Whenever I get writers block, I like to look at my old standby source of inspiration, 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals authored by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick at Levick Strategic Communications.

As I have preached, preached, and yes preached some more over the past 10 years, the quickest, fastest, swiftest (okay, okay I know ENOUGH already) way to get new business is to visit your clients off the clock. And fortuitously this week, the marketing meditations for Monday through today deal with that very point. They are:

  • April 20: “Visit all clients. Visit clients across the street. Visit clients around the world.”
  • April 21: “Visit clients without an agenda.”
  • April 22: “She who visits clients comes back with work.”

That really says it all! If you would like to read more of my posts over the years on this topic, look here for several of them.

So, start planning your visits to KEY clients, at least.

 

From the very beginning of this blog, I have urged lawyers to visit their clients (off the clock) at their place of business (also referred to as their “problem space”).  It often results in immediate new business.  It worked for me, and many attorneys I’ve coached over the years said it worked for them.

That is why when I first posted my Top Ten Marketing Tips in 2005, I made it my No. 1 most effective tactic for getting new business.  It still is!  And there is no matter tip I can give as we begin 2017.

Below is a post from April 22, 2015 that could serve as a good place to start reading about doing so, and contains a link to many other posts on the topic over the years:

Visit Clients, Period!

Whenever I get writers block, I like to look at my old standby source of inspiration365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons For Marketing & Communications Professionals authored by my friend Larry Smith and Richard Levick at Levick Strategic Communications.

As I have preached, preached, and yes preached some more over the past 10 years, the quickest, fastest, swiftest (okay, okay I know ENOUGH already) way to get new business is to visit your clients off the clock. And fortuitously this week, the marketing meditations for Monday through today deal with that very point. They are:

  • April 20: “Visit all clients. Visit clients across the street. Visit clients around the world.
  • April 21: “Visit clients without an agenda.
  • April 22: “She who visits clients comes back with work.”

That really says it all! If you would like to read more of my posts over the years on this topic, look here for several of them.

So, start planning your visits to KEY clients, at least.

For some lawyers, this is like preaching to the choir and may simply serve as a reminder for them. For others, hopefully, you start visiting your clients ASAP.

For years – I mean for YEARS – I’ve preached that the most effective, usually immediate way to get new legal business is to visit your clients at their place of business. It worked when I practiced law, and I saw the strategy bear fruit repeatedly as both a law firm marketing consultant, and when I was an in-house marketer.

In fact, I made it my No. 1 Top Marketing Tip in my seminars a long time ago, and highlighted it on this blog nearly two years ago – and in a couple of posts since (here and here). So, why don’t more lawyers do it?

Wait a minute! I’m getting a flash..… I get it, you don’t believe me! Now my feelings are hurt.

I know many rainmakers who do believe, as well as many consultants, including Tom Collins and Michelle Golden, both of whom have recent posts on the subject. They cite a survey conducted by John Remsen of the The Remsen Group. John’s November 2006 reader survey (with 138 responses) found that visiting clients was the most effective marketing tactic according to 59% of respondents. In second place was “organizational activity” (12%) and third, “firm-sponsored seminars” (9%). Not the most scientific survey, but impressive nonetheless.

Now, do you believe me? You will, if you give it a try.

Your success in landing new clients, or retaining existing clients for that matter, can relate directly to how they are treated when they contact your firm. I have commented in the past on this blog about the role of the receptionist and how important he or she is in terms of the impact it makes on visitors or those who call. For a couple of my posts on the topic, see links below. 

In a recent post by Noble McIntyre on Attorney at Work, he addresses telephone etiquette. Why should you care you may ask?  Because the telephone is probably your main source of contact with the outside world.

First, McIntyre talks about automated phone answering systems and other impersonal ways people are sometimes treated when calling law firms.  I actually know of law firms (albeit small ones) that had no human answer the phone.  Rather, they had automated systems requiring several prompts to get to an individual lawyer or a human.  I totally agree with his comment that such systems “can raise time barriers, frustrate callers and make your practice seem impersonal.”  Crazy, in a personal service business!

