Like a hurricane that swept across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed our lives. It is fair to say that most of our lives right now are different when compared to the start of 2020. Case in point: Most of you are probably reading this at home and having team meetings via remote conferencing tools like I am.
Law firm marketers are also having to look into and work out with lawyers key questions such as, “Should we continue with our planned marketing/ business development (BD) activities?” and “Is this the right time to market?”.
The short answers are yes and yes. We should not wait for the storm to pass. Decisive actions are needed in uncertain times and we must take proactive steps to better safeguard and even grow our business relationships. However, it should be done differently. Hard-selling is simply off-putting during this period.
I do not purport to have all of the answers on what needs to be done differently but below are some of my thoughts on what lawyers can consider doing during a pandemic like this.
Weather the coronavirus outbreak with your clients
- Stay close to your existing clients
If it was challenging to win new clients without the coronavirus outbreak, then it would be worse now, when you are working from home or are facing travel restrictions. Hence, I would prioritise staying close to existing clients, over trying to win new ones.
You should consider sending your clients a personal email/ text and call them to find out how things are for them. While these cannot fully substitute an in-person meeting, the genuine concern you show in a personal manner can still be effective in staying close to your existing clients.
- Focus on your clients’ needs, not what you can sell
Personally, I believe that this is not the time to sell. Clients, just like us, are adjusting to a new environment and a new way of doing things. They will have new legal needs that we can meet at some stage, but it is more important to listen first than peddle a new-fangled legal solution right away (unless they are requesting for it).
If you realise that their problems are not what you can directly help with, it is important to still consider offering help where possible. This can mean introducing someone else who can help them. Your clients will be grateful for the introduction.
You can also find out what else they need and be flexible in meeting those needs where possible. This could include extended payment terms, need for secondees, or even for your firm to provide video-conferencing facilities.
Learn to dance in the rain by innovating your client engagement plans
- Leverage on digital marketing
Thought leadership and content marketing from the firm is useful during this period, you should not stay quiet until this pandemic has passed. If you are less familiar with content and digital marketing, feel free to refer to other articles I have written on this topic here: https://lawgazette.com.sg/practice/practice-support/content-marketing-for-lawyers-the-secret-sauce-to-grow-your-business/
Webinars and virtual round-tables are also proving to be useful as engagement tools due to their interactive aspects and the ability for clients to provide feedback and ask questions on-the-spot. Based on personal experience, webinars should be kept fairly short (30-40 minutes is probably long enough). I suspect most clients are not able to focus beyond an hour, especially with distractions at home.
- Innovate for your clients
When this is all over, things may not return to the way they were and it is best to prepare for a new normal. Hence, consider if you would develop new practices (e.g. risk consulting) or change the way you support your clients in order to remain relevant.
Storms make trees take deeper roots
- Take care of your team
In addition to your firm’s workplace safety protocols and business continuity protocols, it is important to take care of your team. Communicate regularly with them especially if the team is working remotely and show appreciation for their dedication to work.
If the team’s workload is lower than usual, this could be a good time to focus on learning and development.
By weathering the storm with them, the experience will inevitably build stronger relationships and loyalty within the team.
Your relationships with clients and team members and how you adapt and innovate to the new world are what will build your business success during and after this stormy weather. As the song goes, “But it’s only when it rains that we grow…”