Pringles are a fascinating concept, really. Developed by Procter & Gamble, they first sold in the United States in 1968 and today are worth over US$1.0 billion annually. And think about their business model – they didn’t innovate, they didn’t make a better chip, they didn’t make it cheaper – they simply repackaged it. After all, it was just a potato chip they were working with.
It’s more than that though. Pringles are a business lesson. At the time they were first being introduced to the public, they were going up against Lay’s potato chips, a Frito-Lay product that had dominated the market since the early 20th century. A true David and Goliath story. So what did Pringles do? Well, rather than innovating the potato chip itself, they innovated their method of distributing that chip. They identified that people didn’t like: air in their bags, broken chips, and greasy hands. So rather than making a better chip at a better value (we can all argue which is better but it’s immaterial) they simply modified the shape and stacked them neatly in a can. The rest is history. It took the market some 35 years to produce a direct competitor – Lay’s Stax.
So how does this apply to the legal industry? Well, if you ask me, legal services as a whole haven’t changed much in the last 100 years – not really. Sure we have LegalZoom (chorus of boos) and technology is improving efficiency, but where’s the innovation? How do you stand out in such a crowded profession? To answer this question we must first ask what, if anything, can be innovated? Since law changes very slowly the products and services lawyers sell remain relatively static over long periods of time. This is similar to the potato chip which doesn’t change much over time either; sure some have tried removing the trans-fat, lowering the amount of salt, and putting different powdered flavors on their chips, and this undoubtedly mixes it up for a little bit, but at the end of the day they are all still selling a potato chip. So, rather than changing the actual legal services that you sell, why not just change how you sell?
Let’s take a look at your packaging and method of distribution; is there something you can change in how you create, market and sell your product, that doesn’t change the integrity of the product but makes it more appealing to purchase?
- If clients don’t like to drive Downtown to your office, why not drive to them if they let you bill for it? What about not billing for it? Here, greasy hands are the problem and home visits are the solution.
- If your clients don’t see enough value in your bag of chips, you don’t always have to put more chips in the bag; sometimes you just need a smaller bag. How about an a la carte menu of legal services for our divorce attorneys out there? Some people want separation agreements but know they don’t need representation in court throughout the proceedings; so eliminate the air and sell them a smaller bag – just the separation agreement. They might actually buy it instead of writing it themselves.
- If your client thinks they’re going to spend too much of their personal time by contracting with you, it’s similar to how they might feel about reaching into a bag over and over again for small, broken chips. Demonstrate value by selling how efficient you are and offer them a client-facing portal for communications and document assembly. Here, the client has everything they need without having to check their phone, email, and mailbox, all the while saving them time by eliminating unnecessary trips to your office. Firms under 5-users can accomplish most of this for just $99/month by using HotDocs Web Services.
The ways you can improve your practice are limitless, so start searching for the legal equivalents of too much air, too many broken chips, and too many greasy fingers, and then start making the changes your clients want to see.