1. Focus (because leader firms are more profitable)
Leader firms are those with a big reputation in profitable client sectors. Their reputation means they are automatically in the running for new work from clients in their target sectors. That work gives good margins. There’s plenty of it. And leader firms can do it better (and at a lower cost) than less focused firms because they’re geared up to. Look for emerging areas, which your existing expertise can take you into. It’s the old maxim about being more likely to hit the bullseye with a rifle than a shotgun.
2. Adapt fast
Every firm has a strategy, whether formal or not — a consensus on the sort of clients it wants, the reputation it needs to develop in order to get them and to differentiate itself, and what it’s going to do about it. But when circumstances change unexpectedly — as they’re always doing — good firms adapt fast. Be alert to developments that affect your clients, reputation or activities, and make sure your people, structure, culture and processes will help you adapt faster and better than competitors when you need to.
3. Get your good people in front of clients
A priority for marketers has always been to get your good people in front of clients at the right time (when the client needs legal help). You used to be limited to face-to-face contact at seminars, networking and hospitality events, but social media sites like blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter allow fee-earners and clients to have conversations all day, every day. Get out there, and get heard among all that online noise. And if you can’t tackle this yourself, get help with your social media strategy.
4. Know how clients choose
There are certain things that affect what a client “feels” when they instruct you — elements that contribute to their experience of your firm. They don’t consciously score you on each but if you get one of them wrong (for that client), it jars, and they’re less likely to come back. Here’s our top eight. Have we missed any?
- Your services.
- Your people (not just fee-earners).
- Your structure.
- Your pricing.
- Your processes (including your use of IT for admin — such as billing — and for client work).
- Your accessibility to clients (physically and electronically, off and online).
- Your promotional activity (not just to clients, but also to the people you’d like to work for you, and referral sources).
- Your “joined-upness” (if a client is dealing with two departments, do they still feel like they’re dealing with one firm? Is your lack of joined-upness costing them time or money?)
5. Trust your marketers
Solicitors would rather be advising clients 100% of the time than dealing with marketing and management issues. It goes straight to your sense of self-worth and you could fill your timesheets every week. To that end, firms employ (and will soon be sharing ownership with) people with marketing and business qualifications and experience, who have proved themselves in other industries and, often, other law firms. Their input could prove to be invaluable.