After spending more than two decades as a legal marketer, both in-house and as a consultant, I have found these to be the three most effective business development activities:
• Conduct client visits.
The single most effective marketing technique which leads to immediate business in the vast majority of cases is to visit your clients at their place of business.
This visit is not for the purpose of discussing a current matter you may be working on (unless the client wants to, of course). Furthermore, the visit should be off the clock.
You can drop by for any number of reasons: relationship building, listening to their concerns, learning more about their business, meeting other people you haven’t met before or touring their facility. The point is to get into the client’s workspace where their day-to-day problems are found.
These visits can build on your existing relationship, but can also lead to immediate work. This has been validated many times by lawyers I have worked with over the years, and in my own personal experience as a practicing attorney. I would estimate that roughly 80-85 percent of such visits result in immediate new business.
Even if your key clients are located out of town, the cost of an air ticket and lunch/dinner is not going to break the bank. Believe me – it’ll pay off.
• Entertain clients and referral sources.
Entertaining obviously can take on a variety of forms. But it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Taking an important client to a ball game, or just to lunch, is still one of the most effective ways to build on a relationship.
Clients are people too – as a colleague of mine preaches, they want to be loved. What makes entertaining so effective is that it allows quality time with a client or referral source and makes the relationship more personal.
Building that emotional bond between lawyer and client is very important for business development purposes, and can also lead to lasting friendships.
• Seek client feedback.
It continues to amaze clients that more lawyers do not seek their feedback on the legal services provided.
Over the years I have met with dozens of clients, and heard that they (1) welcome opportunities to provide feedback, (2) wonder why their firm hadn’t asked sooner, and (3) are surprised that more of the firms they use have never asked.
What is a good time to ask for feedback on how your firm did, or is doing? I’d suggest asking at the conclusion of a matter, as well as on an annual or biannual basis.
Typically clients are flattered to be asked, and in my experience most of the comments are favorable.
That makes sense – if they didn’t like your firm, they’d be using someone else. Further, it is much better to ask before the client leaves for another firm, particularly if there is a problem that could be easily rectified.
Feedback can be obtained through a written survey, by telephone or by in-person interviews. The most effective surveys are those done in-person (preferably by a third party, e.g., the managing partner vs. the lawyer working on that client’s matters).
The next best is by telephone, but you can pick the most economical way, depending on your budget.
This need not be an expensive process, but it is an extremely strong way to build on an existing relationship in these difficult times.
There are a number of other business development techniques that lawyers can undertake to gain more business. My top ten marketing practices are set forth in my blog LegalMarketingBlog.com (Search for “Kane’s Top Ten Marketing Tips”).
But not all of them are as personal or as face-to-face as the three noted above. That is why I rate these as the most effective, particularly in a down economy, because of the opportunity for relationship building that they provide.
Remember, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. The important thing is to get out of the office to visit, entertain and seek feedback from your key clients.
Tom Kane, Esq. is the author of the Legal Marketing Blog (www.LegalMarketingBlog.com) and president of Kane Consulting, Inc. A former practicing attorney, he has more than twenty years experience assisting lawyers with their marketing and business development strategies and coaching needs.