Back to basics
Cross selling strategies and marketing plans should not to be the domain of a specialist within a firm, often it's the smallest things which everyone can contribute to, which have the biggest impact, says Doug McPherson
While it seems to remain flavour of the month for the commercial practice areas, when it comes to the private client sectors, it is arguable whether wholesale CRM (client relationship management) will ever work.
Yes, updating clients on specific opportunities (whether that's an email update on a particular legislative change, notification of a new service they may be interested in, or a good old fashioned reminder that a will review is overdue) should be central to any private client team's marketing plan, but formal client care visits? Structured client development plans? Sophisticated cross-selling models? Surely that is all overkill when it comes to serving the individuals and families who make up your clientbase?
Yes, I'd agree. In addition I'd also suggest all your marketing should be underpinned by a concerted effort to ensure the highest levels of service are maintained and, where necessary, by improving your delivery model so that your clients always enjoy the highest levels of response and accessibility. After all, there is nothing more likely to cause a client to look elsewhere for advice than poor service and it has to be said, nothing more likely to prompt a client to refer you to one of their friends than good service, which makes your investment in service doubly important and doubly productive.
However, regular marketing communications and service levels aside, do formal client care visits, structured client development plans and sophisticated cross-selling models have no part to play in a family, probate or trust team's business development? I would suggest that it does, though for it to work, the focus needs to be slightly more lateral.
For the private client solicitor, professional referrers of all shapes and sizes are your life blood. Their ability to direct clients towards you makes them, alongside your current client base, your most potentially productive source of new business. But, despite the potential of this source of work, can you say - hand on heart - you are managing your referrers as well as you can be?
If the answer is 'no' (or even 'not quite') I would like you to christen 2015 the year of RRM, referrer relationship management.
Before we look at practical ways of reinvigorating your referrer relationship model, let me make two promises.
First, I know that you probably don't have the luxury of the volume of business development resource behind you that someone like wealth management giant Investec has, so everything I suggest will be self-manageable.
Second, I know you have a day job so time is going to be as tight as your budget, that's why everything I suggest is based squarely on the 'little and often' principle.
Here are five suggestions which you can put into practice immediately.
You will know a lot of professionals and you need to be in touch with all of them in some way. However, only a few will ever grow into truly productive referral relationships. Highlight which of your contacts fall into this group and make sure the bulk of your planned activity is focussed on them (and is based on their preferences). The rest can be taken care of with less sporadic meetings, team events, email and a bit of 'engineered serendipity' courtesy of shared networking activity.
An 'I saw this and though of you' (STATOY) recommendation works better than the cleverest marketing campaigns when it comes to building personal relationships with specific individuals. Cut out a relevant article and post it over to the right contacts, or even just email over a link to something online you know will be of interest. This demonstrates how seriously you take your key relationships, how willing you are to invest your own time in their progression and that each contact is front of mind. And remember it doesn't have to be work-related; sports, travel or food and drink content works just as well if not better.
Take time to think about how you can add more value to your relationships, not just how you keep them ticking over to benefit you. It may be internal introductions, client introductions, introductions to other professionals in your network, an offer to speak at or co-host a seminar, or to provide content for a client newsletter or intranet. It may be the provision of additional services the contact needs for a particular client. Whatever you discuss and agree on, one thing is for sure - the more help you provide, the stronger your relationship will become.
Use what your firm already has
If you take time to identify the introductions you want, identify who within your firm already has the link, or a link you could exploit to meet the person you'd like to meet (LinkedIn is invaluable here). Once you know which of your colleagues can make the necessary introduction, all you need to do is ask, and the whole thing becomes much quicker and more comfortable than cold calling and crossing your fingers will ever be.
Don't make excuses
When you're busy, what's in front of you can easily talk you out of doing the 'other stuff'; a catch-all that marketing sits squarely within. The only thing is if you keep finding reasons not to do what you've set out, you will not make the progress or enjoy the results you want. Make yourself a pledge that if it's in the diary, it gets done. You'll be amazed at the results.
Douglas McPherson is a director at Size 10 1/2 Boots
He writes a regular blog about marketing for Private Client Adviser