10 tips for lawyers and accountants to avoid being pigeon-holed

“Clients don’t know what we do” 

Does this sound familiar?

It’s a common complaint I hear from those in law firms, accounting firms and other professional services firms.

But why should clients know what you do?

Or care for that matter?

They only care about how you can help them.

It’s very easy to get pigeon-holed (I know I have been – lots of times). You help a client out in a specific area. They see you as someone who specialises in that area but they don’t automatically know how else you can assist.

Sending them a credential statement, a brochure or having a single conversation with them won’t cut it.

Understanding their needs (ask probing questions if you don’t already know) and then regularly sharing helpful content that helps to address these needs and, at the same time positions you, will. It’s a bit like subliminal advertising (only it’s legal) in that you share information about tax often enough, people are going to start associating you with tax. And when they have a need, you’re more likely to be top of mind than your competitors who haven’t been as proactive.

Of course you want to be front of mind should your clients have a need in a particular area that falls within your expertise and be looking for help. In order to be in their choice set you need to use the full range of tools/channels available consistently over time…and gradually perceptions will change. I’ve really focused on this with one client in particular and have recently got work in an area they would never previously have considered me for.

How can you change perceptions and let clients know how else you might be able to help? Here are 10 ideas. On their own they don’t amount to much, but collectively they will make a difference.

  1. Hold an annual planning meeting with key clients designed to uncover their key issues and focus over the coming year and to showcase your expertise by providing them with some initial advice/tips/guidance that they will find valuable.
  2. Call your top 5 clients when issues arise that they need to know about. Let them know how these issues may impact them and offer to talk to their staff about this. Better still, call them when you become aware of issues to give them a heads up. Be the person to put an issue on their radar.
  3. Keep close to your clients. Catch up with them regularly (on the phone or over coffee) and ask how things are going and what they’re doing. Follow their social media accounts and share, comment on or like their posts where appropriate. If you can position yourself as a sounding board and someone who adds value they’ll likely come to you before engaging others anyway.
  4. Go and visit your client’s office/site. Really get to know their business. You may come away with some ideas to help them that you can then sound them out about.
  5. Put together an Infographic setting out the full range of your services and linking it back to specific problems you can help address…or produce a series of Infographics on topics/issues that will be of interest to your clients and share these with them.
  6. Compile and share case studies about how you’ve helped others in the past. Don’t forget to say how these are relevant to other clients. You can post these to your website (both in relevant expertise sections and your bio in written, video or audio format or a combination of these), upload to LinkedIn, include one in each of your newsletters etc. Rotate these so that you deal with a different area each time and keep coming back to them.
  7. Put together blog posts and videos on topical issues or frequently asked questions in each of the areas in which you work and share these on your website, via social networks, via email, in your newsalerts or newsletter etc.
  8. Share third party posts and videos on topical issues related to the areas in which you work. Make yourself a ‘go to’ source of information by doing people’s reading for them.
  9. Consider if you can include the areas in which you can help clients in your email signoff, on the back of your business cards etc. This will depend on your brand guidelines and needs to be done consistently across your firm or your brand look will be inconsistent.
  10. Think about whether there is a way to convey how you can help your clients that will be visible on their desks – e.g. do they have/need a pen holder, a calendar or something infinitely more exciting but still as useful!

The point I am trying to make is that ‘clients understanding exactly what you do’ doesn’t occur overnight. You need to communicate consistently over time, in a variety of ways if you want your clients to truly understand how you can help them. Ultimately, if you can position yourself as someone who can point them in the right direction when they do have an issue, you’ll likely hear about the opportunities first.

What’s your view? 

What other tips would you share? 

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant