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Commentary: Internal marketing efforts can improve profitability

Studies conducted across the country repeatedly show the value of internal marketing to professional services firms. A national study of 200 human resources executives conducted by Wisconsin-based Business Development Directives revealed firms with strong internal marketing initiatives experience higher-than-average growth rates and profitability.

The explanation is very simple — highly-trained, well-motivated staff members do all the right things to keep clients happy and coming back for more.

New York-based Tully Rinckey PLLC has doubled its revenue in the past year, while maintaining the same number of attorneys, by adding a client relations department. The new department ensures the firm is consistently positioned to present a favorable, lasting impression.

“Our phone is ringing more than it ever has when other law firms are closing their doors,” says Graig Cortelyou, marketing director for the 50-person firm.

Cortelyou says Tully Rinckey has seen a significant increase in cross-marketing efforts within the firm as a result of its internal marketing efforts. Encouraging communication within the firm also exposes attorneys and support staff to various social settings where they learn how to better interact with others.

Silvia Hodges, PhD., a guest marketing lecturer at both Harvard and Fordham Law Schools, views internal marketing as the foundation of quality service and brand differentiation.

“A firm can only expect to outperform the competition when its own lawyers and staff are able to explain convincingly what makes them different,” Hodges says.

Most law firms continue to focus on external marketing rather than internal marketing, despite knowing that happier lawyers and staff produce more satisfied clients and higher profits. But Hodges warns that firms must have the appropriate culture to stimulate and reward internal marketing. If people are not rewarded and recognized for living the brand, they will decide that internal marketing is not worth pursuing.

Breanna Wilson of Khorrami, Pollard & Abir LLP in Los Angeles agrees.

“A strong brand begins with employees who believe in what they are doing and are confident they are equipped with the proper knowledge to do their job,” Wilson says.

Her firm uses an intranet and semi-monthy newsletter to train, inform and equip people with the necessary tools to interact with clients.

There are literally hundreds of internal marketing tools and strategies available to help your firm. The first step is to recognize the need and develop a plan to engage all of your employees in promoting a positive brand image.

Business Development Directives’ William Lowell offers the following internal marketing tips.

Design internal and external marketing campaigns to reflect the firm’s unique brand, culture and philosophy.

Ensure every employee understands the influence they have on the brand. Let them know that every time they interact with a client or prospect, they are making or breaking your firm’s image. Conduct a “touch-point” exercise with your staff to identify and leverage all the places your staff and associates touch or encounter a client or potential prospect.

Develop a list of incentives to reward on-brand actions. Keep it fun: a day at the spa, a round of golf or tickets to a performance. Show them you are serious.

Consider conducting an employee satisfaction or employee engagement study. The results can drive your entire internal marketing program.

Conduct exit interviews with staff, associates, senior counsel and even partners who leave your organization. Compile the information into a database so it can be used to identify potential problems before they become critical. This will help you identify which groups are doing well in terms of employee loyalty and which practice leaders are generating the most goodwill.

Karl Robe, APR, counsels attorneys and executives on communications strategies that support achievement of growth objectives and overcome business challenges. Contact him at Karl James & Company LLC by emailing karl.robe@karljames.com.


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  3. A brand starts on the inside. And everything internal eventually becomes external. Bill and Breanna are spot on. L1, L2 students, associates and attorneys are not experts at marketing or communications. They frequently present from their perspective and knowledgebase, which is not consistent. Firms that focus on internal branding generally do better. We have worked with small and large firms and this is the first place we start when developing their brand. Great story!

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