I know what you are thinking, because if I had £100 for every time I’ve heard it, I’d probably be in the Bahamas now, not writing this blog for you to read… ‘We’ve spent thousands on training to cross-market in our practice and it’s been a waste of money. The day after the training, everyone goes back to doing what they always did – looking after their own clients and meeting their own chargeable time targets.’
Well, it can be done, and before I talk to you about ‘how’ of cross-marketing, I’d like to start with the ‘why’ cross-marketing is so very important.
Why cross-marketing is essential
Years ago I did a study for the law firm where I worked. I looked at how much of the profit from a matter went in the cost of acquiring the work (I used an activity-based costing approach in case you are interested). Each matter we did for a client for whom we had acted before cost us 8p per pound of profit. Where the matter was for a brand-new client, the bite into gross profit was 68p.
Now that might not the scale of magnitude in your firm, but I’d bet it isn’t a mile off. It is phenomenally cheaper to acquire work from existing clients (who already know and like and trust you and pay their bills) than new ones (who don’t know you, haven’t learned to like trust you, and may not pay their bills).
In most firms, getting work from existing clients and contacts directly or indirectly (by referral) is BY FAR the most cost-effective way of getting work…even before you go through the whole file set up, money laundering etc. palaver.
In fact, if you cross-sell well (see, gloves off here, we’re talking about activity that leads to sales) you can grow your practice’s profitability quickly and at extremely low cost.
I’ll add only one more point: if you follow the plan below, you’ll improve your reputation with clients and be thought of as proactive and caring.
Here’s the how…
What NOT to do
Forget setting up performance targets and a measuring system. It is a recipe for disharmony and argument as well as extra admin.
Let’s start with the weak stuff
The first thing to realise here is that clients don’t have infinite memories, so over time their bond to you will be loosened and break unless you keep it strong. The first, and easiest – for the well-organised firm – cross-selling tool the firm has is the newsletter. The trick here is to make them relevant, (so segment your emails), predominantly about THEM, not you (they really don’t share your fascination with your own firm) and have the right frequency. We’d suggest monthly for commercial clients and quarterly for private ones. Printed newsletters are good too, but a lesser frequency is required.
It doesn’t matter really if they read it. What matters is that they see it is being sent to them and is relevant. These work because they are cheap as chips to do and with the right automation take minutes only.
Make sure you have the services you want to promote covered near the top.
The result will be better client loyalty and an uptick in referrals. Not massive, but worth it.
Of course, the above won’t help the new commercial property partner or whatever build their section up. For that you need to target audiences with relevant service offerings.
I’m not going to talk about what you offer or whether this is specific marketing emails, seminars or what have you but about two principles.
The first in knowing your client. I mean really knowing your client…how old they are, how many children they have, where they live and so on. The more you know about them, the more opportunities arise for cross-marketing. What is happening in their workplace or neighbourhood is valuable here, because if you relate that back to what you know about them it is easy to pick out things happening around them that will create issues that you can help with. A good CRM system is important here. We like several, and hate just as many (happy to talk…). The easiest time to collect the necessary data to make this work is when you take instructions. We used to send clients away with a questionnaire and they’d fill it up…giving us the basis for our future instructions for years.
The second is the concept of life stages. People’s lives tend to go through highly predictable patterns and there are events (divorce, conveyances, retirement, redundancy or sale of business) that trigger a need for your sort of services. Make sure that you identify the life stages of clients and cross-market appropriately. It really is easy. Go on, take a look at my LinkedIn profile – at least 5 significant issues I might have should suggest themselves.
By identifying events and life stages in clients and their businesses, their need for your services (which for an average adult is only every seven or so years…but for businesses more frequently) becomes more predictable and allows good targeting of cross-selling messages.
Two departments that ought to be feeding each other regularly are conveyancing and private client. There are just so many event dealt with by one that may mean opportunities for another.
- Family breakdown? – Property Sale/ Purchase? New Wills? Trusts? Financial Advice?
- Death in the family? – Property Sale? Investment Advice? IHT Planning? New Wills?
- Kids off to University? – Buy to Let Purchase?
- Marriage? – House Purchase? ‘Bank of Mom and Dad’ loan agreement? New Wills?
- Downsizing Property? – IHT Planning, Financial advice? New Wills?
All you have to do to uncover these is talk to people about their future plans etc..
The problem here is getting your people to take the time to do it. After all, if your conveyancers are targeted to do a completion a day and one of them spends 2 hours a week really getting to know the clients, they’ll miss their target for completions (8 hrs lost…) and your accounting system may well tell you to firm them: even if they’ve created £500,000 of new fees for the private client people (who will probably want a bonus).
I think there are only two really effective ways to do this:
- Require the data you need to be collected by the fee earner taking instructions. In my firm we wouldn’t let the file be opened without at least the core info (which included info used for on-marketing) being there. It’s a tough furrow to plough at first, but once the process is institutionalised, it becomes easy.
- Better still, give the job to your marketers. Let them meet clients, train them to get the data you need, identify services and segment the data…and then to coordinate the marketing needs of each department with the firm’s marketing plan. This is the better way, but because it means professional staff effectively giving up some control to other professional staff, it isn’t widely practised. It should be.
Last but not least – you cross-market to people you are dealing with now. Not five years ago, but now. Follow them up and keep them in the loop. You’ll have significant advantage if you do…in my whole adult life, I and the companies I am part of have probably used about 40 different firms of solicitors. Only 1 (ONE) has ever done ANY follow-up marketing…which is probably why the number is about 40, not 10.