So much has been written about COVID-19. We’ve seen endless blogs about marketing to clients in a pandemic, learning the ins and outs of virtual meeting platforms, and trying new social media strategies—all while your clients might be experiencing seismic shifts in their business models and devastating reductions in force. The only thing certain in this environment has been the promise that nothing is certain, but that means there is opportunity in agility.
Marketing is nothing if not optimistic. Plans are made and amended based on the hope that new business will come, and if it doesn’t, the plan changes again to direct the efforts to ultimate success. The pandemic brought these business development challenges to our attention, but the ability to change direction with shifts in the market has always been critical to success.
Making clients a priority is not unique, but showing them they are a priority might be the differentiator your marketing plan needs.
Know the industries you serve—really know them.
When clients are deep in the trenches, they need their counsel to be there to guide them through it. Being the trusted advisor for their unique challenges is key to solidifying the relationship. The only way to secure your position is to commit to understanding each client’s business and the market forces affecting it. During COVID, the market has likely changed for better or worse. Read the trade magazines, subscribe to the blogs, follow the stock, and know the stakeholders. With this deep knowledge, you are showing clients your unique ability to handle their work and your keen interest in their success.
Be a doer, not just a joiner.
Every marketing article will tell you to join professional associations and other organizations important to your practice. That is solid advice, but it is incomplete. These opportunities to join networking groups are only as valuable as the time you commit to them. Non-billable time is precious, so don’t be stagnant in a group ripe with prospects. Submit abstracts for calls for speakers, and assume leadership positions if that is your strength. Ask your clients to join you on a panel of speakers to help them raise their own profiles. Relationships develop on working committees where potential clients and referral sources abound, so use your time wisely.
Do unto others and expect nothing in return.
At the center of the profession is one simple duty—to help clients. Helping someone before they become a client is another strategy altogether and can be truly effective marketing. The benefit to being a skilled networker is the ability to meet new decision-makers, have great conversations, and introduce people to one another. Being the conduit between business leaders not only shows that you are active in their industry, but that you too are an influential professional in their circle. Like all marketing efforts, there is no guarantee that connecting people will result in revenue for you or your firm, but meeting new people and engaging in meaningful conversation is never bad for business. Your genuine interest in someone’s success can set you apart and keep you in the running for future engagements.
Remember that your client is a person, not a company.
Securing a client is a win, but real people are standing between you and that goal. These are people who have to like and trust you in order to spend time with you for months or (hopefully) years and recommend you to others. Your interest in them must be genuine before you can expect a great rapport and a working relationship that is sustainable. People have individual preferences, pet peeves, priorities, and eccentricities. Don’t we all? Those nuances are more important to your work relationship than you may think. Understand and appreciate the way they like to do business.
Ask for feedback.
Do you ever ask how you and your firm are performing? This is a simple question that can be asked in passing, but if you really want to dig deep, schedule a couple of hours off the clock to make sure you are meeting client expectations. Better yet, let someone else ask. Not only will the gesture be appreciated, but you would be surprised what you can learn. The conversation can be structured or casual, but the goal is the same. It is critical for you and your team to know how to improve, and learn what keeps your client up at night. You may gain knowledge about competitors, changes in leadership, and shifts in the market that will affect the way you and your firm perform in the future. Even better, there may be new opportunities to expand the relationship, but do not use this time to cross-sell. This is your client’s time to talk, and yours to listen.
As we snap back from yet another round of COVID-19, use this time to remind your clients that you are here for them and understand their challenges. Make time to clearly understand their expectations, so you and your team can continue to meet and exceed them.
About the Author
Tina Emerson is chief marketing officer for NP Strategy, a strategic communications firm and wholly-owned subsidiary of Nexsen Pruet, a 200-attorney law firm based in Columbia, SC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org