The best lawyers are not necessarily the best rainmakers. Besides, law schools do not teach attorneys on how to run a sustainable practice and generate new business. Luckily, business development and marketing are a learnable set of techniques which can help attorneys grow their practice. We reached out to Vassu Arora to learn more about what you can do today.
1. What is the difference between business development and marketing? How important it is for lawyers to understand this difference?
Some law firm leaders do not understand the difference between the terms ‘business development’ and ‘marketing’ and often use them interchangeably. Although, both the terms share the same objective i.e. to grow a business, however, they are different organisational functions.
The objective of marketing is to educate, engage and build a relationship with the target audience which would ultimately help the organisation in selling products or services. For example, when a law firm disseminates articles, opinions and newsletters to subscribers it is a part of their ‘marketing’ activities. In simple terms, marketing is the process of delivering a specific message (usually with key differentiators) to the prospective buyers or clients with the intention of selling products or services. It is of utmost importance that the brand message is unambiguous and concise. In the words of Steve Jobs,
“To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world; it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us”
The primary responsibilities of a marketing team in a law firm include: preparing content for the website, newsletters and other marketing collateral; ensuring all information (whether online or offline) about the firm is accurate and consistent; increasing the visibility of the firm in their target audience; and measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
‘Business development’ builds upon the efforts of marketing and primarily involves converting leads into clients and expanding the reach of an organisation’s products or services. For example, attending legal conferences, forming referral or strategic partnerships, etc. are a part of the law firm’s business development activities.
The primary responsibilities of a business development team in a law firm include: market research; following up with leads via email, phone calls and meetings; gathering client feedback; and up-selling firm’s services.
Therefore, business development and marketing are complementary but different organisational functions. It is imperative for law firm leaders to understand this difference and devise an integrated business development and marketing strategy so that the efforts of their teams can bring maximum results.
If a law firm has separate departments for each of these functions it is critical to ensure that both departments:
have distinct responsibilities;
have unhindered channels of communication and;
establish a joint client feedback mechanism and collaborate from time to time.
2. Which factors law firms should keep in mind while preparing their business development and marketing plan?
The preparation of business development and marketing plan has to start from the mindset of law firm leaders. Some firms think that these are back-office or support functions and are not much significant. Therefore, the first step is to recognise them as core functions in the practice of law.
The exact plan for each law firm depends upon a number of factors such as their core practice areas, size of the firm and their target audience. The following is a brief sequential checklist which would be helpful for firms especially small law firms and firms who are in the early stages of their business development and marketing activities:
A. Identify your goals
What do you plan to achieve?
How many new clients do you expect to serve?
How much revenue do you expect to increase?
B. Identify your target audience
Are individuals your primary clients?
Are organisations your primary clients?
What is the profile of your ideal client? (Customer Personas)
C. Identify key differentiators of your law practice
What are your skills?
Who are your main competitors?
How are your services different from the competition? (USPs)
D. Prepare a plan
How would you describe your practice? (Elevator Pitch)
What are your strengths and how they can be leveraged to generate business?
Some of the methods of publicising your practice may include:
writing blogs or dissemination of e-mail newsletters
networking or speakership or sponsorship at events
using social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Quora
E. Plan budget and schedule time
What should be the realistic budget to achieve your goals?
How much time do you plan to invest to accomplish your goals?
Do you plan to hire someone to accomplish the goals for you?
F. Establish timelines and measure the return on investment for your activities
Assess the cost of acquisition per client
Measure your progress from time to time
Recalibrate your plans along the way to optimise results
The goal of the plan should be on building an authentic relationship with your clients rather than just winning business. In addition, it also important to begin with a few activities and gradually add others. Commitment and consistency are the keys to a successful implementation of any business development and marketing plan.
Law firms should customise their plan as per the firm’s values and personality traits of the partners. If a partner is more comfortable at speaking at events rather than writing blog posts, the plan should include more speakership opportunities at events.
3. Is it possible for solo practitioners or small law firms to spend 30 minutes a day on business development and marketing and generate business?
