The £0 budget marketing strategy all SME law firms can adopt

There are almost 10,000 law firms across the UK, so it’s important that yours stands out if you’re looking to acquire new clients. Many firms recognise this because investment in marketing activities is set to rise this year: the 2023 Lexis Nexis Bellwether report showed 81% of practices planned to invest more time and money into marketing strategies – three times higher than the previous two years.

Many SME law firms don’t have the resource or budget to increase their marketing activities – but there are free marketing tools available which all law firms – no matter their size or resource – can start implementing today.

How to market your law firm with no budget

It’s important to define the difference between brand and marketing first.

Brand is the identity of your firm. A combination of a name, visual design, and a message. Your brand is what people would say about your company when you’re not in the room. It’s intrinsically linked to your reputation.

Marketing is the tools and activities you undertake to find and communicate with a relevant audience, which are suitable for the products or services you sell.

The Legal Consumer Panel found that 82% of consumers felt reputation was important when choosing a provider and typically, most law firms acquire new clients through recommendations and referrals from existing clients or partners.

Do you know what percentage of your new clients are referrals?

Referrals and recommendations are the cheapest marketing tool at your disposal. By providing an excellent service to an existing client or partner – and achieving five-star reviews and ratings – you can acquire new clients for free.

Law firm review platforms, word of mouth recommendation, and referral schemes are all marketing tools you can use to grow your client base and increase revenue – even on a zero pound budget.

Improving the client experience: your number one strategic priority

Marketing spend can be a quick, short-term fix for growing your company. Strengthening your brand position within the sector is a long-term strategy for organic growth.

It’s important to caveat that marketing, when done effectively, is still important for having control over your brand message. If you have the budget and resource to market effectively then you can speed up your growth plans and it’ll enhance your brand strategy plans.

But, for those with no budget or resource, focusing on your client experience – and in turn your brand – is the best way to grow your firm.

Guidance for implementing a client-focused mindset at your law firm

57% of SME law firms are prioritising improving their client experience, according to the LPM 2023 Frontiers Report. Improving the client experience is much more than just updating your email templates or using e-signatures. It should focus on refining the entire client journey from initial enquiry through to case completion and beyond.

Reviewing every client touchpoint throughout your practice, from the way you answer your phone, to the speed of your email responses, and how clients pay you, is how you can deliver an exceptional client experience – one that inspires five-star reviews, glowing recommendations and has a long-term positive impact on your brand. And importantly, how you can attract new clients without costing you a penny.

Five ways to improve your law firm’s client experience

Below are five ways you can enhance your client experience today. All require zero upfront marketing spend but are mindset changes that will have a long-term impact on your brand position and reputation.

1. Define your brand values

Start by asking yourself what you stand for. Establishing your brand values is the first step to deciding what law firm you want to be and how you’d like to be perceived by clients. It’ll provide a guideline for all future decisions and help you to ensure that the client is at the heart of your strategy.

In the digital marketing episode of our Build Better Habits webinar series, David – Head of Marketing at Quiss – highlighted how it’s the little things that create lasting impressions in people’s minds. He recalled “I heard that the Mercedes F1 principal, Toto Wolfe, said that when he went for his initial interview at Mercedes there was an out of date copy of the Daily Mail and an old coffee cup in reception, so he asked, ‘is this what Mercedes stands for?’ ”

2. Define a service level agreement (SLA)

Creating an agreement that outlines how your firm plans to communicate with clients is great way to set expectations that are aligned with your brand values and hold employees accountable. Gab from InfoTrack, discussed the success of SLAs in episode two of our Build Better Habits webinar series and commented: “I don’t see it in firms often, but when I do it’s very successful – it’s to set up and abide by an agreement to how you’re going to service your clients. You have to review what you’re doing and decide whether it’s right for the client and then document your SLAs so you have a reference point for all future decisions.

“Then you must communicate this to your staff to embed it in your culture. Put it up on the wall if you need to, to provide a consistent reminder.”

3. Align success measures

To incentivise change and ensure accountability across the firm, it’s crucial that your success measures align with your goal. Often, measures of success focus on the billable hour which prioritises cash and profits. A crucial performance indicator, but not one that is client focused.

If you pivot away from the billable hour to track and measure reviews and service delivery quality markers, you’ll begin to move towards a client-focused team.

4. Ask for reviews

Consumers expect to find comparable information online that help to inform their purchasing decisions. Before interacting with a service, they want to form their own opinions and collect their own data to help them choose the right service. 

Reviews help to build trust with a firm. It’s how consumers can find impartial, honest measures of a service. The online way to market by word of mouth.

But often, law firms don’t ask for reviews – even from their happiest clients – which is a missed opportunity to communicate with your potential clients about the exceptional service you provide.  

In the Lexis Nexis Bellwether report, Rita Gupta, managing director and solicitor at LGFL Ltd, highlighted the power of testimonials: “Get as many as you can. This takes time and effort and has to be a part of a longer term marketing campaign.” Reviews are the evidence you need that you’re truly a client-focused firm.

5. Hire people from different sectors

Your client experience starts with your employees. You need the support and backing of a client-focused team and culture to help deliver that type of service.

Sarah, CEO of Eaton-Evans & Morris believes that we should be taking inspiration from other sectors that are notoriously client-focused. “A habit that we have implemented is hiring people from different sectors – in particular roles, we look for people without experience in the legal sector. You can teach how a law firm is structured but teaching people skills – like how to diffuse a difficult situation – is difficult. We target people who have worked in hospitality for example, because they’re aware of how important first impressions are.”

Implementing a client-focused mindset is the zero budget marketing strategy your law firm should implement

Providing value, offering a convenient service, and making life easier for your clients is the best long-term investment you can make to growing your business. Implementing a client-focused mindset in your firm should be a strategic priority for all SMEs because it’ll help with long-term success as well as growth.  

Before investing in digital ads or spending resource on marketing campaigns, start by reviewing your client touchpoints to improve and enhance the experience. The most effective marketing campaign, which requires zero budget, is to exceed your clients’ expectations.