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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Never get complacent

Never get complacent


Douglas McPherson advises firms on maintaining client retention, revenue growth, and access to the new ideas that will keep their businesses fresh

For parties all along the political spectrum, the recent general election campaign has shown the dangers of complacency. It is a timely lesson for law firms of every shape, size, and specialism that still believe 'doing a good job is marketing enough', or that just because they are the biggest firm in their town, region, or sector, existing clients will remain loyal and new clients will keep coming.

The commercial truth is that whatever your market share, however strong your marketing position, and however faithful your clients, other firms are working hard to take your client base from you and are constantly evolving their message and how they deliver it. Now more than ever, you cannot afford to be complacent.

2. Adapt your messageOnce you have the required insight, revisit the message you are promoting. Is it still relevant to your market? Does it still reflect what your clients want from their lawyers? Does it still reflect what you are as a business or have you outgrown it?

While you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater and transform beyond all recognition, you can make minor refinements to what you say and do. Every refresh and every new dimension you add to your service offering gives you a perfect opportunity to go out into the market and put yourself back in the forefront of clients' thinking.

3. Consistency is key Every effort you make to improve your client relationships needs to be a firm-wide initiative. Similarly any new message or proposition needs to be adopted by every practice area, although the articulation may be slightly different depending on the area and make-up of the respective clientbase.

This must be done as one firm, not a collective of sole traders: complacency will only be displaced if everyone goes in the same direction.

Continuity is also vital; don't make a promise, act once, and then let it all slide off the radar. Clients will react more negatively to promises broken than to improvements that were never made.

4. Keep your friends close but your clients closer

Your business relies on remaining visible to your friends (your referrers, professional and industry contacts, and targets). However, your priority must be to stay closer still to your clients.

Engineer (credible) reasons to see them as often as possible: offer training, to sit in on a board meeting, to produce a procedural guide they could use internally, offer an intern, or just take them out to their favourite restaurant for a review of the year past and the year ahead. There is a myth that 'my clients are too busy to see me' but the results of your research will report the opposite.Finally, try to build multiple bridges between your firm and the client. Identify the team involved on each side and put similar people of similar rank together and give them a small budget to allow them to further the social side of every relationship. The more bridges there are between you and the client, the stronger your relationship will be (and the more insight into how to develop that relationship you'll get).

I'll be the first to admit that none of this is new. All of these principles are used religiously by corporations under the umbrella of key account or client relationship management.The reason they invest in it as heavily in they do is because they know it generates real results. They know these ideas are fundamental to maintaining client retention, revenue growth, and access to the new ideas that will keep their business fresh, relevant, and attractive. They know complacency can never be an option.

Douglas McPherson is director of Size 10 1/2 Boots and author of The Visible Lawyer and Package, Position, Profit

Here are four simple principles you can introduce into your marketing and business development strategy to help you safeguard against complacency:1. Ask your clientsYou will never build your firm into the best business it can be without talking to your clients. A little interactive client research (and by interactive I mean using informal and formal conversations, not electronic questionnaires) will give the insight you need to progress.You will find out where you strengths are, where you need to improve, which areas you should be promoting, how to refresh your message or proposition, what really adds value, how your clients like to be looked after, and the ways they prefer to receive your

legal updates, industry perspectives, and other marketing communications.Even if these interviews only serve to confirm what you thought, the fact you have initiated the conversation will generate invaluable positive PR.