Smartiee, an international b2b marketing agency and CMS Russia legal company hosted an event to discuss practical techniques for building long-term relationships with clients in a rapidly changing market. The results were primarily based on comprehensive market research of legal consulting services in Russia done by Smartiee - Benchmarking the quality of legal advisory services in 2019.
The event brought together over 60 participants - heads of legal departments of large Russian and international companies, representatives of law firms, leading marketing experts, and journalists. The conference connected guests from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, and Sochi.
Leonid Zubarev, the Senior Partner of CMS Russia Law Firm, made an opening speech and welcomed everyone to "the highest legal office in Europe", as it was taking place on the 56th floor of the "Naberezhnaya Tower" business venue in Moscow-City.
Essential marketing tools: adopt the best, throw away the rest.
In the first session, the participants discussed vital marketing tools for a law firm. According to our research findings, legal rankings, media placements, newsletters, and events remain the most relevant channels of interaction with clients. Elena Debs, head of projects at Smartiee, noted that every third "in-house" reviews the legal rankings at the initial consultant shortlisting stage. She also spoke about methods to improve the effectiveness of corporate events and newsletters.
Anastasia Kotenkova, CMS Russia Marketing Manager, spoke about the specifics of promoting a global law firm. She highlighted the growing role of marketing and business development when the referral channel is exhausted. Anastasia discussed the trends in international markets, key law firm marketing channels, including participation in associations and various consultant panels. She also discussed specific tools to automate work in digital marketing, including video tools.
The session about best practices on PR and marketing communications via media coverage resonated with the audience and caused a vibrant discussion. Anna Zanina, head of the arbitration group, Kommersant Publishing House, led the discussion. She provided much insight into how lawyers can get on the radar and provide valuable commentary.
"For an expert to be approached over and over again, it is necessary to offer unique content, and never let the journalist down; otherwise, you can get into the blacklist".
Law firm selection: how to sell your services
The first session was followed by a discussion on how the legal firm should prepare for the first meeting and the creation of a commercial proposal. Ksenia Udovitskaya, the founder of Smartiee Agency, Oleg Zhabinskiy, the head of the legal department of REHAU Russia, and Timofey Nosov, the director for legal and GR "Azimut Hotels" each provided their vision on the subject. Confirming the statistics of the research, the speakers agreed that the focus should not be on direct advertising of lawyers and services, but on demonstrating a deep understanding of the customer's industry, identifying customer problems and offering solutions. Particular focus was made on non-standard approaches and operational deadlines for the provision of services.
The important discussion of the commercial models reinforced the idea that nowadays, lawyers should provide an alternative to hourly rates, whether it's fixed-price or a cap.
"When the lawyers provide estimates, with a range of 2-4 thousand Euros, it demonstrates that the firms are unable to assess their labor costs and do not understand the task," said Oleg Zhabinsky.
Timofei Nosov noted in his brilliant speech:"I can't recommend a company that has not been able to show what its core competence is. "The message - we are good at everything - puts an end to your reputation".
Event participants discussed these topics during the coffee break.
Building customer relationships
In the second session, Anastasia Nadezhdina, Kerama Marazzi, Artem Podshibyakin, Inditex Russia, Anastasia Lukovnikova, Tormax Automatic Doors and Ivan Dineka, former head of DB Schenker's legal department, discussed how to build client relationships and key ingredients of long-lasting cooperation.
The speakers agreed that industry expertise is, by far, one of the most critical factors in the selection of a consultant. New companies will need to invest additional marketing efforts to battle established players, and they should focus on the client's industry knowledge and a high level of service.
Ivan Dineka, former head of the legal department at DB Schenker, came with a list of do's and don'ts when working with a client. The speaker noted the importance of the appropriate dress code, the need to listen and not to interrupt the client, to be flexible, to sincerely sell their capabilities, and not to make unrealistic promises. He also advised consultants to adequately perceive critique from the customers, to recognize and correct mistakes, maintain a high level of quality throughout the whole project cycle.
After the central part of the event, guests were invited to participate in a business game, "Build a contact". The Legal Crew community team facilitated the game. It helped the guests to put on the role of a corporate general counsel or external legal consultant and achieve the game goals in the most efficient way.
Elena Shvedko, BD Director of KRP attorneys-at-law, and Andrey Zelenin, Managing Partner of Lidings law firm, became the winners of the contest and received valuable prizes.
The Finnish spring water Polar Spring sponsored the business discussion.