With increased competition and tough economic conditions set to continue for the foreseeable future, how can you plan for growth in your law firm? There are essentially four sources of potential new business which need to be explored.
First, look at marketing more of your current legal services to existing clients. This should be the easiest, but too often the information available within a firm does not make a gap analysis easy to perform. For example, recent budget announcements may provide inheritance tax planning opportunities for wealthier private clients.
But, how easy is it to identify these from the thousands of clients that you have written wills for? How good is the firm at selling private client services to the directors of your business clients? Given that most of your business clients probably have a website, how many have come to you for their online terms? A systematic approach to cross-selling can pay the quickest dividends.
Second, you can market new legal services to existing clients. Have you identified a need amongst your clients which is not currently being met? Once you have found a solution to meeting that need, (via training, recruitment or a joint venture) you will need to plan a similar systematic approach to communicating this opportunity to your current client base.
Third, look at marketing your existing legal services to new clients. Start by looking at your current client base to see if you can attract ‘more of the same’. Then consider how you can attract new markets – for example if your private client base is elderly, what can you do to attract young families? If your business clients are mainly in manufacturing, can you attract technology or service companies?
Finally, there is the option to launch a new service to a new market. This would be the costliest and riskiest option, but occasionally an interesting opportunity can arise in this way and needs to be considered on its merits.
Whilst the first two options are the most logical routes to start along, we find that in practice it is harder for firms to access accurate client information than it is to call the local paper and book an advertisement.
There is a danger in neglecting your current clients, as they may well be members of the Co-op and RAC and purchasers of Saga holidays – companies whose marketing departments will undoubtedly have excellent client information systems. Each of these potential routes to growth can be explored and planned for, despite difficult times.
And as the saying goes ‘failure to plan, is planning to fail’.
Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas