It’s the biggest cliché that there is in business—the client is always right. Fortunes have been amassed by people who were good at nothing more than going to their clients, asking a question or two, and then building a business around what the clients had to say.

Take a look at the most successful court reporting firms and you’ll notice that they focus a disproportionate amount of their attention and messaging on their clients. Just by asking a few questions of attorneys and paralegals, the information you acquire can fundamentally alter the trajectory of your business.

For instance, when we asked attorneys and paralegals to give us a single piece of advice they would offer to court reporting firms, we learned a lot and maybe reinforced what we already knew. Here’s what we learned.

Be on Time. Be Professional. Be Accurate

“Make a good first impression,” said one attorney, “as I have used the court reporting service that performed my first deposition for all 18 years of practice.”

Indeed, it’s surprising the degree to which attorneys—given their proclivity to pontificate and the ability to provide any advice—gave the simplest and most concise direction.

  • “Be professional in appearance and demeanor,” said one.
  • “Be on time,” said another.
  • “Be professional in the depositions and be on time,” said a third.
  • “Be punctual, accurate, and presentable,” said still another.
  • Three more with similar guidance:
    • “Be presentable and personable;”
    • “Be on time, flexible, and invisible;” and
    • “Be available, polite, and responsive.”

What else are the clients looking for? Again, given the landscape of anything at all to advise court reporting firms, they leaned heavily on the simplest of ideas.

  • “Accuracy of transcripts is more important than all the marketing in the world,” said an attorney.
  • “Accuracy in the transcript,” deadpanned another.
  • “Speed and accuracy,” said another.
  • “Advertise your accuracy,” said still someone else.

Pricing certainly reared its head, but it was more about transparency and fairness than about having the lowest price. “Be honest, price fairly, and provide great snacks,” said an attorney, presumably joking about the snacks. “Don’t assume that counsel and clients are happy to pay huge upcharges for expediting transcripts,” said another attorney. “Some added charges make sense, but not exponential increases in fees to many times their original size!”

Marketing = Relationships

The good news for law firms with a low marketing budget, is that law firms point to colleague referrals and direction from clients as the predominant ways they select a court reporting firm. Nothing else comes close. Relationships are the single, most important factor to business development. “Spend time building the relationship,” said an attorney. “We use people we know, so become known to us,” said another. “Maintain the relationships with paralegals and legal assistants as they make the primary decisions as to whom to hire,” said another attorney.  So, when we asked a paralegal: “I usually book through recommendations from other paralegals.”

This is not to say that court reporting firms should ignore other marketing tactics in favor of networking. That would be naive because no self-respecting attorney, paralegal, or legal assistant is going to acknowledge that an advertisement or a brochure influenced his or her perception. But if you are to become known, you must find multiple ways to get your name out there as a supplement, not an alternative, to building relationships.

Finally, when it comes to relationships and advertising and positioning, it is helpful to know what to say.  What types of messaging seems to connect? Provided with a list of seven or eight common catch phrases, three stood out:

  • “Cost-effective services;”
  • “A track record of reliability;” and
  • “Fastest possible transcript turnaround time.”

That’s not poetry of course. It’s important to bring some of the character of your firm into the mix and demonstrate how you will be different than other options available in the marketplace. What doesn’t seem to resonate, though? “Nationwide coverage” and “turnkey service” were flops in our engagement with law firms.

Know your firm’s unique story and tell it in a way that weaves what matters most to law firms in their relationships with court reporting agencies. Be prepared to tell it in many different venues, but most important in one-on-one conversation where you’re building a relationship, not making a single sale.