The Facebook Places Opportunity

Facebook Places iPhoneIf you haven’t been paying attention Facebook announced Places* last week (see here for background and explanation).

Online checkin has become increasingly popular for NetGen users recently, with Foursquare leading the way. But now that Facebook has added this capability for its half a billion users, the dynamics of this market suddenly change.

Research shows that consumers trust recommendations from friends 2-3x more than other forms of online advertising. What this means is that there is an opportunity here for smart professional services firms to tap into Places for marketing purposes: Each time someone checks in at your business they are telling their friends about you. That’s free advertising for you!  So, think about how you can encourage that behaviour – perhaps you can just ask, or perhaps you could provide special offers to clients willing to do that. Then the next time someone exchanges contracts on their dream property, you’ll know that they have told all their Facebook friends about you!

(*) At the time of writing Facebook Places is a US only service, but Facebook has plans to roll it out globally as soon as possible.

Legal Opportunities #3: Go Where Your Clients Are

I have been thinking again again about what Shoosmiths were doing with their marketing effort at our local town fete, and what it had in common with the will writers marketing approach that I blogged about last week.  The key thing for me is that they both went where their clients were. And it got me wondering – how else can you do that? What opportunities are out there to make yourself more easily accessible to potential clients?

Competing with the Emerging Legal Brands

I think there is an opportunity to fend off competition from the emerging legal brands by creating a tie-up with local businesses. Let me explain…

Big corporations like to offer lots of on-site services to their employees. When I was at Microsoft there was a creche, dry cleaning service, DVD rental, IFA, doctor and masseur on site.  Inside the confines of many other corporate offices you will find a Starbucks or Costa Coffee, a hairdressers, gym, bank and much more. What’s the point of all that? For Big Corp it’s about keeping people at their desks longer. For employees it’s about convenience.

So how about onsite legal services?

Maybe next time your are negotiating terms with one of your corporate or small business clients, and they are pushing back on fees or asking for alternative billing arrangements, part of your negotiation could be about access to their employees in some way. Maybe you could offer monthly free legal advice clinics in the client’s offices, or perhaps you could offer special discounted rates to their employees. There are probably lots of other ideas you could come up with, just make sure that your offer provides value to both you and their employer in some way.

What do you think? What other opportunities are there for going to the client rather than waiting for them to come to you?

Legal Opportunities #2: Convenience

Will writer stand in shopping mall

Well, this all seems rather apt given, the recent Panorama expose on will writers…

This photo was taken in my local shopping mall a little while back… A company offering wills for £49, complete with a freephone number and a home visit to complete the paperwork. Now as it turns out, the home visit is where Panorama alleges the hard sell happens – and that low initial fee can turn into something very different if you are not wary.

But that’s not the point I want to make here. Instead I want to focus on what these companies are doing right: giving the consumer convenience.

Legal Opportunity #2: Convenience

These days consumers are used to 24-hour telephone banking, 24-hour supermarkets, and the instant gratification of MP3s purchased and downloaded in seconds. Convenience is a time-proven strategy for business success:

  • Lastminute.com created a travel business by specifically targeting cash-rich, time-poor people who had left booking their vacation to the last minute
  • Ocado has won legions of raving fans for its home delivery service segmented into handy 1 hour slots
  • And don’t forget how Amazon shook up the book world by delivering almost any title to your door in 24 hours

The Three Strands of Convenience

  • Anywhere: Deliver your services wherever the client finds it most convenient. In their home, in their office, at your office.
  • Anytime: Make your services available when it works for the client. How about offering appointments in the evening or early morning? Could you use your website to provide 24-hours a day service? What about late evening telephone consultations?
  • Anyhow: Can you deliver your service, or parts of it, over the web or via an iPhone app? Could you deliver some of your services through a partner… an account, IFA or HR consultancy for example?

So, which law firms and solicitors are out there breaking the mould and providing convenience to clients already? Let me know in the comments.