Ben Paul* The last few weeks have been a unique and challenging time for us all, mentally and economically. As we all now start to plan how we emerge from our bubbles post lockdown, there is a great deal to consider as we move into Level 2. The economic outlook domestically and globally is the opposite of rosy. There are some tough times ahead for everyone, especially those in the tourist industry.
The composition of full-service or even multiple service law-firms means that their business model will have a great deal of resilience and provides them with the ability to cope with this market downturn. Sure, revenue and profits will be unlikely to hit record numbers, in fact, in most cases they will likely take a significant dip from last year’s figures.
This would account for why several firms took the wage subsidy, as, ignoring some of the sensational headlines, many did need it. Others will have seen a sudden plummet in revenue and sought to take measures to protect their firm and their employees. The fact that the dip is not as big as might have been expected in the early stages of the pandemic is a good sign for those in the business of providing legal services.
However, many businesses do not have the benefit of being able to provide high-demand services geared for a financial crisis, such as restructuring and insolvency services. In fact, for a lot of businesses, they are looking at an uncertain future and a great deal of personal stress. It is important for law firms and legal service providers to be cognizant of this. After all, these are your clients.
With this backdrop in mind, below is some simple advice to consider when you begin to market your firm, or yourself, in the new normal.
Invest in your law firm brand
It may feel like this is a ‘non-essential’ cost to many law firms. Most people will be aware of your firm’s name and what you do, so with a reduction in profits ahead, why should your firm start spending on branding and advertising? The easy answer is because in all major recessions those who have come out strongest have invested in this. The GFC being that last major downturn where this played out.
With the advertising industry being one that has suffered significantly as a result of COVID-19, it means that the cost of placing adverts will have, in the main, come down. While it might seem that you are being ‘opportunistic’ taking advantage of this, the reality is they need bookings and cash-flow now more than ever. This means you can get further reach for your advertising spend. Of course, be kind and considerate to those in the advertising industry, as, like many of your clients, they have suffered because of the pandemic.
Don’t be triumphalist – Revisit your key messages
More than ever, the Partners, lawyers and law firms that prosper in the new normal will be the ones with the highest EQ, and the most empathetic approach. This means it is a good time to re-read your website, your bios and your personal LinkedIn profiles.
One of the reasons why law firms will stay in business, as they have after every other economic crisis, is that now, more than ever, people need lawyers. However, they need lawyers that are helpful, not boastful.Ben Paul
The market really does not want to read about how awesome you are, read pages which refer to your firm by its name and are littered with you using sentences starting or containing “we” and “us”. Some of these are fine, maybe even necessary, of course. However, if that is all it is, then you have a very uncompelling website which is focused on your firm, not your clients.
In the current market, with sensitivities higher than ever, it is important your external messages reflect this. Make sure your clients needs are up front first. Make it clear how you help people. One of the reasons why law firms will stay in business, as they have after every other economic crisis, is that now, more than ever, people need lawyers. However, they need lawyers that are helpful, not boastful.
Bin your law firm’s capability statements
It felt therapeutic for me typing ‘Bin’ it in the title above. No doubt when they read it, some of your BD and Marketing teams will share that sentiment. They may even involuntarily shout out for joy or fist-pump the air. Just like most people did when NZ moving to Level 2 was announced!
The reason for this joy is not because they are lazy or incapable of producing these documents. It is for the simple reason that your clients do not read them. Your BD and marketing team, quite understandably do not enjoy spending hours crafting documents that no-one reads.
The reason your clients are unlikely to read them is simple. Put yourself in your client’s shoes for a second. If someone sent you something generic and all about them and their business, would you read it or file it? That is right you would file it, which means you either bin it or leave it in your emails, completely forgotten.
In the current climate, it is even more important that you do not send such promotional self-centered documents to your clients or intended clients.
Provide legal articles with useful advice
You may well be doing this already. More than ever though, this will be really appreciated. Your clients want to read practical articles that provide them with something useful. This means that on reading it, they can take an idea from it and meaningfully use it in their business. I’m not recommending you give away your IP or unique technical brilliance, but instead something practical linked to the services you provide.
The more you do this and the more meaningful it is, the more likely it is that the readers of the article will come to you, when they need your help.
Continue doing law webinars
Many people, regardless of the rules at Level 2 or Level 3, will still not necessarily be keen on socializing in person. Many organisations have found that working remotely has worked well for them, so it is likely they will continue to do so. What this will look like is unclear at this stage.
Therefore, keep doing and promoting your webinars. In most cases they are marketing gold. Firstly, you get a captive audience, with numbers higher than most seminar rooms can hold. Secondly, you are not limited by your physical location, so your geographic outreach is wider. Finally, with most of the webinar technology available, you can record your webinars. This means you can send recordings to those who missed it and post the videos to your website and ideally your YouTube channel.
Invest in content video marketing
The paragraph above gives you one simple idea on how you can produce video content via your webinar recordings. I also mentioned above that it is a good idea to use YouTube to host your videos. The reason for this is simple, putting videos here can work well with your SEO (search engine optimisation) strategies. Of all the video hosting platforms, YouTube is thought to be the best to use for this purpose.
With NZ in Level 2, now is a good time to think about how you could get your message out using video. With more people working at home, the advantage of video is that it can help personalise your message. You, talking to your clients and intended target audience by its very nature is much more personalised.
While the above is not an exhaustive list, the six areas we focused on, if executed well, will help you thrive post COVID-19. With less physical networking opportunities and perhaps even less ‘coffee catch-ups’ ahead, you may need to also rethink your client development and relationship building strategies. To assist with that, next week, I will be writing an article on LawFuel to cover ‘Social networking for lawyers.”
Ben Paul is the Director & Founder of The BD Ladder, a consultancy specializing in providing BD and marketing services to professional services firms. He has held senior BD and marketing roles in leading law firms.
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