Market Externally To Generate More Enquiries (Part 1)
Joint Venture Marketing and Showcasing your Expertise
The following is a summary of certain types of external marketing initiatives that I have seen work well, together with some simple pragmatic tips about their execution.
JOINT VENTURE MARKETING
If you market under your own name, you are totally reliant upon the strength of your firm’s brand, the personal performance and marketing skills of your team, your resources in terms of money and time and your ability to simply keep up the momentum required.
Joint venture marketing is the process of joining forces with other organisations when a whole range of marketing challenges can be shared to a mutual benefit. Typically, both parties are able to bring something to the party!
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The tangible benefits of joint venturing include the following:
- exposure to a different client/customer base;
- potentially massive cost savings;
- the endorsement factor;
- limitation of marketing risk;
- increased results potential; and
- information and intelligence sharing.
In light of the threats mentioned previously from both inside and outside the profession, joint ventures should be very much near the top of the list of possible activities for private client practitioners.
As a counter defensive move against larger retail brand names getting into legal services, now is the time to begin formulating a strategy based on joint venture marketing.
The AA’s and the Royal Bank of Scotland legal services wills operation mentioned previously, is a perfect example of joint venturing, with them using their brand, marketing expertise and resources to harvest enquiries, which are then outsourced to a well established legal practice who meet certain standards. There are several types of joint ventures you can consider.
Joint ventures with the media
I have negotiated and put in place, for a number of legal practices, joint venture projects with various local, regional and national media organisations. In every case, the results have been very positive, with all the benefits mentioned earlier. Here are two examples:
1. Joint information guides
This involves influencing a local, regional, national newspaper or other publication to co-brand with you in the production of an information guide on a relevant topic.
The finished product could be a type of booklet on such topics as ‘Putting your affairs in order’ or ‘Why make a will?’ published by a specific newspaper or publication in association with you as a particular legal firm.
The mechanics of this type of joint venture are as follows:
- approach the publication’s marketing and promotions manager (do not approach the advertising or editorial department).
- ask if they would be interested in exploring a mutually advantageous joint venture with you, which will not involve them in direct costs, but will give them a number of benefits.
- explain that you will provide them with an added value service, which can be free to their readers in the form of a helpful information guide.
The firm’s commitment is usually to write and produce appropriate informative material, and the publishing organisation’s job is to promote the guide through its publication’s pages.
Deals with the media can vary. Many are happy to run this venture for free, as they see it as offering their readers a support service. Others charge a fee. However, it is always much cheaper and more effective than pure advertising.
What you ultimately want is for that publication to promote the guide at an agreed frequency, with some editorial and a coupon, which invites the reader to request the product. The publication then passes the coupon onto the firm to administer the distribution of the guide to potential clients.
2. Joint seminars with the media
The concept is exactly the same, however, instead of producing a co-branded booklet or guide, you collaborate with the local media over a public seminar on an appropriate private client topic. The publishers promote the event as a joint venture, with your firm bearing the administration cost and the speaking commitment. If done properly, you will have an event at limited cost, marketed by a more influential organisation, where you can showcase your expertise.
For this kind of seminar, a minimal charge should be levied to add value to the event.
Joint ventures with commercial organisations
Approach large local businesses, high street brand names or, again, media organisations and ask if they would like to co-venture a marketing initiative with you. Such businesses may be interested in co-branding a wills and tax planning advisory service to their customer base to add value, extend their range, test the legal services market and potentially generate an additional revenue stream. As mentioned earlier, this is exactly what the AA and a legal practice have done. Who can you approach?
Joint ventures with charitable or special interest organisations
The same concept can work with Age Concern, Help the Aged, residential care homes and a huge list of possible charities. They can all be approached with regard to them offering to their contacts a legal service under their brand, which your firm can supply.
Joint ventures with estate agents
Many firms seek to develop relationships with local estate agencies. It is, however, usually only the residential conveyancing department who will be keen. This is a classic example of not considering the organisation as a whole. There may, however, be ways of teaming up with local estate agents to provide wills and inheritance tax planning services to customers. It surely follows that somebody buying and selling property may need to consider either making a will with tax planning provisions or reviewing an existing one.
Joint venture employee packages
Why not contact the personnel and HR departments of local and regional businesses who have a substantial number of employees? You could offer them private client services at special rates, for them to offer their employees as an internal company benefit.
SHOWCASE YOUR EXPERTISE
People buy people first! If they can read something someone wrote, hear a particular person speak, then it can inspire confidence, trust and respect in a way that more traditional advertising cannot.
You should give serious consideration, therefore, to the kinds of initiatives in which you can showcase your expertise to raise your profile.
I have had good results with the following:
If you really try, it is not difficult to find speaking opportunities for your specialist private client practitioners. Many will be involved with a whole range of social, personal, religious and special interest groups who occasionally require speakers. Offerings of a short informative talk on a helpful topic, presented in an entertaining way, will usually be greeted enthusiastically.
Getting known in the media
Almost every day in the newspapers, radio and television, news and feature items of interest appear regarding important legal developments and how they affect people. There is no reason why your firm shouldn’t be the provider of this information by way of a feature article or a short broadcasted interview. How many times have you read the name of another legal practice in a paper or read a journal article written by a private client partner in a competitor firm? The truth is, it is not difficult to set up such opportunities. All you do is simply pick up the phone and ask!
Determine the current burning private client issues that might be topical, of interest or coming up in the near future. Contact the features editor at your local newspapers and ask if they would be interested in a short, well-written practical article on the topic, which you can provide for them at no cost. In at least 50 per cent. of such occasions, you will get a positive response. Ensure you have the article attributed to you and your firm. For example, ‘David Nathan is a private client partner at Charles Nathan & Benjamin Solicitors’.
Use the same technique with local radio, and you might find yourself being interviewed as an expert on a particular topic. It is a great free way to promote your firm and showcase your expertise.
Networking – working the room
Many partners and fee earners in private client departments are encouraged to ‘network and work the room’. It is true; the more people you know, the more likely you are to get approached by them in the future.
Despite the commercial logic behind this, the vast majority of partners and fee earners almost universally dislike this process and usually confess to being apprehensive about walking into a room with the specific intention of networking.
Here are a few questions I am regularly asked:-
- What, exactly, is networking?
This might seem like a really basic question, but I know from experience that many practitioners are expected to do it, but don’t know what it is. Networking has become a bit of marketing jargon, but it means nothing more than meeting people! These may be totally new people or people you’ve met before and are simply getting to know better.
- How do we sell our services at a social occasion?
You do not have to sell your services at social events. All you have to do is build rapport. Let me remind you again, people buy people first. If at some stage you meet someone socially with whom you get along well, and he or she turns out to be an experienced house painter, isn’t it likely you would ask them to give you a quote if you were in need of a decorator?
Likewise, if people meet and feel comfortable with you and know what you do, it is likely they will approach you at some stage, or they will pass your details on to someone else.
I am often asked how to move from social to business? The truth is you usually don’t; it’s almost all social!
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