According to research by Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor and the Melbourne Law School, law firms are facing more and more pressure to meet growth targets. The report, “2017 Australia: State of the Legal Market”, showed that only the very largest firms posted positive growth in revenue, while those below the Big Eight suffered slight declines averaging 1.3%. An increase in regulatory and judicial requirements and the changing nature and demands of both clients and employees are key contributors to a stagnating and increasingly competitive legal market. Additionally, law firms in Australia face increased demand for prime real estate and offices in CBDs. But with rising property prices and a shifting digital landscape, the way legal practices do business is changing rapidly.
This highlights a commonly known truth: that the business landscape is changing for SMEs. To keep their competitive edge, law firms need to ensure they’re not just aware of the evolving trends but are actively employing the very latest growth strategies. Here are some of the strategies that Australian law firms are using to grow their business and keep their pipeline full.
First impressions still matter
The timeless values of client relations are a key component in fostering current and future business. According to research conducted by client experience firm CXINLAW, 88% of initial inquiry contact with small-to-medium-sized law firms did not deliver a positive result for the prospective client or the firm. In fact, their 2018 report said that 58% of firms left prospective clients with a bad taste in their mouths: unhappy, they preferred to contact a competitor.
Law firms need to double down on the most fundamental tenet of customer acquisition: making them feel like they matter at all steps of their customer journey. Trust, rapport and confidence with clients are critical to retaining their business, and a client who feels like you don’t respect them or care about their problems will be all too ready to approach your rivals. A cursory examination of Perth law firm websites reflects this philosophy. They understand that contracting legal practitioners can be an expensive, traumatic and confusing process, and so many of these firms have adopted a ‘customer is king’ human touch to appease their prospective clients.
Local is best
As Internet access becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the amount of choice clients have has increased exponentially. However, an unwanted side effect is that the things we want to find get lost in a flood of irrelevant options. Bigger, as they say, is not always better.
Hyper-localised searches that target people closer to your business; listing your business on an online local exchange; ‘geofencing’ your marketing messages to make sure that they are reaching the locals more likely to use your services — these are all strategies that companies need in order to cultivate high numbers of leads and guide prospective clients to your services while keeping marketing costs low. These strategies are especially effective when coupled with referral networks. Even without paid online referral networks, small firms in Perth have seen great returns from partnering with firms that specialise in other fields to refer cases to each other.
The Digital Frontier
It’s common knowledge that you need to have a digital presence to differentiate yourself from competitors. Combining online resources, such as informative blogs, social media profiles and websites, with a marketing funnel strategy and good Customer Relationship Management tools can be an excellent means of encouraging business growth. The concept of a marketing funnel is fairly straightforward: the ‘top of the funnel’ is tailored to attract as many people to the site as possible. Slowly, and through more direct, service-related content, you guide potential clients down the funnel, until they contact your business or request a service from you. More and more law firms are expanding their online presence through smart web portals that provide clients and non-clients with interesting industry information to guide them towards investigating the firm’s services or visiting their website or registering their details. This combined digital strategy has the added benefit of cutting marketing expenses and helping to improve your operating costs and ROI on client acquisition.
As the barriers to international business fade and the use of mobile phones skyrockets, firms should consider developing a mobile application to use in conjunction with existing digital marketing strategies. Always-on connectivity to your services; reduced costs of marketing through traditional means; smooth integration of your firm’s website and web content; greater convenience — the benefits of a mobile app (or at least optimising your website for mobile devices) for your firm are considerable, to say the least. Already the legal industry has seen giants like Corrs Chambers Westgarth and MinterEllison creating their own apps to streamline business and improve both customer experience and the provision of legal services (‘paperless’ offices are seeing more and more popularity to save time and money). Whether you’re looking to make your firm’s operations more efficient or stand out from the competition, developing your own app is a powerful tool to boost business and improve existing customer relations.
Technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and businesses need to stay aware of current technological advancements. Take the blockchain for example: while the energy intensiveness and computing costs of the blockchain are somewhat restrictive outside of lucrative cryptocurrency applications, there’s no doubt that this decentralised, secure technology could revolutionise public records, finances and governance. Law firms the world over know that the future of blockchain is upon us, and they understand that they need to be ready for it. Today, firms across Australia (such as Hall & Wilcox) are providing specialised articles and information concerning the blockchain, with the intent of providing legal expertise with cases involving cryptocurrency. In Perth and abroad, law firms are starting to hire specialised partners with experience in all manner of law pertaining to the blockchain.
Today, law firms face a lot of upheavals. Whether it’s the difficult economic environment or challenges of digital marketing and client acquisition, law firms need a partner who understands the shifting legal industry and knows how to mix online marketing, digital solutions and industry expertise to surmount these hurdles. At Inboda, we specialise in understanding the difficulties of the marketplace and what strategies industry leaders are using to get ahead. We know how best to streamline and optimise your business strategies to capture untapped markets, extend your business reach and build your client base. To discover the power of inbound marketing and how it can help your firm beat the challenges to come, check out our website, or contact us for a one-on-one consultation.