Would you rather spend a lot of money on paid advertisements and social media marketing, or invest time to cultivate your relationship with your law firm’s clients? As the owner of a small law firm, your choice will greatly affect how fast you can grow your legal business.
This is not about choosing between advertising tactics over customer relations. Rather, this is about knowing how you should prioritize these two important elements when running your
law practice. As the market becomes saturated with competitors offering legal services, marketing is essential to differentiate yourself as a practicing lawyer and to widen your network of contacts. However, it is only by building and maintaining good client relationships with your contact list that you can start moving towards success.
Below, Richard James, a law firm advisor and client management expert, discusses how making your clients happy can be the most effective ad for small law firms, and how you can protect this valuable asset.
In your profession, it is impossible to reach all kinds of customers. But you can definitely be the best in giving a specific set of products or services to the right group of customers. This “niche” is your client base which is the most important resource that you have. The business world would often refer to this as the social capital of a company.
Harvest your contact list. Who are your clients? When you’re starting out as the owner of a small law firm, it is crucial to determine who you will serve and how best you can provide service. The first step in knowing your customers is to identify where your “lists” are located. A list is any database or file that contains your clients and prospects. You can have a list of your Facebook followers, phonebook contacts, or even client profiles in an index card system.
Establish relationships with potential clients. Once your lists have been compiled, you should have their’ best interest in mind. At this stage, the “lawyer and client relationship” must be given priority if you want to expand your network. A satisfied client would likely give referrals to family and friends in need of legal advice.
Expand your network. There are other ways to add clients to your list of contacts. You can attend events and forums with like minded individuals. This helps you in two ways: first, by promoting your law firm’s brand identity, and second, by opening up the possibility of lawyer referrals from a colleague who is familiar with your professional conduct.
Once your client base starts growing, focus should not only be in adding numbers to the contact list but also making sure that customers are satisfied with your service. Building and maintaining relationships with clients require customer-focus and consistent communication with them throughout the case–even after it is completed.
Think like a customer. To improve customer experience, you must understand their needs. As a lawyer leading your own law firm, you need to wear the hat of a client and a service provider. Ask yourself: What do your customers expect? What did you do before which led to an enhanced customer experience? When do interactions with customers occur? How is the level of customer engagement in your small-firm? Figure out the best possible quality customer service you want your own law firm staff to provide. Create a plan based on your insights and implement these every single day.
Find other ways to reach your asset. Give customers the choice on how they can conduct business with you. Do you offer online consultations, phone or video appointments or just face-to-face meetings? A client may opt to retain another firm because of convenience and ease of doing business. As a managing lawyer, you should adapt to your customers and not the other way around. With the current digital transformation, you may be tempted to manage relationships with customers purely online. However, some individuals still prefer receiving the traditional mail versus email, and others prefer using messaging apps on their mobile devices when talking to a lawyer.
Continue improving the customer experience. Customer satisfaction comes when clients feel that your attorneys understand them personally and have their best interests in mind. When a law firm owner successfully gains a client’s trust, it will yield customer retention, and word of mouth referrals. Various customer relationship management (CRM) software such as InfusionSoft can help you retain relationships with potential leads and clients by managing and protecting customer data. But don’t rely 100% on a CRM tool to manage your lists. You need to have to make sure that client data is entered into your CRM-system correctly. So while you want to protect your contacts’ confidentiality, you also need to audit their data regularly.
Indeed, you clients are your law firm’s most valuable (and often unnoticed) asset, and the key to protecting this asset is building client relations founded on trust. This is a task that will involve not just the lawyer managing his business, but also your employees or associate attorneys interacting directly with new customers and current clients.
Create rules of engagement. Whether you have the traditional contact book or an electronic database, you need to have rules in place that will determine who can access your client list. Part of gaining your client’s loyalty is making sure that their data will be protected. There may be sensitive data such as personal preferences that go against what your employees believe in. In this case, you need to create procedures on how to deal with different types of clients.
Start building trust early on. People nowadays go online to look for information about their legal problems or when deciding to hire a lawyer. If your business provides them answers, then you have begun building trust even before you meet with a prospective client. And once a client connects with you, you should be open and honest about legal costs and procedures. If a client asks for something that you cannot do, learn to say no rather than avoiding disappointments.
Get help when needed. The most valuable asset in your law practice is your client list and your relationship to those individuals on the lists. Remember, your firm allotted time and money for every lead and appointment and making sure this all leads to a good customer relationship is ideal in the business sense. So if you’re running your own small practice, aside from harnessing your internal member’s relational skills, consider external services to help you build better relations with clients.
In particular, a law firm business consultant can provide you with practical guidance and rich insights. Law firm consultants like Richard James specialize in the business side of running a small law firm. As law firm advisors have worked with numerous law firms in the past, they can give you a list of client strategies, and guide you in creating your business plan, setting up internal processes, case management, selecting your marketing approach.
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