I’ve been to many GC panels at legal marketing and business development events over the past few years. When participants are asked what factors they consider when deciding which firms to work with, they say they view legal excellence as table stakes. Instead they say they give more work to the firms who communicate the best, are the most transparent, and understand their business. In other words, the key to successful business development with these companies is through superior client experience.
BD = CX
Business Development Equals Client Experience
Much of client experience is driven by how the firm delivers legal work, but the ways you market and develop relationships are also critical to how clients and prospects experience your brand.
, Chief Marketing Officer for the international law firm K&L Gates, says “The more you can provide value, deliver relevant information, and build relationships to ensure an excellent client experience, the more likely you are to create a new set of good business development opportunities.”
The following are six ways you can improve client experience with the goal of winning new business in the future:
- Be responsive – For lawyers this means exceeding the client’s timeframe expectations for returning phone calls, responding to emails, and getting answers to questions. Responsiveness in marketing can be a differentiator as well. When a law is changed, a GC may get alerts from hundreds of firms. At this point, it’s hard to stand out with any thought leadership. The firms who delivered thought leadership before the law was passed, however, have a first responder advantage.
- Know the client’s business – Firms know this is important, but GCs still express frustration with how frequently it doesn’t occur. There are lots of ways to do this: spend a day at the client’s office (without billing them for the time), read the company’s annual reports, follow key executives on Twitter, set up Google Alerts for the company, conduct client interviews, use a social media aggregator to stay informed, etc. The key is to develop a constant channel of client information flowing to keep you educated and up to date.
- Tailor client communications – Sending newsletters, alerts, and emails that a client does not want makes them think of the firm as a source of spam, not a trusted business partner. Track areas of interest based on the events clients and prospects attend and the areas of your website they click on. Be sure it is easy for them to select exactly the communications they want, and then make sure you have your tools and processes in place to respect their choices, deliver what they want, and prevent unwanted or duplicate mailings.
- Communicate internally, too – For a client, it’s frustrating when the firm’s right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Excellent client experience by the relationship partner can be undermined by an interaction with someone else at the firm who clearly doesn’t understand what’s going on with the client. Use your CRM system, collaboration tools, and client team meetings to make sure everyone who is engaged with a client is informed.
- Plan for succession – When a trusted lawyer leaves the firm, whether through retirement or lateral movement to another firm, the disruption puts clients at risk. Long before you have to deal with attrition, embrace to identify how others at the firm can build relationships at the client. Invite the client to participate in succession planning with your relationship partner and/or client teams to gain their input and buy-in into the plan.
- Measure client experience – If you are going to focus on improving client experience, identify how you will measure success. Consider satisfaction methodologies used in other industries, such as . Develop a program for surveying clients. Understand how they interact with you across the whole client lifecycle by building and maintaining a .
Focus on improving client experience to drive better financial opportunities for the firm and change the conversation at future GC panels. Perhaps some day companies will cite the client experience they get from law firms as a model for their other service providers to follow!