It’s that time of year.

The invoices and renewals are making their way to my inbox.

I’m going over the 2014 budget and looking to see who’s been naughty or nice.

I have to decide who stays and who goes. Who gets voted off my legal marketing island.

My number one request?

Show me the value!

Why should I renew my subscription, whether for a directory listing, or conference sponsorship? Did I get my $2400, $5000, or $10,000 in value?

Three recent and very real scenarios paint the picture for me.

Scenario 1: Annual association membership, including conference sponsorships at additional financial investment. Annual cost: Big Bucks. ROI: Great potential for new relationship building. Speaking opportunities. This group has the right people, but are we meeting them?? It’s definitely valuable, but expensive. Not too sure, but I need answers.

While I was at a recent association conference, I spent some quality time with the membership director. She explained how we were using the membership, where they had added benefits since we first got involved (they are growing fast), but had not yet tapped into, and that these were some great ways to ensure that the firm was maximizing our dollar spend.

We laid out a plan of action for 2014, including better ways that we could be spending the conference sponsorship dollars. In fact, at the next event, which involved a lot of financial and attorney time investment, our partner walked away with three new clients.

This was a no brainer:


Scenario 2: Annual blog subscriptions. Annual cost: Not incredible high, but we have four, so it reaches the level of having to justify the line item. ROI: Great exposure. Just not sure it’s worth the dollar spend. I’m exploring my options.

At a recent conference where I was speaking, I spent some time with the owner of our blog service (starts with K and ends in O’Keefe).

Sitting around the bar BSing, we started talking about value of their subscription service in general and where they were going as a business. He had no idea when we sat down, but I was seriously considering cancelling our subscription. While we hadn’t talked about it, it was on my mind to the point that I had gotten a bid to migrate my blogs off their system.

After we discussed the changes to their business model, the value adds — including migrating our older blogs to WordPress — that we would now be getting, along with X, Y, and Z coming down the line, all of which will be included in my annual subscription, it made my decision easy when the renewal hit my desk today:


Scenario 3: Directory Listing. An annual industry directory (NOT Martindale) was up for renewal. We’ve been subscribers since the dawn of the firm. I would get the annual email of “Here’s your current list. Any changes?” Depending on the answer, my invoice would go up or down. I just don’t see the value, and the partners agreed. We were cancelling.

When speaking with their representative at renewal time, he gave me one example of the value we received through our subscription, which wasn’t great. I just couldn’t justify the cost for so little value. The ROI wasn’t there, so I cancelled. He called again. Gave me the same value. And I confirmed our cancellation.

Fast forward a month. I have an interview lined up with their editorial team. The second in my six years here at the firm. It gets cancelled because I am now being told that the opportunity was a benefit of our subscription. I had no idea. It wasn’t in my renewal information. My PR folks had reached out to the editorial staff independently. It was news to me.

Lo and behold, turns out that there were a whole host of items that were benefits that they had rolled out through the years. They just never reached out to let me know. And, honestly, I never took the time to do the research to see if things had changed over the years.

What peeved me the most is that it wasn’t until we were breaking up that they pulled out the list of benefits I knew nothing about. They apparently knew I wasn’t taking advantage of all they had to offer, but they never brought that to light until it was too late.

Reminds me of an old boyfriend from my post-college days. We’d been dating for a little over a year. I just felt the relationship wasn’t going anywhere, so I ended it. At which point he quipped:”Well, what am I supposed to do with the ring I bought?”

Really?? We’re in the middle of breaking up from a relationship that seemed to be going nowhere and NOW you decide to pull the ring card? A little late, don’t you think, buddy?


And that’s how I feel about vendor/customer relationships sometimes. It’s only when we’re breaking up they pull out the “Wait. Don’t go. Here are all the great things I can offer you!”

My question is, “Why are you waiting until it’s too late?”

Why is it that only when I am cancelling our service that my costs go down? Or I get a list of all the benefits you now offer?

If the costs go down, why not just lower my costs? If you have new benefits, why not make sure I am well aware of them and utilizing them? If I am such a valued customer, you’d think I’d be valued.

Prior to my legal marketing career I worked as the membership director for a private club. I could tell you with the push of a button (on a really crappy computer system) who was a “member at risk.” We knew this by who utilized the benefits of the club, and who did not. My job was to create member benefits, and make sure the members knew about them.

Do your clients know and understand the value you provide?

For anyone in sales, including lawyers selling legal services, we all know that it is easier to keep a client than recruit a new one.

So why not work to keep that current relationship happy?

These relationships really are relationships, just like our marriages or long term partnerships.

We go along utilizing a service year in and year out. Our needs change. Your business offerings change. Yet we all just go through the motions until someone (the customer) cancels.

For anyone who has gone through a divorce, or ended a partnership, you cannot wait until someone is out the door before deciding to make changes. By then it is too late.

So ask yourselves, “Do your clients or customers know and understand the value you provide?” I’m not talking the reason they hired you, but do they understand the value you provide once that initial need has been met?

At the recent LMA Tech Conference, D. Casey Flaherty, Corporate Counsel, Kia Motors, said many great things. One thing that struck me was:

Don’t call to ‘check in’ with me. I’m busy and focused and you are interrupting me. If you are calling me, have a reason and a value as to why.

(complete paraphrase on my part)

I have to agree. When you call and say, “Hey, I’ll be in town next month, can we have lunch” I think, “Ugh. That means I have to skip the gym that day.”

If you say, “Heather, I’m in town next week and would like to meet with you to go over our 2014 benefits package before your renewal comes up next month. Not sure if you have time for lunch, or if coffee would work best for you, but I’m sure you’ll be excited to see where we are expanding our benefits for our long term and loyal customers like you.”

OK. You have my attention. Let’s talk.