The fact that some businesses do better than others is not simply determined by chance. More than just luck, those businesses work hard to gain and maintain their clients.
There are three very effective ways to gain new business:
• Increase your customer base by writing and following up on introductions to legal professionals in your area.
• Ask for referrals.
• Advertise your services.
While this may sound elementary, how you execute them can be the difference
between eating filet mignon or ramen noodles.
Letters of introduction to local legal professionals
The key to a good letter of introduction is a professional, yet brief, message. Keep the letter as brief as possible — no longer than one page. Legal professionals see large amounts of incoming mail. They don’t have time to read a lengthy sales pitch. They need to know what you do and why you should be trusted with their legal documents.
Make sure your letter of introduction includes:
• A few sentences describing your business. (Include any notable professional achievements, association memberships and length of time in business.)
• Acknowledgment of your potential client’s needs.
• A call to action for them to contact you.
• All of your contact information (office and cellular phone, fax, email, mailing address, and website).
Once you have drafted a letter, read it out loud. Fix any awkward or drawn out sentences, then share your letter with a trusted colleague and ask these important questions:
• What was your first impression of the letter?
• After reading it, would you contact my company?
• If not, what improvements would you make to the letter?
There is no shame in asking for help. Another perspective will keep your letter on track and focused. When designing and printing your letterhead, remember that it is a reflection of your company — a first impression of your professionalism. If you do not have a high-quality laser printer in your office, visit your local print shop.
Next, decide to whom you will send letters. Create a distribution list by deciding which geographic area you want to work with, looking for events for small businesses, the Chamber of Commerce membership lists and local business directories. Search the Internet and the phone book. Consider client referrals (see the following section).
Set a goal to distribute a certain amount of letters each week and to follow-up with the letters that were distributed during the previous week. This number should be based on your goals for growth and on your ability to accomplish follow-up. What sets apart the successful letters from the failures is the ability to contact the legal professional in a timely and professional manner to follow-up on the letter. Your schedule and availability may vary each week, but if you have a few minutes to stop by a potential client’s office, you should meet the client in person.
According to Karen Puro of Judgment Enforcement & Information Services, face-to-face contact is imperative.
“We have gone to many law offices to hand out the fliers and attempted in 30 seconds to impress upon them our professionalism through our appearance and demeanor,” said Puro.
Puro says that you have to quickly explain to the paralegal or lawyer how you will make their job easier and save them money. “It’s hard when you first start out, but we try to think of the time spent hoofing it around towns as an investment that will accrue interest, one customer at a time.”
Referral marketing is inexpensive, targeted and effective. If your neighbor recommends a restaurant you are more likely to try the restaurant than if you had only heard about the restaurant in an advertisement. Process servers can also make use of referral marketing. Usually, referrals are given by clients who have confidence in your business, and you simply cannot buy that kind of promotion. There are two places to look for referrals: from other professionals in the process serving industry and from your current clients.
During tough economic times, process serving tends to thrive because foreclosures and litigation increase. Many process servers may have more work than they are equipped to handle, and might be willing to contract out the work. This is a great way to gain process serving work, experience and professional credibility.
Approach established companies prepared to prove yourself. Ask if there is work that they need assistance serving. Offer to serve your first paper free of charge to prove your worth. It isn’t practical or efficient for a process serving firm in Miami to travel for four hours to Orlando to serve one paper in an unfamiliar location. However, if you are a process server in Orlando and have developed strong relationships with other professionals in the business, you may be able to gain some of that out-of-town business. By getting to know other process servers at conferences, classes and association meetings, these relationships can turn into additional work. Process servers want to be positive that they are sending their clients’ work to someone who is reliable and trustworthy, so be sure to network and grow your current relationships.
Katherine Carter of Statewide Process Service in Lincoln, Nebraska found success using this approach. After a challenging first year, Carter realized that she didn’t have the marketing experience to compete with larger process serving companies in her area.
“I get the majority of my business from a nationwide company,” said Carter. “Proving myself as the best in Nebraska was my best marketing tool. I appreciate all the business that is sent my way and I make sure that I get the job done with the best rates, best TAT (turn-around-time) and in the most professional manner.”
Another place to look for referrals is from your current clients. Most legal professionals have a professional network outside of their firms. (Sometimes they may even refer you to someone else inside the same firm.)
By providing their colleagues with your services they are also offering them a valuable tool. At first you may feel uncomfortable approaching a current client looking for additional work, but if you have done a superb job they probably wouldn’t mind doing something for you in return. Begin the conversation using an open-ended question, such as “Who else do you know who uses process servers?” On the rare occasion that your contact would not have anyone else in his or her network using process servers, you’ll find out right away. However, if your contact does have a referral then you have just opened another door by merely posing a question.
Asking for referrals is smart and assertive marketing. You can keep your business on top by utilizing relationships that you have already worked hard to establish.
Advertise your services
There are many places to advertiser your services. Puro suggests contacting a local paralegal association to offer to present a 10-15 minute informative session on process serving. Provide the dessert and coffee for association meeting. Another suggestion is to hold a luncheon, invite paralegals and other legal professionals, and offer to buy them lunch.
“When you are face to face with a paralegal or office manager who says they “already have someone,” ask them to give you a paper they need served and haven’t been able to get done and offer to serve it for free,” said Puro. “Once you are successful, they won’t forget!”
Another way to advertise your services is to list your company where legal service professionals are looking.
The Internet has quickly become one of the most used resources for finding assistance. Find out what the most authoritative sources in the legal community are and list your company on those websites.
During this critical economic time, these cost-effect solutions can help your company thrive. By writing and following up on letters of introduction, utilizing referrals and advertising your services, your company will gain name recognition and additional business.
Remember — potential clients won’t know about your services if you don’t put the additional work into gaining their business.