Building skills in trauma-informed legal advocacy is key for lawyers practicing in any areas that…
Connecting with your legal clients along their journey is critical to business development.
This post is the second in a 3-Part Client Development Series:
- Part 1: Marketing Research Plans for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers
- Part 3: Developing Your Network: Strategic Networking for Lawyers
THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
The focus of the traditional framework for marketing and business development has been flipped 180 degrees from the product or service provider to the customer experience. Instead of beginning with introspection, cutting-edge marketing and business development planning begins with an outward gaze and questions about changes and trends in the marketplace, as discussed above.
As unbelievable as it may sound to many lawyers, clients make decisions to buy legal services with many of the same psychological drivers that are at work when a person decides to buy health care, a vacation, or a blender. That is why it is in your best interest to think of your current and prospective clients, as well as your referral sources, as customers first. Technology has given customers more control over the purchase of goods, services, and experiences. Customers now dictate the rules. See this illustration of the progression to the “age of the customer”.
Customers expect “now service” (think Google searches and buying through Amazon), expect providers of services and products to do business on digital platforms, and insist on a “social” experience. They want what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. They want the experience to be easy and available when they are ready. They want the experience to address their immediate wants, needs, expectations, preferences, interests, and concerns.
Firms with the right content and approach—firms that make it easier for customers to connect in ways that customers regard as positive—will have an edge over their competitors. True differentiation and the ability to stand out among the crowd come from much more than simply being the best lawyer. You have to demonstrate that you are the best lawyer for each particular client’s preferences for doing business.
Memorize these two questions and use them regularly to build a stronger bridge with customers:
- What does this person want, need, expect, prefer right now?
- What is this person interested in or concerned about right now?
It has become a dangerous mistake in marketing and business development strategy to compete on services and products alone or begin by thinking about yourself and your practice. Today, you must begin with the customer experience and ask yourself how to create a series of experiences that are what the customer wants at each point in the customer journey. This series of experiences comprises the data from which the customer determines your brand.
The customer experience is different from traditional marketing and business development. Traditionally, we start with ourselves—our values, identity, and purpose. We try to distill that data into a brand and then to convince potential clients to hire us by talking about and promoting our brand. In contrast, the customer experience starts with curiosity about the customer and the experience that person is looking for during each point in the journey.
Your success will be correlated with how you participate and interact with the customer. You and the customer cocreate the experience. How the customer presents should affect your choice of what to do. What you do affects how the customer feels, what the customer thinks, and ultimately, the decisions the customer reaches. A customer service focus leads to more effective client acquisition and retention as it helps transform
- a potential client into an actual client,
- an anxious client into a cooperative client, and
- a difficult client into a brand advocate.
What, where, and how to communicate in your marketing and business development efforts depends on the stage of the customer journey. Here are a few resources on our blog:
- Customer Experience: How Lawyers Can Transform Client Relationships [Webinar]
- Tips to Improve Client Intake and Experience in Your Law Practice [Guest Post]
- Tools Lawyers Need to Win at Client Intake Experience
THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
In the case of lawyers and law firms, the customer journey illustrates the different stages of relationship between a customer and service provider. There are four stages in the relationship and three levels of interaction between the provider and customer.
Stage one begins before there is a customer-provider relationship. At first, the customer and provider do not know each other; however, eventually, through interpersonal interaction, the customer learns about the provider, what he or she offers, and how the offer may satisfy a need of the customer. Customers in stage one may start out without any awareness of their need and how a lawyer in general, and you in particular, could address that need. Through interpersonal interaction, competitive providers will trigger an awareness in the customer of a need and solutions.
In stage two, the customer realizes the need and that the provider can address it. The customer also decides whether and how to address the need.
Stage three is the working relationship between the customer and provider from beginning to end. Stage four is after the engagement has ended. The level of interaction in stage one is mostly impersonal and often virtual. In stages two and three, for lawyers and their clients, the relationship is personal and the interaction is concentrated.
In stage four, there is an existing personal relationship, but the interaction is diffuse. There are key points to keep in mind and action to take at each stage.
