A reliable technique for accomplishing a big goal is to break it down into smaller tasks that are performed over time. Law firm business development is one such duty that is well suited to this approach.
Executing a large plan in smaller steps isn’t without drawbacks: it still requires the motivation to be consistent. To help keep you inspired, we’ve canvased tips from the writings of big thinkers in the legal industry and organized them into the tips below. It should be noted, every entry provides a link to the underlying source. All of them are worth reading in their own right.
1. Reach prospective clients further upstream
An attorney that defended people being sued by debt collectors noticed bankruptcy lawyers were driving up the cost of search advertising. They were all attempting to reach the same people. In considering the behavior of prospective clients, Sam Glover observed many didn’t understand that a lawyer like him could help.
“So, I targeted my online marketing efforts at that point in the debt cycle. I bought keywords like the names of common creditors and debt collectors, I published articles about them, about personal finance and negotiating debts, and so on. I looked for opportunities to help much earlier in my clients’ process.”
In other words, he had made an impression on prospective clients further upstream and before they had talked to any potential attorneys.
2. Systematically nurture your referral sources
Many law firms establish systems to generate referrals. The attention these programs get initially fades with time as firms get busy solving legal problems for clients. That’s why law firms should schedule a time to proactively reach out to referral sources, says Julie Savarino in an article for Attorney at Work titled How to Create a Referral Machine:
“Schedule reminders for yourself to communicate with your referral sources at least once each year in a personalized manner. (Avoid simply sending a generic annual holiday greeting.) This is the key to success in this arena: Plan, have and follow up on a proactive conversation or communication with each primary referral source to express sincere appreciation.”
She also suggests using that interaction to learn more about the referral source and vice versa. This will help you both identify ways to be better referral partners.
3. Maximize your event participation
It’s best to approach events with a plan, write co-authors Maureen Farr and Susan McCourt Baltz in a piece – 10 Business Development Tips for Attorneys – for JD Supra. They note that networking events often share a list of attendees in advance, and this is an opportunity to seek out people you want to meet at the event.
They offer similar advice for industry conferences:
“Similar to preparing for networking events, you need to have a game plan for making the most of a conference.
In addition to identifying with whom you need to touch base, meet and connect, you want to ensure you are visible at the conference for those who may want to meet you.”
The authors note that social media provides a way to connect before an event, while the conference itself affords the opportunity to share a coffee or meal in person.
4. Adopt your client’s strategy as your biz dev blueprint
Understanding a client’s strategy will help a firm to better support their efforts. It’s also a good blueprint for your own business development strategy, as Silvia Coulter points out on the LawVison blog. She recommends asking clients for a copy of their strategic plans or at least an executive summary.
She describes how one California-based law firm better supported an international client with U.S. offices this way:
“A key highlight was one of the company’s divisions had a significant amount of budget to acquire North American based medical device companies. Having this business intelligence allowed the firm to proactively assist the client with identifying potential companies for acquisition. The firm was then legal counsel for the M&A work.”
This is a great example of the proactive customer service law departments often say they seek in the law firms they hire.
5. Make business development part of your day
There are a number of ways to incorporate business development into a daily routine, according to Thames Schoenvogel of the Wicker Park Group. Her first suggestion is to consider the business development opportunities of any travel you have scheduled:
“When you have to travel, consider which clients or potential clients live in the same city and schedule quick coffee or meal dates.”
If you are unable to land a meeting with a client or potential client, perhaps there’s a chance to nurture a referral source.
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What tips for law firm business development have you got? Give us a shout on Twitter and perhaps we can include your tip in a future post.
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