In coordination with Jim Hassett of LegalBizDev, the ILN put together a series of five educational webinars available to member firms on a monthly basis. Jim is the founder of LegalBizDev, which helps lawyers to develop new business by applying best practices from other law firms and professions through coaching, webinars and workshops, retreats and much more. Jim comes highly recommended by the Legal Marketing Association, who regularly relies on his expertise for their conferences and webinars. More information about working with Jim and his colleagues can be found on their website.
The second webinar, How to Protect and Increase Business with Current Clients, took place on February 25, 2009. Jim described the session: "Although lawyers equate marketing with finding new clients, marketing experts agree that the best place to start marketing is with the clients you already have. Relationships with current clients are especially critical in the current economy with threats to your practice coming from two directions: from hungry competitors trying to steal your clients, and from budget cut-backs by the loyal clients who remain. This presentation will describe how to protect and increase business by assuring that current clients perceive you as a trusted advisor who is providing high value."
Some of the highlights from the session include:
*Everything attorneys need to know about business development could be summed up in seven words: Meet the right people, advance the relationships.
* In the case of current clients, Jim said that the attorneys already know the right people. He went on to cover three points, emphasizing that client satisfaction is urgent, asking how satisfied the audience's clients are, and calling them to action.
* Client Satisfaction is Urgent: To make this point, Jim referred to studies by BTI Consulting in 2008, ALM Research in 2006, and the Rainmakers Toolkit. He explained the current clients are the best source of new business and that research shows that 2/3 of revenue increases come from current clients. Additionally, the chances of new business are 1 in 2 with existing clients, 1 in 3 with past clients, and 1 in 8 with new prospects. Focusing on current clients has become even more important in the current economy, which Jim called "defensive marketing." He said that with competitors trying to take current clients away and leading firms focusing on delivering more value, long-standing client relationships may be threatened by financial pressures. Jim quoted Steve Barrett, the former CMO of Drinker Biddle, who said that it can take five years to get back in with a client once you've lost the trusted advisor role.
* How Satisfied Are Your Clients?: Once the audience sufficiently understood the urgency of client satisfaction, Jim moved on to ask how satisfied their clients are. He asked them to choose a top client or, in the case of litigators, a referral source, and to rate on a scale of 1-10 how satisfied their client might be, with 1 being a client who was extremely dissatisfied, but hadn't yet gotten rid of the firm, and 10 being a client who was so satisfied, they couldn't wait to go home and tell their partner about all the wonderful things their lawyer had done for them that day. Jim cautioned that for those rated 8 or lower, they were in the danger zone, because 60-80% of clients who leave say that they were satisfied. For those who rated their clients at a 9 or 10 for satisfaction, Jim asked them to consider whether they were sure about this, because many clients find it hard to respond negatively and some people overestimate satisfaction. To illustrate this point, Jim showed a chart from Inside Counsel's 2008 survey of large law firms and clients, who had each rated the performance of the firm on an A-F scale. While 42% of lawyers gave their firms an A, only 17% of clients did. Jim then went on to discuss some action items the attorneys could take, first saying that the degree to which lawyers need to focus on client satisfaction depends on the type of work they do. It's less important for firms who do "bet the company" and commodity work, because results and cost are the keys to success, respectively. However, for those who do work that companies classify as "important," success depends on client satisfaction. Jim gave a few tactics for litigators to use with their referral sources before moving on.
* What should you do?: In terms of calling the audience to action, Jim started by encouraging them to think about the service providers they work with. He asked whether technical expertise or the way they treat them matters more, and said often, it's how you are treated that matters. He relayed Gerry Riskin's tips for how to "bulletproof your crown jewel clients," including listening, understanding their needs and meeting them, genuinely caring, and showing that they care, being responsive and handling problems, and offering something "cool." Jim said that these things can show a client that their attorney thinks they're important.
Jim also talked about the Association of Corporate Counsel's Value Challenge, which says that "most traditional law firm business models...are not aligned with what corporate clients want and need: value-driven, high-quality legal services that deliver solutions for a reasonable cost." He said that this is part of a much larger trend that's been happening in other industries for decades and went over how these past and future trends will look, emphasizing that value will be more important than social relationships. As part of these trends, Jim spoke about alternative fees, and suggested that the audience look at the LegalBizDev Guide to Alternative Fees, available for free download on his website.
* Jim summed up by saying that increasing client satisfaction is easy, but failing to focus on current clients is equal to marketing malpractice. He also challenged the audience to follow up on the presentation using the action items in the provided handout.
The webinar recording and materials for this second session are available to ILN member firms at a low cost- please contact me for more information.