The more I see of Taylor Swift, the more of a marketing genius I realize she is. And not just because I can’t get "Shake it Off" out of my head this week. There are a few things that Taylor does that create rabid loyalty among her fans – and I mean rabid.
Before you start asking what Tay-tay and her music have to do with the law, first, ask yourself what it would feel like to have your clients feel the same way about you as Taylor’s fans feel about her? What if your clients trusted you so implicitly that they never took their business to anyone else? What if they called you first before making a business decision, because you’re their trusted adviser? What if your clients lined up every time you wrote or spoke, because they knew what you had to say was that valuable?
While I don’t picture your clients lining the streets of your offices and swooning at the mere sight of you anytime soon (though the image of that does bring a smile to my face), there are a few things that Taylor does REALLY well that you can adapt to your own business to help drive client loyalty. Let’s look at two of those tips today.
Tip One: Leave Your Ego at the Door
One of the things that makes Taylor so successful is that all of her fans believe she’s "one of them." She’s managed to develop this charming, self-deprecating sense that draws people to her – those in her target demographic of tweens, teens and twenty-somethings. She incredibly famous. successful, and very wealthy, and yet somehow, she makes you believe that she’d be the perfect person to share a conversation with over coffee.
In fact, she’s done exactly that kind of thing. Taylor will be debuting her new album, 1989, soon ("Shake it Off" is the first single) and in preparation, she took to the internet to find serious fans who had not yet had a chance to meet her or attend a concert, etc. She then invited those fans to what she calls the "1989 Secret Sessions" – listening parties at one of her homes, where she baked treats, chatted with fans as if they were friends, played her new album, and invited them to play with her new kitten, Olivia Benson.
She literally invited hundreds of people she didn’t know (except for the online research she’d done) into her home to hang out with her and eat homemade rice krispie treats while chatting with her mom. Taylor excels at disabusing everyone of the notion that she’s some famous celebrity by acting like the girl next door. The fans that got to participate will never forget the experience – they’re going to be her fans for life, and spread the message about her to everyone they can think of. And those who didn’t get to participate can dream that maybe one day, they’ll be chosen to do the same – and that keeps them coming back as well. Rabid. Loyalty.
Before we get to how this translates for lawyers, let’s look at one more example of Taylor checking her ego at the door. Ellen DeGeneres kicked off this year with Anthony Carbajal, a young man recently diagnosed with ALS (whose grandmother passed away from the disease, and mother currently battles it). We could spend another post discussing how Ellen interviewed him first on her season premiere, leaving the likes of Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton backstage to play second fiddle, but instead, let’s talk about what happened next.
Ellen invited Anthony to interview celebrities on the red carpet at the Iheartradio music festival. Taylor was one of those to come through his booth, and she was more excited to meet him than he was to meet her (and he was pretty excited). She knew exactly who he was, because she’d seen his ALS Bucket Challenge Video, and told him she was honored to meet him. Guess who else is going to be a Taylor Swift fan for life?
What does this have to do with being lawyers? I’m reminded of a line from Fawlty Towers, when the phone rings, and John Cleese answers, saying "Yes, what is it? I’m terribly busy and important."
How many of us feel that way these days? We’re SO busy and SO important that we don’t have time for anyone or anything. We’re doing legal work for our clients – isn’t that enough, without them bothering us all the time??
No, it’s really not.
We need to think like Taylor – to remember that the only reason we sit where we are is because of our clients. Yes, we all put in hard work and spent long hours being educated in our areas of specialty – but Taylor Swift ALSO puts in long hours of hard work writing songs, performing on tour, recording her albums, etc. And she still manages to keep the focus on her fans and finding new and unique ways to connect with them.
How can we do the same?
- Listen to yourself the next time you answer the phone – do you sound frazzled or harried? Already impatient with the person on the other end? Consider taking a breath before you first say hello and imagining that each call (from suppliers and sales pitches right up through the next top client you may have) is a potential client. Treat everyone with kindness, and you’ll create fans – you never know where your next piece of work or referral will come from, so offer the same treatment to everyone. And if you’re really that busy that you can’t take the time, hire an assistant who can deal with your call for you and whittle them down to the truly essential ones.
