The main purpose behind marketing is to match the legal service providers’ capabilities with the needs of clients in order to achieve the objectives of both parties. (Marketing planning for services, Payne & McDonald).
A law firm has the capability to provide legal services e.g. conveyancing, family law, will writing and probate. A client has the need to buy a house, to get a divorce or to ensure their loved ones receive their assets after death.
The role of marketing is to ‘match’ these capabilities with needs by creating and managing demand for services. This is done by:
- understanding the needs of clients
- developing and providing legal services to meet those needs
- communicating the offer effectively to target audiences
Marketing in practice
Most law firms have someone responsible for marketing. This could be a marketing professional or team, or legal practitioners or secretarial staff taking on marketing duties in addition to their primary remit.
What this shows is the varied approach that legal service providers take to marketing. The reality is, it means different things to different organisations.
This isn’t wrong in itself, but whatever an organisation’s budget, resource or approach to marketing, the following fundamentals should be at the centre of any marketing programme:
- Clients’ needs are paramount. Clients can’t be manipulated into wanting things they do not need.
- Capabilities are just as important as client needs. Legal service providers have to be able to adapt their service capabilities to match the needs of clients.
- It is not possible to be everything to everyone. Organisations are limited by resources, making it impossible to take advantage of every client need and market opportunity.
- As part of the matching process, legal service providers must identify those target markets whose needs are most compatible with their strengths and future ambitions.
- Market environments never stay the same. Legal service providers need to continually research the needs of their target markets, continually develop their capabilities to match those needs, and understand the environmental factors that affect both needs and capabilities.
Environmental factors can include:
- Political (e.g. such as the personal injury referral fee ban).
- Environmental (e.g. use of ecological practices such as waste recycling).
- Social (e.g. such as religious beliefs of legal services staff).
- Technological (e.g. rate of change in the legal profession).
- Legal (e.g. such as the introduction of the Legal Services Act)
- Economic (e.g. restriction of bank funding for legal service organisations)
Real world example
Why did traditional law firms lose market share to road traffic accident management companies?
The growth of accident management companies since 2000 was in part a result of traditional law firms not fully matching the needs of road traffic accident victims.
In the event of a road traffic accident, traditional law firms were typically only interested in providing the personal injury service – which was only one element of the wider need.
Accident management companies not only provided 24 hour call centre services to help victims recover personal injury compensation, but they also arranged and managed the repairs to the victim’s vehicle, they often funded the repairs with the repairing garage and they provided a replacement car hire. They often provided these services on a national and international basis. They also recovered uninsured losses in situations where no personal injury had been suffered.
These additional services were demanded not only by accident victims, but also the ‘referring’ or ‘introducing’ garage, bodyshop or insurance broker.
Marketing is not about selling. Marketing is a ‘matching’ process between the capabilities of an organisation and the needs of a client.
Marketing legal services is different from marketing a physical product. Potential clients can’t see, feel, touch or taste a legal service.
Legal services can be confusing to potential clients. They may not understand the legal process involved or why they need to buy a legal service. They may also be in a situation of stress such as a death in the family.