on those who are most likely to buy your services.  If you can confidently say who those people are, your marketing choices will immediately become easier and your efforts will immediately become more productive.

The first group on that list has to be your current clients and professional contacts.  In my last post we explored many of the practicalities of leveraging more from your current relationships but in the simplest terms you need to prioritise the management of your existing client/’contact networks by:

– Identifying your most important clients (by strategic value and growth opportunity as well as by spend)

– Identifying your most productive introducers

– Taking your fee earners with creating a ‘coffee plan’ to make sure they are meeting up for a chat (i.e. generating new opportunities and new introductions) at regular intervals throughout the year

– Having regular BD meetings internally to make sure the coffee plans are being progressed and to share success stories to keep the planners motivated and the plans on track

A brew and a chat costs little, and can achieve much

With regards to cost, if you are seeing the right people (again that means those most likely to generate opportunities not the people you always see because you like seeing them) the majority of meetings should generate new opportunities or at least new referrals.  With the average cup of coffee costing around £3.00, that is a cost of sale that should placate even the most parsimonious FD … in fact, if you go to see them at their offices, you’d be drinking their tea and coffee which wipes out the cost of sale!

This is the point where I often get the “no cost other than my time” challenge.  It is a fair one but it is very rare – particularly in a regional firm – that a fee earner is expected to bill 8 hours a day and as long as you’re organised, you can fit these meetings into the remainder of your working week.

The second group to focus on are the people who are most like your current clients and contacts.

Who is your target market? Examine your current clients to find out

Take some time to look at your current client-base and work out what your ‘brand cameo’ looks like.  A brand cameo is basically a picture of your usual client based upon their key properties.  How big are they?  What’s their turnover?  What’s their headcount? Where are they likely to be based?  Which industries/sectors to they tend to work within?

Although these questions are all very commercially focused, the principle also works if you are a private client lawyer.  Which neighbourhoods do you tend to get the most work from?  Are there any similarities in terms of ethnicity?  What clubs do they belong to locally?  Which groups and local events do they participate in?

Once you have your cameo you can make much smarter marketing choices and invest your time and your budget in the activities/audiences that are most likely to win you new work.  Better still, you can chop out the time and cost required to fund all of the other marketing activities that don’t generate a return.  We call this the ‘murder wall’ exercise, named after the perennial squad room shot you get in crime dramas where there is a wall covered in pictures and lines and facts that the detectives are using to piece together the crime they’re trying to solve.

Your murder wall should include:

Speaking at the right event to the right people is targeted marketing that works very well for lawyers

– The events your targets are most likely to attend

– The associations trade bodies they are most likely to be members of

– The publications/websites they’re most likely to read and therefore that you should be producing content for

– The potential speaking slots you could court to get in front of them,

– The sources of industry/local news you can tap into to make sure you understand their issues and have enough to talk credibly about what’s going on in their worlds

Progressing the majority of these lines is going to involve some cost but as it is far more focused, it is a cost that is much more likely to generate a return on your investment.

An introduction through an existing contact or friend can be a great way to gain new business relations

However, there is an even faster and more cost-effective route to your new targets (admittedly this is for commercial rather than private client practice).  If you have your brand cameo you can build a target list and once you have that list you can identify potential ‘warm’ introductions.  You can see if they bank with or are audited by the banks and accountants you know and if they are, you can ask for an introduction or work out a way you can get them round the table at a social event so you can meet them.

Alternatively you can run them through LinkedIn and see if you have a common connection you could ask to introduce you.  This is a tactic we hit upon by accident but have employed to great effect for our own clients.

This tactic is almost full proof and I can’t think of one example where a client has tried to use this way in to a new conversation and been rebuffed by the person they’ve approached for the introduction.  And better still the only cost involved is a little time and the chutzpah to ask!

If you are on the private client side this exercise does work for potential new referrers.  If you can identify the types of professionals who refer you most work (for a wills/probate solicitor it may be small local IFAs or the tax advisers in mid-tier accountancy firms or for a residential conveyancer it may be you are better suited to the more specialist high end agents than the traditional high street agents), you can easily identify new organisations to pursue all for the cost of a cup of coffee.

If you would like to put any of the ideas in this post into action we have templates for both the ‘coffee plan’ and for the ‘murder wall’ exercise so if you’d like me to email those over so you can get started, please don’t hesitate to ask.

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Doug McPherson

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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