How to Stimulate New Business During Lulls
The law firm business model is inherently reactive. You wait for a client to call with a problem. You respond with a solution that could take a few minutes (but hopefully takes years), and when it’s over, you wait for another client to call. Your growth is completely dependent on other people’s issues, and when business is slow you probably just hold out until it picks up again. This is why the revenue generated by the typical practice can feel like a roller coaster.
When I was a kid I used to love roller coasters. Now, they just stress me out.
You can help to stabilize your revenue by offering proactive services: client-facing initiatives that are more consultative in nature, and therefore less beholden to the reactive nature of legal services. The following three examples come from law firms I’ve worked with over the years:
1. A Los Angeles corporate attorney offered a legal SWOT analysis to his top clients. This entailed scheduling a few hours with key members of the client’s executive team and taking them through the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats they face from a legal perspective. The process provided his clients with new insights on how they could grow and avoid risk, and provided the attorney’s firm with with new matters that were now a priority thanks to the SWOT analysis.
2. Another lawyer set up a Founder’s Summit for his emerging growth SaaS clients. Recognizing that owners in this space enjoy peer-group sharing of ideas and best practices, he hosted a semi-annual event for SaaS CEOs to network, brainstorm, and share resources. The summit served not only as a forum for better understanding his existing clients’ business challenges, it also attracted prospects in SaaS who wanted to participate in the group.
3. A global law firm set up a client “university” which consisted of quarterly CLE programs built around a curriculum approved by the client’s GC. The firm’s client team prepared the programs and delivered them onsite. The university concept provided regular opportunities for face time with the in-house legal department, which consistently surfaced new matters for the firm.
The examples above were successful for a few key reasons: they each had a clear, repeatable structure, making them a unique offering unto themselves. More importantly, they provided substantive value that directly addressed the client’s business needs. Too often, marketing efforts are designed from the perspective of what the firm needs (i.e. more billable work), which result in random acts of lunch, the occasional CLE presentation, and an occasional apearance at a trade show. I’m not suggesting that such activities are completely ineffective, but they are fundamentally inefficient in that they try to attract clients without much appreciation for the very thing that attracts clients. When you start with the question, “how can we get in front of more prospective clients and demonstrate our expertise?” you are focused on your own agenda. When you start with the question, “what would help my client’s business become more successful?” you are thinking less like a law firm and more like a business partner who truly understands the things that motivate its core audience.
So by all means, answer the phone when it rings. But when it doesn’t, be ready to pick it up and invite your clients to participate in a program that is relevant to their current circumstances. Something productive for them, and proactive for you.