It is axiomatic that the best way to grow a practice is by word of mouth (WOM).
If you ask most lawyers, very few of them will admit to having a proclivity to marketing or business development. They will say that that was not the reason they went into law.
Oh sure, there has been a increased emphasis to become the consummate all rounder/rainmaker/marketeer but, as I have said previously, marketing is a tax on professional practice and combined with the apathy of lawyers to deviate from the middle-of-the road initiatives, it is always going to be hard to get engagement across the board.
How should firms and lawyers seek to address this?
Service. Remarkable service. Service that is so different in kind to what clients expect or perceive that all or nearly all other forms of marketing could be rendered otiose.
But, right now, at best the service being provided is “OK”.
Q. “Can you recommend a solicitor to deal with [insert]? What were they/he/she like?”
A. “They were OK.”
Meaning, Ho Hum, nothing special or they could have been a lot better.
OK is a euphemism for middle of the road, play it safe, don’t give away too much and keep the client in the dark or certainly don’t tell them everything (lawyer knows best).
If you are sincere in your desire to grow your practice you have to – with a life and death mindset – understand your strengths and weaknesses. You have to focus on the sort of work and clients that you are best suited to, and then start to prune your case load (or build it) so that it comprises only those clients that you know you can superplease. I am not naive and understand you will have (immense) billing pressure, but if you don’t break the unmeritorious circle, stop complaining, and accept your lot then don’t expect to be happy or to have any way of reaching your true potential.
Once you have slimmed down your clients, you then need to set about working out how you can blow your clients’ socks off with your service so that you surprise them every time and you can truly say that your practice or your firm is famed for its attention to remarkable service. And more than that you stand for something. As I have said before, if you think of the very best service you have ever experienced, how does your or your firm’s delivery compare? If you haven’t got a benchmark then either go find one, or better still create one for yourself.
Once you have created the standard that you can consistently deliver you then need to think how you can go one better with the client and start to generate those diamond, precious referrals. They should, or are likely to, come naturally but if you feel that providing an incentive would work then make it meaningful. Something like: if you recommend 5 new clients and we bill them more than £500 each, we will give you 20% off of your bill for each client. And, subject to any regulatory constraints, you may offer them a positive discount once they have got to 5. Don’t dismiss this idea out of hand until you have done the maths and worked out how much each new client is costing you. You may be pleasantly surprised with just how much you are spending and offering this arrangement may be far less expensive than you think.
Next time you are in a conversation and someone mutters “OK”, that should be the catalyst for you to go to work on your practice to deliver like you have never delivered before. Let’s face it if you could generate 75%-80% of you work through WOM wouldn’t that be far better than having to constantly look under every rock, examine every nook and cranny and generally engage in behaviour that you may have no emotional connection with?