Current best practices for cultivating client relationships are not inherently new, unwieldy, nor unprecedented — they are simply the way we always should have been prioritizing and acting upon opportunities to best serve and retain our clients.
These approaches should not be couched as client service in “the pandemic” or “a time of social and economic unrest” or “the new normal” — they are quite simply thoughtful, bespoke, targeted efforts to amplify your clients’ voices and creatively solve their most daunting problems before they know they are facing them.
Look, Listen, Learn
Here are three examples of ways in which firms can reimagine their client development efforts:
1. Look: at your data and read between the lines
I’m sure I’m not alone in recalling the immense amount of content created by the legal industry at the onset of the pandemic and shuddering; it was an intense, fast-paced time where firms raced to be first to opine about new regulations, rapidly-changing legislation, and the effects that these changes would have on clients across all industries.
The pace has slowed, but the aggregate amount of data in readership and viewership of the countless articles, blog posts, webinars, and podcasts is a treasure trove of data with which to formulate future content marketing decisions.
As we often preach about listening to the voice of the client, we have chosen to utilize the data that exists in droves to follow our client journeys and make educated decisions on what to create next. Which content is still getting the most traffic? Are there patterns across industries as to what was read most often, and which content was consumed in tandem with other content? Paying careful attention to the behavior of your audience will help you to tee up viable and important ideas to your lawyers when they suffer writer’s block.
Much of our “COVID content” continues to garner a lot of attention — that shouldn’t be a signal to rest on laurels, but instead to create more of what is clearly sought after. Giving a nod to our communal virtual exhaustion, we try to repurpose evergreen content into bite-sized pieces (whether that be easy-to-read takeaways, brief or episodic videos, or short-form podcasts) to continue to enforce our messaging without adding more hour-long webinars to our arsenal. We are focused on avoiding efforts that force our clients to do the legwork in finding the answers they need.
The Takeaway: Don’t write what you think your audience wants to read; investigate what their reader and viewer data tells you they want to read, and then deliver on that.
2. Listen: to client feedback and react quickly and creatively
Early in the pandemic, we solicited feedback from a large, institutional client as to what their most significant problems were at that moment. The initially-identified issue appeared to be one we could not help with, as the root of the problem lay with our client’s direct customers, thus creating a revenue gap for the client itself.
Upon further examination and strategic planning, we created a new service arm that directly addressed and solved the issue. Our client’s value translated directly to the fees they paid; by the end of the engagement, nearly 90% of their customers survived the initial economic downturn - and, in turn, our client’s revenue was minimally affected.
...strategizing with your clients is key to growth.
Quickly creating a new offering took many hours of process mapping, strategy, and team management to deliver services on a fixed fee basis efficiently. We sat on weekly calls with their leadership team, carefully tracking and measuring the efficacy of the program. While at times it felt all-encompassing, the result was meaningful enough for the client to send several significant new matters to the firm shortly after in an entirely different practice group. The engagement also solidified our team’s relationships with more decision-makers within the company.
Ultimately, strategizing with your clients to think outside the box and clarify the problem you are truly solving for is key to growth.
The Takeaway: Don’t give up when your client’s pain point isn’t one you traditionally deliver upon; partner with them to discover new ways to add value and look beyond the immediate goal.
3. Learn: from your clients’ evolving challenges and be prepared to pivot
Our firm struggled, as many did, to come up with a tangible contribution to make within our community in the midst of the racially-charged unrest that reached a fever pitch this summer. We knew that elevating our support of the Black-owned business community in Baltimore City, where our firm has been headquartered for 33 years, would make a direct impact in offsetting the inherent disadvantages those businesses face in building equity, identifying and obtaining financing, and identifying a solid business network.
As we mulled over how to move the needle ever so slightly, we found that our clients and business contacts were also searching for ways to help. The result of that exercise was Building Black-Owned Business in Baltimore, a Rosenberg Martin Greenberg initiative.
We quickly jumped into defining exactly what we were going to offer (ultimately, 5 Baltimore-centric, Black-owned businesses will receive complimentary legal services from our firm for one year). We then scoped out how we would solicit applications and what information to collect, created gating and rating criteria to remove implicit bias from reviewing the applications, held regular meetings to discuss the team’s findings, and scheduled rounds of interviews with the applicants — and will announce soon who will join the initiative this month.
The number of applications we received was astounding, and the outreach from the business community and beyond exceeded our expectations.
In weaving in the power of our already solidified network in the community, we brainstormed ways in which we could “match” clients who are in early-stage growth in specific industries with our connections who are established in those same arenas, helping them to make the necessary connections as they grow and flourish. The soft costs of informal mentoring rounded out the suite of services we will provide to these clients.
The Takeaway: Don’t settle for table stakes when providing client service; get creative, plan out a process that is sustainable, and make a difference.
What are ways in which you’ve identified opportunities to creatively serve your clients in 2020? Send me your success stories and I’ll include some of them in my next post.
Jenna Schiappacasse is Director of Client Development at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg LLP and is proudly serving as the 2020 Immediate Past President for LMA’s Mid-Atlantic Region, as Co-Executive Editor of the 2020 LMA Strategies Magazine Editorial Team, and as the Co-Chair of the Legal Sales and Service Organization’s 2021 Raindance Conference. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow for her latest writing on JD Supra.