Is there actually a fifth ‘P’?

All the way back in Chapter 2, I introduced some principles I learned on the very first day of my marketing degree; namely, the ‘marketing mix’ and, more specifically, Dr Philip Kotler’s four Ps:

  1. Product: What do you offer your clients? How do you deliver those services? What is your client value proposition?
  2. Position: How do you want to be perceived? Who are your competitors? Who do you want as your clients?
  3. Promotion: How do you get what you have in front of the clients you want? What messages will you promote? What channels will you use to convey those messages most effectively?
  4. Price: What level of pricing is congruent with your product and your (desired) market position. What fee levels would the clients you want expect? Where are the price sensitivities in your target markets?

From there, what I’ve endeavoured to do with this book is to explain how you can apply the four Ps to a 21st -century legal practice, so that the way you package, position, and promote your firm/department/practice will win not only more, but also better and more profitable, new work.

To do that, we’ve worked through a very straightforward four-step process:

  1. Building the right product;
  2. Positioning that product at the right level of the legal market;
  3. Promoting your offering to the right audience(s); and
  4. Making sure you are priced correctly for your chosen audience.

Then we looked at some successful examples from the UK and US legal markets and I asked the people most heavily involved in the packaging and positioning of those initiatives how they had achieved what they wanted to achieve marketing-wise.

That, in a nutshell, is exactly what I wanted to achieve when I first set about writing this book. However, now that I’m sat here looking at the almost finished article, I can’t help thinking that I missed a P – ‘people’. If we look at the interviews in Chapter 6, people are central to everything the senior marketers and senior managers I spoke to have achieved.

John Seigal at Clintons placed enormous stock on recruiting the right people and keeping them in the firm. He also talked about having people with the right reputations and people willing to do the (subtle) activities that would allow them to sustain those reputations so that the best work always finds his firm.

Roger Inman at Stone King talked about building capacity and expertise in his team and filling any gaps by bringing in the right people from other firms. He talked about how he’s built a team that has eight of the 27 top-ranked people in his sector.

He also talked about finding ways for the people on both sides of the table (head teacher and lawyers) to work together more effectively so that the schools or trusts he was working with enjoyed the maximum benefit from Stone King’s involvement.

Ian Turvill at Freeborn & Peters LLP talked about the fact that their sector choices had been made by the people they had in their partnership, and about how they had built their credibility through their CVs and then by adapting their marketing approach in each sector to the personal preferences of the people who made up their client base and target lists.

Jill Weber at Stinson Leonard Street talked about the need to upskill their attorneys via their proprietary ‘Fast Forward’ programme and although the primary effect of the programme was to increase revenues, it has also helped position the firm within the market as their client partners (as people) have got closer to their clients (as people). As a result, they are now thinking about their clients and the specific objectives of their businesses and are able to make the right introductions and provide the right information to help those clients achieve those objectives.

Angela Hickey at Levenfeld Pearlstein talked about embedding the ‘LP Way’ into the minds of the people at every level of their firm. The LP Way was built as a means of establishing an exceptional level of client experience for the people the firm worked with. It was made possible inside the firm by the firm’s leadership, and the fact they were so long-serving and well established, as well as the people throughout the firm who bought into the LP Way.

Karl Chapman at Riverview Law talked about bringing the right people with the right values into his organisation and building teams that included a variety of people with very different but complementary skills, i.e. the solicitors, project managers, techies, and client managers, so that his clients get the highest levels of service and the highest levels of value from instructing Riverview.

To me, the reason all of these examples were a success came down to the people involved; people are completely integral to the success of the four Ps.

1. Product

You need the right people to deliver your product, and they need to deliver it in the right way. Your people also need to be the living embodiment of your client value proposition if it is going to take root and appear credible.
You also need a product that serves the people you want as clients in the way they want to be served. The only way you can achieve that is to recruit the right people and train them in the right way; and to talk to the people who buy your services so you can continually refine your coverage, quality, and delivery so that you remain the most attractive option to your clients, contacts, and targets.