- This is the same virtually too – how do you respond to emails? Are you sending out messages without a greeting? It takes literally seconds to say "Dear [name], I hope this email finds you well," or something to that effect. Yes, our 24/7 connectivity has created a sense of urgency surrounding all communications these days, but there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment for pleasantries – if you think no one notices, I can tell you that they do. A little common courtesy goes a LONG way in creating good will about yourself with others.
- Think outside of the box – there are things that you do socially outside of your professional life, and they may be a good opportunity to invite a client. Look at Taylor’s 1989 Secret Sessions – what if you invited a client to your home for a meal? Perhaps your golf club is having a tournament, and you invite a client to join you, or your child’s school is putting on an evening fundraiser that a client might like to support. Don’t be so "busy and important" that you forget to get to know each other better. This won’t be right for every type of law, or every client, but don’t immediately write it off before thinking about how it could apply in your world.
- Always be thinking about your client – and I don’t just mean their legal work. We’ve said time and time again that being smart and talented is what gets you to the table. What sets you apart is going to be your level of service, and that means focusing on what your clients want. Taylor is always thinking about what’s going to make her fans happy, and how she can connect with them better. As legal professionals, we can all be doing exactly the same thing – ask yourself today: "What is going to make my clients happier?" "How can I connect better with my clients?" This will be different for each client, so even if you pick one client each week to wow, imagine the difference you’ll make?
Tip Two: DIY
Tip Two is that you’ve got to do it yourself. Let’s look again at what T.Swift is doing – for her 1989 Secret Sessions, she was the one to identify and track those that she wanted to invite to her house, not her staff. She’s the one to man her Twitter account. When she goes out to meet fans, she doesn’t breeze in and out, signing her name a few times and smiling before she’s whisked away by security – she stays a while, talked with fans, and genuinely engages.
She’s a do-it-yourself-er.
We all know she has people – assistants, drivers, house cleaners, what have you. But when it counts, she’s the one representing herself. It should be the same in the legal profession.
While it’s only happened a handful of times in my career, one of my pet peeves is having someone’s assistant call me and tell me that they have that person on the line. The message that sends is that the person is too busy and self-important to dial my number themselves. And I can tell you, based on experience, that the most successful rainmakers I know all call me directly (not coincidentally, they are also the same people who read and respond to the emails I send them as well).
Behind the scenes, they may have assistants finding, and even dialing, my number for them, but when I answer the phone, they’re the one on the line.
Your clients do not want to have their relationship with you with someone else. Sure, they can get to know, like and trust the people that work with and for you, but they also want to know, like and trust YOU. And for that to happen, you can’t delegate your relationship and communication work to someone else.
Whether we like it or not, we’re in a relationship business. There are some matters where clients will say that it doesn’t matter if they like you or not – you’re the best, and they want the best. Great. But how many of those matters are you handling?
For the most part, you’ve got to do it yourself – I know there are only so many hours in the day, so figure out what you can and should delegate, and commit to being present for the rest. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily about what we *like* doing – it’s about what our clients want and need from us. So…
- If you are sending thank you notes, maybe you have your assistant draft them, but YOU should write and send them (yes, even if they’re emailed – double points if you handwrite them).
- When making a phone call, even if you have your assistant dial the number, you should be the one making the call. You are not too important to leave someone a voicemail if necessary.
- If you use social media, the accounts should be yours. You can use others to help get you started, and to advise you on how to use them as well as best practices, but the engagement and interaction must be all you. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Like Taylor’s fans, we all want to believe that the person on the other end of any communication (from face to face right through to email and social media) thinks we’re important. When you delegate that communication, you send the message that the other person isn’t in your immediate circle and doesn’t warrant your full attention. Even if that’s true, it’s your job to make them believe that they are the most important person to you. Otherwise, they start to think that your lack of attention bleeds into everything else…including how much you care about their business.
Creating that feeling of value with every person you speak to is a gift, and one worth cultivating. If each of your clients believes they are your top client, they will always trust you with their work, and recommend you to others. But if they believe that either someone else, or even you, is more important to you than they are, they will slowly pull away until you’re wondering what happened to the work there.
So, take a dance break right now to rock out to "Shake it Off," and ask yourself how you can put some of Taylor Swift’s client loyalty tips into practice for you!