Client Development: Do You Know What You Are Already Doing Right?

On a panel for a webcast by the Law Practice Management Program of the State Bar of Texas about “Finding and Keeping Good Clients,” we discussed the efficacy of public speaking. Rick Albers, a real estate lawyer in Austin, recounted that another lawyer once told him that he had spoken many times at continuing legal education programs, and never got any business from it. Rick’s mouth dropped open. He himself had referred four matters to that lawyer over the last several years. Rick made those referrals because he knew from hearing the lawyer speak that he was knowledgeable in the relevant area of practice.

Decades ago, when I had my own law firm, my father asked me how I got my clients. I blinked, dumbfounded by the question, and finally responded, “I wish I knew, Dad, so I could get more of them.” That question spurred me to examine my list of current and former clients. I discovered that 75% of my business came from referrals from other lawyers. To my surprise, many of those referrals came from my competitors!

These stories illustrate one of the shortcomings in the business development efforts of many attorneys. We don’t have a system to measure which activities produce the outcomes we desire.

Find What Already Works for You

When I work with attorneys on business development, many are afraid I will ask them to do something way outside their comfort zone. Often, however, we start by uncovering what already works for them to enhance that, or to better capitalize on existing opportunities.

In my own situation described above, my analysis revealed that something I did for other reasons turned out to be a good business development tool. Shortly after the conclusion of a transaction, I often invited opposing counsel to join me for lunch or an adult beverage. I did that to smooth over any rough edges that might have developed from the tensions of adversarial representation.  As a result of that habit, I developed lots of relationships of trust and friendship with lawyers who knew first hand the quality of my work. When they could not take on a representation due to a conflict, many of them referred their prospective clients to me.

Track and Analyze Your Marketing Results

Here are some steps you can take to make sure you recognize what you already do well:

  1. Ask prospective clients who contact you how they found you. If they found you through the Internet, what search terms did they use? If another lawyer referred you, how did they know that lawyer? If they saw your advertisement, where and when did they see it?
  2. If the client was referred to you, contact the referral source to thank her and ask why she suggested your name.
  3. Track that information in a way that lets you easily review, reconfigure and analyze it. The system doesn’t have to be complicated or high tech, but do take advantage of the features of software you are already using. Look for patterns and commonality.
  4. Devise a way to record every time you “touch” a prospective client, whether in person, by phone, letter, email, social media, speaking, writing, or advertising, and the length of time between the first touch and the date they became a client.
  5. Look for evidence of which activities bring in top tier clients, and which tend to attract less desirable ones. That requires you to “grade” your clients so you can recognize the common traits of the more desirable ones.
  6. Track the cost and time involved in your various marketing activities to identify the most efficient use of your time and money. High dollar marketing companies track results meticulously and make adjustments based on that feedback.
  7. Ask clients for feedback on your firm’s services. What did they like? What would they want to see more of? What would they want you to do differently? How do your services compare to other law firms they have used? What would make them feel comfortable in referring friends and colleagues who need your services?

Adapt to the Data

Once you get a large enough sample from tracking this information, you may find some surprises. Those expensive season tickets may not be paying off, especially if you give them away instead of accompanying your client. You may find that it takes a lot more touches or a much longer period of time to generate a new client from your marketing efforts than you thought. For example, I have had new clients say, “I heard you speak a couple of years ago,” and “We’ve been reading your articles for three years now.” You may have a misperception about where most of your business comes from. You may be spending too much time in an arena that brings in lower level clients. You may be doing things right that you never realized.

Persist with What Works

Marketing legal services often involves planting a lot of seeds that take a long time and a lot of nurturing to germinate and grow to harvest. That time lag can distort our perception of what works. Reviewing the statistics on your successful efforts can bring clarity and give you the necessary encouragement to persist when delayed gratification tempts you to give up too soon.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

This entry was posted in Guest Bloggers, Solo & Small Firm Practice and tagged Debra Bruce. Bookmark the permalink.

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2 comments on “Client Development: Do You Know What You Are Already Doing Right?

  • Great post. Doing the “what did we do right/wrong” query at the end of an engagement (#7) is a really great way to strengthen relationships with existing clients as well. Showing you care what they think can lead to more referrals.

    • Alex, you are so right. Only a small percentage of lawyers seek feedback from clients about their services. Lawyers usually cringe when I suggest it. They are afraid of hearing what the client really thinks of them. Ignorance of the facts doesn’t change them, however. It just makes it more likely that we’ll perpetuate ineffective behaviors.

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