How to stop competing on price

The pressure to discount rates has never been greater. Yet studies of complex sales like legal show that less than 10 percent of decisions are based on the value-to-price ratio:

Source: The Challenge Sale

So why has price become the cornerstone of so many conversations between lawyers and their clients? There is no question that legal budgets have become a greater focal point for companies in the post-recession economy, but it is more than that.

More people than ever before are leveraging their personal networks and publicly available information to make decisions about what and from whom to buy. These resources always have been part of the due diligence process for making purchasing decisions, but in the digital age, where people have instant access to social networks and an abundance of free online information, the influence of these factors has grown exponentially.

Just think about what happens when you get a new ache or pain. Do you call the doctor immediately? Chances are, no. First you might ask someone for their insight — maybe you post a question online, email some trusted friends, make a call or ask someone face-to-face. Once you get insight from those you trust, you will probably go online to research a potential ailment or get background on a doctor. Next thing you know, you are in the doctor’s office, sharing your self-diagnosis and inquiring about a specific remedy.

The impact of the internet on the “sales” process is fascinating. Research by the CEB Marketing Leadership Counsel across 22 B2B industries revealed that the average customer had completed more than half of the purchase process before having an initial conversation with their service provider. That means clients have already vetted their choices and face-to-face conversations often focus on specific requirements — price being the major one.

If that data holds true for the legal industry, what does it mean for lawyers?:

1) Your marketing program is no longer a “nice to have,” it is a “need to have.” Face time with potential clients is no longer a commodity, so you need to find ways to engage with potential clients long before they need your services. You don’t need to friend your clients on Facebook or have a Twitter account if that is not who you are, but you do need a robust online presence that leverages the same online channels that your clients use. And, instead of developing content that begins with you, identify topics that are focused around the needs of your clients.

2) Your brand must define you as more than a good lawyer. Your marketing must express what makes you different. This is not a new marketing concept, but it is something lawyers continually fail to do. If your website or bio is dominated by words like “Innovative,” “Client-focused,” “Responsive,” or “excellent lawyers,” it is not working. That’s not to say these things aren’t important, but it isn’t going to make your stand out.

3) If you don’t want to compete on price, bring something new to the conversation. If your prospective client has learned all about you online and wants to talk to you, be as prepared as they are. Bring something to the conversation that will give them insight into their business that they don’t already know. Make the time they spend with you valuable. If there is nothing new to talk about, all you will be left with is price.

If your marketing and business development efforts lead to conversations that show clients why you are the only person who can solve their need, price won’t matter.

Debra Baker, esq., is chair of the law firm services group of Legal Vertical Strategies. She works at the intersection of practice management, marketing and business development to help lawyers drive revenue and expand client relationships. LVS has developed a proprietary process called Insight Mapping to help law firms define what makes them different and develop strategic content marketing programs and business development toolkits that create business opportunities.

Posted on May 2, 2013 in Business Development, Law Firm Management, Marketing, Practice Group Development

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