It can seem like the reason that Disney is so successful is truly a dose of magic.

But when you break it down, they have a real formula for excellence – excellence in leadership, creating and sustaining the right culture, and pursuing client satisfaction. All of the pieces of that formula are important, but even after putting them together, what truly makes Disney successful is their ability to bring people back again and again. And to do that, they need connection with their customers, and to empower their customers to tell the stories that make other people want a piece of the Disney experience too.

That isn’t much different to the way business development works for lawyers and law firms.

Your “stories” live within your clients, and the stories that they share with others. To some extent, you can control what that story is by delivering excellent work and meeting your clients’ needs. But are you certain that the stories that your clients are sharing are the ones that you’d like them to deliver? To find out, there are two things you need to address.

Your Brand Promise

I know, this sounds very “market-y,” but essentially, it’s a fancy way summing up the message of the service you provide, how you do it, and what your underlying values are. For Disney, they approach their guests as “Special entertainment with heart” – what they do is “entertainment,” how they do it is “special,” and their underlying value is “heart.” Clearly, this would be different for your practice, but when you give some thought to what it is you provide to your clients, you can see that the breakdown of the formula is similar.

  • What do you do? This must be specific – not just “practice law” but how do you help clients?
  • How are you doing that? What characteristics define the way you deliver YOUR legal services that set you apart from everyone else?
  • What are your underlying values? Integrity, commitment, grit, etc.

These aren’t things that you have to devise as part of a “promise” you’re making to your clients – they’re already things that you’re doing (or should be doing) and you only need to take a closer look at your practice to be able to identify what they are, and how you can more effectively communicate them. If you’re not sure, talk to some of your trusted clients about what they are, and they’ll be able to help point them out.

Evaluation

Clients and potential clients are always watching, and every interaction they have with you is an opportunity to deliver on that brand promise. Disney does this flawlessly, and I’ll give you an example. I have a niece with a life-threatening peanut allergy. Not only does Disney make it easy to communicate this when you sign up for a meal plan, but when my sister and her family visited their Orlando property a few years ago, the chef at one of the buffets even took time out to walk around with my niece and brother-in-law to show her which foods were safe, to offer to make her any special dishes she wanted, and essentially turned what is normally a stressful and embarrassing experience for her into something special and cool. Disney delivered on their promise of special entertainment with heart, even at mealtime – and it’s a story that was repeated not only to me, but now I’m telling it again to you.

Isn’t that the same kind of loyalty you’d like to inspire in your clients? Isn’t is possible to turn your experiences with them into ones where they feel so well-advised and taken care of, that they’re happy to share that with their friends and professional colleagues? Yes, of course.

Then how can you make sure that the message you’re sending out is the message that’s being received? We all know, for example, that we may have one tone of voice (so we think) when typing an email, but the person receiving it reads it in an entirely different light. One of my favorite quotes is from Anaïs Nin – “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” So evaluation is a critical tool in our arsenal to ensure that what we’re promising is what’s being heard.

  • Client surveys: We mentioned conducting client follow-up when we looked at Disney’s focus on satisfaction, and it’s an essential tool. Are you conducting interviews or surveys with your clients to understand what the challenges and successes are following each of your matters? How about with your referral sources to ensure that those pipelines are both satisfied with the exchange, and are delivering the message you’d like them to?
  • Social monitoring: While I hope we’ve moved past the point of justifying why social media is worth the time investment, I’ll mention again that whether you’re connected on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook or not, people are having conversations about you and your firm on there – and isn’t it better to have the opportunity to see those conversations, be a part of them, and help to frame them? Set up Google alerts for your name and firm names (and top clients, for that matter), and use tools like Tweetdeck to monitor your Twitter mentions. Develop a plan for how and why you want to engage with people on these platforms so that you’re comfortable with your level of time investment. Design the message around the story you’d like to tell about yourself and your firm, and make sure that all of your social messages and interactions reinforce that story – for help with this, reach out to your firm’s marketing professionals.

Disney’s success is predicated on their ability to create “magical moments” that bring their customers back again and again – and encourage them to tell others about their experience in a way that makes them seek their own magical moment. You may not be sprinkling any pixie dust on your clients, but you are giving them their own stories of business experiences based on your legal services. The challenge is identifying how you infuse your own legal magic in a way that brings them back again, and empowers them to tell your story.