[This is the second part of a three-part post regarding how to market an international law or accounting firm network. Based upon a speech Ross Fishman delivered to Legus International’s Fall Conference, the first post discussed how (a) the firms’ member contacts can market themselves within the network, and (b) the member firms can get better known within the network. Click here to read Part One.]
(c) Educate the firms’ professionals to build referrals.
The next challenge is educating more of your lawyers or accountants regarding your firm’s membership in the network. For example, a 100-firm network may have 5000 total professionals. However, typically only 250 of them (i.e. 2-3 professionals per firm) are highly motivated to seek and share referrals within the network.
How much more business could the network generate if all 5000 lawyers were actively seeking referrals to send to other member firms? Ten times more revenue? Twenty? Exponentially growing and motivating a network’s “sales force” is a good investment of time and resources.
The challenge increases with the size of the firm. Sharing information about a network is easy in a small firm, but more complicated in larger firms. Typically, there are only a handful of active professionals from each member firm. In larger firms, we often hear the networks pejoratively described as something like “John’s Boondoggle.” This demonstrates ignorance of both the value of the network, and how hard the member contacts work, taking time away from the office and shlepping around the world to cultivate these important firm relationships.
Metcalf’s Law states that a [telecom] network’s value is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. That is, the more active users the network has, the more valuable it becomes to everyone. This also applies to sending and receiving network or affiliation referrals and, knowing this, most networks sincerely invest in encouraging this behavior. The problem is, for legitimate reasons, few of these efforts are especially successful.
We believe that networks must (1) educate each member firm’s professionals regarding the value of the resource, including the impeccable quality of the network’s member firms, then (2) remind them painlessly but frequently.
If the firms’ professionals truly appreciated and valued their network membership, when they saw a potential referral opportunity, they would bring it to the attention of their firm’s network contact, or send it directly to the network’s local firm.
The professionals must see the network as a powerful firm asset.
Our four-step process is to:
(1) Educate the other professionals in the member firms that the firm is a member of a trustworthy network of rigorously vetted, highly skilled, like-minded firms to whom they can confidently refer important client work,
(2) Cause them to care about this information, then
(3) Remind them regularly so it stays top of mind, and
(4) Motivate them to act.
Networks typically circulate costly print (and/or electronic) brochures and newsletters to convey this information. These can be ineffective, because professionals are too busy and disinterested to spend their time reading an intra-network newsletter or email. (Heck, they don’t even read their own firm’s newsletters….) So they’re promptly discarded, deleted, and forgotten by most recipients. You can measure this by simply checking the “open” rates.
Some of the professionally run networks send their administrative teams on the road, to make time-consuming and expensive cheerleading lunch presentations at individual firms. Those can be useful and temporarily effective, but with networks having 50-250 different firms, it can be inefficient, time-consuming, and cost-prohibitive.
Harried professionals won’t volunteer their precious time. We must require very little effort, then make it worthwhile. Below is one particularly creative example, something we designed for the terrific Lindsay and Alan Griffiths at International Legal Network (ILN).
Lindsay wanted something that created immediate and significant impact and told their story to an entire firm without interfering with billable hours. We created a series of eye-catching light-tack bathroom mirror stickers to tell the network’s story immediately (“ILN. We’re always with you, worldwide.”). The stickers were inexpensive to produce (just two required per floor), impossible to forget, and intentionally viral. They’d only need to stay up for a day or two each month, and can add new countries and cultures whenever you want. They’re more powerful than traditional communications tools, like email, brochures, or printed mailers.
Email communications are cheap, but too easy to delete.
Print mailings are costly to produce and mail (anything “times 5000” is expensive), and this type of “guerilla”-style marketing generates immediate buzz. It’s admittedly aggressive and inappropriate for many firms and cultures, but it’s the type of creative ideas we should be considering.
[That’s the end of Part Two.]
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Ross’s “Marketing an International Network” Speech Testimonials:
“Ross’s presentation was first-rate. It was thorough and entertaining, and I walked away with specific, concrete steps. A perfect ’10.’” (Mark Carta, Managing Partner, Carta, McAlister & Moore. Darien, CT)
“Interesting presentation; very thought provoking! 10/10″ (Paula Yu, Partner, Grandall Law Firm. Shanghai, China)