Last Wednesday evening I spoke about marketing to more than 100 solicitors at a solicitors bar association event. My presentation on marketing for solicitors was an overview of some principles and techniques that small law firms could adopt as a starting point. My presentation was very general indeed. I aimed to give an overview only and I didn’t get into anything in detail as I knew that I would just have time to cover the basics. Some preliminary research on the audience had shown that most of the solicitors present would have done little or nothing about marketing, so I aimed the talk at an introductory level.

Notwithstanding the fact that the marketing element of the seminar was intended as an introduction, I was still a bit surprised when, during my presentation, while talking about communication and availability, I asked for a show of hands from the delegates on the following question: “Considering that it is now around 7.45pm on a Wednesday evening, if I phoned your office right now, would I get any answer whatsoever, mechanical or human?” Fewer than 50% of the hands were raised. It’s difficult to believe that in 2011, a majority of solicitors’ practices haven’t even got an answering machine. Now, I know that, in general, nobody likes talking to an answering machine, but at 7.45 in the evening anyone calling your office will expect to get an answering machine and they just want to leave a message. Sometimes, when your client has had a busy day and they still have something at the bottom of their to-do list, all they want to do is get an item off their list and on to someone else’s list. Your list, to be specific. Isn’t that the type of message you’d be happy to have waiting for you when you get into the office in the morning?

You need an answering machine. Get one today.

I have a quick message for every solicitor or law firm that hasn’t got an answering machine, answering service or a call divert in operation. Do something about it TODAY. You’re handing files to your competitors and you don’t even realise it. If there isn’t a way of leaving an out-of-hours message at your office, you need to fix that straight away.