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Remember, thought leadership is a client/referral source RETENTION tool, too

Thought leadership should be a key piece of your law firm’s efforts to retain clients and referral sources. 

Many lawyers and law firms think thought leadership is a tool for acquiring clients and referral sources.

They’re absolutely right. 

But as important, if not more important, is the fact that thought leadership is also a tool for retaining clients and referral sources.

We’ve all heard how it’s cheaper to retain current clients and referral sources than it is to acquire new ones. Well, thought leadership is a great way for law firms to retain clients and referral sources. Here are five reasons why that’s the case.

Prefer to watch a video about this topic instead? Here you go!

Thought leadership adds value

Even after a client has paid their fees to their law firm for the services the firm provided, they will continue to receive relevant and valuable information about legal or business issues that might impact their operations through the firm’s thought leadership program. Or, even while a client is engaged with their law firm regarding a particular matter, they will receive additional guidance from the firm in addition to the work the firm is doing related to that matter.

Thought leadership extends the relationship past the fee-for-services trade and provides current and inactive clients with a bigger bang for their buck because they are literally getting more legal and business knowledge and wisdom than they paid for.

Thought leadership instills trust

Thought leadership helps law firms be seen by current and inactive clients and referral sources as more than just vendors. 

When they provide thought leadership to a client who hasn’t engaged with them in a few weeks, months, or years, it still allows that relationship to exist, and it shows the client that the law firm or its lawyers aren’t just thinking about them as a source of fees.

That’s because, despite not having had worked for the client for a while, the law firm is still investing in the relationship by making sure the client receives the firm’s thought leadership and the knowledge and wisdom contained in it.

This builds trust and makes the client feel like this relationship is more than a purely transactional one. Instead, there’s an ongoing relationship here through which the client can turn to the law firm for an ongoing stream of knowledge and wisdom, even when the client does not have any active matters with the firm.

Thought leadership keeps a law firm top of mind

Thought leadership also helps keep law firms and their lawyers top of mind among inactive clients who could be in the market for a lawyer to handle a new matter, or inactive referral sources who are looking to refer out a case that just came in.

With thought leadership, lawyers are able to get into inactive clients’ and referral sources’ inboxes every so often regardless of whether their competitors are doing the same. (They’re probably not.)

So, again, even when a law firm or lawyer hasn’t communicated one-on-one with a client or a referral source for a period of time, they are still able to stay top of mind because the client or referral source is getting content from them every so often that is hopefully relevant, valuable, and compelling.

Inactive clients and referral sources are still seeing the firm’s name and getting a reminder of the work they can do, which can keep the firm top of mind for when the client or referral source needs its assistance.

Thought leadership can differentiate a law firm from its competitors

As clients or referral sources receive a law firm’s thought leadership and see that the firm has a differentiated point of view compared to other law firms, and that differentiated point of view speaks to the clients’ or referral sources’ values and priorities, the firm is positioning itself closer to the client or referral source.

By seeing that their values and views of the world are aligned, the client or referral source is more likely to think of the law firm, and reach out to it, when they need assistance because they’re receiving thought leadership that makes those values clear. This separates the firm from other firms that are not publishing thought leadership content and thus cannot show on an ongoing basis that their values are aligned with particular clients or referral sources.

Thought leadership can issue spot and show clients they need assistance

When law firms produce thought leadership that identifies new legal or business issues clients might have, it can serve as an issue-spotting exercise because the client might look inward to determine if the issues being discussed in a particular piece of thought leadership apply to them. This brings with it two key benefits.

First, it positions the law firm and its lawyers as advisors when the content explains what the consumer of that content might want to consider doing as a result of a legal or industry development. It shows the law firm is not trying to be a transactional vendor who occasionally swoops in, takes their money, and leaves after a legal matter wraps up.

The ability for a law firm and its lawyers to issue spot and explain what’s coming around the corner positions them as forward thinkers who have their clients’ (and referral sources’ clients’) best interests in mind.

Second, when a thought leadership piece helps a client or a referral source’s client issue spot, it invites the client to reach out to the author or creator because there may be new legal matters they need help with that they didn’t know they needed help with before consuming that piece of thought leadership.

For example, when a blog post or article highlights changes in the law that could lead to new compliance concerns for clients, new obligations clients have concerning their employees, or some new way that clients have to go about handling their relationships with their employees or customers, clients are going to quickly come to the conclusion that they’ll need legal assistance.

And guess who they’re most likely to go to first for that assistance? The law firm or lawyer that explained to them the legal developments causing them to possibly need this legal assistance. 

Thought leadership is more than just a tool for acquiring clients and referral sources

Law firms love to think of thought leadership as a “brand play” or an add-on to their core marketing and business development efforts because they often see it as complementing the client acquisition process. But thought leadership is arguably the key way to retain current and inactive clients and referral sources. 

So when you’re contemplating building a thought leadership program, don’t just think about the benefits of it in terms of bringing in clients. Think about the value of thought leadership in retaining relationships with current and inactive clients and referral sources. 

When you do, you’ll discover you can’t afford to NOT employ a thought leadership program.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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