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Getting the Most Out of Your Marketing Budget

Barristers have largely embraced the need for marketing, but there remains a sense of unease as to some of the output and activities of those responsible for marketing a Chambers.

This is not surprising because in some cases the output is inappropriate, ineffective and lacking focus! These observations are drawn from personal experience and from a recent report published by Conical on Barrister sector marketing practices.

Our experience and our survey work reveals that the dominant factors affecting the ability of a Chambers to win and retain clients are as follows; reputation of the Chambers, reputation of individual Barristers and referral.

For most Barristers this is not a surprise and for most marketing professionals with some experience of professional services marketing this information is not particularly new. So one has to ask then why so much marketing budget gets diverted to lower importance activities such as advertising, overly complex websites and sponsorship? One might also ask some serious questions about the costs of some re-branding exercises. All of the above can be used as a means of raising brand awareness, which is an important objective, but they are somewhat low ranking when it comes to winning new clients or retaining existing clients.

Marketing is perhaps best seen as a management process for anticipating and meeting client needs profitably. Marketing has a whole range of tools and techniques available for use. All of these tools have a strategic application and can achieve a desired outcome, but mistakes are often made in the application of these tools.

This misunderstanding of how marketing tools are used is the root cause of the misapplication of marketing budgets.


The Link between Marketing and Human Resources

The issues of reputation and referral are driven by the experiences clients have when they work with Barristers and Chambers support staff. It is assumed that all Barristers need to be kept up to date with changes in the law and Continuing Professional Development is taken for granted. However, the client experience is also influenced by the way support is delivered, the general attitude of the Barrister and support staff to the client and the client or account management skills of the Barrister. These skills should not be assumed and should be actively evolved and developed. Other skills that impact upon the general marketing of Chambers include presentation skills and networking skills. As such it is important that human resource and marketing disciplines are seen as linked within the context of a Chambers.

 

Business Development Skills

By definition most Barristers have developed communication skills. However, it would be wrong to assume that just because a Barrister is skilful presenting in Court he/she is equally comfortable attempting to win new work in front of a new client. Law firms are quite used to having to respond to formal tenders and in so doing often have the support of Business Development personnel to create proposal documents and electronic presentations. One might expect law firms to continue to push these disciplines down the supply chain into Chambers. Even if this does not happen there is no doubt that solicitors expect Chambers’ support staff and Barristers to have professional business development skills.

On a Chambers wide basis there is an opportunity to adopt business development tools and techniques. Obvious initiatives include the adoption of ‘key account management’ techniques and lead tracking.

Key account management techniques are many and varied but the core assumption here is that there are some clients who are of strategic significance to an organisation and the loss of their work would be quite damaging. Experience of Chambers suggests that the Pareto 80:20 principle often applies whereby a large slice of work comes from a limited number of client law firms. Where this is the case a plan for retaining this work should be put in place and initiatives launched to apply ‘golden handcuffs’ on the client. A passive, inactive approach is dangerous. It is widely recognised that one of the main reasons for clients switching to other suppliers is ‘perceived indifference’. It is also widely recognised that winning new additional work from an existing satisfied client is much easier than winning new work from a new contact.

 

 

 

 

 

Potential new clients also need to be identified and initiatives launched to make the target client aware of the capability of a Chambers or individual Barristers and then opportunities sought to make direct contact with the target client. Barristers in general often baulk at this approach in that it has the ‘feel’ of direct selling about it and this is in some way a grubby inappropriate activity for a lawyer. This perception of lead tracking is largely based on a misconception that sales and marketing activity has to be brash.

The creation of a target client database that identifies potential sources of instruction and ensures that these individuals are tracked and initiatives put in place to communicate with them would be a step forward for many Chambers. The database need not be overly complex but it should allow for capture of multiple decision makers, multiple departments, multiple addresses within a single organisation and allow that data to be sensibly interrogated to produce useful lists and information. Any activities in marketing a Chambers should then be tracked using the database. Those that have such a system benefit greatly from this approach since it allows them to target their marketing by discipline, firm and region if required.

For Chambers as a whole, or indeed individual Barristers, there is cost effective software available that can assist with lead tracking initiatives. At a simple level a bespoke Access database can prove to be very useful and there are also plenty of ‘off the shelf’ packages that can sort data and record campaign information.

 

Time to re-direct the Budget?

It is difficult to make general conclusions about where marketing budgets should be spent because different Chambers have different objectives. A recently merged Chambers for example could quite legitimately be prioritising brand awareness initiatives, whilst others might prioritise general profile raising activities. However, for most Chambers client retention, referral and winning new business from existing clients will likely appear at the top of the list of marketing objectives. As such it is suggested that marketing activities should be devised to support these objectives.

 

Tools that are often used to achieve these objectives include:

  • Detailed client perception monitoring through semi-structured interview ideally including a feedback loop for the client
  • Creating a network of referral bodies and initiating activities to foster referral
  • The adoption of key account management techniques that help maximise the total revenue a Chambers can generate from a client firm.
  • Prioritising marketing skills training within the HR plan
  • Highly focused PR activities
  • Highly focused and interesting (ideally fun) hospitality and seminar events.

Unfortunately, these sorts of activities can fall down the list of priorities and be squeezed out of the marketing plan by the more glamorous components of the marketing mix.

 

Stephen Bedford BA MA DipM MCIM MIPR is a Director of Conical, a marketing and PR consultancy which specialises in outsourced marketing, training and PR services for the legal sector. Stephen also leads ‘Marketing Masterclasses’ for lawyers He can be contacted on 01727 844000 or via sjb@conical

 



   
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