- 04 September 2015
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Olswang’s Instinctive Understanding campaign in the legal sector demonstrates the value of helping clients where they say they need it most.
“This programme is unique because we’ve built it together with our clients. It’s one of a handful of programmes in the legal market that have been 100 per cent developed through collaboration,” says Jo Witham, head of client relationship management and alumni at Olswang.
She’s describing Instinctive Understanding, a scheme launched by the international law firm to support some of their key clients, who work as in-house lawyers in corporates and other organisations in sectors including media, technology and telecoms.
A programme like this was essential for Olswang because the legal market is increasingly crowded. Building loyalty is critical to maintaining a stable, sustainable client base, and standing out from competitors has become essential.
Olswang knew that the role of in-house lawyers has changed. No longer regarded purely as legal specialists, they are expected to bring business skills to the table and demonstrate commercial value. Looking for a gap in the market where the firm could differentiate itself – preferably through a programme to secure the brand’s reputation as an innovator – Witham hit on this as the right area to focus on.
In putting together a campaign, Witham first carried out research to find out exactly what clients wanted from Olswang. That meant interviewing 50 top clients to find out their opinions on the challenges they were facing and what they needed for their professional development.
This became the basis of Instinctive Understanding. “It’s been a diagnostic approach, crafted on the back of significant due diligence,” says Witham. “We know it’s on the money, because we’re giving the clients support where they’ve told us they need it.”
The Instinctive Understanding campaign – although Witham prefers not to use that word, seeing it more as an extension of the firm’s client listening programme – reflects this client-led approach in practice. “This is very much an interactive platform – tailored to what every client organisation needs, then to every individual within that organisation. It’s all structured to support clients and develop their competencies.”
The programme consists of four categories in which the firm offers support to clients free of charge – Strategy Development, Building Personal Networks, Training and Development, and Collaboration and Co-Creation. Olswang partners engage with clients to determine in which area they would like assistance, whether for professional or personal development (building leadership skills, for example).
The aim is to help the clients to develop core competencies as they build their careers and become leaders within their organisations. These are: leadership; project and time management; communication and interpersonal skills: teamwork; personal development; problem-solving; market expertise; relationship-building; and audience engagement. One size doesn’t fit all, so each client ends up with their own tailored package of assistance.
Describing the programme, Witham says: “It’s a portfolio of relationship investments that we make available to our most valued clients at no cost – it’s a relationship investment we’re making, beyond the legal investment.”
The key challenge for her on this project was one familiar to many marketers: demonstrating value in the short term. “The way I rolled out the campaign was to deploy it to key clients first. Like any marketing endeavour, there are always short and long-term measures of business impact. But as we’re not charging for it, and can’t quantify value in terms of pounds and pence, there’s pressure to identify the ROI.”
However, the results are now starting to come though. Internally, it’s clearly a success; more than 80% of the Olswang partnership has requested coaching on how to engage with clients in an Instinctive Understanding conversation, the highest partner uptake of a CRM initiative in the firm’s history.
Externally, it’s looking bright too: “We find that innovation, in itself, has a perceived value to clients. Beyond that, we’ve had more introductions to potential new clients. Our brand is now well understood and appreciated among our clients, and we’re perceived as being distinctive from other law firms. We’ve also been shortlisted for a Lawyer Business Leadership Award,” says Witham.
“Above all, our clients love it – we’ve even got waiting lists for some of the programmes. In the long term we expect to see better relationships with clients and the financial rewards that follow.”
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