How to appeal to new business without alienating existing clients

New client acquisition is the only way a law firm can grow. But how can you successfully reach new audiences without losing your existing client-base?

New client acquisition is the only way a law firm can grow. But how can you successfully reach new audiences without losing your existing client-base?

To acquire or retain

We’ve all seen the statistics around client acquisition versus client retention (spoiler: it’s cheaper, easier, and quicker to keep existing clients than to find new ones).

But as the marketplace grows – and the legal sector becomes increasingly competitive – the trick is not to focus on one at the expense of the other, but to expertly balance both.

It can all feel a bit Catch-22.

How does your law firm speak to a new audience while continuing its existing conversation? And do it without wasting precious resources.

Forget what you know about marketing

Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Sciences and author of How Brands Grow, highlights a long-held fallacy: that business success depends on ultra-loyal brand evangelists who wouldn’t use anyone else.

And that’s just not how it really works.

Firms in all industries rely on the occasional customer. The casual client. The light buyer. You can see this every day in law firms up and down the country – many will be new to your service, or those with cases on-going. Few will be seen regularly, bringing with them a regular workload. While the recent UK Legal Services Consumer Research Report 2021 suggests four out of 10 consumers have used a law firm or solicitor in the last two years, it’s unlikely most are ‘repeat consumers’.

However, you can make repeat clients more integral to your business model. Look for areas where you can cross-sell services in a natural way to your clients. There are several legal services that easily go together, for example:
  • Will-writing and power of attorney
  • Divorce and a new will
  • Divorce and conveyancing
For clients, brand loyalty isn’t about ‘loving’ a product or service, but relying on it when they need it.

Fear of alienation, then, is often unfounded. Unless the shift is dramatic – imagine morphing from a brand like M&S Food to Pot Noodle –existing clients are likely to stick with you.

Rather than being an uphill battle, appealing to a broader audience is actually going with the flow (and, ultimately, the only way to really grow the firm).

Where to start

  • Be yourself

There’s a reason all your existing clients chose you – and chose to stick with you. Identify what it is that has made you successful so far.

It might be your skills and specialism, competitive prices, location, decades of experience, or even a humorous ad you ran in the local paper.

In many cases, what impresses clients is purpose. Why you do what you do (and how you do it). Highlighting your core purpose is an excellent way to define what sets you apart from competitor firms.

Think to yourself:
  • What are we here for?
  • Why do we get out of bed in the morning?
  • What makes a satisfying work-day?
  • What are the cases of which I feel most proud?

These questions may work well on an individual level but can you answer them for your colleagues, senior partners, and the firm as a whole?

These are your strengths. The essence of your business. Unless you’re embarking on a wholesale rebrand, embrace them. It creates a comforting brand consistency for new and existing clients.  
  • Follow the data

Time and money. The two most valuable resources – and ones few solicitors can spare (especially after the busy SDLT holiday).

Successful businesses don’t make decisions without the data to back it up. How else would they know whether they’re expending resources unnecessarily, in the wrong places, or on the wrong people.

Use your website and marketing data to define any growth strategy – if you engage a digital marketing agency, they’ll be able to access and share much of this information.

This will help you identify opportunities for building out your client-base. But it also tells you who they are.
As the stamp duty holiday draws to a close, The Law Superstore recently revealed the three datapoints solicitors should know to better prepare to attract the ‘new intake’ of customers.

In your firm, you might find the demographics dominated by older clients concerned about updating their wills, or those with more complicated trusts who want a solicitor they can rely on to make the best decisions for their finances in the future.

Whoever they are, they might your ideal client, in which case, great, you can now start the right conversation with them.

Or they might be misaligned with your objectives – low income, low complexity cases, for example – at which point, you can start investigating who and where your ‘ideal client’ is, and how best to reach them.

If you find your firm’s attracting clients outside of that ideal fit, consider what decisions you’re making as a business that are bringing them in. Does your pricing need to be adapted? Is your marketing targeting those that don’t fit your perfect client? How are you presenting yourself online?
  • One voice, many tones

Let’s say you’re aiming to attract a radically different audience.

For instance, previously, your firm has concentrated on offering wills because the area you’re in has an older demographic.

Now, you want to appeal to a younger crowd. First-time buyers in the housing market, say. Or young professionals involved in family disputes.

That’s a major shift.

The trick to avoiding alienation is to maintain your firm’s existing voice while adapting your tone.
A good way to think of it is this:
  • Voice is your company’s ‘personality’. It can usually be summed up in a single word (a typical law firm will present themselves as professional, experienced, caring).
  • Tone is the flavour you add, depending on the audience, topic, or marketing channel.

Tone lets you build rapport. It’s about altering what you say and how you say it to focus on what’s important to the audience.

You can see this in action on the Microsoft 365 sign-up page.

Two tabs, one for Home customers, one for Business customers. But look at the difference in layout, at the points they raise depending on who’s reading. One voice, two very different tones, letting them speak in a consistent way to multiple different users without neglecting others.
  • Raise awareness levels

Awareness is a problem in the legal sector. The IRN’s research on UK legal services consumers revealed even brand names in the industry remain relatively low, with the top three (InjuryLawyers4U, National Accident Helpline, and First4Lawyers) only managing to scrape 50%-plus awareness levels.

In other words, people don’t know these companies exist. Or, at least, they’re not front of mind.

This is where a lot of businesses go wrong: they emphasise short-term, narrowly focused campaigns. One hit, handful of clients, job done.

Your marketing should be a constant stream of promotion.

It’s about not only being there for those who need you right there and then; it’s about seeding that awareness and being a trusted ‘face’ for when they do need you.

‘Ah yes,’ the client will say, ‘I’ve seen this company online before. Now I’ll check them out.’

A steady flow is essential when attracting new business. By making your online ads valuable (offer a free guide, for example) and distinct (be bold and creative), you’ll better stand out from the crowd and appeal to existing and new clients at once.

Find new clients with The Law Superstore

If you’re looking to add a new type of client to your list, The Law Superstore can help. You can target by location, service and much more, meaning you can test out a new demographic without the energy and effort of doing lots of research.

As a comparison site, our platform connects you with the people who need you. No sky-high marketing costs. No minimum-term contract. Just smart, simple flexibility to find the right clients for you firm.

Start your free trial today with 40 free leads.