How An Onboarding Process Helps You Hold On To A New Client

An on-boarding process is essentially the process by which you take on a client after she has contracted for your services.  I tend to see it as going beyond the signing of a retainer/engagement agreement.  It is how you begin the actual working relationship, by setting expectations and creating an understanding between you and your client

A clear on-boarding process achieves the following:

  • captures more information about your new client's needs so that you can serve her better
  • sets your new client's expectations by giving her a clearer idea of your work process

This typically creates confidence in your firm's attentiveness.  Most people are intimidated by lawyers, and this discomfort is often magnified by the perception that lawyers "talk down" to lay persons.  In addition, lay clients are not immune to suspicions that attorneys use their knowledge and expertise to retain an "upper hand" in the working relationship, thereby leaving the client feeling like she is being held hostage. Where trust is at such levels, it is likely that a client would have cold feet and decide not to retain your firm, or terminate the relationship. Hence, anything you and your staff can do to ease discomfort for your client and provide transparency can only strengthen their commitment to working with you.

Even if a prospect has already signed a retainer/engagement agreement with your firm, the on-boarding process will serve to put their minds at ease as to how you will manage their case and stay in communication with them throughout the process. Your on-boarding process can expand/further explain aspects of the engagement agreement (e.g. how hourly rates are tracked, which items will be billed and why, how often bills will be sent to the client etc.). 

Questionnaire for the prospective client to complete

An effective on-boarding process typically begins with providing your prospective client with a short questionnaire. That form should capture her name and contact information, and set out a list of questions that gives you a much better of her needs, concerns, goals, timelines and budget.

Beyond the administrative goals such questions fulfill, the real value of this information is to give you a sense of where your client's anxiety lies. It also can reveal to you (and her) deeper facts that may impact the outcome of her case. Open-ended questions about concerns and goals can sometimes also allow the client to be more candid with you. Having a questionnaire before her will allow her time to give more consideration to some of the facts of her case. 

The questionnaire should also provide a field for how she came to know about your firm and its services (e.g. search engines, social media, a friend or family member, other professionals in your network etc..). This is invaluable information as to what is working for your firm in terms of generating new business/leads.

Information about your team for the prospective client

It's always a good idea to include the contact and biographical information of your team as part of your on-boarding packet for the client. Providing your team's bio and contact information will help the client feel that there are other people supporting her, in addition to yourself.  Let her know that she can contact your paralegal at a specific email address and number about certain types of questions that relate to paperwork and filings and forms. 

Privacy Policy

Most people who engage an attorney expect a minimum amount of confidentiality. Re-state your firm's privacy policies when it comes to handling client information and communications between yourself and your staff and clients.  This privacy policy statement can be included in the on-boarding packet you provide to the client.

You are likely to have spent a fair amount of time and money (e.g. on marketing) acquiring your prospects. It would be a real pity to lose them at the very last moment due to an uninspiring onboarding process. You can take your first step towards having an effective onboarding process by contacting me for an onboarding documentation I've created for small law firms

The Danger of Half Efforts

Perhaps the key reason for lackluster results among small law firms is the difficulty of implementing their ideas and solutions. A common example is as follows: you take the time and effort to produce an excellent blog article or newsletter, and post it on your website. Pressed for time, you don't share it on social media (e.g LinkedIn and Facebook) or through an e-mail blast to your database of prospects and clients. In the meantime, you pay for your website maintenance, and e-mail marketing SaaS (software as a service), and have given up your precious time to write that useful piece that clearly showcases your expertise. 

But which very few people actually read.

It's likely that for all your efforts, you don't generate reach or views or likes or even shares on your new content. It's also quite possible that the timeliness of your topic could have yielded you a few phone calls or requests for more information. 

Most lawyers are excellent attorneys, experts in your field. You are your own calling card, but if no one knows how good you are, or even that you exist, then your marketing would have cost you a lot of money and failed you.  It pains me every time I tell a client that he's wasting his money getting me to write a great post or newsletter for him, when he doesn't push it out into the ether through social media and other publishing platforms. It pains me because I know how good an attorney this person is, and how excellent the content we create is, if only it could find its way to a captive audience.

My short and sharp point is this: don't spend ANY money on any kind of marketing unless you can ensure that all the necessary moving parts are in place to touch and engage your target prospect base. Don't pay for a newsletter - canned or custom-tailored - unless you distribute it to your email subscribers. Don't hire an SEO specialist unless your website already has rich and valuable content, and you website developer tells you it has the basics for SEO improvement. Don't throw money at ads in print or digital publications, only to have your ideal reader go to your website, be appalled by its static and hazy brand and content, never to return again. 

Marketing has no silver bullet. It does, however, create great value for those of us who (a) plan, and (b) commit to implementing everything we need to do to get that plan off the ground. When this happens, two things happen - you discover what works because you get results on some efforts and not others, and you achieve better with less.

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Using An e-Guide To Generate Leads (Yes, it DOES work)

I've written about gating content before.  You "gate" content when you require a visitor to your website to provide her name and e-mail address in order to download a piece of content. Having her name and contact information amounts to having a fresh lead. 

In January, I launched a new website for a client. One of the key functionalities I built was gating an e-Guide to do precisely this - generate e-mail lead capture. In the first week of going live, three people downloaded his e-Guide. While it's not an astonishing number by big firm standards, for my client, this was what the new website was all about - generating fresh leads. I know his business well enough to know that if any of these leads becomes a client, that single conversion alone would pay for his new website, if not more.

WHY DID IT WORK? 

The short answer:

I gave his visitors a preview of what his e-Guide contained. 

Some of my ideas about marketing come from watching my own behavior. I got the idea of providing a preview of my client's e-Guide from how I shop for books on Amazon. I find that when I read a preview, and it resonates with me, I almost always purchase the book or audio book. And more often than not, I do not regret the purchase.

So that's what I did for my client's e-Guide. I provided access to the first few pages, so that visitors could make a considered judgment about whether it was worth their giving their contact information to have access to the entire guide. 

Does providing a preview of your marketing asset work in all cases to encourage a potential lead to provide her name and contact information so that you can follow up with her at a later date? No, it does not. If your content i.e. white paper or e-Guide doesn't provide valuable, usable information, it will fall flat. If it doesn't meet these standards, you could give away all the content and it still wouldn't compel a potential client to connect with you.

In short, content is king only if it's good content. And that's a whole different story altogether (see my next post).

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