Recently in Client Relations Category

May 27, 2011

Let the Message Match the Medium - Legal Marketing Blawg Update

For those who follow me here at my perch at Nolo's Legal Marketing Blawg, you may have heard my webinar on niche practices, or read my post on specific niches such as representing Baby Boomers or African Americans or Latino business owners. Interesting enough, but how do you pitch your niche? In other words, how do you reach your target market of prospects that is most likely to hire you?

I can't answer that question specifically. depends on what your niche is and who your target clients are. In my case, I represent small renewable energy developers who find me online through blogging or hear me speak at conferences . For landowners whom I represent in siting cases, I've found online e-books highly effective because they objectively educate landowners about a complicated regulatory process, and in doing so make me a trusted information source.

Increasingly, though, smart phones are becoming an important tool for targeting certain populations who rely on mobile devices more than the average. I've noted that evidence shows high use of mobile devices by African Americans and moms. Now, a recent study shows another group - English-speaking Hispanics -who are more inclined to use cell phones than non-Hispanic whites. According to a Pew Study referenced in this CNN piece, not only do Hispanics use their cell phones more often (87 percent own cell phones versus 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites), they also use their cell phones more often and use more features. In fact, in Nevada, a cell phone text messaging campaign was used to organize an Hispanic voter registration drive. Based on these examples, lawyers targeting Hispanic clients might focus on mobile-optimized websites, delivery of information by text and phone apps.

As lawyers, we're natural communicators but often, we focus on what we say. But when you target a niche practice, how and where we communicate our message to clients - whether it's through a blog or an ebook or a smartphone - is just as important as what we say, perhaps even more so.
December 6, 2010

Should You Give Holiday Cards the Stamp of Approval?

December is here, the month when a lawyer's thoughts turn to holiday cards -- or more accurately, when lawyers start to panic, wondering whether it's too late to send cards out or if it might just be easier to send an e-card instead.  So briefly, here's a quick run down on how to handle holiday cards for 2010.

1.  Should I send holiday cards? 

For some lawyers, holiday cards are a longstanding tradition that goes unquestioned.  If you fall into that group, chances are your holiday card campaign is already underway, so there's no need to change it now. 

But if you're a new solo on a tight budget or a lawyer who's been busy and hasn't gotten around to holiday cards, you ought to consider whether sending them makes sense.  While holiday cards aren't a big ticket item, they're not all that cheap either.  Assuming around a dollar per card and 41 cents for postage, that's $141 for one hundred cards; money that you might otherwise spend on CLE or books for your law practice.

Moreover, that $141 isn't necessarily money well spent.  Many clients who receive your holiday cards simply don't notice them in the rush of all of the other holiday mailings.  Roy Ginsburg, a lawyer- coach advises not to bother with holiday cards, explaining that when he served as in-house counsel, he received few that were memorable.  In fact, the ones that stuck out most to Ginsburg were those that didn't coincide with Christmas or New Year's but rather, celebrated other odd events like Elvis' birthday.  Other lawyers favor sending clients birthday cards rather than holiday cards, which are also more likely to stand out.

In short, before you jump on the holiday bandwagon, consider whether the effort and expense that goes into holiday cards will pay off either in the form of referrals, or even building more meaningful relationships with colleagues and clients.  If the answer is no, don't do it.

2.  But if you do send cards, abide by these rules....

If you do send holiday cards, here are a few simple rules to follow from All-state Legal.  First, personalize the card with a meaningful, handwritten message.  If you can't think of anything to say or don't have the time to personalize, you're better off shortening the list of recipients.  Second, make sure that cards go out by December 15.  Any later, and they'll be caught in the downtime between Christmas and New Year's.  If you can't meet the December 15 deadline, then wait a couple of weeks and send New Year's cards instead. 

3.  and no e-cards, period

E-cards, particularly generic ones rather than custom design are cheap and quick. But most people don't like getting them and won't bother opening them. There's an even more compelling reason to avoid e-cards: they may be laden with computer viruses. That's not the kind of gift you want to give to colleagues or clients.
4. What are some alternatives to holiday cards?

If you've got the budget, why not send a mini-calendar or notepad in lieu of holiday cards.  The advantage with these items is that recipients will see them year round.  By contrast, holiday cards get filed in the trash can when the new year arrives. 

Another option is to host a low key, impromptu holiday get-together for colleagues - perhaps a morning breakfast in your office conference room or at a local coffee shop.  For $141 - the same cost as sending 100 cards, you could comfortably host a dozen colleagues.  And while you wouldn't reach as many people as with a holiday card campaign, the goodwill that you achieve with a breakfast is far more likely to generate business than a less personal card.

Finally, if you're strapped for time and money, why not take a few days between Christmas and New Years to call colleagues on the phone and wish them well; perhaps set up a get together for 2011.  The last week of December is fairly relaxed downtime for many lawyers so you wouldn't be imposing on their time.  Plus, phone calls are cheap and it's faster to make a dozen calls than it is to address the same number of cards and write personal notes.

5.  A free gift for you!

If you do decide to send holiday cards, here's a nice freebie. Check out SHutterfly's promotional deal here: 50 free SHutterfly holiday cards to bloggers who write about the service at their site. The offer is good through Friday December 10, so you'll need to act quickly if you're interested.

August 27, 2010

Why Law Firms Should Wow Their Current Clients

Everyone's familiar with the old adage that a a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Yet no where is that advice more important, or less frequently heeded than in a service profession like law. All too often, lawyers direct their marketing budgets and personal energy at attracting a steady stream of prospects, yet scrimp when it comes to impressing existing clients.

Compare the effort that many lawyers devote to attracting prospects versus how they treat existing clients. The lawyer who once offered a free consult to a potential client now bills for every ten minute phone call now that the client is engaged. The lawyer who readily skipped lunch to meet with a prospect, now takes a week to return phone calls after she's been engaged. The lawyer who thought nothing of paying $100 for leads that could generate a $1500 matter now charges the client for postage and hands the client his documents in a cheap manilla folder because the lawyer is too cheap to pay a few more dollars to provide the client with a nicer looking packet that might really make a good impression.

It's not surprising that lawyers don't pay more attention to service. After all, most lawyers are results-oriented and figure that a client's experience doesn't matter so long as the lawyer attains a good result. In addition, in contrast to auto-service where customers return repeatedly for check-ups and other problems, most consumers of legal services - whether it's a criminal case or preparation of a will or a bankruptcy - rarely have a need to return to the lawyer once the case is closed. Thus, lawyers may figure that they won't get much return on investment in customer service since few clients some back.

Most of these assumptions are misplaced. Though competence counts more than cheeriness in handling a client matter, even so, most clients who are paying a significant sum of money for a service want to be treated well, as a matter of basic courtesy. In addition, while many clients don't necessarily bring in repeat business, those that do represent low-hanging fruit: as I showed in this slide deck, you'll spend 11 times more to bring in a new client than to generate business from existing clients.

Finally - and most importantly, even if satisfied clients don't have more business

So why is maintaining ties to clients so important? Several reasons. First, it's cheaper to get business from your present clients. As I noted in this previously posted slide deck, it costs a whopping eleven times more to bring a new client through the door than to mine existing clients for business. The statistic makes sense - we're all familiar with the enormous resources involved in getting your name out just so that a prospect can find you and thereafter, closing the deal. With existing clients, the expense of bringing them in is virtually eliminated, because they already know who you are. Moreover, having hired you once before, most of your past clients trust you - so the only hurdle left is convincing them of a need for additional legal service.

Of course, not all lawyers get (or want to get) repeat business. Many legal matters - such as bankruptcy, criminal law and family law involve one time situations rather than an ongoing relationship. Even there, however,

lawyers will reap rewards from treating clients well, because they'll go out of their way to refer clients, or at least, provide a favorable testimonial, which is also a valuable benefit. In fact, that's the whole strategy behind online shoe company Zappo's iconic customer service: the company recognizes that customers who are bowled over by Zappo's great service will recommend the company to others.

So what does it take to treat clients well? It's not rocket science. For starters, put yourself in your clients' shoes, and think about the experiences that thrill you and alternatively, those that tick you off. For example, no one likes to be nickel-and-dimed -- an experience now common when traveling by airplane; so don't charge clients for ten minute phones calls and postage.

Other ideas include offering special services to clients - perhaps a free or low cost annual review of a will or incorporation that you've already prepared. The ongoing service keeps clients from even thinking about using other firms. Further, if you happen to learn of a change in the client's circumstances while undertaking the review, the client might retain you to make the necessary corrections. You can also use new mobile tools, as described here to send coupons to a webinar or a free consultation to clients that they can use themselves or pass on to a friend. Free webinars are another extra that clients may appreciate.

But most of all, clients just want to be treated like human beings. Which means making it easy for clients to get in touch with you and leave a message. Or returning phone calls and emails when you promised to do so. Or just remembering basic courtesies like asking about your client's family or sending birthday cards.

To reference another adage, just as the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so too prospective clients may seem superior to existing ones - possibly richer or with more complex or interesting matters. But if you're always looking for business in another yard, you may neglect cultivating the clients right in front of you and in doing so, you may miss out on the many benefits that a loyal client base can bring to your firm.

February 2, 2010

Using Excellent Client Service to Build Brand and Market a Practice

All too frequently, lawyers treat law practice management and marketing as mutually exclusive matters.   Many times, lawyers invest considerable thought and resources in developing and implementing policies that allow them to effectively and efficiently serve clients, maintain files and collect payment.  Yet lawyers rarely mention these practices in marketing their services - and in doing so, they miss out on an important opportunity to distinguish themselves from the competition. 

Indeed, as this article by Gerry McGovern describes, your firm's law practice management practices are part and parcel of your firm's brand.  In McGovern's case, she judges banks largely on the usability of their online service and unfortunately, they don't fare well.  McGovern believes that's because banks treat customer service and IT issues separately - and fail to recognize how IT design can impact usability:

In fact, I have rarely, if ever, met a senior manager with more than a passing interest in the Web. They think this stuff is technical - something you give to the IT department.
Where customers spend their time is where you build your brand. Organizations need to stop trying to use traditional advertising techniques to create false images. For an increasing number of customers, you are your website. It's about time senior management woke up to that fact.

Unfortunately, in a down economy, are cutting customer service programs rather than enhancing them reports  That's a mistake, says Chris Coles, a CEO of HyperQuality, a customer service solutions provider quoted in the story, because quality service helps companies retain existing customers. 

When you market your law firm, do you describe to clients how you'll serve them?  If your firm has a 24 hour call return guarantee, a client portal, where clients can check the status of cases or Internet access in your waiting room, you should make those features part of the package that you sell to clients, along with your expertise and the results you've obtained in other cases.  And if your firm doesn't offer a suite of client friendly benefits, realize that it's not just a law practice management issue.  It's also a marketing issue that may be impacting the financial health of your law firm.