When it comes to selling legal services, the way you package your firm is crucial to achieving commercial success, especially in a market that continues to constrict, morph and become even more competitive.
By 'packaging', I'm talking about the way you present yourself to an external audience – your clients, referrers or targets. You have to appear the most attractive (i.e. a combination of credible, user-friendly, knowledgeable, technically gifted and well-connected) offering in your chosen markets.
It's worth noting here is that what I'm not talking about is a prolonged search of your collective navels to create a 'brand'. While brand is important for traditional consumer products like FMCGs or personal electronics, it is largely ethereal ("how it makes you feel?"). The sale of professional advice needs to be less emotional and more quantifiable and fact-based.
I'm also not talking about USPs or differentiation. Let's stop kidding ourselves; neither exists in any true sense in the legal market. As a marketer, all the search for differentiation will do is delay you from doing what needs to be done – namely keep reminding your clients, contacts and targets you are there, that you can help and why you are the right option for them.
What's the answer? The establishment of a strong, credible and consistent client value proposition (CVP).
The first step towards creating the right CVP is to work out exactly who you are and what you offer. This may sound like a backwards step. It's true that your firm has a name, a history, a confirmed range of services and practice areas, an established client base and a marketplace. But these are just the 'features' of your firm. To be the most attractive option, you need to emphasise what you do and how your services will benefit your clients.
Set out your stall. Ensure your proposition (or promise) wholeheartedly embodies the type of law firm your research (formal or informal) has revealed as to why your clients want to work with you. It's about determining why your skills and experience coupled with the way you work and look after your clients that helps them achieve their desired outcomes quickly and easily.
So, what is a CVP? In marketing speak:
"A promise of value to be delivered, communicated, and acknowledged and a belief from the customer about how value will be delivered, experienced and acquired."
What does it mean for a law firm?
The people you are trying to attract often find it hard to tell one law firm from another. They think lawyers are expensive, but a necessary evil. Concerned by the cost of legal services, they don't appreciate the effort lawyers inject into executing on their matters. Dispelling this perception is the primary purpose of your CVP – spell out the benefits, the added value and why your prospects should choose you.
Yes, your CVP will have a little bit of "this is what we do" and a dash of "this is why we do it", but crucially, it must highlight "this is why what we do will massively help you and deliver returns far in excess of the costs involved."
Practically, your CVP gives you a consistent set of 'sales messages' that everyone in the firm can use – from marketing communications, fee earners to reception staff.
With the messages relating exactly to your clients' particular professional requirements and preferred ways of working, they'll be easy to grasp, deliver and achieve their primary purpose - to make your firm the most attractive option on the market.
However, recognise that messaging isn't about writing a strapline or forcing an 'elevator script' onto staff, rather it's about everyone in the firm understanding the essence of the CVP and how to deliver it naturally and in their own way.
Used properly, your CVP will be instantly recognisable across all touchpoints; and shine through your various marketing channels, forming a layer of packaging that will, in its own way, be as synonymous with you as the colour purple is with Cadburys. Your CVP, as a combination of expertise, service and value, is your ultimate package – one that conclusively answers clients' question: "Why should I choose you?"
This blog is the first in this three-part series.