How Listening to Clients Shapes Success

by Bruce W. Marcus

Typical proponents of Professional Services Marketing 3.0 are lawyers and accountants who have learned to think and act like marketers, lawyers and accountants who have developed new kinds of law firms and accounting firms, and new kinds of governance structures.

It’s a system that in at least one aspect draws upon a product marketing practice – in that the marketers participate in designing aspects of legal and accounting practice. It’s a system in which lawyers relate to clients in more constructive ways, and in dialogues rather than monologues. In law firms and accounting firms in which the barriers between partners and associates who are skilled and talented have eroded, and client service teams that not only serve clients better, but function as marketing instruments, by virtue of developing better ways of demonstrating the possibilities of extended service.

David Urbanik is one such individual functioning under Professional Services Marketing 3.0. Neither a lawyer nor a trained professional marketer, no lawyer or marketer better understands both the legal profession and its practices, as well as the art of practice development. Urbanik points out that… “ Product companies do market research and alter their products to better fit what their customers need or desire. Traditionally, professional service firms look at markets and attempt to deliver services they have to the opportunities they see.” Maybe the shifting paradigm, he says, is the need for professionals to listen more carefully to clients and change what they do and how they do it (shape a product/service)) in response to what they hear.

And, notes Urbanik, “You can’t shape something if you don’t understand it and can’t communicate clearly with those who must be at the core of building it … meeting the explicit or implicit client need which very well may require something different from the traditional law firm model.”

Working with Urbanik, we added a new marketing component to the firm’s practice groups. This not only enhanced each group’s marketing efforts, but helped build a firm marketing culture. We then focused marketing efforts on those prospects and markets with the greatest potential for growth and profitability, without totally ignoring those at the other end of the spectrum. The emphasis is on focused. It worked.

In the brochure and web site we did, we broke our services into groups that addressed the specific need of clients — what they needed — not merely what we had to sell off the shelf. Thus, we spoke of meeting the needs of clients in areas of Value Creation, Operational Support, Transactional Support, Risk Management, Preventative Legal Practice, Asset Recovery, Litigation Services, and Wealth Preservation and Distribution. In other words, we tailored our product — these categories — in terms of the client’s needs and opportunities, not just laundry lists of our services.

In this context, the need to bring a firm’s capabilities to the market is resulting in new kinds of firms, structured to address and serve the markets for its services. These new firms focus on client service, and firm productivity, without in any way diminishing professional integrity.

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