I used to spend a lot of money on advertising. Yes, it brought a steady stream of clients, but it ate into the bottom line of the firm. Likewise, referring lawyers represent a good portion of our new cases, but I pay 1/3 of my fee to them, once again eating into the bottom line. It made me think about what I could do to keep generating business without spending so much money. I decide to invest in my past and current clients to increase clients without spending more money.
Before investing money on attracting new clients, I decided to leverage the clients I already have. And you know what, it’s a lot cheaper. Firm clients already know and trust McCready, Garcia & Leet. We do a good job and we are proud of the work we do for clients. They already know what we do and they have seen how we do it. So how do you best utilize past and current clients?
First and foremost, do a good job for them. But beyond that, make sure you don’t chase them away. The biggest complaint of clients is not staying in touch about the case and being treated poorly. Never forget we are in the customer service business. Our business is providing legal service, but clients judge us as much on their experience as they do on the results. In my experience, clients appreciate the customer service sometimes even more than the results.
So, instill a sense of customer service in your office. Start at the top and serve as an example for everyone else in your firm. Every client should be treated with respect. Be nice, and if you are already nice, find ways to be nicer.
Clients sometimes put up with poor customer service from a lawyer, after all, that’s what we are known for, right? But even more important than being “nice” to a client, is to not ignore them. Most past (and some current) clients simply drift away due to a failure to pay attention to them. You must stay top of mind so you are the lawyer they think of when someone they know needs a lawyer. If you don’t, they will simply resort to google, or call a lawyer on a billboard.
If you ignore your clients, they will forget about you. Trust me, after a period of time, a majority of your clients will not remember your name. They will not be a source of future referrals. They will be seduced by the next lawyer who comes along.
Fortunately, there is an easy solution to being forgotten: stay in touch with your clients. With e-mail and customer relation management (CRM) software, there is no reason to neglect periodic client communication. It is so easy, and cheap, to remember a client’s birthday. Or send a Christmas card. Take the next step and develop a monthly e-newsletter. What do you think this Third Thursday is? It is an attempt to stay front of mind on a monthly basis to my referring lawyers. I spend one hour per month writing this column and it pays enormous dividends in attorney referrals. The point? Stop spending so much money on attracting new clients and spend that money on cultivating current clients and relationships. In the end, you will see an increase in clients.
Being nice to clients and staying in touch are two simple, and free, ways to increase business to your firm. Finally, don’t be a afraid to ask clients for referrals. Most of your clients will be happy to do so, if you only ask.