Bringing marketing from the planning stage to actual implementation takes a united effort. To be most effective, the attorney’s staff must fully understand the purpose of the program, must be informed of intended activities, and must continually see that the attorney thinks it important. An important element is to reward staff for their marketing activities.
A medium-sized firm was in the highly competitive segment of law firms catering to business and professional clients. The firm had low staff turnover and high morale. Several staff members played a productive role in the firm’s external marketing program.
But this was not always the case. Six months prior, it experienced considerable staff and associate turnover. Temporary cash flow problems sometimes resulted from losing gambles on marginal contingency cases. Another problem was incorrect and late billings and time write-downs. As a result, staff morale was low.
The firm administrator decided to tackle the problem head on. He began by instituting regular staff meetings at which he communicated management’s concerns about the firm’s service quality, scheduling, internal communications, work flow, and administrative details. He distributed agendas prior to the meetings. He provided summary memorandums afterward so that solutions to the problems and agreements reached would be confirmed and implemented. The meetings allowed, in fact encouraged, frank discussions of daily challenges.
At first staff members were slow to comment during the meetings. But as trust was established, they began to talk more openly. The administrator was careful to let staff talk freely, inserting very few of his own comments.
He also instituted a regular internal newsletter to keep attorneys, associates, and staff informed regarding successes and honors, personnel changes, and outside activities.
To clients and observers, the changes in attitudes toward service quality and client relations were nearly phenomenal. The energy placed by the administrator into an internal marketing effort spilled into external marketing, so that the clients ended up much happier as well.
As business improved, attorneys and staff discussed the firm’s facilities in terms of production capabilities and appearances. Many of the staff and associates complained that the entrance and reception area were dark and drab and did not project an image of which they could be proud. The partners agreed. The administrator kept careful notes and then outlined, for the entire firm, the appearance problems noted. Through a vote, attorneys and staff reached several conclusions.
With some rearranging and remodeling, the firm’s new image was completed in time for an open house celebrating a milestone anniversary of the firm’s founding. Even more importantly, encouraged by the success of the firm’s new image, the staff began to exhibit more pride. This pride translated into increased expectations of themselves regarding their quality of work and client relations.
The internal marketing effort did not stop with the turnaround of the firm. The administrator continued to hold regular firm meetings, distribute newsletters, and planned several in-house development seminars. Additionally, he utilized the abilities of several employees in drawing up new internal and external marketing concepts and formulating an overall firm marketing plan.
PURPOSE, COMMUNICATION, AND ATTENTION
The principal distinction between internal and external marketing communications is more emphasis on interactive, two-way communications with the internal program. This happens by virtue of the frequency in which the attorney meets and works with the staff-the intended audience of the marketing effort. Internal marketing programs will succeed only if, in these frequent communications, attorneys pay heed to three basic areas: purpose, communication, and attention.
Purpose is important because these must be a real desire by the attorney conducting the internal marketing to achieve the maximum benefits possible. In the case study example, the administrator’s purpose was to reverse a downward trend in service quality, morale, and income at his firm. That purpose guided him initially into holding regular staff meetings and regularly distributing newsletters.
Communication seems obvious, but it is often overlooked by the attorney who is just starting to think in terms of internal marketing. There must be a sharing of information between firm employees and the attorney regarding the internal marketing objectives. This sharing maintains consistency in all internal and external marketing efforts. For the case study of the firm described, the meetings and newsletters provided part of this communication. The administrator’s open-door policy regarding feedback provided the rest.
The fact that an attorney or firm administrator is making an effort to reach his or her office target market does not have to be kept a secret. Staff generally appreciate knowing that their presence, opinions, and work out put make a difference in the firm’s success. Internal marketing actions will be interpreted by staff as a sign of interest in them on the part of the attorney. Open-door feedback policies are always a good idea.
Attention refers to the concentrated effort which must be placed on managing the internal marketing program. The attorney may choose to delegate some tasks, but must remain intimately involved in the management of the process to ensure that specific objectives are met and adherence to the vision remains constant.
ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL INTERNAL PROGRAM
Information must be collected, organized, and presented to all firm personnel, including staff and attorneys, from the onset of an internal marketing program. A firm meeting should include information regarding client analysis, firm capabilities, and competitive analysis. By hearing and seeing this information, staff and attorneys can judge for themselves the rationale behind all marketing efforts as well as the significance of their own roles within the process.
On a regular basis, specific recognition and acknowledgment of quantifiable achievements are extremely important so that all members of the firm (or in a small practice, all office staff) know how they are doing and will clearly understand what firm expectations are. An example of this might be telling the staff a particular client’s reaction to the service received and rewarding the staff if that client feedback was positive.
One of the simplest and commonly overlooked methods to inform staff that an attorney values their input is to involve employees in client projects. This recommendation goes beyond paperwork-it means asking staff their opinions regarding how client business and relations should be handled. This also reinforces the concept of serving the client, not selling services. A sense of teamwork is a very important element of internal marketing.
Finally, a sense of pride can do wonders for an attorney’s staff. If each person feels a sense of ownership and responsibility, if they each want whatever crosses their desk to be something of which they can be proud, the attorney will benefit. Staff responds with increased efficiency and effectiveness with regard to clients, quicker reaction time to client requests, and less duplication of effort throughout the office.
Autor: Halisson Barnes