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As there are no shortcuts to becoming a good lawyer, and you have to spend hours of studying and careful application of logic, similarly there is no shortcut to building a successful practice. There are many successful law firm owners and senior partners who rarely visit a courtroom, and there are many good courtroom lawyers who keep on striving for success through their lives. This article offers clues to relationship marketing that can help you to build a successful legal practice.
So, if you see building and marketing your practice, from the standpoint of relationship marketing the product
you aremarketing is your firm. You need to understand this in order to easily understand principles of relationship marketing and apply them to your needs. You are in the business of providing service, and with this understanding let's find out how principles of relationship marketing apply to your situation.
Regis McKenna, in his famous and authoritative book, ''Relationship Marketing: Successful Strategies for the Age of the Customer,'' points out certain truths and principles that we often miss out in building our business. Let's dissect some of these principles and see how they apply to general situations related to building a legal practice.
All successful products are adapted to specific markets or are altered to meet competitive challenges.
Flexibility is the sign of life and vitality. According to McKenna, then, to build a successful law firm you need to adapt it to a specific market and then make the necessary changes to meet competitive challenges in that market.
Writing your strategic marketing direction in one sentence or ten is not the issue. The real question is ''Do you have a strategy?''
It is extremely important to define concretely your strategy to build your firm's brand and place it properly in the targeted market space. A definite strategy with a set of visible goals needs to be in place to follow and execute. Most lawyers rarely think about this aspect of building their practice. They just take it for granted that getting cases and winning cases would automatically find their firms the market space they wish for. Sometimes, it does work that way. But in most cases, with a definite market strategy, you can attain success far more swiftly and in a more lasting manner than letting things work out by themselves.
Product improvement and innovation is a leading indicator of success.
Here the word ''product'' includes everything, your firm, your getup, your firm's stationary, your office, your employees, and everything that you can think of that is an integral part of the social front of your firm. Even using a new style of dossier for providing client files can be an innovation. Virtual online conferences that are branded with your firm's name can be an innovation. A big AC van with a mobile office inside on court premises (if legally allowed where you practice) can be an innovation. Whatever you do, in each visible act, and thing of your firm, there needs to be those little touches of care and application of mind that make clients feel they are in the hands of a professional. One of my friends made a group account with an educational portal to offer free access to the children of his clients. It made his clients sit up and think that he was really taking his practice seriously. That is what matters. At the end of the day innovations create the impression that you are extremely serious about your practice and instills client confidence. Of course, if they are innovations good enough for your clients to talk about, you get free publicity thrown in.
Service has become a way of differentiating products and building strong relationships with customers.
I guess nobody understands this principle better than lawyers do for law practice from the beginning to the end is about providing service. Firms and lawyers are differentiated according to the quality and style of their services and strong client relationship is built upon the quality of service offered.
But does it end there? I believe quality of service is essentially perceived quality of service at both the end of the lawyer as well as the end of the client. Many a time I have seen successful lawyers create an act of seriousness about a drafting a contract that they can reel out within 15 minutes. But, they will take 15 days to do it.
Many times, if that contract was drafted right then and there in front of the client in 15 minutes, the client may not appreciate the quality of service and think that proper effort was not given to his or her case. But when the same thing takes 15 days, the client feels that proper effort was given. The result is the same as far as the contract is considered, however the quality of received service perceived by the client differs dramatically. There can also be situations when reeling out that contract within 15 minutes in front of a learned client, ( and we meet many of them regularly) might prove seriousness and quality of service rather than taking 15 days on it. The lawyer has to decide it like many other things, on a case-to-case basis.
Maintaining ongoing relationships with key user groups is a sure way to keep products on target in a fast-paced market environment.
This is why many successful lawyers maintain blogs, write newsletters, or offer free consultations to public forums related with their area of practice. It is not about simple publicity stunts. These are carefully proven business tactics steadily maintained even at a cost for they provide definite ROI. Whichever be your field of practice, even if you are a small town lawyer, today's new age tools including the internet allows you to maintain ongoing relations with key groups of potential clients if you are willing to give the effort.
Why is this different from sporadic spurts of publicity? The next two principles will tell you that.
The purpose of advertising is to achieve awareness. Unfortunately, awareness is not synonymous with behavior change. The expectation that advertising or public relations can manipulate the potential buyer is like putting all the emphasis on the component rather than on the system.
Complex products and most services are best sold by word of mouth and a reference strategy. Advertising can build awareness, but it can rarely do the marketing job of communicating the same level of confidence delivered by a reference system.
I guess there is no need to explain principles 6 and 7 for that is why the 5th principle mentioned above is required and of extreme importance in building a steady practice.
When the product or service is central to the strategy and performance of the customer, confidence and trust are the two most important assets people in marketing jobs can convey, especially in highly competitive markets involving many players and lots of activity. Those two qualities can be communicated only through an experience-based reference system.
Your reputation is of prime importance in niche markets since customer needs must be met and supported more precisely and the reference system needs to be more tightly coupled.
This is one of the most important principles you need to be aware of. A lawyer, after all, is in public domain, and though it is silly, acts of your personal life can affect your professional life very much. And of course, each act of your professional life needs to be carefully made.
If marketing realities and perceptions do not match, then it's because you have not done your marketing job properly and failed to communicate the value of your product or service to the market.
This is the final verdict. If realities and expectations do not match, then it's because you have not done your job properly: this is most often the case and the general rule. Acceding that exceptions do exist, it is pitiful to see how very few lawyers actually follow the principles of hard-core marketing in trying to build their practice. It also makes one glad to see that most successful lawyers and law firms do follow good marketing practices.
Hope this little article helps you to think differently and find the success you need.