Why do they constantly have new matters landing on their desks, matters that they didn’t even know about before the instructions arrived? What is the secret ingredient that they use to market their services?
It should come as no surprise that most of this work comes from existing clients.
Learn from the past
In the good old days the most successful lawyers were well known by everyone in the local community, they were important community figures and were on all the important committees and boards and they had a high quality network of clients, referrers and advocates that ensured they had a constant stream of work to distribute among their legal colleagues.
Fast forward to today and lawyers are faced with competition from within and outside the profession in the form of other lawyers, non-lawyers or online businesses trying to work out how to deliver services more effectively.
Providing professional services is normally viewed as a reactive rather than a proactive process. The client has a need and seeks out a service provider to satisfy that need, just ask any lawyer, accountant, doctor or dentist.
So how can a professional service provider, like a lawyer, change this? How do you change the dynamics so that as a service provider you are involved in setting the service agenda and ensuring a constant stream of recurring income for your business?
Education and communication, that’s how.
Learn from other professionals
Let’s explore the typical dental practice. If the dentist relied on the customer voluntarily turning up on a predictable and recurring basis to have their cavities fixed they would quickly go out of business. Their workflow and revenue would be unpredictable while their overheads remained the same, not an ideal situation.
So, instead of waiting for customers to turn up at random, the dental industry has successfully educated the public about the value of regular dental check-ups as a proactive approach to dental health and to prevent more expensive (and painful) dental services being required
There is now even an expectation from patients that you will be contacted by your dentist to be reminded that a check-up is due and that you will require their services on a regular and recurring basis.
If we examine this from a marketing perspective the dentist is essentially ensuring that they provide a service, albeit what might be viewed as the most basic dental service, to their whole client list at least once per year and in the process they are creating predictable and recurring revenue.
More importantly they are generating an opportunity to create more work. Every time they see a patient it is an opportunity to provide another service.
Simple things can generate work for your law firm
So what should lawyers learn from this and where do you start:
Start with your current clients. It is generally easier and more cost effective to keep existing clients happy than it is to find new ones. If you engage with them regularly current clients will also become a source of new work via referrals.
“Conventional business wisdom contends that it costs 10 times as much to obtain a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer” (Pricing for Profitability: Activity Based Pricing for Competitive Advantage by John L Daly)
Be proactive rather than reactive. Just like the patient who knows they need to go to the dentist, there are bound to be clients who are putting off going to see their lawyers even though they know they should.
Reviewing and updating estate planning related issues is a good example – clients will often put this off so you should remind them that they need to review their estate plan at regular intervals.
Educate your clients. Make sure your clients know what you do and how you can help them. Communicate with them regularly identifying areas where legal problems commonly arise or where a change in the law has resulted in clients needing to update policies or procedures.
These clients need your help they just don’t know it yet.
Don’t treat this as a one off. Develop a process for regular communication with your clients; provide them with legal updates on topical legal issues. When you do get to see them they will appreciate that you have communicated with them by providing helpful legal information.
You are then able to discuss other issues that they may want more information about, creating more reasons to communicate.
Systemise your business. This includes all aspects of your business, use your practice management system more effectively for matter management, time recording, workflow, document production and credit control.
Then implement a recurring marketing (communication) strategy, even if it’s just a newsletter.
Think outside the square. Promote simple recurring services that enable you to leverage the power of your technology and also communicate regularly with clients. Think outside the square, work out a way to provide the service at a reasonable rate so that you can provide it regularly, cost effectively and profitably.
There is no silver bullet for generating more work for your law firm; it takes planning and hard work.
However, it’s not hard to get started. If you create a plan and commit to communicate with and help your existing clients you not only develop a closer relationship with them, you will also stimulate demand for your services and encourage spinoff and referral work.