Revenue Growth Strategy with Goulston & Storrs P.C. [PODCAST]
We've included a transcript of our conversation below, transcribed by artificial intelligence. The transcript has been lightly edited for style, clarity and readability.
Hello and welcome to Legal News Reach, the official podcast for The National Law Review. Stay tuned for more discussion on the latest trends in legal marketing, SEO, law firm best practices and more.
I'm Rachel, the Editorial Manager at the National Law Review. In this episode we’re excited to talk to Beth Cuzzone, Chief Strategic Growth Officer for Goulston & Storrs. Beth’s role at Goulston & Storrs revolves around relationships. Relationships internally and externally. Relationships with prospects, clients and business partners. With decades of experience in the industry, Beth has been inducted into the College of Law Practice Management and the Legal Marketing Hall Of Fame, published by the ABA, Thomson Reuters and several industry publications, and awarded several honors throughout her career. Beth is also a co-founder of Legal Sales and Service Organization. Thank you, Beth, for joining us today.
Beth Cuzzone 00:53
Thank you so much for having me, Rachel. And I'm so excited to see that you've launched this podcast series.
We're very excited to have launched it and really excited that we got to have you on. So one of the main topics we want to dive in today was bringing the voice of the client into legal marketing. So I was wondering if we could just get your thoughts on that? Why is it so important to bring the voice of the client into firms?
That's a great place to start, Rachel, that's a great place to start. And I do think bringing the voice of the client into what we are doing every day in the in law firms is really important, let me give you a couple of statistics. 80% of revenue will come from 20% of existing clients and law firms. So your future revenue depends on 20% of your existing clients, I'm going to say that, again, 80% of revenue comes from 20% of your existing clients, then you've got five times as many resources to attract a new client than it does to keep an existing one, you take those and you marry that with market demand. So spoiler alert, for anybody who's listening to this podcast, what we want you to be thinking about is bringing the voice of the client and listening more to client needs to basically help you be more competitive, generate more revenue, be more profitable, and increase your client service.
It definitely seems like an important part, especially that statistic of keeping those 20% of clients to make sure you hang on to that revenue. That's super important. How has COVID-19 affected firms relationship with their clients? Because it's sort of, you know, buried its way into basically every single facet of our lives. So I'm curious to get your thoughts on that.
Beth Cuzzone 02:37
No, it's true. I mean, if we start on the very premise that clients are the most important variable, and growing revenue and profit for law firms, and that the only thing that's constant is change, right? Clients’ needs change, decision makers at client companies change, laws and regulations change. And so if we aren't having those open dialogue conversations and getting feedback and conversations with our clients, then how do we stay ahead of change? And then you bring in COVID, you know, with great disruption, it brings great opportunity. And so I would say now is the time for lawyers and law firms to be implementing, bringing the voice of the client into their firm, no matter what they're doing to bring it in even stronger. I think having client feedback programs and listening to clients was once a nice to have now it's a need to have. So if you are still doing the exact same legal services in the exact same way that you were pre pandemic, not to sound harsh, I would consider this your warning light for b2b law firms. There aren't new issues, new ways of doing business, new technologies. And so I think the pandemic has catapulted the need for firms to be doing this with much more vigor, and process and framework. So I also think that the pandemic has affected firms’ relationships with their clients in a lot of good ways. We are bringing clients or clients are bringing their lawyers into their home. I don't know about you, but over the last year and a half, I've met pets, children, delivery people, family members, from our clients, and my colleagues and my friends in the industry that I probably never would have if not for the pandemic and the reality of Zoom. So I do think that we're starting to get to know clients in a different way. That's not a bad thing. But again, I also think that the business issues that have come with COVID has created opportunity, and it also has created the foundation for “let's do things differently”
That's some really good insight there. I want to get your thoughts on what firms can do, why it's important for firms to bring in their clients into their conversations in legal marketing, what firms can do right now to improve those relationships.
