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17 WAYS TO ADD VALUE TO YOUR CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS

Legal marketers talk a lot about value. We talk about providing value, being of value, and adding value. It's a solid concept. A correct concept. A simple concept.
Value is anything you do that makes your client's life happier, easier, better informed or more profitable. But few firms have a thoughtful, repeatable process that they use to build loyalty and reliance on their client relationships. If your competitive advantage is built on providing value (and whose isn't?), here are 17 strategies to integrate into your client relationship management process.

1. SECONDMENTS AND REVERSE SECONDMENTS
Business and legal departments often find themselves faced with a temporary shortage of help. Law firms can often provide exceptional value to their clients (and themselves) by placing staff or attorneys in the client’s business on a temporary basis. Secondments are the temporary assignment of staff or lawyers to work in a client’s business. Reverse secondments are similar but place the client’s executives at the law firm. Both strategies provide an exceptional experience for the individuals being placed. The practice adds ongoing value because the placed executive learns new systems, processes, understands the culture and business imperatives better and often expands the relationship within the firm.

2. TRAINING AND INSTRUCTIONAL GUIDES
Law firms that provide ongoing CLE, training programs and instructional guides provide value by shifting the task of providing this from the client to the law firm. The training can be done by webinar, onsite at the client’s offices or in written form. Some firms provide training videos on a client extranet ensuring the client gets the exclusive benefit of the custom-designed training program. Consider adding mechanisms to report attendance, viewing time or other metrics to help the client manage the training of their employees.

3. COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE
Law firms often have access to resources and information that their clients do not. Additionally, law firms can draw on the experience of their lawyers gained through years of working with similar, even competitor, companies. Identify the key competitors of your client and do research on them to understand their strategic direction and their competitive advantages. Monitor the media for updates about the competitors and provide regular updates to your clients on their activities, legal issues and changes in financial position.

4. ANALYSIS AND RESEARCH
Custom analysis or research can provide significant and unique value to a client. One firm I worked with undertook an analysis of all the wage and hour decisions in all the courts in the client’s footprint along with an analysis of the judge’s historical decisions. This gave the client an exceptional tool to evaluate each jurisdiction and make better venue decisions. Research can also set the firm up as an authority on a topic. Certain aspects of a study may be made available to the public while the more significant findings are kept for the exclusive benefit of the firm’s best clients.

5. PROCESS IMPROVEMENT AND MANAGEMENT
There’s no question that clients are focused on gaining efficiencies in every aspect of their business. This is no less the case in their management of litigation and the handling of their legal issues. Checklists, guides and tracking systems can help improve the effectiveness of a department and the efficiency of the work.

6. PLANS AND PLANNING SESSIONS
A thoughtful plan provides exceptional value. Plans demonstrate to clients a commitment to accomplish the client’s goals in a timely and predictable manner. Many law firms and lawyers meet annually or quarterly to look at the upcoming year or quarter and help clients plan for the anticipated work. Plans come in many varieties and can be done for training, legal work, expenses, and many other purposes.

7. TRANSPARENCY AND ACCESSIBILITY
The trusted relationship a law firm has with its client takes time to develop. Evidence that a trusted relationship has developed can be found in the ways the law firm has made their services transparent to the client or given the client extraordinary access to the firm. This could be in the form of access to the firm’s software or technology, access to staff or transparency in billing, processes used or research undertaken.

8. RECRUITING AND ON-BOARDING
Finding the right fit for a position can be a challenge. In the legal area, outside counsel can be particularly helpful by finding and introducing potential candidates, assisting in writing job descriptions, vetting candidates, assisting in orientations or on-boarding of the new hire.

9. ISSUES SPOTTING
Businesses are constantly on the lookout for issues that could present challenges or opportunities for the business. Issue spotting is the process of monitoring industry news and trends to identify emerging issues and opportunities that could affect a client’s business.

10. TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE TOOLS
There is an endless number of ways in which technology can be used to add value for a client. Some firms set up extranets and house war rooms on them to store the documents, giving easy access to the matter records.

11. CONNECTIONS AND INTRODUCTIONS
Your connections can be a resource to your clients. Faced with challenges and opportunities, the people you know can help your clients achieve their objectives. Make sure you know all of the people that you know and your partners know and proactively make introductions to your clients. Enabling your clients to expand their network of connections and tap new resources adds significant value to the relationship.

12. PRODUCTS AND PROMOTION
Businesses are always on the lookout for ways to market their company. You could be an avenue for them that they hadn’t considered. Whether it is using your client’s products or services, developing a co-promotion or simply promoting your client’s business, aligning their sales and marketing goals with your own can be a win-win situation for both of you.

Eric Dewey

Eric Dewey authors the Legal Marketing Blog, Lawyer Up! and was recently named the Guest Expert of the ABA’s annual marketing and client development edition of Law Practice Management magazine, due out in November of 2013. Dewey’s expertise includes client development; strategy and planning; marketing ROI and client opportunity analysis; client service training and program development; brand and reputation management; and organizational improvement. He can be reached at: 502-693-4731 or at www.groupdewey.com.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPersonal Development

About the Author: Eric Dewey authors the Legal Marketing Blog, Lawyer Up! and was recently named the Guest Expert of the ABA’s annual marketing and client development edition of Law Practice Management magazine, due out in November of 2013. Dewey’s expertise includes client development; strategy and planning; marketing ROI and client opportunity analysis; client service training and program development; brand and reputation management; and organizational improvement. He can be reached at: 502-693-4731 or at www.groupdewey.com.

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