If you’re like most lawyers I work with, you’re probably reluctant to raise your fees given the tough market your clients face.

Yet have you considered how the expertise and value you bring to clients grows over time? Often, fees lag behind that growth.

Many firms I meet are pricing their services too modestly for the value they provide. They perpetuate the problem by promoting themselves as the leader in their field with a ‘reasonable’ price.

Top clients don’t expect low fees for the services of real experts. They know that when hiring professionals they get what they pay for.

When was the last time you raised your fees?

If it’s been more than a year, it’s time to consider a change as I am sure your cost base is on the rise.You might worry that you’ll wreck your competitive position if you change your fees in a tight market. But remember, the state of the economy won’t impact clients’ perceived value of your services – assuming you’ve done a good job expressing that value.

Focus on value, not price

To decide if you need to rethink your fee strategy, ask yourself a question or two: Is the value you bring to your business keeping pace with the value you’re bringing to the market? How are we better this year than last when it comes to delivering ‘value’ to our client base?

If you are still struggling to justify an increase then consider what you can do different so as to avoid becoming seen as a ‘commodity product’.

Consumers, including business-to-business, fall into one of three groups.

Price-only shoppers (20% of the market) These will never spend a penny more than they feel they have to. They’ll drive across town to save five cents on a litre of petrol. They see themselves as frugal and, unless you have the lowest price, you will not get their business.

Top-Quality Shoppers (10% of the market) This group will never settle for less than the best and they can usually afford it. Quality is #1 and they know they’ll pay more for it. Low prices will chase them away.

Value Shoppers (70% of the market) This group will spend more for something proven to be superior. When no proof is evident, price, again, becomes the default decision-maker.

The secret of human psychology in consumer spending is this: if you can show REAL VALUE, then price does NOT become the determining factor. BUT, if two products are presented, SIDE BY SIDE, without a clear distinction between them (or, as we like to say, “apples to apples”), then PRICE is the default consideration. And who can blame us? Would YOU pay more for exactly the same thing that you could easily buy for less? Not likely!

Alistair Marshall is a Partner with Julian Midwinter & Associates (JMA). He has helped leading law firms, accountancy practices, retail banks and household name corporates attract new clients and win more new business for over 25 years.