Saying Thank You - How to Generate Revenue Through Client Appreciation

by JD Supra Perspectives
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Changes to the marketplace have fundamentally altered the legal marketing industry.

I remember exactly when I knew that to be true. At the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference in 2010, I heard a speaker from an AmLaw 50 firm say, “We’re only going to grow by taking work from other firms. Our business development strategy is stealing clients from our competitors.”

I distinctly remember it because it is the first time I had heard it put quite so bluntly. I took it specifically as a fire alarm for mid-size law firms who could no longer be sure of their place in the world on generally smaller or more locally-focused matters. Bigger firms with more resources were coming after every kind of work. This point was reiterated by BTI Consultants during a recent seminar called “Big Law Wants to Crush You Like a Bug.” 

And if increased aggression from our law firm brethren wasn’t enough, we are also competing with clients as corporate counsel continue to shift legal spending in-house. We have increased competition from traditional and non-traditional providers, and at the same time, the top priority for law firms is increased revenue. What’s a marketer to do? 

My answer? Be intently focused on retention and growth from existing clients. 

The client lifecycle continues after the client engages the firm and a formal appreciation program can greatly enhance the client experience. Today, a satisfied client is tablestakes – it’s proving to clients they made the right decision in hiring you.

...a satisfied client is tablestakes

The ideal client relationship goes far beyond satisfaction and advances the relationship to loyalty and, ultimately, to advocacy. A loyal client uses you for everything they can; they rarely seek alternatives. An advocate will share their positive experience with others and recommend you.

James Kane (another Legal Marketing Association speaker) writes and researches the science of loyalty and the human behavior that builds and sustains it. He says the client pays the lawyer to make their life safer and easier, but the client becomes loyal when you figure out how to make their life better. There are three requirements for building loyalty – trust, belonging, and purpose. In the current legal landscape, we marketers must focus on these soft skills and “value adds” for our clients, or our competition will win them over. 

There are three requirements for building loyalty – trust, belonging, and purpose. 

Thankfully, there are proven activities that are important and successful when it comes to delighting clients. Client appreciation programs assist firms in retaining existing clients and developing repeat business, and they guard against competitors by solidifying loyalty. Such programs include:

  1. Client feedback. Acritas has reported that only 1 in 10 clients have been invited to give feedback to their lawyers. Asking for feedback is still a competitive advantage in the legal industry. You learn your strengths and weaknesses, how to better serve your client, and what will affect their need for legal services in the future. 
  2. Client teams. Forming teams around the clients with the greatest potential for growth allows for the intentional focus required to strengthen the relationship and grow revenue. The meeting agenda for client teams should include a review of client news and any changes in the law impacting the client, sharing of new matters since the last meeting, discussion of open matters, and reporting on short and long-term goals. 
  3. Educational events. Clients need their lawyers to explain changes in the law and why it matters to them. The readership data for your digital content provides insight on what topics more resonate with your client audience, and that insight should serve as a playbook for the educational events you hold. When a client alert generates readers and questions, host an event on the topic. When the event is wildly successful, offer a flat fee consultation on the subject to those who attended. Speaking events get results. 
  4. Client entertainment. Clients like to feel special and valued. Pay attention to their interests, and invite them to events they would enjoy – whether a college football tailgate and game or a local comedy show. A shared experience is one of the best ways to strengthen a relationship. 
  5. Expressions of gratitude. Receiving gifts is one of the five love languages, and it applies to clients too. Whether you send a hand-written note with a newspaper clip, a gift basket during the holidays, or a formal welcome letter and firm-branded item upon receiving the engagement letter, show your thanks that they have chosen your firm and entrusted you to handle their legal work.  
  6. Charitable contributions. Social responsibility is on the rise as people are rediscovering a conscience of ethics, passion, and compassion. It goes a long way with a client when you support a charitable cause they feel passionate about. Give generously, and participate eagerly. 

In a legal marketplace where client retention and engagement and cross-selling existing clients are business development priorities, a client experience and appreciation program can make all the difference.

*

[Society 54 Co-Founder Heather McCullough is two parts wit and one part tenacity, with heaping doses of creativity and intellect on the side. Heather represents the power of hard work, strategy and collaboration. For more than 14 years, she has brought game-changing results to professional services firms through coaching and consulting on business development and client service best practices.]

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