L.E.A.D. at Every Step of the Customer Journey
L.E.A.D. is a reminder to Listen to, Empathize with, Add value for, and Delight your customer at every opportunity. There is also a five-step process to use to incorporate these practices at the different stages of the customer experience and journey:
- Become situationally aware;
- Use inquiry;
- Predict the customer’s likely needs, wants, preferences, expectations, interests, and concerns;
- Theorize about and design possible responses; and
- Test a response, take note of the outcome, adjust your response, and try again.
Adding value and delighting the customer evolve through the stages of the customer journey. In stage one, they are a result of providing ease of access to what the customer wants, when the customer wants it. In stage two, adding value and delighting the customer mean making the interaction comfortable, easy, and without stress for the customer. Consider length of time, your tone of voice, your body language, the location of a face-to-face meeting, and finally, your content. It means anticipating what the customer wants and responding to it. In stage three, adding value and delighting the customer mean keeping your customer informed of progress at expected intervals and avoiding undesirable surprises. In stage four, it means keeping in touch, but not being annoying. When you develop your listening and empathy skills, adding value and delighting become second nature.
How you demonstrate listening and empathy depends on the situation. Situational awareness means noticing as much as you can about customers before the conversation begins and also during the conversation to inform how you should adjust your messages. Where are you meeting? How was the location chosen? What does that mean? What is the customer doing when you first meet face-to-face? Why are you meeting? What is the customer wearing? Make a mental note of the client’s body language. Emotionally, how does the customer appear? What can you learn from the conversation? How do things change? What does the customer say and not say?
Since the interaction in stage two becomes more personal and concentrated, you learn about the customer, and the customer learns what it is like to work with you as opposed to another attorney. To engage with your client on an emotional level, listen carefully and ask good, open-ended questions. Inquiry is about asking questions that engage the customer in a conversation to help you predict likely needs right now and in the future, theorize and design an appropriate brand response, test it to see what happens, and then adjust your brand strategy for the next iteration.
Through careful listening, you will discover the customer’s needs, wants, expectations, preferences, interests, and concerns. You will notice cues for how, what, when, and where to respond to your customer’s preferences moment to moment. You will develop a sense of the brand image needed to transform a weak relationship into a mutually valuable relationship.
Below is a list of the top five tips to up your game when it comes to being inquisitive and listening well. Find more on Active Listening in this post on our LCL MA LAP blog.
- Avoid assumptions. Do not walk into a meeting with preconceived notions. Do not assume the customer wants you to explain the law. Allow the customer to tell you his or her story without interrupting or trying to finish sentences. Lawyers tend to think and speak in terms of position, points, and counterpoints, even when the customer would prefer empathy and a demonstration of emotional support. It is easy to assume you understand someone’s position, while it is much more difficult to discern what that person needs to feel better and trust you. Listen more than you speak. If you do, you will find out what the other person really thinks, how he or she really feels, and what he or she is really willing and able to do.
- Know why the customer is talking to you. Make sure you have a clear, detailed picture of what is important to the customer. Ask open-ended questions, such as “What is going on?,” “What brings you in today?,” “How can I help you?,” and “What happened?”
- Extract the details. Ask clarifying questions to pull out the details that matter to the customer: “Can you elaborate?,” “Help me understand about . . . ,” “What do you mean by . . . ?,” “Tell me more . . . ,” “How did you . . . ?,” or “What do you think . . . ?”
- Check for understanding. Summarize what you hear and check to make sure you understand it, for example, by asking “If I understand you, . . . ?”
- Body language conveys more than words. Use body language to demonstrate you are listening: maintain eye contact and good posture, and avoid folding your arms. What is your facial expression when you are not thinking about it? Take notes if appropriate.
Empathy is being able to understand another person’s point of view and the feelings that accompany it. It is imagining what it is like to be someone else. It is different from imagining yourself in the position of the other person. It is imagining what it would be like as the other person in his or her situation. To do that, you need an open mind and considerable detail about the other person.
Do you understand your emotional makeup and the emotional makeup of others? Are you comfortable with strong feelings? Are you able to be sensitive and perceptive of others’ feelings? Do you appear both approachable and competent? How do you demonstrate that you are competent as a listener and trustworthy?
Before you start explaining what you can do for the other person, predict his or her likely needs and the value he or she is implicitly requesting, theorize about possible responses that would be received favorably, and then decide what to say and do and how to communicate. Act, reflect on the outcome, revise your strategy, and do it all over again. Consider these questions as you predict and theorize:
- What is the customer seeking?
- Is the customer looking to get to know you better?
- Does the customer want your analysis of his or her legal issues?
Stage One: General Principles
Lawyer marketing has to be done in an ethical context. Rules 7.1 (communications concerning a lawyer’s services), 7.2 (advertising), and 7.3 (solicitation of clients) of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct all set out strict guidelines for the ethical marketing of a legal practice.
During stage one, your aim should be to figure out the questions your target marketing customers are asking and make it fast and easy for them to find answers to those questions. Their questions flow from their interests and concerns. Start by making a list of why a customer would need the legal services you are offering, and then imagine a reverse time line of thoughts on their minds prior to their need awareness.
Once you have a list of thoughts on their minds, consider the content that would address those interests and concerns. This is the content that will help you to connect with your customers and move them closer to a transition point where they know they have a need that you could help them address. Remember that customers want what they want, when they want it, and nothing more. This is the heart of social media marketing. You have multiple options to reach your customers through social media once you have created relevant, cohesive content. This content may be delivered in the form of videos, blogs, white papers, e-books, infographics, e-mail newsletters, case studies, podcasts, how-to guides, question-and-answer articles, photos, and social media posts. It is one step in a comprehensive marketing and sales strategy to influence customer behavior and generate or increase interest in what you have to offer and awareness of a customer need that you can address.
Figuring out content is a matter of getting into the mind of your customer. A person concerned about immigration status may be worried about deportation, travel, and employment, while someone injured in a motor vehicle accident with a truck may wonder how common truck accidents arise in a particular location. If your typical customer is injured in an automobile accident, what type of accident occurred? If your target customers are highly paid executives who have been fired, what is on their minds? What if your typical customer is looking for a patent to protect an invention or a trademark to protect a logo?
Your choice of how to convey your content depends on your answers to additional questions. If your target customer is recovering from an injury, where is he or she when recovering? What are your target customers reading, watching, and listening to? How will you make the first contact with your customer? Will you reach your customer through traditional advertising or social media, such as YouTube or a blog article?
To create the right customer experience during stage one, separate your customers in discrete groups based on why they would need the legal services you are offering. For each group, make a series of lists based on the following questions:
- What are the series of events that would lead to their needing a lawyer who offers the services you offer
- What are the thoughts on their minds as they progress from having no need awareness and no awareness of you to hiring you as their lawyer?
- What content would be responsive?
- Where will they be and what will they be watching, reading, and/or listening to when they have questions?
Much of the communication at stage one is virtual and social media based; however, presentations are also a stage one interaction. Depending on the type of legal services you offer, industry conferences may offer opportunities to get in front of the right people in person. If your target clients are inventors, you would be smart to attend and present at the industry conferences they attend.
Your message may be virtual or live, synchronous or asynchronous, verbal or visual, or written or oral. Your message may be on a billboard, in a periodical, on the side of a bus, on a website, in a tweet, in a presentation, at a networking event, or in a meeting. The process of creating customer awareness is called the marketing funnel. In the marketing funnel, the customer may be exposed to your solutions at a live event, in a social forum, while reading a blog post, while listening to a podcast or watching a webcast, in traditional advertising, or while reading an article. Adjust your message for the venue.
Your goal is to transition a customer’s thinking from not realizing they have a need for your services to realizing they have a need and that you can address that need. Once you have done that, you will need to keep the communication and connection alive by staying in touch with the customer through e-mails, blogs, videos, your website, lunch meetings, and phone calls. The challenge is to strike the right balance of staying top of mind without being annoying.
When creating content, keep in mind common cognitive biases. Lawyers often rely on logic and reason in their content to persuade customers to buy the lawyer’s services. This is a mistake. Your customers will make decisions emotionally and then justify them with reason and logic, not the reverse. Your content and interactions should account for the emotional element of your customer’s situation and address it.
Do not fall prey to common biases in thinking and decision making. Instead, learn what they are, slow down your thinking and decision making, and manage your own biases, while accepting and working with your customers’ biases. Find more on how to slow down your fast thinking in this blog post.
Be aware of common biases in thinking and decision making. They affect you and your customers. Fast thinking refers to biases and gut reactions in contrast to evidence-based, slower thinking. You will want to both manage these biases so they do not interfere with your goal and leverage them when they will affect your customers’ thinking.
Stage One: Content Creation Exercise
Rule 7.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct provides that a lawyer “shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.” Statements about prior results or achievements have been held to be misleading if they could create “an unjustified expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters.” Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.1 cmt. .
Content designed to catch a customer’s attention is different from that which keeps you top of mind after the customer has decided there is a need and you can address that need. In the following exercise, you will create content for both situations and different content for different methods of communication.
EXERCISE: FILL IN THIS TABLE with phrases and content ideas that are appropriate for the situation (developing awareness or staying top of mind) and method of communication.
In this stage, your blog or website is a place for the curious customer to land. When customers have questions that relate to what you do, entice them to land where they will find answers to their questions. Once they have landed there, keep them there and keep them coming back with compelling content.
Stage One: Website Development
Building your own website can be simple with a drag-and-drop process. Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly make it easy if you are a do-it-yourself person. If not, find and hire a consultant. Regardless, you are responsible for the website’s content, which should contain at least a few of the following:
- A Compelling Headline. For more on headlines, see the discussions below on writing a LinkedIn headline (§ 6.4.2(i)) or an elevator speech (§ 6.4.2(j), § 6.4.2(k)).
- An Opening Story. Help readers see themselves working with you and solving their problems.
- A Clear Value Proposition. Explain what you are offering as solutions to your customers’ problems. It may help to explain your value proposition in bullet points.
- Testimonials. Include testimonials from satisfied clients to help develop your credibility. When readers notice similarities between your satisfied clients and themselves, they are more likely to envision themselves working with you.
- Your Bio.
- An FAQ Page. Address common questions and overcome common objections.
- Provide an explanation of what the customer should expect for a typical workflow process and pricing.
Make it easy for a visitor to take the next step and speak with someone to get more information on you and your firm. You can use a virtual receptionist, such as Ruby Receptionists, Back Office Betties, Answer 1, or Halo Secretarial Services, or even use chatbots. Make it easy to schedule an online appointment, for which you may use Calendly, ScheduleOnce, or Microsoft Bookings. Keep your customers moving through the marketing funnel until they decide to hire you.
Such contacts can inadvertently create an attorney-client relationship and possible liability if, for example, an impending statute of limitations is not identical. See DeVaux v. Am. Home Assurance, 387 Mass. 814 (1983).
Stage Two: General Principles
During stage two of the customer journey, customers become aware of their legal needs and your ability to respond effectively with a law-based solution. They may also become aware of their psychological needs for a lawyer-client relationship and start asking whether you are the right person and your firm is the right firm to meet those needs.
In this stage, customers decide whether to engage, not to engage right now, or not to address their need right now. The emphasis is on “right now.” There is no reason to assume that a decision not to engage or not to address a need is permanent. On the contrary, holding a pessimistic belief leads to a vicious cycle that breeds anxiety and blocks confidence, cognitive skills, critical thinking, and the resilience needed for effective marketing and business development. Instead, cultivate self-confidence, grit, resilience, and a learning mindset. Grit refers to one’s belief that hard work, rather than innate ability, is a precursor to success. Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a setback or failure. A person with a learning mindset, in contrast to one with a fixed mindset, considers what others would call a setback or failure as data from which to learn more about himself or herself, his or her strategy, and his or her challenge.
In stage two, you and your customer will interact on a personal level. Some people distinguish between one-to-one personal interactions, which they call business development, and one-to-many interactions, which they call marketing. Stage two includes the transition point from marketing to business development. That said, the development of new clients and new work is not always a strictly linear process. Thus, you may fall short of achieving your marketing and business development goals without the stage one foundation.
Improve your one-to-one interactions in stage two with a heavy dose of emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ refers to how people acknowledge and address the emotional dimension of human experience. There are four EQ components:
- Awareness of your emotional state,
- Ability to manage your emotional state,
- Awareness of your customer’s emotional states, and
- Ability to affect your customers’ emotional states.
Research from the financial services industry has demonstrated a correlation between sales and significant EQ competencies: high performers with significant EQ competencies generated a nearly fivefold increase in sales as compared with other performers.
EXERCISE: COMPLETE THIS SELF-ASSESSMENT to evaluate your EQ strengths and weaknesses. Then create a developmental plan to improve specific areas. Most people will notice an immediate benefit from designing and implementing a plan to increase their confidence, resilience, learning mindset, and grit.