Beth Cuzzone 05:13
Beyond the feedback, I do think just in general, overarching, how you improve your relationship with clients, is about asking yourself and taking a little bit of a litmus test. Take your top 10 clients, your top 15, your top three, your top 20, it depends on the size of your firm your practice that sort of thing. And say, “Do I know every one of my clients strategic priorities, strategic directions, measurable goals in the next year or two?” I don't think we're going to find many people that can actually rehearse them for their top five, top 10, top 20, top 30 clients. The other thing I would say is, you know, really being able to impact your relationship is asking the people that you have relationships with at client companies - how are they evaluated? How are they deemed successful? What are they trying to accomplish, but sometimes their goals may be different than the company goals. If there is a software technology company, and they have an in house legal department, the technology company's mission might be changing the way science is done or impact on a disease. So that's kind of their mission and their strategic direction. And goals might be about how many new customers they can acquire and that sort of thing. That's all very important information to know. But if you're the General Counsel, you know, maybe what you're trying to accomplish is budget certainty. So if you don't know those answers to those questions, then it's hard to be able to provide service that has value. And you know, basically, what I mean by that is, how are you spending time off the clock with your clients? What value are you providing? Because when you're on the clock, they're paying you to be strategic, substantive, proactive, responsive, accessible, all of those things they're paying you for. But when you're off the clock, how are you helping their business? What kind of information are you giving them? Are you making introductions to them? Are you saving them money? And so I think it's a little bit like throwing something at the wall to see if it sticks if you don't know the answer to those questions.
We spoke a little bit about spending time with clients off the clock and, you know, engaging with them in that way. Is that part of that process? Or, you know, is that one of the ways that people can see that feedback out?
Beth Cuzzone 07:42
Absolutely. Bringing the voice of your client into the firm can be done in many different ways. And feedback is one of them. But that is a way that you can add value to the client, because you will hear when you're asking for feedback about ways that you'll be able to improve your service. And then you'll be able to go back and implement change and in turn, increase client service and really impact your client relationship. It all ties together. And it is one facet of client service.
So you recently wrote a book about client feedback for the ABA. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Beth Cuzzone 08:26
Well, I think timing played a big role. We were just talking about this. I think this now is the time for law firms to really double down in this area. We've all been reading books and articles about obtaining feedback from clients. And it's important. And they’ll focus on the business case, some of the statistics that you and I were just talking about, or they'll focus on a phase of the feedback loop. The book that we wanted to create was an instruction that would lay out the entire process, step by step of how our industry can move along the maturation line of client feedback, bringing the voice of the client, making improvements, and keeping that loop moving.
Seems like an exciting topic and a great opportunity. So what are some ways you're seeing firms getting this feedback?
Beth Cuzzone 09:29
There's a couple of things that are happening. First, there's a huge technology push in business right now. And so I'm seeing some terrific uses of technology and lawyers and law firms or marketing. The marketing function in law firms can do after action reviews, which is at the end of a deal, or a case, being able to sit down with a client for a few minutes and say, how did we do? What did you think of our team? And what did you like best about us? Did we surprise you? Are there other things that other law firms do that you'd like that you'd like us to do in the future. There's also online surveys, I've seen law firms put a couple of survey questions on their bills, every two years, we're going to sit down and have an annual strategy session. And we're going to take two or three hours off the clock. And we're going to talk about how we've been doing. And we're going to talk about the people on our team, we're going to talk about the changes in your company, we're going to talk about what the pipeline of issues look like, and how we can be preventative and try to bring down, you know, the legal spend that sort of thing. And that's where you either hire a consultant, or in house, you do it, where it doesn't have to be on a schedule. But you reach out to those top clients. And again, that could be 10% or 30% of your clients depending on your law firm size, and asking them how you're doing. And then bringing it back.
How can law firms really use this feedback to differentiate themselves from the competition and really take that feedback to heart and actually make some changes?
Beth Cuzzone 11:26
So these are all really great questions. So you will find this staggering, I think, Rachel, I have been conducting client interviews for more than 20 years. I was at a consulting firm. Before I went in house to law firms where we did some client interviews, I've been at a law firm that I've been doing client interviews at for a couple of decades. I can probably count less than a dozen times that I've encountered a client feedback interview when the client hasn't commented “this is the first time my law firm has ever asked me these questions.” This is the first time I've ever been invited to a client feedback session. That's the first time that I've been, you know, invited to give some client service input. So think about that 25 plus years of client interviews, and I think less than 12 have actually had something like this happen to them before. My point is that the very nature of doing it is a differentiator, right. And what it will allow you to do is when you're asking these questions, and getting the feedback about what they want to see, you can be that trusted advisor. That starts to bring all sorts of value, added value around your substantive legal service advice. And you can actually start to play a real business leader role with your clients so that you're not seeing it as legal advice, or the necessary evil, but really start to see that you're additive. And that you can be accretive to the company and their mission. And I think again, the way you do that is by taking the very information that you hear and turning it into value add.
Moving into our next section here speaking a little bit about differentiating law from service from the competition, we’ve spoken about ways that law firms can interact with their clients and asking for that feedback allows them to, you know, show that they can be a really good added value. What are some ways that firms can really highlight the service they offer to clients and make that connection with them?
