Guest post from Legal Futures Associate Osprey Approach
With almost 10,000 law firms across the UK, practices need an innovative approach if they’re to stand out in a crowded market and win new clients.
It’s a challenge that many firms are acutely aware of: the 2023 Lexis Nexis Bellwether report found that 81% of practices plan to invest more time and money on marketing strategies – three times higher than the previous two years.
But what about SME firms that are feeling squeezed and have neither the resource nor budget to increase their marketing activity?
The marketing trump card needed to outperform your competitors fortunately requires no (or little) budget.
Improving the client experience: your number one priority
For firms with no budget or resource, focusing on your client experience – and in turn your brand – is the best way to grow your firm. This is because five-star client reviews and recommendations are the cheapest marketing tool at your disposal.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel found that 82% of consumers felt reputation was important when choosing a provider. Your reputation is intrinsically linked to your brand and building an authentic brand requires adopting behaviour and habits that align with the firm-wide values.
Implementing a client-focused mindset
According to LPM’s 2023 Frontiers Report, 57% of SME law firms are prioritising improving their client experience.
Reviewing every client touchpoint throughout your practice, from the way you answer your phone to the speed of your email responses and how clients pay you, is how you can deliver an exceptional client experience – a service that inspires five-star reviews, glowing recommendations and has a long-term positive impact on your brand.
And importantly, it’s how you can attract new clients without costing you a penny.
Five ways to improve your law firm’s client experience
By implementing the following zero-cost changes, you will help to strengthen your firm’s brand positioning and reputation for the long term, which will not only help you to win new clients but retain existing ones too.
1. Define your brand values
Start by asking yourself what you stand for. Establishing your brand values is the first step to deciding what law firm you want to be and how you’d like to be perceived by clients. It’ll provide a guideline for all future decisions and team behaviours.
In the digital marketing episode of our Build Better Habits webinar series, David Ricketts, head of marketing at Quiss, highlighted how it’s the little things that create lasting impressions in people’s minds.
He recalled: “I heard that the Mercedes F1 principal, Toto Woolf, said that when he went for his initial interview at Mercedes, there was an out-of-date copy of the Daily Mail and an old coffee cup in reception, so he asked, ‘Is this what Mercedes stands for?’”
2. Define a service-level agreement (SLA)
Creating an SLA that outlines how your firm will communicate with clients is a great way to set expectations, which align with your brand values and hold employees accountable.
Gab Santos from InfoTrack discussed the success of SLAs in episode two of our Build Better Habits webinar series and commented: “I don’t see it in firms often, but when I do it’s very successful: it’s to set up and abide by an agreement on how you’re going to service your clients.
“Then, you must communicate this to your staff to embed it in your culture. Put it up on the wall if you need to, to provide a consistent reminder.”
3. Align success measures
To incentivise change and ensure accountability across the firm, it’s crucial that your success measures align with your goal. Often, measures of success focus on the billable hour which prioritises cash and profits. This is a crucial performance indicator, but not one that is client focused.
If you pivot away from the billable hour to track and measure reviews and service delivery quality markers, you’ll begin to move towards a client-focused team.
4. Ask for reviews
Independent client reviews help to build trust with a firm. It’s how consumers can find impartial, honest measures of a service; it’s the online way to market your firm by word of mouth.
But often, law firms don’t ask for reviews – even from their happiest clients – which is a missed opportunity to communicate with your potential clients about the exceptional services you provide.
Reviews are the evidence you need that you’re truly a client-focused firm.
5. Hire people from different sectors
The client experience begins with your employees. You need the support and backing of a client-focused team and culture to help deliver the type of service you want.
Sarah Charlton, CEO of Eaton-Evans & Morris Solicitors, believes that we should be taking inspiration from other sectors that are notoriously client-focused: “For operational roles, we look to hire people without experience in the legal sector. You can teach how a law firm is structured but teaching people skills – like how to diffuse a difficult situation – is difficult.
“We target people who have worked in hospitality for example, because they’re aware of how important first impressions are.”
Implementing a client-focused mindset: your key marketing strategy
Providing value, offering a convenient service, and making life easier for your clients is the best long-term investment you can make for business growth. Implementing a client-focused mindset in your firm should be a strategic priority for all SMEs because it’ll help with long-term success as well as growth.
The most effective, no budget marketing campaign is to exceed your clients’ expectations.
For more advice and best practices on running a client-focused firm to win more clients, check out Osprey Approach’s Build Better Habits series where we hear from experts across the sector on how to run a modern law firm. Series one, episode two and series two, episode two are client service focused episodes that can help you win and retain business.