Yes, it is possible to invest just 30 minutes per day and generate new business. As I mentioned previously, begin with a few activities and keep doing them consistently with commitment. Prepare a list of short to-dos and aim towards checking them off each day or each week.
Following is a list of 15 tasks which would take around 30 minutes (or less) of your time:
- Contact at least five top clients per week via a call or email
- Send greetings to your existing clients or prospective clients on their important milestones such as birthdays, work anniversaries or other professional accomplishments
- Meet an existing client or a prospective client or a strategic partner for coffee or lunch at least once per week
- Follow up with a client who did not respond to your last email or call
- Think about ways of improving your client follow up strategy
- Send feedback form to one of your top clients and ask them for a review
- Evaluate client feedback and prepare a plan for recalibration
- Publish one blog post on your website per week
- Publish three short posts on Facebook or LinkedIn per week
- Share three behind-the-scenes pictures on Instagram per week
- Create one short educational video and post it on social media channels
- Add your profile to one of the online legal directories per week
- Answer one query on online platforms such as Avvo, Quora, etc. per week
- Support a social cause and take pro bono work from time to time
- Evaluate the results of each of the task listed above and recalibrate
- (Bonus tip) Have fun! If you are not enjoying these activities, you would not be able to continue for a long time. Therefore, it is important to select activities which leverage your personality traits.
4. How can attorneys make most of attending a legal conference?
For many attorneys, attending legal conferences is about marking their presence, having snacks and randomly exchanging business cards. While it may lead to a few impromptu connections, a well-thought- out systematic plan for attending legal conferences will result in acquiring valuable knowledge and establishing effective business relationships.
Following are some tips to make the most of attending a legal conference:
- Before you plan to attend a legal conference, list down the intended objectives vis-a-vis the takeaways of the conference. Some of the questions you may ask yourself are:
What do you hope to learn?
Who do you hope to meet?
- Read the agenda of the conference. If you have a doubt, talk to the conference organisers, and then select an appropriate conference which would give you the highest return of investment for your efforts, time and money.
- Once you have finalised the conference, curate the list of people with whom you can discuss and explore synergies. Do not hesitate to add speakers to the list; some of them are more accessible than you might think. After preparing the list of people, research on them. It is much easier to start a conversation if you already know about their areas of work, credentials or recent news about them.
- A well-rehearsed introduction is an essential conversation starter. However, it should sound natural. After you have introduced yourself, let the other person speak first. Be attentive and do not interrupt, ever. Keep some backup questions in case, the conversation is slipping into an ‘awkward silence zone’. Though it is not recommended using your cell phone during the event, unless it is inevitable, you can use the event hashtag to interact with the attendees and speakers before and after the event. This might as well lead to gaining a handful of new followers.
- Bring extra business cards. This is a basic, but one of the most underrated. I stash ten to fifteen business cards in the inside of my suit jacket, so even if I misplace my business card holder, I have some as a backup. If you don’t prefer to use a business card holder for some reason, keep your business cards at someplace handy. It looks unprofessional to keep the other person waiting, while you are searching for it. Also, do not spam by handing out your business cards to everyone in sight, rather encourage them to ask for your business card.
- During the Q&A session, don’t be shy to ask a question about a point you would like to be clarified; not only will you understand a concept better, but you may also impress the speaker as well as the other attendees, which may prompt them to exchange contact information with you after the session.
- You would perhaps meet a number of people at the conference. It is not humanly possible to remember the important points, and therefore, it is important to make notes about the conversation. I prefer to utilise the backside of business cards to make notes for follow-ups.
- A day or two after the conference, send follow-up e-mails to people with whom you are keen to establish a professional relationship. Personalise each mail and focus on the possible synergies which could be mutually beneficial. You can also send a request to schedule a meeting. However, it is advisable to know the interest level of the other person first before jumping the gun.
Just like any other skill in life, making the best out of attending legal conferences requires practice. So, improve upon the areas where you could do better and plan for the next.
Vassu Arora is the Principal Consultant at LawStrat. He collaborates with the internal teams of law firms to implement customized solutions for growing their law practice. If you are interested to discuss law firm business development, legal marketing or legal publishing, do not hesitate to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org