You only need to take a quick glance at the headlines to see how hard the smaller law and accountancy firms across the UK have been hit over the last couple of months. During that time, a number of more locally focussed firms have got in touch to ask what types of business development they should be encouraging their fee earners to get involved with so they can maintain both their links and their profile within the areas they serve.
The first part of our answer is easy. The fact they’ve recognised they need to keep their business development efforts going and that they will need to tweak their approach is to be applauded. It’s probably tempting to pause your BD at the moment, but this situation is only temporary and however long temporary turns out to be, people still need your services. If you suddenly go quiet, the people who need you may well go elsewhere which will make things much harder when you decide it is time to restart your marketing.
The second part of our answer will of course depend on the firm, the human and budgetary resources they have available, which services they want to sell and what type of audience they want to reach but here are some of the tips we’ve shared:
1. Support Your Community
As a local service provider your community will be the core of your clientbase. Try and get involved in local initiatives. There is currently a high demand for volunteers to help with various projects, some of which could be directly linked to one or more of your practice areas. This is great way to get out and meet people you may never otherwise come into contact with. And don’t worry if you’re not comfortable volunteering in person, there are loads of support groups popping up online, all you need to do is find them and get involved.
2. Charity begins at (working from) home
Most firms are allied to a local charity and if you are, why not get in touch to see what you can do together? If you don’t currently support a charity, choose one and see if you can help them raise the funds they’ll need to survive the next few months more comfortably. Better still, if you team up with a few of your closest referrers, that will do more for the charity and give you an excuse to talk to your professional contacts.
3. Promote your human side
Life is tough for everyone and you need to show that you can provide much more than advice. Use your next virtual team meeting to discuss the issues your clients are currently facing – working from home, too much time spent with partners or children, home schooling, social isolation, anxiety about the future of their jobs – and address that in your blogs and social media posts by sharing your own experiences in the first person.
4. Get used to your tech
We are all using the various video conferencing apps but still it tends to be more for internal meetings. Make sure your clients know this is a n option and encourage them to set up video meetings. And use video in your BD. We’ve seen clients setting up end of week drinks, wine tasting sessions, poker matches and even games of darts over Zoom. Your clients and contacts are just as fed up at home as you are so be creative, they really will welcome your efforts.
5. Brush up your website
People are looking for the answers to any legal or accountancy questions online. Make it as easy as possible for them. Yes, blogs will always help (but make sure your headings are based on plausible client questions not just a vehicle to mention of COVID or coronavirus) but try and mix up the formats with FAQs and top tips. Better still, add a bit of video or a podcast if you can.
You can also add an interactive chat feature. This is easier than it my sound as there are now a number of ‘off the shelf’ options that can simply be pinned on to your website.
And if you are going to invest in improving your online presence, please please PLEASE make sure your website is mobile responsive. You don’t want to lose new visitors at the first point of contact!
6. Build your online reviews
As the internet is so crucial, you need to do everything you can to position your firm as the best choice for prospective clients. Online reviews can play a significant part in making that happen. Look into how you can get involved with sites like Trustpilot and make sure all your fee earners have a link to send to clients or set up a process to automatically send a review request at the conclusion of a matter.
7. Better think of your future
While the immediate challenges need to be addressed, it is also essential you keep one eye on the future. While you can reach older clients using the tried and tested marketing channels, you need to access and influence the next generation. This is a market that lives online so again trying things like video, infographics, podcasts, ‘how to’ downloads and easily digestible content options will help. Similarly, it’s a market that uses social media heavily so it may be worth investigating more time and budget in boosting your presence on Facebook and Instagram.
8. Handle your enquiries properly
In a recent CoffeeCast Ben Trott of Marketing Lawyers told us about the mistakes many law firms are making when it comes to managing and converting new enquiries while we’re working remotely. You can hear what Ben had to say (and the practical solutions he suggested) here.
but if you are going to invest in creating opportunities, make sure you have a tried and tested model to help you turn that interest into fees.
If you’d like to discuss any aspect of marketing and business development, please email us and we can arrange a call. Or if you’d like to find out more about how you can do BD from home, check out our new website.