New initiatives that do not produce instant results are dismissed by lawyers. More patience and persistence are required.

As Thomas Edison said: ‘The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.’

Commercial lawyers are no stranger to hard work and common sense, but their ‘stick-to-itiveness’ often wavers in the face of a disappointing response to the launch of a new service or sector marketing initiative.

The subject of slow client adoption was addressed recently, at a LawExpo Ask the Experts panel, by Marc-Henri Chamay, the managing director of eBusiness at Allen & Overy.  

Chamay is notable as the first non-lawyer to achieve partner-equivalent status in a magic circle law firm, being responsible globally for their online services for clients, and he features in the top 10 list of innovative individuals in the Financial Times’ Innovative Lawyers 2013 report.

Chamay commented how lawyers often had unrealistic expectations in terms of the speed of adoption of new technologies, looking for an almost immediate return on investment.

He compared this with many other businesses, such as the automotive industry, where substantial expenditure is required into market research, design and development, and capital investment before new product launch. This is followed by ongoing marketing activity to drive adoption of the new product, in the conviction that you have developed the right service to meet a need in the market.

This is indeed a very different approach to that which is generally seen in law firms, where a new initiative is dismissed almost immediately if it does not yield an influx of new clients on its first outing.

When speaking with clients, particularly in-house counsel, I often ask what they think about the marketing that they receive. They frequently say that follow up is rather half-hearted, and peters out after a few attempts. They comment on how few lawyers are really genuinely interested enough to hang on in there and go the extra mile.

Whilst most readers will be familiar with the statistic that it costs five to six times as much to sell to a new client as to sell more to an existing client, they may not be familiar with the statistics that underlie this. There is a curve whereby:

  • only 2% of purchases are bought at first sight (an impulse buy);
  • three per cent require two sightings;
  • five per cent purchase after three experiences;
  • this only rises to 10% on the fourth contact.

So what that means is that one in 10 of your new clients has to see or hear of you at least four times before they actually instruct you, and 80% new clients need to see or hear from you at least five times, some could be as many as 10 or 20 times.

And when you think about business clients, who may already have an incumbent legal adviser, it sometimes takes a number of years and a change in circumstances before they will move to a new adviser.

As a lawyer, when you are giving advice, most of what you say is taken on board the first time that you say it.

If I come to you as a client, I probably have an issue that needs resolving and I am hardly going to ignore the advice that you give me, particularly when I am paying for it.

But sadly, this is not the case with your marketing messages. Unless someone is getting married they will not be interested in a pre-nuptial agreement. A business with no disputes will not need be interested in litigation today.

But these situations do change so you need to be sending out your key messages consistently, so that your firm’s name will be the first that comes to comes to mind when that need arises.

It is not enough to have a great website and sit back and wait for your target audience to find it. It is not enough to just hold one seminar, send one mailshot, make one phone call or even have one meeting. You need to prove how much you want to work for them.

It takes time and commitment to build a profile in the market.

It takes stick-to-itiveness.

Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas