Every now and then, some legislation comes into force that gets many professional services businesses terrified about the changes they have to make to in order to survive.
If you are an Intellectual Property legal services professional, and are worried about the impact The Legal Services Act will have on your business, then read on about how to position yourself and your business as a leader over the next couple of years.
Now, the Act aims to provide a better service for consumers, many of whom feel that legal firms are self-serving and have no interest whatsoever in improving their client-management capabilities.
Multi-service legal firms may be concerned about the impact of letting supermarkets, for example, have legal shops (or preferred suppliers for branded legal services)? You may be in working in such a firm. Will you have to reduce headcount and/or provide services at lower prices in order to compete? More importantly, what impact will this have on the reputation of your industry if prospects /clients look at prices first, before trying to get a handle on the benefits that result from the services you may provide. What happens to your ability to offer a range of legal products, including Intellectual Property advice, that keeps clients more tied to you over many years?
And scarily for those within the profession that are used to a well-trodden path towards partnership status – how on earth will you handle potential conflicts that arise internally, and with clients, if you have non-lawyers as partners within your practice?
There are so many issues to deal with. But the key question you have to answer is this – how will you differentiate yourself as a top Intellectual Property legal services professional, and attract the clients you want, despite the legislative changes taking place?
Now, there is a lot of speculation about the impact this Act will have on small to medium-sized legal practices. Given that many of these typically offer the same range of services, and are really poor at marketing themselves, the worst case scenario that some have foreseen is widespread redundancies because of price wars. If you think about it, and this is pure speculation on my part, supermarkets that start to offer legal services to loyalty card holders (e.g. estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, etc) could suck wind on costs to gain critical mass. After all, they have a huge opportunity to cross-sell financial services, insurance, mortgages, etc.
So, is this a scenario you worry about – that having acquired information on our shopping habits (too effectively for quite a few customers), supermarkets will target your prospects or clients? Many of these might be happy to use a one-stop shop for various services, primarily the less complex legal stuff that sucks valuable time, but with an expectation that they will get a high level of service.
It is easy then to listen to various people tell you to improve your marketing in order to let people know what IP-related expertise you have – e.g. re-design your website, get new logo, buying a list of prospects to invite to seminars/events, send out newsletters, do more networking, etc. That is all well and good, but will not help.
Well, the key reason is because you have not got into your prospects’ minds to find out what IP-related questions they are asking themselves. If you don’t do this, any marketing you do will be the same as a lot of your competitors. You simply will not stand out as a leader.
So, imagine you know what information people are searching for, and the ideal outcomes they really want. First of all, you need to change the habit of a lifetime and stop telling people about the services you provide and how great you are. Even when you are feeling the heat, trying to tell people your qualifications and experience to win them over will simply annoy many that you need to convert into clients.
Instead, identify a niche or specific type of client that you want to target and provide free information to. Help prospects understand how to take away their pain and improve their lives. After all, Intellectual Property law is really hard to understand. Whether you use white papers, articles, blogs, newsletters, it doesn’t matter. However, what you need to do is promote the IP-related information you are providing, NOT your services. As I have said before, direct response marketing is key here to capture details and guide prospects to information you have.
Like so many other professional services fields, there are very few Intellectual Property lawyers that have a comprehensive system in place to gain the trust of prospects as the first step to winning them over. And if you are looking at how to position your business as the one to go to for IP legal services despite all the legislative changes taking place, THEN YOU NEED TO FOCUS ON THE VALUE YOU PROVIDE TO YOUR PROSPECTS AS YOU GUIDE THEM THROUGH YOUR SALES FUNNEL.
The only way to compete with the bigger practices, and not have to TheBusinessDaily. reduce your prices drastically, is to make sure you establish yourself in the minds of prospects as the best IP legal services practice that will address their concerns. You simply can not do that by harping on about your expertise, and listing all the services you provide in the hope that people will be impressed.
The point I am getting to is this…IP legal services professionals should think about the opportunities to establish themselves as leaders within specific niches in order to build and maintain profitable client bases. Changes in legislation tend to destroy firms that are not nimble enough to appreciate the need to continuously evolve with the times.
The traditional methods for marketing and advertising legal services are dead (by the way, if you have a yellow pages advert which simply lists your services down, be very afraid). What you need to do is think about is how to implement a new business model that focuses on providing answers to questions your target market has, and use this as the basis to develop trusted relationships with prospects. If you focus on this first, then you will find yourself with the clients you want.