The arguments have concluded, the case is over and the economics are clear:

It’s cheaper and easier to grow your law firm through its existing clients rather than to spend more on acquiring new clients.

The more interesting question is why some law firm principals still do nothing despite this overwhelming evidence.

Is being too busy acceptable?

Lawyers are busy and don’t have time to do the things they should to grow their businesses, like establishing an ongoing relationship with clients. Most don’t try to keep in touch as it’s too hard.

The reality is, lawyers are running a business and if you accept that staying in touch with your clients is a good thing then you need to find a genuine business solution to the problem.

Why advertising is not the answer

When lawyers think of marketing they usually think of advertising. As I have written in many earlier posts, print advertising and the Yellow Pages has had its day and in 2015 you are better off investing your marketing dollars elsewhere.

AdWords and search engine optimisation (SEO) is a part solution, but not something every firm can afford or is interested in. Sure this may work for you – although there are plenty of firms who are telling me stories of huge associated costs. If money is no object, sure keep it up, but I think you should test the return on investment.

The issue I have with advertising generally is that it is the most expensive form of marketing you could do and it is usually done without the firm doing anything further to maintain the clients interest after the first matter is finished. To me that is a complete waste of a (high) advertising investment.

The importance of having a good website

Your website acts as a showcase of your firm to the world, it is your primary online presence so ensuring that it looks and functions in the way that visitors expect should be one of the most basic planks in your law firm marketing strategy. It works for you 24/7.

To put it bluntly, there is no point having a great website if no one knows it exists, so you need to drive traffic to your website and the best way to do that is highlighted below.

It’s 5 to 10 times cheaper to seek work from existing clients compared to new clients

The marketing work should always commence and continue with those who know and trust you – your clients. It’s cheaper to keep a customer than to go out and get a new one. It’s a widely held belief that in many industries it costs five-to-ten times more to acquire a new customer, than it does to keep an existing customer.

In Pricing for Profitability: Activity Based Pricing for Competitive Advantage John L Daly says:

“Conventional business wisdom contends that it costs 10 times as much to obtain a new customer as it does to retain an existing customer.”

Group statistics tell us that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing clients.

When it’s all said and done, being passive about client retention only leads to greater attrition. Law firms that play an active part in communicating with clients to keep them engaged and better meet their needs and expectations, are well on their way to achieving the prime objective of any client retention program; greater client loyalty.

Smart firms regularly communicate with all their clients all at once

In my experience making monthly visits to small and medium firms around Australia, as well as the feedback I receive conducting seminars, most solicitors are dissatisfied with the level of marketing their firm does; the firm’s lack of marketing co-ordination and the absence of an overall marketing plan.

So what can you do in your firm and where do you start? You can start by marketing to your existing clients and referrers and continue to do so. You should do this with a newsletter and it should be sent electronically rather than a hard copy.

You want to be remembered by all your clients and referrers when they need legal help or hear of someone who does. Sure your closest friends will probably always use you, but apart from that inner circle you need more help and you need to do more – much more.

A strategy that assumes everyone outside your inner circle of friends will remember you, should they need legal help, is ridiculous, and no strategy at all. So your marketing needs to be by way of regular communication; contain helpful practical information and at the same time say something about your firm and those in it.

When your clients or their friends have a legal problem, they think of you and your firm. You want them to also think of others – a neighbour, a relative or friend – who may need legal help too. You want to be ‘top of mind’ when they need a lawyer.

To use a good analogy, communicating with your clients is like tending to your garden; the more you water it and fertilize it, the more new green shoots will come through. And you don’t stop watering just because you see shoots coming through. Because you need to not only be doing the ‘today work’ you need the ‘tomorrow work’ coming in as well.

This idea is compelling – the problem is in the execution

Around the country law firms find this compelling, but do you think I could get law firms to actually send out regular and ongoing client communications? Not a chance. Even firms that said they would do it couldn’t manage it!

What then is the solution? The answer is you outsource it. It will not only get done, it will be done for less than you could do yourselves and on top of that you get analysis to tell you which of your clients are interested in what topics. Click here to read a case study where one firm increased their file openings by a whopping 61% over 6 months.

Conclusion

When it’s all said and done, being passive about client retention only leads to greater client attrition. Law firms that play an active part in communicating with clients to keep them engaged and better meet their needs and expectations, are well on their way to achieving the prime objective of any clients retention program; greater client loyalty, more work and higher profits.

About Peter Heazlewood

Peter-HeazlewoodPeter Heazlewood provides performance and marketing products that deliver control to law firm leaders so that they can enjoy the benefits that come with a more profitable and well run business.
He regularly presents to lawyers of small and medium law firms on management and marketing topics around Australia.

Peter draws on his experience as a practicing lawyer of over 25 years and for much of that time as Managing Partner; as well as his ongoing on-site consultancy with small and medium law firms across Australia and finally with the resources and support of Australia’s leading online law firm communication provider – Lift Legal.

Peter Heazlewood
Lift Legal
peter@liftlegal.com.au
0407 018 109