How to Grow Your Client Base Without Promoting Yourself, Part 1

Traditional marketing isn’t working anymore and it perhaps never worked well for professional service providers such as lawyers. Traditional marketing once involved print ads (newspapers, magazines, billboards, phone book, etc), TV ads, and radio ads. More recently, marketing advanced to mass cold emailing of advertising material (aka, spam). Now, every online video is polluted with pre-roll commercials, which are skipped by 94% of viewers within the first 5 seconds, by the way.[1] All these approaches are marketer-centric and interruptive. Even banner ads, a more targeted advertising approach, are so widely ignored that a term exists for it: “banner-blindness[2]. Consumers have lost their taste for marketing that pushes out sales pitches. Law firms should leave any such advertising efforts in the past.

The current trend in online marketing is to attract targeted, prospective clients using inbound marketing techniques that draw prospects in. The key is content. In bound marketing is perfectly suited to lawyers because it shuns blatant selling and relies on quality content. The challenge for lawyers is to understand how to use informative content to bring in the right prospects.

Inbound marketing

The basic ingredients of inbound marketing are a web site and/or landing page[3], a blog, and selective use of social media. When combined skillfully for an appropriate length of time, the combination should produce the targeted, prospective clients that you really want. But just like any recipe, execution is critical. Carelessly tossing together ingredients in some random fashion might well produce nothing more than a big waste of time.

Unlike marketer-centric traditional marketing, inbound marketing focuses on addressing the needs of your target market. It is customer-centric. Rather than promoting your own capabilities (you as centre of attention), you promote solutions (their problems as centre of attention). Clearly, you reveal your professional capability in the process of being helpful, but the focus is always on your target market. Self-promotion is not only unnecessary, but would undermine your inbound marketing effort. And that suits most lawyers just fine.

So, how would this work in practice? Using old-school advertising, you might have a display ad in a publication, or equivalent information on your website, that includes practice area, years of experience, your claim of trustworthiness, etc.:

How to grow your client base ad example

Whether the advertisement appears on a printed page or somewhere online makes little difference. It is pure self-promotion. It requires the prospective client to believe your claim of competence without any real proof. It does little, if anything, to build trust.

The inbound marketing approach begins with content, usually a blog post. Your blog might walk home-buyers through the purchase process, explain clauses of a purchase agreement, address the steps in obtaining a mortgage, or dissect differences in mortgage instruments. Any topic that is helpful to your target market of home purchasers is a good topic. Posts show that you know something and that you are generous with your knowledge. That begins to build some real faith in you as a problem solving professional.

But you need to do more than sit and hope that prospective clients will stumble upon your excellent blog. More on that in Part 2.




Better client retention through better lawyer-client relationships, Part 2

Part 1 of this post, at Better client retention through better lawyer-client relationships, demonstrated that the right communication with clients is important to preserving the lawyer-client relationship for both small and large firms. While most lawyers believe that they are doing a fine job, too many clients are dissatisfied with the type of communication they receive. While lawyers saw a good explanation of law and of fees to be valued communication, clients wanted more updates, better listening, and less arrogance. Not even positive legal results saved lawyers with poor communication skills from the real possibility of being replaced.

But if lawyers are rather oblivious to their communication shortcomings, as the data suggests, how can they change? There are a few things you can do to analyze whether a problem exists and then to address it.

Start with a look at your objective data. Has revenue from “steady” clients shown a decline? Has it been ages since you’ve heard from certain clients? Have referrals slowed?

What do clients want from their lawyers?

In a study by BMI Consulting reported in the article, “What do clients want from their lawyers?”, it was found that declining revenue too often went unrecognized as a sign of corporate client dissatisfaction.

These clients generally did not tell the demoted primary law firm of the

changes in status; they just spent less and less money with the primary law firm—

and more with another secondary law firm—until the law firms’ roles reversed.

According to BTI, most primary law firms did not recognize dwindling annual

billings as a red flag until it was too late…

The survey results reported by BTI indicate neither outcome nor cost of services were the most frequently mentioned causes of dissatisfaction.

Rather, 53% of corporate counsel expressed dissatisfaction with communication from the previously primary law firms.[1]

Of course, not every client dissatisfied with communication is in the process of jumping ship. Your data may not show much. It could mean that you are already doing a fine job of communicating. But an absence of data is hardly conclusive. So, simply ask your clients.

Open the communication line – ask for client input

The best way to know if there is communication problem is to ask for client input. Email a short survey through a professional service such as Google or Survey Monkey that tallies results. And be sure to provide at least some text boxes for open-ended responses. While multiple-choice answers are easier to tabulate, they restrict replies and can produce misleading results. You might also have clients fill out surveys as they sit waiting to meet with you. There is always the option of stunning clients with a friendly call through which you glean the same information. Or, you might hold a social function and create the opportunity to speak informally. The objective is to open a line of communication that informs you about how well you are communicating. Just showing that you care enough to ask may set your firm apart and, in itself, aid in client retention.

[1] “What Do Clients Want From Their Lawyers?”,  Clark D. Cunningham, Journal of Dispute Resolution, (2013), Volume 1.