I was thinking about incumbents again this morning. I often do.
An incumbent, in the context of legal services, refers to the law firm that currently holds an ongoing client relationship and provides legal representation to a specific client or organisation. Essentially, it is the law firm that a client is already working with and has an established legal partnership.
>These existing client-law firm relationships can present both opportunities and challenges for law firms seeking to engage or provide services to new clients.
So how do you start marketing to people who already have a preferred partnership in place?
Remember that incumbents rule
I think that the law sector focuses too much on what *we* are going to do, how the target will love us if only they knew X about us, or they met us at an event.
As many many many firms declare: “We’re a different kind of law firm.” So they’re bound to want to work with us, right?
The thing is: incumbents rule.
They already work for your target, and they almost certainly know them way better than you do. Clients often choose to retain incumbent law firms due to factors such as trust, familiarity, and a history of successful legal representation.
Assume everyone has an incumbent law firm
Your law firm marketing should assume that everyone has an existing lawyer. That will better inform how you go about winning their work.
Because deciding to leave a major supplier is a major pain in the arse. Things have to be really bad in order to want to make a leap to a new supplier.
Over the years, I’ve bought millions of pounds of services, often websites for law firms, PR services and the like.
>And the decision to move is normally made because:
- things got so bad that we flagged things to the supplier;
- despite their protestations and promises, the supplier didn’t do enough to turn it around;
- we told them again; but
- the supplier wasn’t listening; and
- it started to make me look bad internally.
The final phase is the worst one. Where the client has already decided to leave, so things calm down again. Perhaps the supplier thinks things are back on the straight and narrow. But no. Silence is not a good sign here. Hence the need to keep speaking to your clients.
Be at least 20% better than the current retained law firm
To summarise: when you’re trying to win work for a target, remember you’re going up against a shared history, war stories, personal relationships, networks, favours, and, yes, technical delivery.
It also means that you need to show that you’re at least 20% better than the incumbent because overcoming all that history is hard.