UK: 10 Steps In A Common-Sense Business Development Campaign For Small To Medium Size Law Firms - Part III

Last Updated: 7 February 2008
Article by Jon Hepburn

In the final article, Jon Hepburn from The Fedora Consultancy continues to provide practical business development ideas for small to medium size law firms.

With steps 7 to 10, Jon looks at networking, fine-tuning your service offering, evaluating the effectiveness of business development campaigns and finishes with a summary of the key points when starting your campaign.

STEP 8 Networking

Networking is about mixing with groups of people who have among them the sort of contacts you want to make. The key question is how to identify those people so that you can make contact with them and take them up the 'relationship ladder' mentioned earlier. You need to think about;

  • Who are you targeting and where are they?
  • What do they need and what can you offer?
  • How can you get to know the decision makers?

The benefits of networking, apart from potential business opportunities, are as a good source of commercial 'gossip' on market sectors, particular companies and information about competitors. It also helps build your reputation, creating a positive image and making a lasting personal impact

We probably all know about asking circulating and open questions, and obtaining permission to stay in touch, but what is often not known is that your physical appearance, body language and tone of voice are more important than what you actually say. More important still is your attitude.

At this point it is not about what you might get out of the potential relationship but on moving it forward and generating feelings of reliability and trust and finding out about the people you meet. Finally, don't forget to take the opportunity to do something of value for a contact that may be of interest to you.

Step 9 Fine-Tune Your Service Offering

Here, we are looking at giving your clients no reason to go anywhere else. Really knowing your clients can help make sure that you have your finger on the pulse when it comes to providing an excellent and relevant service. Provide the details that make the difference.

  • Even seemingly small touches can add a great deal to the perceived value of your service, such as returning client calls the same day or giving clear information about what the client can expect throughout the process.
  • It also helps you anticipate their coming needs so that you can develop your strategies accordingly. Some ideas that you may like to consider are;
  • Empower them: give them access to information that will help them make more informed decisions.
  • Give them preferential treatment e.g. a direct dial number to a personal adviser.
  • Reward loyalty with special discounts, for example, or invitations to hospitality events. Don't just use special offers to attract new customers.
  • Faster processing e.g. a fast-track service, facilities such as on-line check-in with major airlines, self-service checkout tills at supermarkets and one-click purchasing with Amazon. These all help the customer feel more special.
  • Make use of technology. I am sure you are aware of password protected on-line access to parts of a firm's case management system. Likewise, text message updates are increasing in popularity and are a good opportunity to explore.
  • Up-selling and cross-selling as mentioned earlier; you can sell additional products or introduce the client to other relevant services.

Further tips on client relationships that will be helpful for effective business development:

  • Your technical legal ability will be assumed but you will be remembered by the service you provide.
  • Clients need to be 'very satisfied' not just 'satisfied' for them to be loyal to and an advocate for your firm.
  • Clients are looking for an interactive relationship. Get to know your best clients better, spend money on them, get under their skin and find out how they like to be treated.
  • Build your reputation and ensure you deliver it. Leadership and the ability of the individuals in your firm to work towards a common objective are essential to providing a consistent service.
  • Client recommendations are the most effective route to new business. Clients that make unprompted recommendations are happy, satisfied and value their law firms. And it is always worth keeping this at the back of your mind. In business terms, a personal recommendation is incredibly valuable. A survey in 2007 showed that 85% of solicitors are chosen by recommendation.
  • Are there any problem areas that could be letting you down? For example, are you difficult to get hold of? Are your premises suitable? Do you have gaps in your professional service offering? If so, then make sure you address them and remember that complaints can be opportunities if handled correctly.
KEEPING CLIENTS HAPPY


  • Visit your clients - show them you care. Understand their business; research it and find out what their needs are – routine, explicit, hidden (personal and business).
  • Sometimes clients may ask to have only one contact with your firm, e.g. a partner to act as an Account Director. If this is asked for, do it. This applies to all types of communication, not just 'phone calls.
  • Ensure that your colleagues are introduced so that they know your best clients.
  • Make sure you provide an estimate if requested, don't exceed it unless you can justify the extra cost incurred. Phone them before you send your bill out.
  • Do get testimonials but don't assume you can use their name to promote your services.
  • Price can obviously be a factor in setting yourself apart from the competition but it is by no means the most important factor. Remember Value is not just about price.

STEP 10 Evaluation

Business development, like any other management process, has to show its worth to the firm - especially one potentially involving a considerable amount of expenditure.

At the start of any marketing investment, there must be an agreement between the senior management team, about measures of success and objectives to be achieved. Also you need to think about systems to capture and analyse both the investment in the business development program and the results of marketing activity. Get them on the table, agreed as soon as possible.

Recording and analysing certain activities such as the results of pitches or tenders is difficult. So is finding a measure that is meaningful for the complex chains of events often required when building relationships with new clients and actually doing work for them. Here are some simpler examples of what should be done as a matter of course:

  • Enquiries conversion rates
  • Sources of enquiries
  • New clients gained
  • Response levels to mail-outs
  • Awareness of campaigns
  • Customer satisfaction trends

It's about finding out what works and what doesn't. Measure the effectiveness, identify which areas of advertising spend generate the best business returns. Remember: 5-10% of your marketing budget should be devoted to making the remaining 90% of it work.

Summary Of Key Points

Firstly, from an internal perspective:

  • Business development is as essential as fee earning. In a wider sense, it involves influencing potential clients and introducers, creating good impressions, being innovative in terms of approach and winning a flow of new work.
  • Finding the time for it is difficult. But with pressure on achieving fee targets it is essential for the firm's long-term success. Perhaps we should think 'How much time can you not afford to spend on it?'
  • The issue of who is to do it creates much discussion amongst fee-earners at all levels within the law firms. As we know people "buy" people, so engage your interpersonal or soft skills, not just your technical knowledge. Above all, set about the task in hand with the right attitude.
  • For lawyers, the brand is the people providing the service. Work with clients to differentiate your firm. It's all in the delivery of your service.

And externally:

  • Careful maintenance of your client database, monitoring of responses and assessment of individual campaigns to identify trends is essential.
  • Your web site is a great medium for canvassing opinions of clients and potential clients and to enable them to update their contact details, as well as information about their current situation.
  • Focusing and targeting with a purpose. Choose particular sectors, target individual firms, make contact, establish their needs, and develop the relationship.
  • Communicate internally as well as externally. Something that is extremely important but where many firms fall down – communication.
  • What is your unique selling point? What makes people choose your firm over others? Is this how you want to be perceived? If not, change it.
  • If you provide the fastest conveyancing service in your area, let people know. If that is your key point of competitive advantage and something you want to be known for, make sure other partners and staff know its importance, as well as your clients.

Conclusions

The above are just some of the advantages of adopting a client-focused approach to your business development. It looked at techniques that you can start next week.

To conclude:

  • Work to an agreed plan. Identify the best use of your time and act on what you find out. You are dealing with a moving target.
  • It is vital that business development activities do not take place in isolation and that there is clear understanding as to what is being done and why.
  • You are not just after more business, but better quality business that matches your strengths. Don't say 'we do a pretty good job'. Make a commitment to exceed expectations; be more than just 'good enough'.
  • Decision-making processes need to be faster and more inclusive with an agreed strategic plan and budget to develop a high quality business development program that meets the needs of the firm, as well as your existing and potential clients.
  • It's not just pitches and meetings that generate opportunities; it's a way of thinking that should be adopted across the whole firm.

Article by Jon Hepburn from The Fedora Consultancy, a specialist marketing consultancy offering tailored services and support to law firms.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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