Has this ever happened to you? Picture it. You’re standing in line at Starbucks, talking with a colleague or friend, and someone you barely know rushes up to you, practically bursting at the seams to tell you something horrible that had happened. No, I don’t mean a terrorist attack, freeway accident, hostage situation or a national security crisis; just something that had impacted that person in a negative way… something that is not likely to impact you or your life. People are not shy about sharing poor experiences with anyone who will listen. Misery loves company, after all. Unfortunately, most people are also less inclined to readily share a success story.
Just the other day, a passing acquaintance interrupted a breezy conversation I was having with my friend Renee at the local coffee shop. It didn’t matter that we barely knew each other; he dove right into his horror story of the day: he had just returned from an early morning dentist appointment, was in pain and uncomfortable, and his experience in the dentist’s chair was stridently unpleasant and unsatisfying. He clearly needed to share his unhappiness with someone (anyone) immediately.
What does story this have to do with attorneys or marketing?
Your practice might be able to learn something from our reaction to this tale of woe that will keep your clients from comparing your estate planning services to a troublesome dental appointment.
As soon as he finished his unhappy tale, my friend and I both blurted out, “You should go to my dentist!” Laughing at the apparent irony that two out of three of us had had positive experiences with our dentists, we began comparing notes to identify what differentiated our respective dentists. What had they done to affect our perceptions so radically? Was it the technology? The relative ease of the procedures? The overall ambience of the office environment? The quality of the magazines in the waiting room?
Renee and I noted that our hygienists always remembered our names, our kids’ names, what we did for a living, and what was happening in our lives at the time of our last visit. They always made an effort to be personable, friendly, and courteous. They made us feel welcome, put us at ease, and listened attentively.
It dawned on us that what we truly valued was the extra effort our hygienists took to make us feel comfortable and to acknowledge the little things in our lives, despite the passage of time and constant stream of patients that had come in for a cleaning during the previous six months. It didn’t matter to us if the hygienists had written notes in our charts after each visit and then read up on us mere minutes before our next appointment to refresh their memories. We didn’t care how they were able to remember the things that they remembered. It simply mattered that they did remember and incorporated what they knew into what would otherwise be a sterile conversation. And they never tried to sell us things we didn’t want, such as expensive bleaching trays, special mouthwash or dental cosmetic services. As a bonus, we took home free toothbrushes and toothpaste after every visit.
Our dentists had hired the right people to not only provide the service we had come for, but also to nurture relationships with their patients, establishing a mini-community – right there, in their dental offices.
Neither Renee nor I dread our dental appointments. While we might not actually look forward to them, we don’t try to avoid them, either. And because of our positive experiences, we were both eager to refer our grumpy acquaintance (and everyone else we know) to a new practitioner so that he could realize that going to the dentist can be a pleasure rather than a pain.
What can your law firm learn from this story?
- Like the hygienists, treat all of your clients (not just your Tier 1 clients) as valued guests and friends – make them feel welcome and comfortable each and every time you speak to them.
- Get to know your clients – what they like, what they do, what services and financial products they have, and what they might need in the future; keep clients notes that are easily accessible to each member of your team, from the receptionist to the engagement partner.
- Give clients something valuable for free – it can be as simple as a bi-weekly email newsletter that shares estate planning and wealth management strategies, or a free seminar on “Building Your Nest Egg”, offered with a continental breakfast.
- Engage with your local community for reasons other than marketing and transactions – sponsor charities, attend functions, host webinars or open houses.
- If you create a satisfying, enjoyable experience, your clients will tell their friends about it.
Does this sound like too much for a small law firm to do? It shouldn’t. There is an estate planning practice in Georgia that offers free WiFi, coffee, fresh baked cookies, fruit, and a coin-free jukebox in their luxurious client lounge.
But you don’t have to construct an addition onto your office just yet. Put the hammer away. Start building your relationships and your community one communication at a time. Consider launching an email newsletter that offers strategies, tips and advice on topics that your clients will appreciate and value. Begin the dialogue with personal news about your firm and its team members.
If a dentist can build a community and grow his business as a direct result of his client service, why can’t your law firm?
Yesterday, I made another referral to my dentist…. That’s a total of 7 referrals in the last 3 years. Couldn’t you use more referrals for your estate planning services? I thought so.
Becca Fieler is an Online Marketing Specialist for the BizActions | PDI Global brands from Thomson Reuters. She provides strategic planning and oversight for our online and email marketing initiatives. Becca also helps clients develop comprehensive marketing and lead generation programs. She is a prolific writer when she has time. Read more of Becca’s blog posts here.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555