Legal Sector Marketing – Developing Client Relationships

We are all aware that acquiring a new client tends to cost in the region of 10 times more than the cost to retaining a client. Additionally, if you analyse your business source statistics you will more than likely note that 80% of your total revenue comes from around 20% of your clients. So, bearing this mind, it would make sense wouldn’t it, to focus your marketing activities on your client base to not only keep their value to the business but also to provide the opportunity to add value.All businesses will be aware of the importance of cross selling the full range of services to their customers, but in reality very few professional services manage to put in place and maintain a strong internal referral system and so cross selling remains at best ‘ad hoc’. The opportunities missed that would add value to the bottom line are considerable!In many professional practices, the relationship with clients remains largely passive, possibly because they are uneasy or lack confidence with the notion of ‘selling’. To be honest, I sympathise with that feeling, especially when you consider that most people (including myself) do not like to be sold to. However, once you have a client it is absolutely vital that you do as much as possible to keep them as a client. You’ve done all the hard work of winning a new client, so now you need to encourage them to use your services again and again. Perhaps rather than looking at it from the perspective of ‘selling’, it may be more appropriate to talk about ‘building client relationships’.So how can you build client relationships?Recording Client Information
Well the first thing that you must do is keep your database up to date. Time and time again I see firms that do not consistently collect email addresses or post codes. I’ve also seen firms that collect the data, but do not enter the information on to the data base. If you have incomplete information then how do you expect to communicate with your clients? If possible, you need to also record and be able to segment your clients by the service they have used and whether they are a commercial client or a private client.Educating Your Staff
Issues around cross selling exist throughout the firm, so it is important that all the partners are on board with the idea and that this is filtered down to all fee earners, support staff and don’t forget to include those on reception. You must lead by example and carry out refresher exercises otherwise staff will fall back into bad habits. I will talk about rewarding your staff later.Educating Your Clients
It is all too easy to just focus on the service being provided, but while you have the client in front of you talk to them about what they need and the benefits of the other services you provide. Perhaps give an example of how you or a colleague helped another client (you don’t have to mention names).Take the opportunity to introduce the head of conveyancing or your employment law specialist depending on who is most relevant to the client’s circumstances. If you have remembered to collect the email address, then your colleague could drop your client an email re-introducing themselves and provide a link to the relevant service page on the website. Remember, every client that has purchased from you in the past is a golden prospect for someone else in your firm, but if they are not aware of how you can help them then in many ways you are failing them.Communicating Regularly With Your Clients
Another way to educate your clients is to communicate with them through other channels. E-newsletters, direct mail campaigns, seminars, regularly updating your website etc are all great ways to keep in touch and inform. However, a word of warning….. be very careful about the type of language you use. It is fundamental that you talk to your clients in a way that they will understand. This means that you should minimise the use of industry jargon and maximise the benefits to them of using your services. Essentially, always answer the question “what’s in it for me?” from the client’s perspective.Go the Extra Mile
Be different! Once you have finished with a case, don’t just file it and forget about the client until next time. Schedule a telephone call to see how things are going perhaps a month after the case has been closed. The client will not only be amazed that you care, but they will remember you when it comes to needing legal services in the future and if you’ve done a good job they will also recommend you to family and friends.The other benefit to your firm is that by going the extra mile, you will differentiate yourself from the competition and ultimately keep them away from your clients.Measure and Reward Success
All the above may need a change in the culture of your firm, but the long-term benefits will be worth it. To ease the change and to get people on board it will be necessary to reward success. This could be through recognition, a percentage share of the fee, reciprocated referral or perhaps vouchers.Always measure where your work comes from so that you can see what is working and what is not. For instance, if you are spending thousands of pounds on Yellow Pages advertising then certainly you will want to be sure that you are getting value for money…the same applies to internal referrals. Sometimes, you will know exactly where a piece of work comes from, but if you don’t then you must ask the client and then record it.Oh…and did I mention that it feels great to be able to refer work to a colleague? No?…well it does!

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