The Death Of High Street Solicitors & Retailers?

The Death Of High Street Shopping & Solicitors?

Law Firm Marketing Advice For Solicitors From Nick Jervis, Samson Consulting

Not a week seems to pass at the moment when the media are not bemoaning the death of the traditional High Street. Soon there will be no shops on the High Street they cry, and Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, is brought in to save the High Street (I am waiting to be asked to host “Saving The High Street Solicitor”, so if the BBC are reading this you know where I am).

However, am I the only one that thinks this is all rather bizarre? The High Street has not changed or adapted it’s offering for many, many years, yet the world around the High Street has changed beyond recognition. When ‘the traditional’ High Street was invented (if it ever was), the internet did not exist. If you wanted to buy new clothes you had to get in your car and drive, or even walk to the High Street. Once there, you would find a choice of shops to supply all of your clothing needs. When there was no other choice this system worked well. The trouble is that there is now a much better, easier, more accessible and more affordable choice called the internet. What has the High Street done to adapt to this threat? Have they gone out of their way to provide an absolutely breathtaking service that draws people in? Are they providing shopping experiences that you simply cannot match on the internet? Are they providing personal shoppers, free coffee while you browse, games or internet access for bored partners (male or female) to while away the hours whilst their better half finds what they are looking for? Have they done any of these things? Nope! Instead, they have carried on doing what they have always done.

It would be like a horse and cart salesman at the time of Henry Ford inventing the motor car still saying that what he had to offer was better than the car.

The High Street retailer cannot compete on price, yet this is all that they seem to try and do. Why? This is insane, particularly when the struggling competitors are given huge clues that they need to change by those shops that are thriving on the High Street.

These shops that are thriving are the ones who are doing different things and in no way competing on price. Apple is the prime example here. It is selling unique products that are NEVER, EVER, sold on price. Apple rarely allows supplier’s to drop prices and an Apple sale is rarely anything to shout about. Yet when you walk past one of their shops you will nearly always see that it is absolutely packed with potential customers willing to buy their high priced products (even in this economy (there is a clue here – people will still spend their money in a recession if you give them good reason to do so).

Another success is John Lewis. Why? What are they renowned for? Providing a first class, friendly and very personal service. You can buy some products cheaper online, but the sheer volume of choice on offer, coupled with the personal service means that you want to browse, and when you find something you like the loyalty they have engendered in you means that you are happy to pay a little bit more to buy it from them.

Marks and Spencer has just posted good sales. Why? They sell many of their own unique products that you simply cannot buy anywhere else. So they are offering something worth travelling to the High Street to look at and buy.

HMV on the other hand sell only products that I can buy online cheaper and have delivered free of charge the next day. They have no unique selling proposition. The staff do not seem interested in the customers and they do not seem to have any deep or unique knowledge of their products. Personally I still like to shop in HMV to browse the CD’s and I buy there regularly, and I expect that there are many like me who do. However, judging by the choice and volume of music they play in store they seem to be targeting the younger market; the very ones who will ONLY buy online. This is a prime example of HMV not understanding who their customers are. Their share price has been in free fall for some years now and unless they radically change their offering I cannot see that changing. But it will be their fault for failing to adapt and failing to understand their customers.

Where am I going with this chat about the High Street? Well I hope you realise that the legal services market is facing incredibly similar challenges to the High Street Shops. New competitors are enterting all of the time. They will find new ways to deliver their legal services and are unlikely to be challenged when it comes to pricing. Therefore, to try and compete with them on price will be sheer folly and certain to lead to failure. If you keep on doing what you have always done, the HMV route is the one that your firm is likely to follow. This is not a healthy route. So you absolutely have to be different to maintain commercial viability. Like the High Street shops, you need to be different in one of the following ways:

  • Differentiate on price (not advisable – your competitors will have much lower prices);
  • Differentiate on service (provide a breathtaking service from start to finish); or
  • Provide a different product (package your legal services in such a way that they are not comparable to the current range of legal services. See my Cross Selling ToolKit for more information on this).

For those of you thinking that it is impossible to charge a decent price for your legal services now so what chance do you have in the future, let me tell you some good news. I know a lot of firms who charge at least 50% more for their conveyancing service than their local competition. I know firms who charge more than £200 for a single Will. If you are struggling to charge a decent price that is a problem that absolutely can be fixed. It is a problem you must fix as well, because if you do not you will not have a business to worry about once your cut price competitors come charging in in force.

The really good news of course is that if you do fix this problem, you can look after less clients than you are currently doing to make more profits. That sounds like a better business doesn’t it?

How do you do it?

You do all of the things that you know you should be doing now but which you have managed to get away with not doing until this point because your competition has been doing just the same as you. Now that your competition are going to do so much more than you to promote their services, that option is no longer available. One of my favourite sayings is “You already possess everything you need to become great“.

You probably already know that you need to do more marketing to attract the quality clients that you want, but you don’t quite know how or what to do. You must know that you need to communicate more with past and present clients to generate more instructions for very little effort but you might not know which software to use.

You probably know 20 things you could try to see if they produce results for you, but you have not yet tried them. I urge you to make 2012 the year that you take action and do all of the things that you know you probably should be doing so that you do not go the same way as many of the High Street retailers!

I am constantly told by solicitors that the moment that they really ‘get’ the type of marketing that I teach is when I say don’t be afraid to fail. You might have to kiss 20 marketing frogs to find 5 methods that provide you with new clients every single month from that moment forward. But if you add 5 more effective methods for generating clients this year, and next year, and the year after, how much more profitable do you think your business will be? The secret is to keep on trying new marketing methods and find the ones that work for you. Sitting there fretting about the future is not a good option. Taking constant and consistent action is the secret to the success of your practice!

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