Big Law is Moving Forward, Are You? 7 Tips for Client Development

Anyone who’s attended a conference knows that some presentations are average, but occasionally (hopefully) you run across a gem.  Such was the case with the recent 2016 Legal Marketing Association conference in Austin, Texas, where BTI Consulting Group of Boston knocked it out of the park – like Big Papi.  (Full disclosure…I’m a Red Sox fan.)

BTI President, Michael Rynowecer (“rinnow – wiser”), and Principal Jennifer Dezso, gave their discussion the provocative title, “Big Law Wants to Crush You Like a Bug:  How to Turn the Tables.”  I came away with the impression:  here are the things Big Law is doing and why you should pay attention.  BTI informally surveyed law firm CMOs over the past five years, and part of their research revealed the aggressive direction Big Law is pursuing – and what your firm might learn.

BTI placed the biggest of the Bigs (AmLaw 1-20) in the first tier of its study.  At this level:

1. Big Law will spend 33.8% of its marketing efforts on Client Development.  That rate is roughly one-third greater than the percent allocated by the firms in the tiers below them.  POINT: Big Law has chosen to pursue clients aggressively AND has dedicated a portion of the budget to achieve Client Development goals.  How does this compare with your strategy?  (BTI emphasized its penchant for asking of any major, new initiative:  Does it have a budget?) * 

2. Invest more in fewer activities.  This just makes common sense.  For example: a best practice in using social media is to focus on 2-3 platforms you will do well with and where you will dedicate regular time and effort to follow up (either directly or via a social media manager).  Acute attention in fewer areas will position you as an authority on the subject.

When comparing efforts of Marketing and how those efforts contribute to Conversions, BTI suggests:  to maximize your business development, concentrate your time and effort on: 
- Industry Teams
- Client Teams
- Client Referrals
- Client Feedback
- Client Proposals

(See a theme?)  Other areas of lesser importance, with respect to Marketing and Conversions, included traditional advertising, directory listings, social media, and blogging.**

3. The single most important item to convert:  Client Feedback.  Not convinced?  The complete thought is: …to convert Client Feedback into revenue.  My prior posts on Client Feedback (What Do In-House Counsel Really Want? and Insights for In-House Counsel) should confirm that a) you should be doing it, b) because GCs consistently say they welcome it, and c) it can supply you with a wealth of actionable data that could strengthen your client relationships and catapult your level of success.

BTI’s client feedback research noted the merit of asking valuable questions about how the client utilizes other firms and how the client determines the worth delivered by other firms.  Ask questions like: How does the client use outside counsel; Why haven’t they chosen to work with you; and What opportunities are being left on the table.  You should come away with actionable intel.  …that last part is essential:  you can derive success by obtaining client feedback and acting on it.

4. How much service do you provide?  “Location, location, location” was memorable phrase from the early days of advertising.  Today’s version might be:  “Service, service, service.”  According to BTI, Big Law’s top 20 take Service forward one more step by asking clients not only to assess the firm’s performance, but also to talk about the other firms the clients use and where those firms perform well and poorly.  The goal:  learn how the client would prefer you serve them, so you avoid doing what they dislike and uncover opportunities to outperform on service. 

5. Build a client team – not only to address the legal situation at hand, but to serve as a business partner to your clients.  Big Law doesn’t only ask the traditional question, “What’s your legal issue?”  Their desire to partner with their clients stems from an understanding of the long-term goals, vision, and impact.  Thus they will ask a client, “What’s impacting your business?” in an effort to expose and assess risk – and then leverage the legal team accordingly.

6. Consistent, systematic.  In point 2 above, I mentioned the Social Media best practice of focusing on maintaining only a few platforms that you understand and can maintain regularly.  BTI’s survey rightly suggests:  systematic, thematic social is required to gain traction.  Thus, I re-emphasize, you’ll not only need to select a few key platforms and have a regular presence there, but someone to give it regular attention, cultivation, analysis…and systematization for efficiency.

7. Market of One.  BTI suggests that instead of considering your firm or practice as a whole – you should look at it from the client’s perspective, and realize: each client is a market.  We are in an age where we can tailor marketing approaches to specific niches.  Taken to an extreme, you would be spread too thin to actually serve.  A more ideal approach is to consider the extent to which you can successfully deliver tailored service(s) to your clients, and create a repeatable system and template(s) for doing so.


Want some motivation?  See this article from Mark Curriden:  Texas Legal Market Undergoes a Seismic Shift.

*If you have a solid sense of your firm’s purpose, such that it permeates all of your work and how you work – then new initiatives can be more easily screened against that foundational purpose to determine fit with culture, mission, and budget.  Flip Cat trains and advises lawyers and law firms on discovering, developing, and growing revenue based on foundational purpose.
**Social Media and Blogging ranked much higher than traditional ads and directory listings – closer to the midpoint on BTI’s Conversion Success scale.  These tactics should be planned in advance and can be automated for time efficiency and measurement.  They are important tools to prospective clients because they explain your story and build your online credibility in the eyes of the prospect.  Plus – you control the message.  Because both can be planned and automated/executed in advance, they can run in the background while you focus on higher-order and more client-centric objectives.  Flip Cat provides training and implementation of social media, blogging, and other communications strategies.  
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