Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Politicians Openly Criticize Their Rivals To Gain An Advantage: Do You Know What Your Competition Is Saying?

With demand for legal services stagnant in 2011, lawyers are fighting for work just as politicians are fighting for votes. At least the politicians know what their competitors are saying to the voters. Do you know what your competitors are saying to your clients? If not, now is the time for a competitive review.

The Hildebrandt Institute’s Peer Monitor Economic Index reports the demand for legal services grew only 1% in 2011 and was actually negative 1.1% in the fourth quarter. Without new demand, other attorneys are actively targeting your clients as a way to increase their business.

Conducting a competitive review will better prepare you for the attacks and allow you to take an offensive position when it comes to protecting and expanding your client base. The following steps will help you get started.

Identify your competitors. 
List the names of 5-10 competitors. Consider including individual attorneys, law firms, online services such as LegalZoom, Legal Process Outsourcers (LPOs), and contract attorneys. You can use an excel spreadsheet to track your findings.

What are your competitors saying? 
Websites, blogs, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter accounts, advertising, brochures and news stories are a wealth of information. They will help you answer the following questions about your competitors.
  • What is their primary message or value proposition? This should be on the home page of their website, the About the Firm page or individual attorney bios or LinkedIn profiles. Don’t be surprised if it is hard to identify their primary message. Many law firms and attorneys try to be all things to all people and do not have clearly defined messages.
  • What are their secondary messages? What reasons do they give prospective clients for hiring them? Again, these may be difficult to identify. 
  • How are they similar to you? Similarities can range from size of firm and breadth of practice to the same law school or leadership positions in associations. You will probably identify many more similarities than differences.
  • How are they different from you? Objectively define their strengths and weaknesses.
  • How do they market their services? Do they conduct seminars, have a blog, or advertise? What organizations are they active in?
  • Has their business or marketing strategy changed recently? If you know the competitor, have you noticed an up tick or down tick in their marketing? Are they promoting new legal services or do they appear to be targeting a new market?

Ask your clients for feedback. 
Many attorneys are reluctant to ask their clients for feedback. In my experience, this mainly stems from the attorneys not wanting to bother their clients. And every client I have heard talk about the subject says they are surprised at how few attorneys ask for their feedback.

Talk to your clients. They are a wealth of information about you and your competitors. Yes, you may hear about things they do not like but these are usually easy fixes such as billing procedures. Your clients will also tell you why they like to work with you and that is valuable information that you can work into your message when you are pitching new clients. Clients may also tell you about your competitors and you can use this information to help differentiate yourself. Not only does asking your clients for feedback provide you with valuable insight, it also helps to strengthen client loyalty and increase revenue.

Turn your message into a competitive advantage. 
Now that you know what your competitors are saying and doing, what is your competitive advantage? Do you need to adjust your message or marketing strategy?

Your competitors are hungry for business and are talking to your clients. Don’t be caught off guard and risk losing a client. Conducting a competitive review will help you learn what your competitors are saying and will help you define your value proposition. Now you are ready to spread your message. 

Good luck!

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