2. Position

Once you know the people who use your firm and the people you want to use your firm, you can position yourself according to their requirements, preferences, and perceptions. You can create a personality – a brand even – that will resonate with those people and make it obvious that you are the type of firm they want to work with. However, in order to find all of that out – and market test it to make sure your position is attainable and sustainable – you will need to get your people to engage with the people in your market(s) and ensure you are what you need to be as far as those markets are concerned.
You also need to make sure your people are ready to service the level of the market you have positioned yourself within, in a way that is congruent with your market position. If you are a high-end, service-led private client practice, your people have to afford the level of service that client base expects as standard, consistently and across the board. If you have positioned yourself as hugely attentive and as a group of individuals who pride themselves on attention to detail, your people can’t afford to come late to a meeting, misread the date in an email, or sit playing with their phones during client meetings, even if they’re only one of a team who attends.

3. Promotion

This is probably the easiest P to tie down to people. If your promotional activity is going to work, it needs to speak directly to your clients and to the people you want to be your clients. Make sure your message is one that will be attractive to and understood by the people you are trying to influence, and make sure it is being delivered via the channels that those people actually use.
Again, to answer those questions your people need to be talking to your clients and to the people within your target markets to find out how well your promotional activity is working and to make sure your promotion is keeping you visible to the people within your market(s).

4. Price

From an internal perspective, pricing has of course to be set according to the number and level of people that will be involved in delivering the work. However, if you really want to use pricing to your advantage marketing-wise, you need to go out and discuss the different pricing options you should be offering with your clients. Do they want fixed fees? Do they want to explore risk-reward type structures? Most importantly, you need to ensure your clients are prepared to bear your fee levels – or are you out of kilter (and that means higher or lower) with the other firms that make up your chosen level within the legal market?
From an administrative point of view, you need to discuss the frequency and transparency of your billing. Could you provide more detail more often, or are you producing an Amazonian rainforest-threatening amount of paper bills when a more infrequent electronic billing mechanism may be more attractive to your clients?
Similarly, you need to stay up to date with what your clients consider to be real added value and where you can strengthen your service offering, which in turn will strengthen your current client and referrer relationships and make you more attractive to the people you want to be your new clients or new referrers.
All those questions can only be answered if your people are talking to your clients.
Now, I’m not going to renege on the basic premise of the book; in order to survive in an increasingly competitive and complicated market, and faced with an increasingly demanding and fickle consumer, law firms will most definitely need to package and position themselves in a more sophisticated way. If firms are going to stand out in an increasingly crowded market, they simply have to formulate a stronger client value proposition and promote that proposition more effectively through the channels most likely to place it in front of the right people.

It’s worth noting, though, that however clever you are with your packaging, positioning, proposition, and promotion, none of this will work without people:

  • You need the right people internally, and those people need to buy in totally to what you are trying to do and know exactly what part you expect them to play in the implementation of your ideas;
  • You need to be mindful of the ‘people factor’ when you examine the culture of your firm (whether that’s the culture you have or the culture you want) and when you come to decide what you need to do to make sure your people display the right values and behaviours and effect the right actions so you achieve your desired market position;
  • You need to keep developing your people so they have the required skills and, if necessary, top up their enthusiasm and hone their focus to ensure a consistency of performance – you’ll also need to invest in client research and speak to the people who buy your services to make sure your efforts are working;
  • You also need to stay mindful that your clients are people too. You need to create proper working relationships and establish an effective, open dialogue, with them;
  • You need to actively manage those relationships (and review them regularly to make sure any potential issues are resolved quickly), and keep adding value to those relationships wherever you can; and
  • Looking at the ‘people factor’ in a wider perspective, if you are considering merging you will need to consider the ‘softer’ side: do your values, culture, and people complement those of the firm you’d like to merge with? Your new firm’s success is dependent on seamless integration, and if your people, values, and culture don’t match, that is highly unlikely to happen.

Yes, in order to profit you do need to package and position your firm correctly, but if the ‘people’ element isn’t addressed, you could very well be setting all your good work up to fail.

This is an excerpt from Package, Position, Profit: How to Build a Legal Practice the 21st Century Wants to Buy, by Douglas McPherson, Director, Size 10½ Boots. Print copies are available at ARK Group

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