Expanding the customer base
20 June 1995
Solicitors frequently fail to exploit their most valuable asset - clients. The fact that it costs between five and ten times as much to obtain a client than to retain one should be sufficient incentive for a long hard look at the client base to establish precisely what potential exists for expanded high quality business.
Asking 'What legal and associated services do our clients use that they do not obtain from us but which we could profitably supply?', not only leads to innovative development, but also reveals where the practice already has the skills, experience and resources which can be applied to meet an additional client need.
However, cross marketing cannot succeed unless the clients perceive a pronounced benefit for engaging other departments, professionals or services offered by the practice. No one changes their legal advisers for an 'all things are equal' situation. There has to be a valid reason for the client to use other departments or services of the firm and a good reason to change from an existing practice. Unless there is both there is no point in a cross-marketing strategy.
Once the firm is satisfied that there will be benefits for both clients and itself there are still some barriers to overcome before an effective cross-marketing system can occur.
High on the list of potential problems is lack of trust. There are frequently strong personal reservations about introducing clients to other parts of the firm. Perhaps colleagues do not perform to a sufficiently high standard and could risk losing the client altogether. This leads to "client hugging" and protection of territory in terms of clients, business sectors or
There is usually little or no reward for the individual or team in cross-marketing. Their first priority is to meet their own quotas and budgets and to service their own clients to the highest possible standard. Internal organisational and administrative systems create unintentional barriers and often there is no consistent attempt to cross-refer proactively.
But perhaps the dominant if unspoken element is personal competition between solicitors within the firm for recognition and career advancement. This alone can lead to poor chemistry between individuals and thus both the unconscious and deliberate attitude not to co-operate by sharing clients. And that is the rub - "sharing". The opportunity for reciprocation is usually not equal in terms of clients introduced, value or quality of the work obtained, or the time lag between such opportunities. To develop a coherent and consistent strategy for cross-marketing it always must be remembered that departments do not co-operate - people do. The internal milieu must be one which encourages and nurtures co-operation through a system of recognition and reward.
There are a number of approaches which firms can use to achieve this situation.
Inter-departmental 'getting to know you' meetings;
Internal information and database sharing;
Encouraging social involvements between departments;
Changing working/office physical structures to allow greater interaction;
Circulating client profiles to enable departments to identify cross marketing opportunities;
Encouraging cross departmental client 'packages';
Appoint cross departmental co-ordinators;
Participating in induction programmes;
Formation of appropriate joint committees;
Co-ordination of training;
Provide opportunities for solicitors who are enthusiastic to co-operate and to generate mutual support and activities;
Rotate both professional and support staff;
Rewards and recognition
Develop a reward system that recognises successful collaborations or introductions;
Feedback to whole practice information on successful cross-references;
Ensure internal accounting devices and transfer payment system, encourage referrals;
Circulate new client files throughout the firm with information on their potential as users of other services;
Introduce clients to lawyers in other departments; expose other staff to clients in presentations and quotations.
Aubrey Wilson is the author of 'Emancipating the Professions' published by Wiley.