leaf smlROBIN’S BLOG

Robin has 30 years of professional and financial services marketing experience. Here he provides commentary about some of the key evolving issues within professional services strategy and marketing.  The aim is to provoke thinking and provide useful information that marketers can use within their firms as they continue to improve performance.


thriving… Improving marketing, business development, client satisfaction, and financial performance.

Major clients feel law firms have only a “superficial” knowledge of their business

A recent analysis conducted by Lexis Nexis and Cambridge University’s Judge Business School made for somewhat disturbing reading.

The results suggest that even across the biggest clients of firms, key contacts believe their relationship partners and firms serving them have only a superficial knowledge of their business.

The report notes that “All clients were uniformly of the opinion that not only do the law firms not provide relationship services, in many cases they do not seem to see the need.”

This is causing some clients to look elsewhere for advice. Given this is a substantive risk to firm revenue, the authors recommend that firms stop focusing predominantly on a transactional approach to key clients and instead instil “a sense of partnership where the client feels valued and protected.”

Do you know how clients view their relationship with your firm?

How should leaders, marketers and managers of firms respond during “Brexit” ?

Brexit means uncertainty.

Should leaders, marketers and other heads try and ignore it, in the hope that it will go away?

Should they plan on the basis of an outcome they hope will happen?

Or should they give in to the uncertainty and not plan at all? Should they promote hard, or accept reduced budgets?

Or should they rethink where they can really add value – click here for some thoughts on how leaders can really respond positively to the challenge and help build the firm’s performance.

I’ll talk about the role of scenario planning also in a future blog

Changing the mind of a client ‘about to walk’

I was furious with the service I received recently but the company involved has ‘stalled my hand’. There are lessons for others.

Myself and my family had a fabulous holiday in Italy. Great service everywhere. The glaring exception was car-hire.

Aggressive attempts to up-sell to me at the pick-up point got my back up. I very clearly said I did not need any additional insurance either.

When I returned the car the fee was far higher than expected. Yep, all the insurance had been added on. The invoice I got the following day also included fees for a tank of fuel even though we had returned it 95% full.

Here’s the good bit. I received an online questionnaire the next day. I completed it immediately providing a ‘likelihood of recommendation’ rating of 1 out of 10, and briefly describing why.

Within 2 hours I had an email from the managing director of the unit involved saying all insurance changes would be refunded. Would I have used them again before this? No way. I was sufficiently fed up that I would have shared the experience widely on social media too, clearly naming the company.

Now I probably will use them again.

It also made me think about how clients use our ClearerView system. It also alerts firms where responses show clients are at risk.  It just shows how responding to these issues quickly can make a big difference.        

Strategic options…

It’s felt like a good time over the last couple of weeks to rethink about strategies and talk to clients about “what next?”

In this I’ve been reminded of a useful tool which was developed by Dr Tony Grundy. It’s very helpful as a means of determining the best choices from a range of options. You can see a top level view of it here

At it’s heart it is a simple way of thinking about and evaluating different options, that you can use in decisions from “what corporate strategy should we use?”, “who should we acquire?”, “what client segment shall we focus on?” “what website agency should we use?” or even “what car shall we have next?”

More about it is available online if you search on ‘strategic option grid’.

The EU referendum result and client insight

The world (or at minimum the UK) feels different than it did on 23 June and the result and its’ aftermath of course will have implications for your clients.

Much is still uncertain. But it’s an important time to reach out to clients; not just to tell, but to listen.

Our thinking is that there are 3 areas worth additional focus on, in the coming months, and asking your clients.  These include:

  • What activities and developments are now planned by the client (and how have these changed ?)
  • What is their sentiment, and level of confidence in the business environment?
  • Where do they need more certainty? Where would they value more advice about the potential impact?

Asking these questions can enable you to better help individual clients, but also to comment most meaningfully on key issues, and develop your events and communications programme to be most useful to your markets.

Comments, or questions, as always welcome on 07940 886677 or robin@thrivingcompany.co.uk

How should the professions define themselves? How should your firm define itself?

There was a short but thought-provoking piece recently in Accountancy Age on this issue.

To slightly paraphrase the article, it suggests that actually many of the approaches and ways of doing business undertaken by ‘professional firms’ or advisors are anything but professional in the 21st century.

It also makes me wonder whether the description professional services firms, or indeed lawyers or accountants is the best way of describing what people do and the value they bring. While bolting ‘solutions’ at the end of a name or service descriptions risks an entry in Private Eye, firms would be advised to think about the commercial merit and value of what they do being much clearer in the description, and indeed the undertaking, of their activities.

How would you value your team?

The January football transfer window is pretty bizarre if viewed dispassionately – but in an idle moment it made me think. If your firm were a football team, how would you value your players? Who are your star strikers and which central midfielder would you ideally shift to a lower-league outfit? Perhaps more importantly, what are the characteristics of the players you should recruit, and where are the gaps in your squad? What are your objectives for this season?

I’m not suggesting you take this analogy too far but if you’re feeling brave, it might open up an interesting debate with the management team and provoke some creative thinking!

Responsiveness……………………….

Here’s a real-life story about a firm which has recently rebranded with a new visual identity, and lots of messaging about client focus and responsiveness.

So what happens when you ring someone?

The phone rings…

And rings…

And rings…

No acknowledgement or voice messaging system “kicks in”. This happens if you call a direct line or the switchboard.  It’s not just a “one-off” as this has been the experience of a contact of mine on three separate occasions.

I’ve no idea how much the “rebranding” cost. But the firm isn’t meeting minimum expectations on this. Maybe some of the budget should have gone on the phone system and making sure staff understand the significance of responding.

As I sometimes say –could this be happening in your firm?    And if so, how much business might you be losing?

Drivers of value and what clients say…

One theme has been increasingly visible in some of the recent in-depth client feedback interviews we’ve done for firms. It’s connected to “commerciality” but it’s more profound than that.

It’s not “technical expertise”, and actually it’s not a client servicing issue either.

What it is, is about understanding the context in which the client works in. Their operating pressures, the environment in the sector they work in, and the types and demands of the different (external) stakeholders they work with.

Some clients have told us that understanding this enables the firm to be realistic, pragmatic, and to drive strategic value and the “right” result. Otherwise the firm can deliver something that looks great on paper but – crucially – that they don’t much benefit from in the real world.

Fee earner/professional advisor performance is hugely variable on this – but it doesn’t have to be.

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