One of the great things about an intelligent CRM system is it offers those tasked with a firm's marketing and business development an easy and efficient way to add value to client relationship at little more than the flick of a switch. The only trouble is many firms are still far too focused on fulfilling the 'added' part, forgetting that what they’re adding should be devised specifically to support the 'value' half.
As clients become more demanding in terms of what they expect from their different professional advisers and more promiscuous in their purchasing behaviour (the nice way of saying more likely to move if their demands aren't met), the firms who genuinely want to invest in their client relationships need to find more ways than ever to boost the benefit their clients derive from working with them.
In turn this means an irregular e-newsletter, the odd seminar, a sponsored roundabout and a golf day no longer constitute an effective marketing plan. The marketing professionals driving our law firms must be more creative, more practical and more relevant in the design and execution of their added value extras.
The first step is to acknowledge one size definitely doesn’t fit all in the modern age. If you are going to build an added value model that adds value you need to list out what the clients (and remember, 'clients' includes contacts, referrers and targets) of each of your practice areas consider valuable.
Some of this information can be gathered when your fee earners are talking to them during the execution of their personal business development plans - as long as you keep reminding them to: a) do it; and b) tell you what they say.
Some can be gathered via very short and simple client questionnaires despatched using either your CRM system or one of the online survey platforms now available.
Some can be gathered as part of your annual independent client service programme – and if you’re thinking “but we don’t do an annual independent client service review programme”, you need to think about adding one. How can you be credible in the relationship space if you are not investing in a full review of your key client relationships each year?
However, some things can be done by you as one of your firm's marketing professionals. Ascertain who the top five clients of each practice area are and go to see them to ask what they want to see added on to your services. If it suits them, the likelihood is it will suit the majority of your clients.
Sometimes there is nervousness around undertaking any form of client interview, whether you are asking the questions or have instructed an experienced third party to ask them for you. There needn’t be. In our experience, people are only too happy to help (especially if you explain it’s to make sure they receive a better service in future); and even if nothing immediate comes out of the interviews, the PR you’ll get for asking is always positive, which itself will help strengthen your relationships.
Once you have the results, the next step is easy. All you have to do is take a piece of paper and write down what your clients consider valuable down one side, and how you can deliver that information and/or additional service levels down the other.
You now have a plan that sketches out the ‘what’ and ‘how’. The next stage, which we’ll look at in the next blog, is the 'when' and 'how'.
This is the first blog in this two-part series.