Acquisition = retention = expansion
See that equation in the title up there?
Read it again.
“Acquisition equals retention, equals expansion.”
If you need to write it down, say it out loud, or take a screenshot; go ahead.
Okay. Got it?
I want you to forget for a moment everything you’ve learned about legal business development.
Forget the legal marketing models, the complex metrics, the jargon-filled pitches from experts.
Now read that equation one more time.
Have you worked out what this equation is?
At NEXL, we believe these 3 words sum up the entirety of the legal BD discipline.
They are the 3 words that all of our team – from our CEO, to our full-stack engineers, to our customer success specialists – know off by heart.
We swear by this simple equation.
Because we have discovered after years of experience that this is the simplest recipe for growing a law firm.
And as a Client Revenue Platform, NEXL’s survival depends on being able to grow your law firm.
Acquisition – a recipe, not an art
Now, I’m going to make you a promise.
That’s as technical as this article gets.
That’s right – if you can understand that equation (don’t worry if it’s not 100% clear right now) we are certain that you’ll get maximum value out of this article (as many others have).
I’m also going to make you another promise.
I promise you’ll leave this article knowing exactly what to do today, this week and this month to acquire your next client.
It’s a repeatable set of steps that any BD professional or lawyer can follow.
Even Gordon Ramsay, the famous TV chef, could do it.
He’d probably be very good at acquiring clients for a firm.
That’s because acquisition is a recipe.
We’re going to break down acquisition into three steps, which we like to think of as the ‘acquisition recipe’.
First, you pick a recipe (you create your ideal client profile).
Second, you gather ingredients (you find target accounts).
Third, you prepare or cook the ingredients, turning them into something more valuable (you nurture and convert).
Step 1 – pick the recipe / identify ideal client profile
Before you go out to acquire your next client, you need to work out what kind of client you want.
If you’re not finding it easy to imagine that future client, don’t worry.
Pick a client you already have.
A client that you enjoy working with at some level.
Now, ask yourself the following questions.
How often do you do work for them?
How much do they pay you?
What kind of work do they give you?
Have you worked with them for a long time or a short time?
And are they highly loyal, or will they switch quickly?
This is a simplified version of the process.
But it’s still effective.
And it shows you what step 1 is all about: working out what you need.
By asking these questions you’ll quickly know whether you want more or less of that type of client.
And as a BD professional or lawyer with limited time and energy:
Knowing what you want is a very important thing.
So how do you get this information?
Maybe you have a spreadsheet.
Or you might have a client logbook or ledger.
Or maybe you know off the top of your head.
In our experience though, not everyone does.
If that sounds like you, the best place to start is your accounts.
If you have accounting software like Quickbooks, Xero or MYOB – get your accountant to run a report on each client.
That will show you the fees part.
It might involve a bit of forensic work though, especially if you’ve had a client relationship for several years / matters.
The other answers are going to take a little bit longer.
You’ll have to manually review old files (if you still have them).
Or at least read the last emails you sent.
This might take a while.
For many of us, the idea fills us with dread.
If that sounds a lot of time and effort, don’t worry.
We have a better way.
NEXL’s Strategy Client Reporting and Relationship Insights feature makes identifying your ideal client profile easier than it has ever been.
NEXL collects this data for you – automatically – at the start of each matter.
It creates powerful, detailed profiles for every client.
By collecting this data for you at the start of a matter, NEXL creates a detailed, searchable profile for each client.
And then it goes a step further.
It generates detailed graphics in real time.
You can instantly visualise fees charged, relationship length, industry sector and work type (to name a few).
This is all automatic and instant, by the way.
No need to ask the finance team.
No need to delegate hours of non-billable admin to a junior.
And no need to wait.
You just log into your browser, click on a client, and boom – it’s there.
It really is that simple.
24/7 access to beautiful, up to date relationship and financial insights on any client is very handy.
In account-based marketing (a type of marketing used in professional services) this process is called “identifying your ideal client profile”.
If you find that hard to remember (we do) just remember this.
Do you cook any recipe that you come across?
Or do you choose a recipe that suits your needs and tastes?
Most people like to choose. And so should you.
After all, a client relationship is even longer-lasting (usually) than a single meal.
And most of us would like to cook meals that taste good, which satisfy our health goals, and which we can afford.
Your approach to client acquisition should be the same.
Most of us would like to have clients that we enjoy working with, that give us good opportunities to develop new skills, and who pay a level of fees that align with our financial goals.
That’s what this step is about.
It’s about your needs.
It’s about what works for you.
