One of the myths we work hardest to dispel is that business development has to mean networking which in turn has to mean formal networking events … and, therefore, if you can’t network, you can’t market.
Some lawyers use this as a means of getting off the hook; “I’m no good at networking so I’ll just concentrate on doing my work and that’ll be enough”. However much more often, the vast majority of lawyers are actually marketing every day. They just don’t know it because they’ve been force-fed ‘marketing is networking’ nonsense since training!
Do law firms neglect two out of three sources of work?
So if marketing doesn’t have to be networking, what could you be doing? Or more importantly, what are you doing as a natural extension of the ‘day job’ that can very much be counted as marketing?
If we start by going right back to basics, there are three sources of new work – new clients, existing clients and professional contacts/referrers (all of the ideas I’m about to cover here will work equally well with referrers as they will with clients) but for some reason professional service firms still think their marketing should be focused solely on winning new clients.
This is by far the hardest nut to crack. If all your marketing time and effort is going into new client acquisition, how much time is left to look after, keep and grow the clients you already have? One of the first things I always suggest to clients is: Flip your marketing priorities so existing clients come first. After all they’ve already chosen you, they like you and they’re used to paying invoices with your name on it. Instead of taking these relationships for granted, work harder to develop them.
Do lawyers love emails too much?
The first area to work on is service delivery; how can you adapt the way you work together and communicate to make things easier for the client? Every contact you have with a client can be used to strengthen your relationship, just by making some very small tweaks. For example, instead of always emailing, speak on the phone. It will allow you to explain things quickly and efficiently and in language the client understands and will probably save you both from entering into an email chain that will take hours rather than minutes to conclude.
Talking about everyday stuff like your client’s personal/sporting interests, their family or their holidays allows you build more of a personal connection. Some lawyers may find this a wee bit uncomfortable, but that connection is the foundation of an open and long-term working relationship.
And it gives you the perfect opportunity to get in touch when you don’t have work on. I know one senior lawyer who uses major golf tournaments as one of his main BD strategies. He has a WhatsApp group involving his key clients and referrers and they discuss what’s going on in the tournament as it unfolds. It keeps them all in contact and front of mind … and it generates work!
Closer to home I’m a member of quite a few of our clients’ Fantasy Football leagues. I’m doing it (rather badly) anyway so it’s no time commitment and it gives me reason to exchange a few emails here and there – usually covering just how poor my performance has been that week – which keeps me in touch with a good number of people I need to be in touch with.
On a more practical note it also allows you to get your entertaining right. I often hear clients bemoaning the fact they’ve paid a small fortune for football/cricket/rugby tickets but either “can’t get rid of them” or don’t get any return from them if they do. If you know exactly what your clients do and don’t like, you’ll get more acceptances from more of the right people which will curtail your marketing costs and boost your ROI in one fail swoop.
Your clients want you to get to know them, and their business
Similarly, and outside of the sporting arena, you’ll also get to know your client’s preferences. You’ll find out who likes coffee and who likes beer, who likes breakfast or lunch or dinner, who likes you to visit them and who likes to come into your offices. The better you can align your approach to your clients’ preferences, the more flattered they will be and that will only improve your relationship and the better your relationship is, the more likely it’ll be that your relationships will generate more opportunities and/or referrals.
In addition to making better use of day-to-day conversations or more formal BD activities like corporate hospitality, marketing doesn’t need to be any more complicated than arranging the odd catch-up.
This is where things can get tricky and when we talk to our clients about setting up these more informal meetings we’re often told “but they’d be too busy” or “I don’t have anything to talk about”. However the fact is – and we do have empirical evidence to support this as it’s asked for in pretty much every service interview we do for our clients – your clients really do want to see more of you outside the specific matters you have on. They want you to know more about their business so you can look after them better, they would often value your perspective on the issues affecting them and their businesses and they even want to know how else you can help them.
If you can engineer an opportunity to chat through any or all of those things, you will strengthen your relationship, win new work and position yourself perfectly for future opportunities. One step removed, these catch-ups can easily lead to potential introductions to their wider personal and professional networks which could lead to even more opportunities.
Surely that is the very definition of successful marketing?
Are you doing marketing but don’t even know it?
I shall leave with you a true story I picked up while talking to a marketing director of a good sized law firm up in the north west of England. He was telling me about one of his senior partners who is brilliant at generating work but steadfastly refused to acknowledge he does/needs to do any marketing. Said marketing director asked him to go through his previous working week and the partner explained the other day he had gone to the cricket with some clients then enjoyed a light supper with them afterwards, which led to him being asked to double check some licensing contracts.
He’d also played golf at the weekend with some people he’d been introduced to by another client and actually he’d need some help putting together a soft tender doc introducing the firm as one of the golfers was interested in giving their firm a try.
The previous night he’d been at his club where he’d spoken to one of the other members and he’d been asked to quote for some advanced due diligence work. On the way out he’d been collared by a local accountant he knew who said to ring as there may be something in the offing.
There were some other things but he couldn’t bring them to mind as it had been a busy week and he hadn’t been in the office that much and anyway he needed to run because a client had asked him if he could recommend an employment specialist and he was taking one if his partners down to meet him that afternoon.
And this was a chap who didn’t do/need to do any marketing … largely because, unknown to himself, he was doing a whole load of very effective marketing every day already.