Beth Cuzzone 14:03
We've always had a hard time differentiating our services from our competition. I think we look alike. We sound alike. And I think where we're going to find differentiation is - do we act alike? And so I think that some of the ways that we as law firms will be able to highlight the services that we offer to clients is instead of telling clients what we do, too, responding to clients about what they need and how we can solve, I think just sometimes we've gotten into a little bit of an automated notion of, we have a newsletter. And so we're going to now send it out to every one of our clients that talks about a new law and something that we do. And that's not differentiating, that's not really highlighted. or services. Instead, I would say if law firms can start doing what I call Account Based Marketing, and looking at it client by client, and really understanding what's important to the client, and the content and conversation that you put in front of those clients will be the way that you differentiate yourself. So move from content marketing, which was so popular a couple of years ago, I say, take the very tenets of content marketing, and bring them down to a client and have it, again, be client based. That's where I think law firms will be able to differentiate those micro sites that are just for the client. And the information in that hub is just for that client. You know, if that client is a middle market, private company, they don't care about what's happening in the eye, you know, with no, by the way, with no interest in becoming a public company, you know, they don't want to get 17 newsletters about a new law that's impacting public companies. But you certainly can be looking at trends that are in the middle market space, and kind of what's market deal points and be putting that into a hub. So that's where I think I'd like to see law firms and lawyers and marketing departments really start to focus.
I guess this is sort of like a two pronged question. How have you seen the legal industry pivot in the post COVID world in terms of how they interact with clients? And a larger question would be what changes have you seen with that sort of client interaction since COVID has taken place?
Beth Cuzzone 16:50
Well, I think that the playing field has leveled, I think that there used to be some type of hierarchy before you could have access to a client, when you were at a law firm. If you were the relationship partner, you were the bridge between the client and everybody else at your firm. And I have seen that collapse, that hierarchy collapse. And I think that these relationship partners have brought along, you know, some younger folks, or maybe one of their colleagues who’s an industry expert in something the client needs. But what I've also seen, which is so exciting for me, is the opportunity for people in marketing departments to have FaceTime with clients. And that's always been a little bit of an obstacle for marketing departments and law firms. And I've heard so many of my executives, who are amazing brand ambassadors for their law firms say, I'm not sure how I can find a way to be client facing. And it's been a goal of mine. And I think COVID has really changed that. And I think that now, there are lots of opportunities for the marketing departments, or the business development departments, the client, service departments, whatever they're called, to really have that forward facing role. And I think feedback is one way, but using your CRM system, to really find some proactive opportunities, and bringing them to the relationship partner and saying, let's talk with the client about this.
So what are some things that Goulston & Storrs has done the past year to really adapt to challenges brought on by COVID-19? We've spoken to a number of law firms so far, and in making this podcast and it seems like all of them sort of have a different answer. So I think it's interesting to get that perspective.
Beth Cuzzone 19:07
The first thing that we did, I think, as a firm was we took off the law firm or lawyer or legal services hat at the beginning of COVID. I think the place where we probably had a shining moment with our clients, we were worried about our clients, their families, their businesses, and we put down the webinars and the newsletters and the outreach, and just tried to reach out to them on a very personal individual level to be sure people were doing okay and were healthy, and that that's the first thing we did. But then it came back to business as usual. And I'm looking at so many statistics Rachel that are showing me that law firms are having the best year they've had since the last downturn this year. And so we've done a number of things differently. First of all, the way we are packaging, pricing and delivering, our legal services looks a little bit different. We brought in a chief value officer a couple of years ago, and it's a real growth spot for us a real bright light for us. Because we are spending a lot of time with clients trying to figure out how to price you know, our services that fall in line with where they may be, economically. And it's a marathon, right, it's not a sprint. And so they're just, some years clients need a different approach than others, in terms of billing and payment terms, and that sort of thing. So we've really been trying to align with our client needs there. And, and just the way we're talking to them is different, right, we've created more on demand video, versus hosting seminars in our offices.. So anything the same that you were doing pre COVID, probably time to look at that process. And I think that runs across all the business operations. think we've all had to manage to change and adapt.
Right. And I think the only constant in life is change. I think one of the things that we have heard from a lot of law firms is just having just a pivot and make all these changes. And now a lot of law firms are looking at adopting law these things long term. So hopefully, we'll see some, you know, improvements and some changes going long term.
Beth Cuzzone 22:15
I'm wondering, Rachel, you and your team spend so much time out in the marketplace, so I'm interested to see what trends are you seeing in the marketplace around client service and client growth.