Here are a few of McIntyre’s common sense telephone tips:

  • Answer promptly before the third ring.  We live in an impatient world, and although three or more rings are not the end of it, punctuality when it comes to answering the phone is a VERY good idea;
  • Whoever answers needs to do so in a most professional manner, and in a most “pleasant tone of voice”;
  • Don’t have someone else (like the phone company’s computer) record your outgoing message;
  • Don’t give the person the runaround or make them go through a bunch of hoops to just learn that your are not available and they can leave a voicemail; and,
  • Train your receptionist as to who is who, especially when it comes to important clients.  The second time I called my son’s law firm, the receptionist recognized my voice immediately.  Granted some might say I have the voice of a rhinoceros, and maybe that wasn’t so tough for her.  But, I was blown away.  Think how your clients and contacts will feel.

I’ve often made the comment that the receptionist should be the highest-paid marketing person in a law firm, just as a cashier should be in a bank. Ridiculous I know, but think about how important they are.  They are first and foremost the front line of contact with prospects and most clients. And you need to have one that has the proper etiquette and demeanor to handle those calls.

Don’t Fire Your Receptionist…

Receptionist Tells Client to Get Lost

 

Doing a little extra for clients can have big benefits. No brain surgery here. Simply provide clients with extra attention, help, education, and otherwise build on the existing relationship by value-added activities.

In a very succinct article by Stacy West Clark in a recent issue of The Legal Intelligencer, she lists “Twenty Things You Can Do for Clients for Free.” It is well worth a read. I like so many of her suggestions, that it is hard to pick out my favorites, but here are a few that pop out:

  • Visit your client off the clock and listen to what they have on their mind. As Clark says “If you do nothing else on this list, do this.” (I completely agree and have it as my No. 1 Top Marketing Tip for lawyers. Moreover, often times lawyers return with more client work);
  • Conduct client seminars. (Not just for CLE, but other sessions that will help them in their business and save them legal costs);
  • Attend industry conferences with the client to learn more about their business (and you might just pick up other similar clients while you’re there – or at least make some great initial contacts);
  • Offer to have your accounting and/or IT staff sit down with theirs to hash out client preferences in those areas;
  • Invite clients to come in and brief the firm’s lawyers on their “goals, obstacles and challenges, and the kinds of services” they want from outside counsel; and
  • Don’t charge for quick emails and telephone calls, but include them on the bill marked “no charge” (I’ve liked this one for a long time, and it gets the point across that you do provide services without charging them every time).

There is a lot more in Clark’s artice. You don’t have to adopt all 20 of her suggestions, but I’m sure you can find a few that you would be comfortable doing, at least for key clients. Many of them will increase your value to clients; and they are neither hard nor expensive.

It’s not too late. There are still a few weeks of the holiday season to go, before the doldrums of January set in. Go visit your key clients (okay at least those that are local) and referral sources to thank them for their business/referrals, and take them to lunch or dinner.

Also, take along an appropriate gift. Or send one at least.  Sorry, don’t have a bunch of new ideas this year, but you can look over my “holiday gifts” posts of prior years. I still like most of them.

Also, send a holiday card. Yes, a holiday card. Quickly. But make sure you sign it personally, and include a short note, such as “hope you have a terrific holiday season” or whatever. Write something to show you care enough not to just send the firm’s unsigned, impersonal card. Here’s another post of mine on this topic.

You may be surprised what comes of all this in 2010, if not sooner. 

It has been a couple of years since I looked at 365 Marketing Meditations: Daily Lessons for Marketing & Communications Professionals. This handbook of snippets produced by Richard Levick and Larry Smith of Levick Strategic Communications, is a goldmine of useful, pithy sayings useful to the legal marketing community.

