The major way to build your client base comes from focusing on three areas:
- Keep the clients you have
- Develop new clients from current client referrals
- Get new clients from new marketing strategies (advertisements, Google Search, etc.)
Most lawyers want to jump straight to number 3 when they want to expand their firm, but this is not what many experts in the industry recommend. Imagine spending most of your energy on a new marketing strategy that lands a major client, only for the client to go to a different firm for his next lawsuit or transaction. This happens very frequently when the firm is more focused on getting new clients than maintaining good relationships with their existing clients. If your house has termites, your primary concern shouldn’t be how you can add another story.
Protect What you Already Have
As a small firm attorney, your reputation means everything. If clients are disheartened because you lacked the persistence to create a meaningful relationship, it doesn’t just mean that you lose that client. You also lose anyone he might have talked to about his experience with your firm.
This is why Small Firm Legal Marketing emphasizes that lawyers focus first on securing their existing client base before thinking about spending money redesigning the firm’s marketing strategies. You want to build upon your foundation of current clients, not just chase new ones.
Small Firm Legal Marketing will give you tips not just on marketing strategies, but on ways of strengthening your relationships with your clients.
Before you try to reinvent your firm with a new marketing strategy, make sure you have a good system of maintaining your current clients.
If you want to really succeed as a small law firm and be able to raise your hourly rate (or for contingency attorneys, raising your minimum damages threshold to accept the case), you should always be thinking how you can better your relationships with current clients. Your current clients are your best means of getting new clients; let them do the work for you.
I see a lot of lawyers putting the cart before the horse in legal marketing. They focus their energy on getting new clients, and they neglect their current clients. This helps my firm far too often, since my firm attracts clients by providing them with a good relationship from the start. Here are some examples of how you can strengthen your relationship with your clients:
Clients and lawyers don’t always speak the same language. You don’t have to talk to clients like children, but you can rephrase legal terms to make it more understandable. Clients want to understand what’s going on in their case; they care less about the official language.
Especially if you’re communicating bad news, you need to be on the same page. If the client realizes the bad news on his own, he will not be happy.
Understand the Client’s Priorities
Everyone has something to complain about, clients especially. While your firm is preoccupied with winning the most (or losing the least) for your client, the client might be more concerned with other issues. For example, some Plaintiffs prefer to take a smaller settlement sum if it means they don’t have to go to court.
If you find out what your client’s priorities are, you can keep that in mind and mention it in future discussions. As we discussed in our review of Alert Communications, empathy with your client is important throughout the legal process. If the client believes you are advocating for his goals, he’ll be more satisfied with your service.
Even after you’ve finished work with a client, you should continue your relationship with him. The occasional checking in will keep your client thinking about your firm, which helps when someone he knows needs an attorney recommendation.
My firm sends out Christmas cards to our clients every year. Birthday cards are another option. There are a number of automated corporate card services that will send the cards without any work from your end.
Keeping current and former clients is a cornerstone to any successful law firm. Design new ways to keep clients thinking of you, and you’ll have no problem getting referrals.