We've spoken with quite a few law firms in creating this podcast. And I think one of the big trends that we've seen from the guests that we've interviewed is, and you mentioned this earlier, sort of pivoting more to bring in the client into what these law firms are doing in terms of their marketing efforts, and finding new ways to connect with them. I think one of the one of the big things that we've seen as like a company as like, working with clients on publishing their thought leadership and publishing, you know, their events and things like that, I think one of the big things we did see are more firms doing these virtual events. And, you know, putting their expertise out there when they couldn't meet in person, and they can't, you know, have a conversation with their clients or go to a conference, or things like that. So I think just finding new ways to connect with the people that they work with, outside of the office, when we can't actually be with each other in person.
Beth Cuzzone 23:39
Or so you're starting to see content marketing, turn into content selling in a way and content relationship building. And you're part of that process.
Right. And we do. One of our publishing clients, specifically writes a lot about ways that attorneys and law firms can really set themselves apart or improve their processes. And that's been a shift in focus from what we saw before the pandemic.
Beth Cuzzone 24:07
I love that. Are there are initiatives that you're seeing that firms are deploying that actually improve relationships with their clients? Are you seeing some of what we touched on earlier in other firms or in the marketplace?
Right, I think it sort of goes along with what I said earlier, and really positioning themselves as you know, a value improvement and then also highlighting what they do well, as a firm. Specifically, one of the topics that's come up in other interviews is really highlighting what the firm is doing more broadly in terms of their growth, some speaking more about, like diversity and inclusion initiatives, keeping themselves accountable for making sure those things happen and really taking on more of these changes that we've seen as COVID has progressed. I mean, it's just Typically, I'm talking about, you know, remote work arrangements, you know, really listening to what their attorneys want and need. So I think that’s been a big thing that we've seen on technology.
Beth Cuzzone 25:11
Are you seeing any technology that’s hot around growing relationships?
The main thing is, as I spoke earlier, really taking advantage of virtual events. And I'm not specifically talking about just webinars, one of the other firms that we had on spoke about how they interacted with clients. And this is maybe more than relationship building is sort of empowering attorneys to have like a coffee meeting with their clients like a virtual coffee meeting. So they would, they would give out these Starbucks gift cards. So they could sit down with their clients and have a cup of coffee virtually, and really hear about the things that they're experiencing, their pain points, things like that. And one other thing that they were talking about was, before the pandemic, they maybe had never even heard of doing a virtual happy hour. And maybe a lot of people would have scoffed at that idea of having like, either like a drink or a cup of coffee over a Zoom call. But he said that, you know, he's been on countless, or at least I think at least he said, at least three virtual happy hour since the pandemic began. I don't really think a lot of people used Zoom a lot before the pandemic. So it's been sort of a big way that people have connected with their clients. But I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about that topic. You know, are there any technologies that you're seeing that are helping firms grow their relationships with their clients?
Beth Cuzzone 26:47
I think there's a couple of things that we're seeing Goulston & Storrs. We are looking for technology that brings efficiency, and AI to some of the services that we provide. And so you know, you're on a constant hunt nf figuring out how artificial intelligence and that sort of thing helps. But also, one of the things that we've done is we have adopted a technology in all of our business units that talk to each other. Finance, pricing, experience, relationship, management, enterprise, all of those products are talking to each other. So you are more informed. And we've been able to create some predictability around some of our client needs. Because there's so many things talking to each other, as opposed to having these silos. I feel like you and I are experiencing and seeing a lot of the same trends, I think our highlights for today is great disruption brings great opportunity, service will be a differentiator, your client is another law firm's prospect. Getting closer and digging further down into that relationship has never been more important. And client feedback is not only a way for that to happen, but I think it's also a way for the marketing business operations functions to find client facing roles.
Right. And I think specifically, your focus for this podcast about bringing the client into the conversation, I think, isn't one that we've had so far. I think one thing that's been really great about this podcast is just being able to learn so much from each of the people that we talked to. So yeah, thank you for joining us today. And thank you for those great questions.
Beth Cuzzone 28:45
I just want to again, thank you for bringing this podcast to us. And the series because I think we're going to learn a lot from each other. I think there's a real brain trust among a legal marketing and business development community. And I'm thrilled that you're bringing it together and making it accessible for all of us.
We had a great conversation about client feedback, revenue, and go-to-market strategies in the legal industry. Special thanks to Beth Cuzzone from Goulston & Storrs for joining us today.
Beth Cuzzone 29:15
Thank you so much, Rachel.
Rachel Popa and Jessica Scheck contributed to this content.