 

I picked it up today for an idea for a post (okay, okay, I’m having writer’s block). Today’s meditation is:

 

“Observe a small need and fill it. If a client complains mildly about how his phone wire is always getting tangled up, send him a phone line detangler! He’ll think of you every time he makes a call.”

 

Irrespective of the fact that the world is mostly wireless these days, and the fact that I don’t have a clue what a “detangler” is, the advice is still valuable. 

 

So, what does/do your top client(s) need? You don’t know? Hmmm.

 

Do your competitors’ know? Could they find out? Hmmm.

 

Visit and talk with (i.e., listen to) your clients. Today, April 23rd is a great day to start.

Doing a good job for your clients, keeping them informed, not overlawyering or overbilling, treating them with respect, and visiting your clients off the clock are just a few of the ways you can bring value to your client relationships.

Jim Durham, formerly CMO at Ropes & Gray in Boston, spoke to the Delaware Valley Law Firm Marketing Group recently and equated the phrase “Listen to Your Clients, Stupid” with the KISS truism.

Not only is listening to clients simple, it is vital IMHO.

Jim’s speech, as recounted by Julie Meyer on Law.com’s Small Firm Business, addressed successful marketing principles AKA listening to clients by providing value and seeking feedback.

Some of Jim’s suggestions included:

  • Asking clients for input to your business plans,
  • Communicating effectively,
  • Seeking and responding to client feedback,
  • Listening to clients (at least 50% of the time, I might add),
  • Showing clients you care, and
  • Offering alternative fee options.

Retaining clients basically boils down to whether they value your services, and that may equate to whether they had a good experience in dealing with your firm.

Jim also highlighted two signs where clients may not have had a good value experience:

  1. When a firm is asked to respond to a client’s RFP, and
  2. A client mentions the name of an attorney with another firm in response to the “Who is the best lawyer” you have ever worked with?

So again, how would your clients value your services?

Law firm clients often complain that their lawyers do not understand their business. It frustrates them to have to educate their outside lawyers about the issues they deal with, and which their attorneys need to understand, to represent them properly.

And that is only part of the relationship a law firm should seek with their clients. At a client meeting last week, I emphasized to a group of lawyers the importance of making friends with their clients. My point was that if the lawyer and client have a true friendship, there is no reason to worry about another law firm taking the client away.

In addition to knowing a client’s business, lawyers can build on a friendship by helping their clients prosper in their business. Ed Roach over at Small Business Branding discusses a number of ways to do that in his article “Feel the Love”, or what I might suggest shows that you’re a real friend by:

  • Talking them up to others, when the opportunity presents itself,
  • Referring potential customers to them and let them know about it,
  • “Be(ing) honest” and admit when you make a mistake (helps avoid malpractice suits),
  • Buying their products, if at all possible,
  • Supporting their favorite charities, and interests,
  • Treating everyone in their organization with respect,
  • Increasing your face time with the client (see my No. 1 Marketing Tip), and
  • Of course, delivering your best effort every time.

To borrow from the quote by J. Wallace Day about keeping friends close and enemies closer, I might suggest that in a down economy, one should keep their family close and their clients closer. 

My colleague Jim Hassett over at Legal Business Development blog talks about some scary stuff that is occurring to law firms in the current economic climate . He recounts layoffs of lawyers and staff in NLJ 250 law firms, the large and well-known firms that have closed in recent years, how it is harder to become an equity partner, and so on.

 

Not all firms are hurting, and with the state of the financial world, there will be plenty of litigation for sure. But, there will be plenty of pain to go around as well, and the legal industry will not be spared.

 

His point: stay close to your clients and colleagues, and one way to do that is to “set up a free meeting with a top client or referral source.” I would include all key clients in a “client visitation” program, since it is the single most effective business development tool, as I have mentioned before. And, I would do so whether your firm is experiencing pain in the current economic downturn or not.