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Embrace Your Law Firm Clients: 3 Ways to Make More Rain

Embrace Your Law Firm Clients 3 Ways to Make More Rain

Altman Weil’s recent 2014 Law Firms in Transition survey reminds us that many firms see the pace of change accelerating with clients as the catalyst.

34% of law firm leaders identified corporate law departments as the force most likely to lead change; 32% chose technology innovation; and, 15% selected non-law-firm providers of legal services. Only 10% of respondents believe that law firms will take the lead in reinventing the legal market.

That same survey offered guidance that we discuss with clients every day in our conversations about improving their business development and client retention:  “bind your clients to the firm.”   This no doubt will be a hot topic at this week’s LSSO RainDance conference in Chicago (June 4-5, Mid-America Club).  I’ll deliver an update on the conference in an forthcoming post.

As firms take cues from their clients about their desire for value and transparency, the focus on how to better sustain and cultivate valuable relationships is taking center stage in conversations we have with clients each week.  Now more than ever, firms realize Peter Drucker’s truth:  “The purpose of business is to create a customer.”   We see this intentional focus in the noticeable addition of talented business development professionals to law firms’ teams, attorney coaching on the rise, and even questions about how to make better use of solutions designed to support attorneys managing client relationships.

The only thing that cannot be commoditized is a very close and collaborative relationship with your clients. Embracing clients like never before should be common sense. Law firms need to lock clients in to closer relationships by demonstrating a thorough and ongoing understanding of the client’s legal and business needs. Key client programs must become more than simply a guise to sell additional services.

3 Ways to Make More Rain

#1 Drive Client-Centric Culture from the Top

Whatever cultural change you are making – implementing a new compensation plan, rolling out a new technology, changing behavior – success is directly tied to the leadership associated with the change.

Business development initiatives are no different.  In our business, we see the impact that senior leadership has on project success time and again as we work with clients to roll out solutions solving pressing client-centric marketing and business development initiatives.  Without exception, the most successful clients (as scored in our Key Success Indicator Audits) clearly align their law firm CRM solution with key business goals.  And once the alignment is in place, firm leaders regularly communicate the progress and value of the solution as well as its impact on creating a client-centric culture with each and every relationship that is managed successfully.

#2 Measure for Success

As a long-time product marketing and product management professional, I live by one of Peter Drucker’s many business mantras:  What’s measured gets improved.”

The same is true as we undertake business development improvement efforts in law firms.  While measurement is part art and part science, it starts with the discipline of setting targets that align with the firm’s chief goals, and tracking progress and measuring performance against them.  With any initiative – especially those that are sales-related – it’s nearly impossible to change behaviors without first setting the mandate and then setting targets. That’s why in most businesses, sales people are incented and measured closely to deliver results.

While much about the traditional sales model won’t apply here, the acknowledgement that measures and accountability have an increasing importance in law firms is gaining traction.  We are looking forward to seeing how this dynamic continues to change.

The topic of measuring leads us to the important topic: accessing data to measure.

#3 Arm Yourself with Tools of the Trade

When leaders align on central goals, measures are in place with processes to support, there’s still one key area to address:  the tool for managing client-centric business development and marketing efforts.  The CRM – and new innovations around the CRM – still exist as the necessary foundation for business insights, business development and client engagement.

Given the change in culture and the market, no longer can the tools of the trade be just the domain of marketing leaders.   They must help attorneys, professionals, partners, and business development leaders handle relationship building and business development activities.

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What tips would you add for making more rain?

Photo Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons, CC 2.0 (cropped for size)

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About Krista Fuller

Krista Fuller