is it for you?
Could the key to business growth be sitting right in front of you? The telephone gives us instant access to virtually anyone in the country, yet many law firms are unsure about how to use it to market themselves.
A flourishing lawyers practice requires first-class communication at every level. When dealing with clients, organising staff or liaising with third parties, we take our communication skills for granted. When it comes to a direct marketing strategy many law firms fail to include a specific role for the telephone – and that all-important follow up work. The reasons for this may fall in one of several categories:
Is it actually allowed? The Solicitors Publicity Code 2001 clearly sets out the circumstances in which telephone marketing can be used. In general, there are few restrictions in telephoning companies in a professional manner who may be interested in using your commercial legal services. Alternatively, existing clients may legitimately be called for a number of alternative legal services, for example, following up house purchase clients with tax planning help.
Professional etiquette-is it the done thing? A substantial number of law firms nationwide have used telemarketing to great effect for the last seven years. They find it an invaluable aid to secure new clients, maximise existing ones or to actively create business opportunities through such events as corporate seminars. Prospects coming into contact with a law firm through telephone marketing consider it a normal aspect of the marketing process and view it as professional and proactive.
Integrating marketing activities
Some marketing tools are already well utilised by some law firms, such as advertising in regional press and business publications, inclusion in technical editorials and attending seminars and direct marketing through leaflets and brochures. These are all positive steps in informing people about your practice.
Typically, though, there is no provision to follow up those activities with a direct approach. Telephone marketing can support and enhance the results of all your other existing marketing activities. Unlike printed matter, the phone can be used first-hand to encourage a response to a mailer and to help you understand someone’s interests and needs and how your practice may be involved. Regular contact through appropriate and intelligent telephone marketing will build relationships and generate loyalty, even when someone doesn’t yet need the services of a law firm.
It is perfectly acceptable for marketing personnel to make an introductory call on behalf of law firms. The caller need not get involved in technical issues, as any queries can be answered by a partner when he visits, or a call directly from the partner can be scheduled. With a quiet, friendly and professional manner the caller will enhance the reputation of your practice and by creating a detailed briefing sheet your caller will understand the services they are introducing. The key is to plan a campaign so that the whole exercise is effective and managed.
Managing a campaign
It is imperative to clearly identify the objectives of the marketing project from the outset. Consider your firms most profitable activity and whether you have a department with spare capacity or if you have a particular service package which you would like to promote. You may be introducing a new service or partner, have a current “hot” topic you have expertise in, or you may want to build an industry-specific client base.
It is also vital that any campaign utilises accurate target data. Things you should know about your targets include employee numbers or turnover, net profit figures, their legal status, and who the appropriate decision-maker is. Also consider the company’s geographical area, specific industry sectors and exclusions, and their auditor’s name to help you refine the list. This last piece of information will provide the opportunity to build a relationship with local professionals and establish a referral channel.
To ensure the best results, calls should be targeted at those firms most likely to be interested in the services being offered. Those that don’t welcome an approach in this manner will have registered with the corporate ‘telephone preference service,’ in which case calls to such firms should be screened out before the start of a campaign. Consequently any Data protection issues are obviated from the outset.
Making the call
Prepare a detailed brief, collate the information a prospect should need to know about your practice, include your standard contact information, details about relevant partners and specialist areas of your practice. You should also formulate the key questions that you want to ask. This will provide key information for the partner attending the meeting or enhance further marketing efforts.
When the decision-maker is not available then quietly but firmly ask when the named contact will be available and offer to call them at that time. Professional and well-timed persistence is required. Ensure that if a prospect is busy you offer to call back when they are free to chat.
Tell them the reason you have called, and suggest that a partner can visit them when it is convenient. You are then silent to gauge their initial response. If they are absolutely negative after hearing your offer, you courteously thank them for their time and end the call. If they indicate that the timing is wrong or the service offered is already well covered, offer a call on a subsequent occasion or outline any services not already mentioned.
If the prospect has other questions to ask or comments to make, continue the conversation for as long as useful information is to be gleaned. If the prospect wants to meet up, book a date and time and promise to confirm it in writing.
You’ll be able to refine your brief in the early stages of a campaign according to the quality of responses received, and make it work better for your practice.
When the hard work has been done, you must be sure to manage the process of diary dates and availability for appointments. Letting the prospect down at this stage could end your opportunity.
Making more of new business meetings
When a meeting has been booked and confirmed with a prospective client, you may think that the hard work and preparation has been done. But arranging a first meeting is only the start.
The reward of the meeting will be a profitable long-term client. Whether you are a partner or senior fee earner, there are rules that you will need to follow in any meeting scenario to bring the client on board and there is value in undertaking sales training to enhance basic sales techniques.
Does it work? Telephone marketing is used successfully by law firms of all sizes who adapt it to suit their particular ethos and purposes. As with any marketing campaign, it can be adjusted to suit evolving circumstances and due to its immediacy, flexibility, and proactive nature, is particularly suited to all types of business development.