Whilst spending time understanding your target market as well as your value proposition are both important aspects of running a successful boutique firm, recognising your clients’ needs remains paramount post-pandemic.
Nigel Evans is the managing director of Aptum Legal and spoke recently on The Boutique Lawyer Show about what boutique firms need to be doing post-pandemic to succeed.
In addition to the importance of knowing your own value, Mr Evans said that it’s important for boutique firms to “to rid themselves of those preconceptions and assumptions about what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate”, particularly when it comes to promoting your firm in the digital and social media age.
“Ultimately, the challenge for a boutique is how to connect with an audience. So, if there are different ways of doing that, if it’s using TikTok, if it’s using Instagram, then you want to experiment with those.
“You should be open to those, and you shouldn’t have preconceptions about what’s going to work and what’s not. In many ways, this notion that stuff is unsavoury or inappropriate is really designed to stop the growth of a boutique. It’s really designed to say you shouldn’t be behaving in certain ways that really favour a traditional incumbent,” he said.
“The really difficult thing for boutiques, indeed, it’s not just boutiques, but it’s for anyone in this market, is understanding whether the work you’re doing on the messaging is really having any impact.”
In terms of how boutiques can best evaluate what is and isn’t having an impact, Mr Evans’ advice was to not get too “bogged down” in what your competitors are doing – and instead focus on your clients.
“You do have to be inquisitive, and you do have to be open, and you do have to understand what’s going on. I think for the boutique, though, that the inquiry has to be to try and understand what the clients are saying about the service rather than what other competitors are doing in terms of the delivery of the service,” he said.
“So, what we try to do is we try to focus on understanding what messages are coming from the buy side, not the supply side. It’s very easy to get bogged down in trying to think about what competitors are doing, but when you are too bogged down and too focused on that, you tend to just replicate rather than differentiate.”
However, it’s also important to understand the market you are trying to target, Mr Evans continued.
“How do you get what’s going on there? What are the messages that are coming out of there? What are the pain points? What are the objectives? What are the concerns? That’s where you have to listen and learn,” he said.
“The difficulty in that, of course, particularly as a boutique, is in order to listen, you have to be in a position where you’ve got someone’s attention so you can actually get them to tell you these things. You need to tailor your message to the audience’s objectives, to the clients’ objectives, but at the same time, you need to have a message that gets in front of them so that you can actually hear what they have to say about these things.”
In addition to spending time truly understanding their target market, boutique firms should be making time to improve their value proposition – something that Mr Evans said firms can “never do enough”.
“The critical question for a boutique, in particular, is making sure that you have the systems and processes to understand where you’re directing your time and attention and resources. You can’t make that kind of allocation of attention and time decisions unless you actually understand where you’re spending your time,” he said.
“The second thing is a business owner, really ... there needs to be a parcel of free space [in your day]. So there needs to be a couple of hours at a minimum where I’m getting to think broadly about the business and extract myself from the business. And if you’re not doing that time, you’ll never be able to think critically about things like your value proposition and your business model.”
Overall, however, Mr Evans said even whilst focusing on the value proposition and progressing your firm, clients should always come first.
“Don’t lose the focus on the clients that you have. Don’t lose the focus on ensuring you deliver on what you have promised. Execute as effectively and with as much excellence as you can. And that, by a long way, is going to be the most effective way to develop a viable business,” he said.
“The hardest thing for a boutique is to be distracted by all the other noise. And so, in some respects, the advice goes back to that very traditional, do it well and consistently.”
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Nigel Evans, click below: