The impact of corona on people and organizations is huge. This includes lawyers and consultants. Assignments are delayed or postponed, and professionals who are normally very busy, find themselves ‘on the bench’. Therefore, they now have time for marketing and business development. What can lawyers and consultants do to be in better 'commercial' shape by the time the market place is recovering?
The corona crisis is firstly about the health and well-being of people. Secondly, current crisis measures have a tremendous impact on business and organizations. Since I also work in this sector I see the impact on professional services firms at first hand. It’s good to notice that the need to provide services 'remotely' already has resulted in many innovations, such as Skype sessions, online training programs, webinars, etc. That’s wonderful. It’s also a fact that many consultants and lawyers are suddenly able to do things for which they normally don’t have (or make) time. Such as marketing and business development.
What can lawyers and consultants do to be in better shape after the crisis? Here are 10 marketing tips.
1. Show that you care about your clients.
This is not a time for bold commerce but engagement and sincere concern. Make your clients feel that you care: call them, show interest, think along, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help them. Not with a business goal, but because you care about your clients. Obviously, there are limits to what you can do free of charge, but your client will surely understand this. Your client will appreciate your commitment, which will make it more likely that he or she will contact you once they need your expertise at a later point in time, but again that’s not your goal for now.
2. Sharpen your (personal) branding.
When a potential client reads something from you or hears about you, likely, he or she will first visit your LinkedIn profile and/or website, before deciding whether to contact you. The same applies when you contact a prospect yourself. What does your profile look like? Does it reflect you, and your values? It is up to date? Chances are that, perhaps due to lack of time, there is deferred maintenance.
On the internet, you’ll find numerous blogs about what makes a good LinkedIn profile. In my view, three things matter most: your headline, the summary, and your profile photo. Rather than only something like ‘lawyer’ or ‘partner’, say something more specific in your headline about what you do, for whom, and what the results are for your clients. Use keywords so that prospects can find you online, e.g. my profile (see example previous page). Be aware that many visitors don’t click to open the profile, and therefore only see the first 2 lines of your summary. So begin with what matters the most. Jesse Hartgring uses a headline that stands out, and begins his summary explaining what he does and for whom (see example previous page). And make sure that you use a professional and recent profile photo, on which you look approachable and authentic ‘as you are’.
3. Invest in attracting talent.
Despite the current crisis it still is very challenging for law firms and consultancies to attract good professionals. This will be no different after this crisis. Many organizations spend a lot of money on recruitment and executive search agencies, because they neglect what comes before and after the hiring process. These firms fail to effectively communicate what they can offer professionals (employer brand), and they don’t pay enough attention to those who have been hired, which results in a high staff turnover. They’re fighting a running battle.
Attracting and retaining the best professionals, requires close collaboration between marketing and communications, recruitment and human resources. Probably they all know, but for various reasons this often doesn’t happen. The current situation provides an opportunity to develop and implement a joint approach. Start a workgroup via conference calls, Skype or Zoom meetings that is not driven by the objectives of individual teams or positions, but from the perspective of the candidate. In such a way that marketing, employer branding, recruitment and HR strengthen each other, based on a clear Employee Value Proposition that fully aligns with the experience of your workforce. Make sure to take into account what your recruitable group drives. And what’s important from the perspective of Millennials, also known as ‘Generation Y’, who already represent roughly 35 percent of the potential recruits.
4. Sort out your relationships.
We all know that winning an assignment from people that are not familiar with you, usually requires a significant investment in time and money. Warm relationships are a professional’s lifeline. However, most consultants and lawyers are terrible at keeping track of things like ‘who do I know from which organization?’, ‘when did we discuss what and what did he say?’, or ‘the best time to follow-up?’. No matter how sophisticated your CRM system is, information which never got entered cannot be extracted. As a result, relationships are neglected which causes 'missing out on opportunities', and increasing efforts and time that is required for winning a pitch or new assignments. Lack of time is often the most important reason why data around your contacts are not up to date. Therefore, now is an excellent time to review and update your relationship information, and to decide who you will contact and when. And don't forget, if you decide to reach out to people on a short term, make sure you focus on how they’re doing and if you can help, and save your commercial proposals for later.
5. Develop a service based on current solutions.
I’ve seen many examples of organizations that, more or less forced by corona-related measures, have found new ways of helping clients. For instance, using tools for online collaboration, like Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or webinars, and online training programs.