Think about the clients you want more of before you go out to acquire them.
TLDR: Know what you want before you go out to get it.
Step 2 – gather ingredients / find target accounts
Once you’ve spent some time thinking about your ideal client profile (recipe) it’s time for the next step.
It’s time to load up on fresh, quality ingredients for the recipe.
A recipe isn’t a meal.
A recipe is just a bunch of words on a page.
That’s why the ingredients are so important.
Ingredients transform words into real, edible food.
This is how client acquisition works.
Your ideal client profile from step 1.
It’s just a bunch of words right now.
And it’s not a real client.
Not until you match it with real people and businesses in your local market.
Not until you go “prospecting”.
That’s when it becomes real.
Let’s talk about what this involves for you and the firm.
There’s a wrong way and a right way to do this.
The wrong way: Do nothing. Sit around and wait for clients to come through the door, as if by magic.
The right way: Identify all potential clients in your local market. Reach out to key decision-makers and build a relationship so that they consider working with you down the line.
Start by understanding what your market looks like.
There are a few ways to do this, but there are some big-picture steps that we recommend.
First, get a birds-eye view of the market.
Second, put together a list of potential clients in the sectors you operate in.
Third, identify decision-makers (people who can say yes) and influencers (people who help them say yes) in those potential clients.
In modern client prospecting, it is critical that you capture all prospects available.
NEXL is the only legal CRM with in-built client prospecting tools.
Empower your lawyers to reach the right decision-makers directly using the world’s most accurate and up-to-date email and social media link database for law.
Cut out the time spent on google, LinkedIn and emails.
Put that time into actually engaging with clients.
Leveraging our in-built data enrichment, you can find verified emails for 450 million contacts across 10 million companies.
And it’s all accessible without ever leaving NEXL.
Just open NEXL in your browser, open the “prospecting” tab and it’s there.
Step 3 – prepare the ingredients / nurture and convert
Following your identification of the target accounts, the fun part begins – the preparation.
It’s one thing to know a person’s name.
But it’s another to lock them in as a fee-paying client.
The nurturing process is a difficult one if you don’t know where to start.
Nurturing is like paving a new road.
You don’t know if the road will be used.
And you don’t know exactly where to dig.
But you know the start point and the end point.
You just have to start.
Nurturing isn’t so much about a perfect plan as it is about consistency and personalisation.
Consistency because reaching out to a prospect once in a blue moon means they won’t remember you.
And personalisation because boilerplate, generic messages add nothing to the relationship and are a waste of time for both you and the prospect.
The good thing is that none of this is rocket science.
We all know how we want to be treated.
We appreciate genuine contact and information that we need.
We don’t really like generic messages and information that is irrelevant to us.
So next time you go to send an email, LinkedIn message, make a call or schedule a coffee – ask yourself this:
Am I treating this client how I’d like my lawyer to treat me?
That simple question should guide your approach.
There are lots of little things to think about – like message length, the kind of information you send, or the tone of your message.
But ultimately, it’s not that complex.
It boils down to that simple question.
If you feel a strong ‘yes’ in your gut – you’ll know you’ve nailed it.
If you’re 50:50, you might be close. Try to pick out what it is that’s making you hesitate, even if it means delaying the message.
And if it’s a ‘no’ or feeling of discomfort – then it’s probably not a good idea.
In terms of making consistent contact, a word of advice.
Don’t leave it to chance.
Human error, a lawyer’s schedule, and the intensity of modern life means a relationship can fade as quickly as it started.
That’s doubly the case for a business relationship.
The fortune is in the follow up.
In fact, our Stay In Touch reminder system creates automated reminders for follow-up tasks (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or otherwise) with one click.
Once set, you and other staff will receive periodic reminders to follow up with that client.
And we get it.
Reminders aren’t new.
But the NEXL ‘My Re-Engage’ tool is pretty innovative.
It allows any lawyer to see the number of interactions (and the last interaction) with a potential client.
Why is this important?
Well – it’s simple information that you should know before reaching out!
It’s all well and good to send an email ‘Great to speak’ if you did in fact speak to that potential client a week ago.
It’s not so good if you spoke to them 8 months ago.
NEXL ensures that your client communication never has these little slip ups.
And by doing that, you can ensure your nurture efforts are more consistent and personalised than ever before.
Like our Relationship Insights, Strategy Client Reporting and dozens of other powerful features – NEXL’s My Re-Engage tool is included in all levels of subscription (from basic to enterprise).
Try all of these tools instantly when you sign up for a free demo of NEXL.