A SUCCESSFUL vertical practice requires deep industry knowledge, a reputation as an expert, and the foresight to identify “the next thing” that will not only deliver business outcomes but also differentiate you.
When I launched SpliceNet Consulting in 1996, we were using Sage Timeslips internally; so were many law firms, but they were struggling with it. An attorney-client of mine suggested, “If you can figure out how to teach this to lawyers, you’ll have a line out your door.”
That’s exactly what happened. When other consultants jumped on that train, we were already incorporating additional line of business (LOB) applications popular with the legal industry. We grew our business further by helping law firms convert to electronic billing and managing their hardware.
By 2005, we decided to gradually divest our LOB consulting and convert clients to recurring revenue status. Today, all our legal clients are managed, and we now partner with LOB vendors.
But during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our legal clients needed more than managed services or LOBs. We created a resource called “No Law Firm Left Behind” to help them work remotely. We livestreamed sessions with consultants, tapped our vendor partners for free resources, and provided surplus licenses we had.
The brand gained traction, and as our clients began returning to the office, we changed our focus to the tools, techniques, and business outcomes they need to succeed. We launched the “No Law Firm Left Behind” podcast and a magazine (online and print) to continue building the brand by providing helpful resources to our community.
We are currently growing revenue by double digits year over year.
The “Pre-Trial” Preparation
Here are some key steps we followed (and you can, too) to build a vertical.
Learn the industry. I got involved in industry organizations such as the American Bar Association (ABA), the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cincinnati Bar Association, and the Association of Legal Administrators. I also talked to lawyers about their processes and practices and asked questions like: How does a trial work? What is a motion for summary judgment?
Become a speaker. I started speaking at industry organizations in-person and virtually, so my reputation as a trusted expert grew. Today when I walk into a law firm, they’ve already heard of SpliceNet.
Look for unique opportunities. I familiarized myself with the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and each State Supreme Court’s subset of that. As a result, I could explain to an attorney how, for instance, a particular managed security service could help them adhere to their state’s Model Rule.
Create IP. SpliceNet created a do-it-yourself cybersecurity assessment tool and gave it away to hundreds of law firms nationwide. It supported my position as an industry expert and generated leads. If they needed assistance, I would do a workshop or travel to their office to do the assessment for them.
Keep your ear to the wire. When I hear about law firms getting sued over a breach, I use that as evidence for why a client or prospect needs cybersecurity. I explain that if they get hit by ransomware without proper protection, they’re going to be liable, and their insurance company won’t help them.
Be a white glove provider. Our clients come to us for all their tech needs, including hardware. In fact, it’s in our agreement that they’ll incur additional costs if they don’t buy it from us. There’s margin in hardware if you know how to do it.
Use QBRs to introduce “the next thing.” Today we are talking with clients about what security controls they need to meet cyber insurance requirements. Tomorrow it will be the next trend that impacts their industry.
Differentiate. SpliceNet’s “No Law Firm Left Behind” brand and other marketing efforts make us “sticky.” It keeps us top of mind for our clients and prospects and ahead of the pack.
Now that we’ve built a thriving vertical, we’re spinning up a nonprofit vertical based on the proven processes we’ve put in place. Rinse and repeat for success!