Most lawyers and consultants still work with billable hours. A method with well known disadvantages like the lack of scalability, dependencies on specific individuals, and geographic boundaries. And last but not least: the less efficient you work, the more clients have to pay. It’s often difficult to migrate from selling time to value-based pricing. Since the current crisis already initiated innovative way of working; wouldn’t it be great if you could develop a new service offering based on your current experiences with working remotely, which would enable your firm to also help clients in an innovative, futureproof way after this crisis?
6. Write and repurpose blogs or articles.
As a result of the overload of information that is freely available on the internet nowadays, potential clients have become less open to messages from organizations (push), and want to decide themselves when they want certain content or a meeting, and from/with whom (pull). Hence, the strong rise of content marketing and inbound marketing.
The so-called ‘rule of seven’ teaches us that, on average, it takes 7 ‘positive interactions’ until a potential client is open to doing business. Publishing blogs or articles is an excellent way of creating such positive interactions, if perceived valuable by your target audience. However, this requires a significant investment in time. If you have some time left nowadays, it's a perfect opportunity to write several blogs which you can publish later. This way, you can maintain visibility in the market place once you are busy again. Before you start writing, make sure that you are clear on what the common thread in your content will be, based on how your expertise matches what’s high on the agenda of your target audience.
Also take a look into successful publications you or your colleagues wrote. Updating and partly reusing existing content takes less time, and is a very effective way of keeping your content up-to-date and relevant. When doing so, consider various options for repurposing content.
7. Create a ‘lead magnet’
One of the best ways to build online relationships, is when people subscribe to your newsletter or email updates. It is much more likely that people will submit their email address if you have something valuable to share, a so-called ‘lead magnet’. This can be anything: a whitepaper, a tool, a checklist, a video, as long as it’s valuable and easily accessible for your target audience, and different from what others have to offer. Do make sure that you don’t overpromise; at the end of the day you’re looking to build a relationship based on trust. If you want to read more about lead magnets, I recommend this article by Ian Brodie. And if you have spare time, it’s a perfect opportunity to develop a powerful lead magnet in collaboration with some colleagues.
8. Review existing content on your website.
If you and your colleagues have been creating content for a longer time, there are probably many articles and blogs on your website already. But is there anyone who reviews these articles regularly? Regular reviewing prevents outdated or irrelevant content being exposed to clients and prospects. For instance, content about a new expected law – which has been effective since 2018, or the announcement of an event that took place last year doesn't add value and probably results in an unprofessional preception. Furthermore, chances are that you come across strong articles that are still relevant, which you can update, modify and publish again with a limited investment in time. So when you review existing content, split all articles into three categories: keep, modify/update or remove.
9. Explore opportunities to increase use and usability of data.
Personalization based on client data, might be today’s most important marketing development. We’re all familiar with best practices, like Coolblue and Spotify. In this regard, the professional services industry is still at beginner level. At the same time, it’s simply a matter of time until you can’t afford sticking to a traditional approach; the question is not if, but when to adopt a data-driven marketing approach. And we already see examples of law firms and consultancies that are experimenting with personalized marketing, based on data from e.g. website analytics, their CRM system, their email marketing platform and social media analytics tools.
Implementing data-driven marketing isn’t easy. Often it is advisable to first experiment on a small scale, in order to gain experience with what works and what doesn’t. Try forming a small working group of fee earners, marketing and an IT professional. Map the available – or can be made available – client and prospect data, and how this data can be used for personalizing marketing tactics: step by step, one step at a time.
10. Learn from others.
Professionals are always busy with client work and internal business hassle. While it’s certainly good to develop ideas yourself, why reinvent the wheel when fresh inspiration is available just a few clicks away? Free up some time to explore marketing approaches of other organizations and professionals. Not to copy what they’re doing, but as a source of inspiration. Most law firms roughly follow similar approaches. Therefore, look for innovative initiatives, like e.g. the Dutch podcast series by Van Bethem & Keulen. And don't forget to look at other industry sectors. It's well known that looking outside your market often results in great innovations, so definitely look outside your box!
These were my 10 tips for professionals who now have time to invest in increasing their commercial strength, and be ready to act when this crisis is over. Of course, you don’t need to action all 10 tips; decide which ones make most sense for you and your organization. If certain tips are valuable but more applicable for your colleagues, then forward this article to them. If you have any questions or could use some help, feel free to contact me. I wish you luck and good health!
About the Author
Rob Meijers, founder of 4Future, is a strategic marketing, communications and business development professional, who specializes in helping law, consultancy and accountancy firms drive long term growth.