By almost any standard, the comfort seemed well founded. In the four years prior, the firm had won a bet-the-company battle in court, and subsequently created a licensing program that netted the client hundreds of millions in liquidity.
The officers and Board of the company made no secret of their appreciation — first for the law firm’s litigation win, and then for the creation and execution of a strategy that created nearly half-a-billion dollars in license fees.
So satisfied was this client that the CEO authored a memo expressing appreciation, and articulating his belief that the advocacy and counsel of the firm had saved the company.
Ninety days after that memo the client fired the firm.
There was no egregious error. No problem with work product. No new threat or matter outside the firm’s area of expertise. No grand falling out. Not even a hint of dissatisfaction over budgets or billing.
The client simply caught sight of greener grass, and walked across the street — within 90-days of an unsolicited expression of satisfaction.
A precursor of life in the new normal. Forget what it used to be like. The successes of yesterday carry no guarantees. Satisfaction is fleeting…quickly becoming the stuff of history.
Nurturing The Business You’ve Already Developed
While the development of new clients is certainly critical, an opportunity often slighted by law firms and other professional service enterprises is the reward that comes as a result of protecting and deepening the business already won.
There will always be greener grass. Change is the new constant, and in a volatile market, movement is inevitable. But honing focus on the client experience is one of the cornerstones of a complete strategic business development and marketing plan.
And if the story above underscores anything, it should be that this goes way beyond quality of work or metrics that measure satisfaction. The care and nurture of key clients is about deepening relationships. And, as is the case in any relationship discussion, this demands innovation, creativity and attention to detail.
Identify New Intersections
A basic principle of communication is the idea that shared experiences — those instances where experiences intersect and overlap — provide the context for the most meaningful interaction. While the temptation is to rely on intersections that are easiest to spot and were once dynamic, relationships do not stand still. They either grow, or become stagnant.
Stagnant relationships — in any context — are at risk. Increase shared experiences, and the opportunities for growth multiply.
Applied professionally, the intersections vary by industry, product or service; but the basic principle for identifying them is universal.
Focus on the client (versus navel gazing). A preoccupation with one’s own condition, issue or story almost always comes at the expense of missing places to connect. Bet-the-company issues aside, the client’s concerns and interests are almost always diverse, presenting scores of possible new intersections.
One final thought. Shared experiences are one thing. Sharing aspirations is quite another. When a client senses that your aspirations align with theirs — that you are collaborating in the pursuit of the same goal(s) -- the relationship is morphing into partnership. And even in our new normal, the payoff here is a new brand of loyalty.