Year-end planning: Collect Data about Your Clients

Year-end planning: Focus on current clientsFocus on your current clients

Part 2: Tips for year-end planning 

Year-end planning tips. Now is a good time to focus on what needs to be done to wrap up the business year and get a head start on 2017. As an attorney and business owner, year-end can become the most stressful time of year. To help you out, we put together this list of four areas on which to focus between now and year-end, while your business may be slower than normal. Area #2 – focus on current clients.

The last weeks of the year tend to be slow for getting new cases, so use this time to focus on your current clients – your source of income for the first part of 2017.

  • Pick out your 5-10 best clients from 2016. First, define what a best client looks like:
    • Maybe these are the clients that always paid on time.
    • Maybe they always provided you with and returned documents on time.
    • Maybe they referred you other good clients.
    • Maybe they were just genuinely nice people to work with.

Look through your client list and start rating your clients from 2016.

Tip: You need a way to capture this client rating system in your database so you can develop reports on your rated clients. Your law practice management software should have the ability to setup custom fields. These are a great tool for capturing this data. When you produce the report and are able to separate where your revenue for 2016 came from, you will probably see that 80% of your revenue came from these best clients. But without capturing this data – you will never know.

After looking at your list of “A” rated clients, pick up the phone and call them. Let them know they were/are one of your best clients and you enjoyed working with them. If appropriate, offer to take them out to breakfast in January and set up your first business development meeting for 2017. Also, keep this list in a place where you can review it every week and continually ask yourself “How can I get more clients like these?”

Current Clients are a Potential Source of Income for 2017

For your current clients, who are your source of income for the next few months, do something memorable when sending out their December invoice. Prepare a case summary, outlining and highlighting tasks completed, milestones reached and any upcoming dates and deadlines. This is a way to remind them of the work you have done on their behalf and may make paying the bill a bit easier.

Tip: For estate planning clients, the holidays are the time of year when children are getting engaged and they will have the need to update their estate planning documents. Using your nicely organized client database, run a list of estate planning clients who have children around the age of getting married. In their letters, include a note about your services for young couples.

Is your database not that well organized? Well then, you have a new goal for 2017: start capturing more data about your clients so you can make better strategic decisions. CPN Legal can help you set up processes to capture more data. Give us a call if you’d like to discuss this and prepare for a great start in 2017 for your business.


 

Peggy and Chris Gruenke are co-owners of CPN Legal, a company whose mission is to help solo and small-firm lawyers build better businesses. Peggy is active in the ABA GPSolo Division, where she heads the technology committee and is vice-chair of the national conference committee. Follow her on Twitter @PeggyGruenke.

Year End Collections: Tips for Getting Paid Before Year-end

Collection Box Fund Raising Drive Donation Support Money HelpOctober 2016 (revised from original post) Peggy Gruenke | Originally published in Attorney at Work.

The year end is right around the corner, along with the holiday season. So, what do you really want for a holiday gift? How about getting paid for the work you did during the year and focus on year-end collections.

The holidays can be extra hectic for lawyers with the scramble to get money from clients before year-end and tax planning with your accoutant. Most law firms operate on a calendar year and are run on a cash basis, meaning work isn’t counted as revenue until clients pay. If you are a partner or even an associate, your compensation may be tied to the amount of money your firm collects on the work you billed. If you are a solo, you know all too well your compensation is directly tied to how much you collect on invoices.

Also during these last few months of the year, there’s typically a slowdown in the number of new cases for many practice areas — divorce, bankruptcy, estate planning, real estate — as people begin to prepare for the holidays and put certain personal and business matters on hold.

The result? A collections sprint as the year closes. Law firms deal with it every year — a large percent of revenue is collected in the last three months of the year. Could better collection procedures be put in place to avoid this year-end ritual? Of course! But let’s focus on tips to help you get more money in now.

The Collections Plan: Start With Over-Ripe Accounts

Now is the time to look at past-due accounts and figure out where you are leaving money on the table. The tool you will need to assist you is your “aged accounts receivable” report. I suspect this might generate one of the following reactions from you:

  • Confusion, as in “Crap, do I even have this kind of report?” (Add “buy accounting and practice management software” to your holiday shopping list!)
  • Panic when you see how very few past-due amounts await collection, and how little cash you have on hand. (Be happy the clients you have actually paid you. Next year, get more clients.)
  • Frustration when you realize how much time collecting past-due money is going to take.
  • More frustration because you haven’t set up the ability to accept credit cards for client payments. (Eliminate this frustration now and setup credit cards: Here is the link to LawPay.)
  • Disappointment that you let past-due accounts get to this point.
  • Relief that you have money to collect!

Putting emotion aside, here are a few things you can start on — this week — to boost your year-end revenue number. Continue reading

Are you going to be left behind?

Lawyers, Why Do You Need a Online Presence?

Because you don’t want to be left behind. People no longer reach for the Yellow Pages when they need a lawyer. They rely on friends and the internet. And if they use a friend, they then search the internet to look you up. So if you don’t have an online presence, you are probably leaving money on the table.

Social media or social networking should be a part of every lawyer’s marketing and business development plan. When a lawyer sits down to talk to me about his practice and how to get more clients, the discussion always includes a social media plan with the end goal being to leverage his/her online presence to build more relationships with referral sources and potential clients that then convert into new business.  It’s an even playing field no matter your age, type of practice, location or size of firm. If you have not started building your r online network, it’s not too late to start.

A well designed business development plan should include a social media component that moves you from hanging out on the sidelines to actually playing in the game. The sidelines are a great place to observe and plan for how you are going to participate and interact on social media but eventually you have to join the game. You have to determine what your level of participation will be, what platforms you will use and how you will interact with your new online community. The great thing about this game is that you are in control of your own success, limited only by your own schedule, effort and time. It’s quite powerful and the fun part is seeing your online connections become in-person connections.

Peggy Gruenke, Owner/Consultant LegalBizSuccess

Specializing in Law Firm Practice Management  and Business Development solo and small firm attorneys. Peggy can be found on Twitter @PeggyGruenkeLinkedIn and at www.legalbizsuccess.com.  (513) 315-5750

More WOW Tips for Retaining Clients

 

 

In a previous post, I talked about marketing as two different processes: Retaining Clients and Attracting New Clients. For this article, I am going to keep the focus on retention. Why? Because a satisfied and loyal client is likely to give you more of their business and bring new clients through referrals to friends, neighbors and colleagues. Which leads us back to the thought that more future value may be gained by retaining an existing client than by attracting a new client.

 

Any savvy attorney recognizes the need to develop creative ways to be memorable leading to repeat business and referrals. A successful, profitable engagement incorporates great client service throughout representation. At the end of your engagement, how can you create WOW moments that will leave your client spreading great news about you and your firm? Here are a few more tips on how you can turn your clients into raving fans.

 

The final invoice. How the heck can you make this usually painful experience a memorable one? If you have been successfully communicating with your client and building a relationship, you may now know if they are involved in any non-profits or have a passion supporting a local organization. Here’s a WOW tip: take the professional discount you were going to apply to the final invoice and convert it into a donation to their organization. Make sure this gesture does not go unnoticed by including a cover letter thanking the client and explaining your donation. You can also split the discount – half as a discount and half as the donation. I think you’ll agree that this is pretty memorable and something to talk about.

 

The second WOW idea is centered on delivering those final documents to your client now that the engagement is over. There are always final documents that need to be picked up or original documents that you collected during the engagement that need to be returned.  Use this opportunity to touch base one more time and make it a WOW moment. Instead of having the client pick up the documents, have your law firm administrator deliver the documents to the client’s office or home or better yet, deliver them yourself. Now this alone is nice, but let’s makes one simple change to make it a memorable experience. Include a platter of cookies, maybe even logo cookies. With the cookies, include a branded postcard that thanks the client for using your services and lists additional legal services provided by your firm. Leave a stack of your newly branded business cards (with your QR code) for employees of the company to pick up.

I’d be curious to know if any one tries one of these ideas and the reaction you get from your client.

Peggy Gruenke, Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com More articles available on my blog LawBizCOO.