Below is a list of tips and instructions to help you improve your EQ:
- Your confidence is directly proportional to your competence. (Still, some of us have internalized toxic messages about ourselves, and can benefit from talking to a therapist, which Massachusetts lawyers and law students can do for free through our LCL MA LAP services — find more on scheduling here.) Competence is developed through practice over time. Estimates put it at 10,000 hours of practice over ten years on average, so keep working hard. Marketing and business development skills are no different. Keep writing content to use. Keep networking and meeting new people. Keep presenting to develop your brand as an expert. Keep practicing.
- Values and priorities are key to motivation. Knowing what you want, why you want it, and what really matters most to you is highly motivating. Motivation drives a person to keep practicing. Check out our Workbook on Values in our Career Development for Lawyers Workbook Series.
- Grit is a ferocious determination to attain a goal. Researcher Angela Duckworth has developed an assessment of grit that is available to take here. Take the assessment and then develop your grit by keeping your motivation top of mind, learning resilience, and maintaining a learning mindset. Choose your practice focus wisely. Identify your weaknesses and mistakes, then focus your practice time there.
- A learning, or “growth” mindset is an attitude that failures and mistakes feel painful but are actually opportunities to learn more about the challenge, yourself, and what to do to overcome the challenge. It is a deeply held belief that success for everyone is a consequence of hard work and not one’s identity and innate talent. Researcher Carol Dweck has developed a mindset assessment that is available to take here. Take the assessment and then develop your learning mindset.
- Assess content from the customer’s point of view. What can you do to learn more about a customer’s point of view? What do they need to feel empowered, rather than victimized, in the process of selecting and working with you? What can you do to learn about what is likely on their minds? What can you do to give them the experience they want?
- Adjust your behavior. We are all individuals, but when it comes to trust, research repeatedly has shown that we trust people who we think are more like us. What messages are you conveying through your body language? In a presentation, is this a crowd that needs to hear your conclusion first or the rationale? Are they expecting details or soundbites? What is their attention span? Are you talking too long or not long enough? Consider how you can show commonalities to bridge any differences.
- Take care of yourself. Periodically scan your body to notice where your muscles are tense, then relax them and feel them relax. Also, engage in positive self-talk and learn to relax by focusing on your breathing. Take a deep breath and let it out fully to relax. Learn to control your breathing as a way of relaxing before a presentation or networking event or reducing stress in general. Find more on self-care as a lawyer or law student here.
- Choose your beliefs wisely and discard those that are not helpful. The biggest value in beliefs is the effect they have on how you feel, what you think, and what you do, because people often behave in ways to make their beliefs a reality. There is no value in transforming an unhelpful belief into reality. Do you believe you will succeed or fail? Do you believe that a customer’s decision not to engage you is permanent or temporary? We know that when facts and situations change, intelligent people adjust their thinking and revisit their decisions. The customer who decides against engaging with you today may come back tomorrow ready to sign an engagement letter. So why not assume that customers are intelligent and that you will succeed?
Make it a habit to scan your body and mind and answer these questions:
- How am I feeling?
- What am I thinking?
- What am I doing or planning to do today?
- How do I want to feel?
- What thoughts will help me achieve my goals today?
- What can I do to help me achieve my goals today?
If and when the customer decides to learn more about you and what you do, the relationship transitions from marketing to a one-to-one interaction between you and the customer, at which point your brand, which is important in marketing, becomes even more important. As a transitional object, your brand can transition a curious customer into a trusting client. It affects how customers feel and what they think when talking to you about their interests and concerns. It affects all future decisions about working with you or recommending you.
Stage Two: Brand Exercise
Think about your brand as the image or impression that others remember about you. Evaluate and then intentionally create and manage your brand so customers have positive memories and feelings when they think about you and your law firm.
Your brand sends a message about your core values, signature style, technical and core competencies, and experiences that set you apart from your competition. Check out our Workbook on Brand in our Career Development for Lawyers Workbook Series.
EXERCISE: Evaluate Your Brand
Take a moment and evaluate your brand by doing the following:
- Make a list of your values.
- Describe the experience of working with you.
- Describe how you feel and what you think about your clients, when they call you, and what they need from you.
- Take a McClelland’s motivation assessment and find out what motivates you. Is it power, affiliation, or achievement?
- Make a list of your technical competencies and your core strategy, communication, and leadership competencies.
- Finally, make a list of experiences that demonstrate your brand, what it is like to work with you, and numbers 1 through 5 above.
Opportunities to convey your brand verbally arise when a customer asks these questions:
- What do you do?
- How can you help me?
- What is new?
- Instead of a question, you may hear a statement, such as: Tell me about yourself.
Prepare in advance by answering these questions:
- How do you describe yourself?
- How do you think others perceive you in a professional setting?
- How do you think others perceive you in a personal setting?
- What do you want others to remember about you after you have left their company?
Since your brand is communicated emotionally, it is not only the words that matter. The timing, location, and tone of brand communication are equally important. To that end, do not lead any interaction with a customer by talking about yourself—your values, identity, or purpose. If asked about yourself, share a little, but never let the focus of the interaction sway too far from what is most important—the customer. Instead, superimpose over traditional branding an intention to listen, empathize, add value, and delight your customer (L.E.A.D.).
Stage Two: Brand Assets Exercises
In many instances part of the customer journey and experience is research on social media before meeting you face-to-face. It is a good idea to know your digital brand before your customers do. Google yourself at least monthly. Keep your social media profiles updated to project the brand you want others to perceive. Use a professional photograph and a headline on LinkedIn. Create the path from first touch on social media to your webpage, where you control the content. Do people know you have published articles they can access or that they can attend events where you are speaking? They should.
Your digital brand assets are your website and social media profiles and feeds. If you have a logo or tagline, it is part of your cache of brand assets. Versions of your bio, cover letters, résumés, and web pages and postings are expressions of your brand. If online, they are digital. You may also have traditional advertisements on a billboard, in a paper periodical, or anywhere else.
Additionally, the way you dress, your choice of language, tone of voice, body language, and office space and design are all messages about your brand. Think of assessing and managing your brand assets for the purpose of making sure you are conveying the intended messages about who you are, what you do, how you are different from competitors, and the experience of working with you. Are you conveying the brand image you intend to project? Alignment of your brand assets with the brand you intend to project or a lack of a consistent brand is obvious to all, your LinkedIn profile is your résumé, and people expect you to be prepared with an elevator speech. See § 6.4.2(j) and § 6.4.2(k), below. The following exercises are designed to help you project a consistent brand that is aligned with your intentions and customer expectations.
EXERCISE 1: Brand Assets Alignment
There are two parts to this exercise: (A) Describing your desired brand image and (B) Evaluating your brand projections for alignment with your desired brand image.
A) First, write a description of your intended brand image. What are you trying to project to customers?
B) Next, FILL IN THIS TABLE with data about your actual brand image.
EXERCISE 2: Create a LinkedIn Brand Asset
There are three steps to this exercise: (A) Investigation, (B) Planning and Implementation, and (C) Bringing Value to your LinkedIn Connections.
A) Investigation. There are two parts Io this section of the exercise—preparation and questions for discussion. The goal is to have a discussion with a friend. In preparation for the discussion, first review and follow the steps below and then set aside an hour to have the discussion.
- Go to LinkedIn. In the upper right-hand corner is the “Me” button. Select it and then select “Account.” Under “Account,” select “Settings and Privacy,” then “Profile Viewing Options,” and finally, “Private Mode.” Now search for people who practice the type of law you practice or at a firm that is similar to your firm. What are they saying and doing that catches your attention? What do you like? What do you not like?
- Make a list of your strongest assets. These are your technical and core competencies and experiences that set you apart from everyone else.
- Make a list of the pros and cons of your LinkedIn profile.
- Questions for Discussion.
- Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Why or why not?
- If so, what is in it?
- If so, how do you feel about it?
- Looking at other profiles on LinkedIn, what do you like and dislike?
- What changes will you commit to make to yours and by when?
B) Planning and Implementation. There are three parts to this section: preparation to continue your discussion in the investigation step, the continuation of the discussion, and writing copy for your LinkedIn page. The goal is to add dimension to your brand and write or update your LinkedIn profile page.
- In preparation for your discussion, prepare the following data:
- Describe in detail your ideal customer. Ask the customer what he or she wants to see on your LinkedIn page or hear when first meeting a lawyer like you.
- What words will your ideal customer use to search for people to meet his or her professional needs and wants? What recent experiences may cause the customer to search for a person like you?
- What are your strengths—your technical and core competencies and experiences that set you apart from everyone else?
- What types of tasks can you perform or what problems can you solve?
- For whom can you perform these tasks or solve these problems?
- Questions for discussion:
- How have you changed your thinking about using LinkedIn?
- What key elements should be included in a robust LinkedIn profile?
- Looking at your headline and profile, if you did not know this person, would you want to learn more? Why or why not?
- Is your headline clearly conveying messages to persuade someone to hire you or offer you the opportunities you want? How can you make your headline better?
- Write your copy:
- In fewer than ten words, using only nouns and verbs (no adjectives or adverbs), create a visual picture of what you have done and can do that your customer would want.
- Turn this into a LinkedIn headline.
- Expand on it to turn it into a LinkedIn profile.
C) Bringing Value to Your LinkedIn Connections. LinkedIn is a professional relationship platform. Like all other relationships, LinkedIn relationships that are not mutually beneficial are less valuable. In this section of the exercise, your goal is to bring value to your LinkedIn connections and for your connections to bring value to you. Consider the following questions:
- How could you be a resource to any of your connections? What do they need that you could provide?
- How do you show that you value when other people request to connect with you? Do you respond within twenty-four to forty-eight hours? Do you look at their profiles before responding? What do you say when you respond?
- When asking someone to connect with you, how do you show that you value him or her? Do you use the default request template? Do you look at his or her profile before making the request? What could you include in a request to show why you want to connect with a particular person?
- How can you use your current contacts to discover who they know and request an introduction?
- What are your ideas for staying in touch with your LinkedIn connections?
- How can you use LinkedIn groups to bring mutual value to yourself and others?
- What are three actions to leverage the power of LinkedIn that you will take in the next two weeks?
As your experience and skills change, so should your LinkedIn headline and profile. Revisit and revise it regularly to evaluate whether it is sending the message you want.
Stage Two: Branded Elevator Speech Exercise
In-person solicitation is permitted of businesses but not of individuals. Mass. R. Prof. C. 7.3.
Your brand shows up in the core of your “elevator speech,” a 30- to 60-second soundbite about who you are, what you do, what you want, what makes you unique, and what makes you likable and trustworthy. It may be very similar to the one- to two-sentence description you place in the profile section of your LinkedIn profile. A good elevator speech will engage the listener, and an engaged listener is likely to have follow-up questions.
Prepare one or two ways to talk about yourself. You should be speaking for no more than fifteen to thirty seconds, and what you say should make the right customers curious to learn more about how you might be valuable to them today or in the future. Your aim is to provoke curiosity and questions about their interests and concerns, rather than pushing out the details you care about. A good elevator speech begins with knowing yourself. It incorporates your interests, passions, core values, signature style, commonalities with other people, experiences, and what makes you different from everyone else. It is about identifying what makes you unique as well as what makes you similar to everyone else. When you superimpose the customer experience perspective, think about your customer experience goal. How do you want to add value and delight?
Your customer service goal should be to show the customer the problems you solve and how you solve them. To get ideas for how to phrase the content in your elevator speech, ask yourself and your friends and colleagues why someone would want to work with you and not someone else.
EXERCISE: Write your elevator speech in three steps. Think about how to answer the following questions with compelling headlines. The compelling headline that answers the last question should convey what the customer should expect if he or she chooses to work with you.
- Start with the present. What are you doing right now that is interesting and provokes curiosity?
- Next, go to the past. What experiences and special skills have made it possible for you to do what you are now doing and want to do in the future?
- Finally, talk about the future and what you can do for the customer.
Stage Three: General Principles
Your hard work and planning in stages one and two have led to a new client or additional work from an existing client. Stage three begins with the intake form and a discussion of the engagement letter and ends when you have a signed disengagement letter from your client.
A signed engagement letter setting out “the scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee” is mandatory. Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(b)(1). Moreover, any subsequent “changes in the basis or rate of the fees or expenses shall also be communicated in writing.” Mass. R. Prof. C. 1.5(b)(1). Find more on Fee Agreements Best Practices for Lawyers in Massachusetts (including templates) here.
From the time the working relationship begins until it comes to a close, you are in stage three. In stage three, your firm culture or individual personality matters. How can your engagement and disengagement letters add value and delight? How often should you communicate with your client about the work? What methods of communication should you use, when, and why? What should you communicate to add value and delight? What do you do so there are no surprises during the representation in either pricing, quality, or outcomes? What do you want to be the defining characteristics of the brand experience of working with you and your firm?
Stage Three: The AIDET Framework
Sharp Health Care in San Diego, California has a way to communicate with people who are anxious and feeling vulnerable: a 5-step AIDET communication framework. Aiming to be the best place to work, practice medicine, and receive care, they created the name “The Sharp Experience” for the culture of service to their patients and their families, with AIDET at its core. It includes interaction principles that extend to affiliated physicians and colleagues. AIDET stands for:
- Acknowledge – greeting people with a smile, using their names, and creating a positive impression with every interaction;
- Introduce – telling people who you are, how you will help them, and putting them at ease;
- Duration – a reminder that everyone’s time is valuable, keeping people informed of delays, and taking the initiative to accommodate their schedules and not waste their time;
- Explanation – letting people know what you are doing and will do, what they should expect and not expect, whom to call and how to connect with someone for answers to their future questions, and asking if they need anything right now; and
- Thank you – recognizing their value and importance to you, fostering an attitude of gratitude.
Take a moment and consider how to adapt the AIDET behaviors to create the brand culture of service for your clients.
Stage Three: Collecting Feedback
In stage three, you have the opportunity to collect feedback about the customer experience while the matter is still active. What could you do to gather continuous feedback on your performance and brand? This gives you the opportunity to correct course if necessary and win back a disgruntled client or do more of what the client wants.
At part of the disengagement process, you should use a standard checklist of questions such as these.
Hearing feedback may be difficult. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that feedback is a gift. It is valuable data about how someone else perceives interacting with you. Every response or nonresponse is feedback, and it is as much about the giver as it is about the receiver.
The process for taking in feedback effectively is to do the following:
- Thank the person.
- Do not argue, explain your behavior or firm actions, or defend yourself.
- Ask questions for clarification, details, and meaning only. These are open-ended questions. They are not closed, leading questions used to prove a point.
- Make sure you understand what the person is asking you to do differently in the future.
Stage Four: General Principles
In stage four, the working relationship has concluded. If you have taken full advantage of building the relationship during stage three, the client knows your brand well but has little need for what you offer right now. The interaction becomes diffuse. Social media and networking become the key means for maintaining connections with your customers.
In stage four, you will rely on your customer relationship management (CRM) and email marketing systems. CRM collects and retains data on the customer experience throughout the customer journey. Your email marketing system enables you to stay top of mind in this stage of diffuse interaction.
Use your CRM system to examine and analyze the data you have collected to make decisions about where in the journey the customer is and the next action you should take. This is where you will retain the information you collect about each customer’s wants, needs, preferences, expectations, interests, and concerns. This is the information you collect at different points in the marketing funnel and in person in the prior stages of the customer journey. The system can be as low-cost as an Excel spreadsheet or free software or a more expensive software program. Your firm size and budget will inform your decision. Insightly and Zoho CRM are two products for smaller firms. Zoho has a free version. Salesforce is another, more expensive product. Take a look at all three to compare functionalities and costs.
Email marketing is a cost-effective marketing tool that allows you to select content and frequency of email contact with a particular customer to stay top of mind without becoming annoying. A good email marketing service makes it easy to create engaging emails, integrate with your CRM, segment your customers into different groups depending on their unique interests and concerns, and track the performance of your email efforts. Popular services include iContact, Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and MailChimp. Again, it is worth your time and effort to compare functionalities and costs.
Is there anything getting in the way of your client development? Perhaps you need to take a break for a round of self-development. Take this self-evaluation quiz to figure out where you need to focus developmental efforts. Make a check mark next to each skill that you have, indicating whether your skill level is poor, average, above average, or highly skilled.
Leadership research suggests that the most successful organizations are led by people who are highly skilled. Take the time you need to enhance your client development and networking skills so you will be more effective going forward.
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This post originally appeared as part of Chapter 6, “Client Development and Networking” in MCLE’s Hanging Your Shingle.