In the Stands or On the Track: Your Business Development Advantage

It’s fall and the height of football season. Our city is crazy about high school football games. Serious rivalries exist. Parents are actively involved attending games and tailgating.  It’s just the place to be on Friday nights.

One might ask – How does a Friday night football game relate to business development? I enjoy watching people and seeing how they interact. The next time you’re at a game look around and you’ll notice that high school students are naturals at this networking thing, without even realizing they are doing it. At the game, people are either sitting in the stands (the parents) or walking around on the track between the stands and the field (the students). Being in the stands you are passively involved in the game with the handful of people sitting around you. But the students are actively involved, meeting, talking and making plans with everyone they meet. Walking along the track, they are interacting with people while still being able to see what is going on in the game.

What if you moved  out of the stands and onto the track? On the track you would be interacting with a lot more people compared to the handful sitting next to you in the stands.  Either way, you get to see the game, but how much more could you accomplish if you moved out of your comfortable seat in the stands?

BTW  – a little shameless self-promotion is OK. Wear that logo shirt, jacket, hat, umbrella with the sole purpose of increasing awareness about your firm and what you do. Have a handful of business cards on hand as well.  Here is a great article about how lawyers can be more proactive with their business cards.   You just never know when they will need an attorney.

Peggy Gruenke, Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com More articles available on my blog LawBizCOO.

Attraction vs Retention Marketing – A Two-Part Process

Attraction vs Retention MarketingDoes your firm have a marketing strategy?  If you do, it probably isn’t being carried out. If it is, you’re pretty rare. I am not sure what word or phrase I prefer when talking about marketing but whatever you call it, I have realized you need a strategy in place to help guide your success. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but it does need to be targeted, measurable and consistent.

I first tested this strategic marketing approach as Director of Membership at the Cincinnati Bar Association. Managing the growth of membership is very similar to managing client relationships in a law firm. My theory was that if the process was targeted and measured, I could figure out the most successful methods for recruiting new members and retaining existing members.  I developed and implemented  strategic membership recruitment & retention campaigns which included a two-part process:

  1. Attraction Marketing: Campaigns to attract potential members;
  2. Retention Marketing: Ideas/strategies for retaining happy, satisfied members who renewed, stayed involved and became my best recruiters.

Now working in the law firm world, I can draw parallels between membership retention/recruitment and client/business development. It costs more to get new clients and you need to learn how to retain before you focus on getting new clients.  If you don’t have the plan to retain in place, you’ll never gain the enormous financial benefit of new work from former clients or referrals from past clients.

Identifying the Steps:

Identify touch points which are ways to consistently be marketing. In Ann Guinn’s book – Minding Your Own Business – she identifies 4 steps with the majority of the time/money focused on retaining the clients you already have.

  1. Attraction Marketing, the pre-hire phase to increase firm visibility and get new clients;
  2. Retention Marketingto focus on your current clients who will come back for other legal services and refer you:
    • Initial consultation – marketing to potential clients acquired from your attraction marketing strategies;
    • During representation – marketing continually to demonstrate the value of your services to your client;
    • After representation – identify and implement ideas that keep you in front of them for more work or for referring you to a friend, relative, co-worker.

So you are marketing to your clients before you meet them and continue to market to them during and after the engagement creating a full circle, a continuous flow.

Creating the Process to Track Success:

You need to be able to track the success of a recruitment campaign and measure your return on investment. The only way you will be able to effectively accomplish this is by capturing the data. In the end you should be able to answer:

  1. What was the most effective tactic implemented – which one yielded the most new clients;
  2. How much did it cost and how much revenue was generated from these new clients.

It’s essential to educate everyone in the firm on what you are implementing and why. Your receptionist will be a key piece to your success in collecting and tracking your marketing campaigns. Your ability to track and measure is only as good as the data you collect. Here is a simple Excel spreadsheet showing a coding/tracking method. These fields can be added to your client database system also.

Start small, identify one or two targets areas, write your plan and do something really crazy – put it to work.

Sample

Peggy Gruenke, Chief Operating Officer and Business Development, pgruenke@lawbizcoo.com More articles available on my blog LawBizCOO.