Recently, I ran another of the successful Business development for lawyers full day training sessions in London. Unusually, the delegates were predominantly from commercial areas including corporate, property and employment representing a range of small and larger firms from across the UK. Some of their target markets were interesting: aviation, utilities, housing associations, agriculture, charities and renewable energy!

The presenting issues included: generating more involvement amongst lawyers, creating an integrated plan, managing the balance of firm vs. individual lawyer profile, the need to focus efforts, social media and a thirst for new ideas.

Five key insights

Throughout the day, the following key issues emerged for the delegates:

1.     Specialise,  specialise, specialise

With the increased competition from commodity providers, one key strategy for many firms is to specialisem (another is to focus on service and relationships but we didn’t focus on that on this occasion). Sometimes this is with a very specific area of unusual legal expertise, more likely it is through the identification of a narrowly defined segment or niche. Segmentation approaches come to the fore here and a whole host of channels and communication methods to reach your targets. This sector or niche market approach aids differentiation and also has the advantage of lawyers from different parts of the firm working together to share the business development load and maximise the chances of promoting a range of the firm’s services.

2.     Specific objectives and research

Too many marketing and sales initiatives fail because the objectives (and therefore the expected returns) are not specific. This is also the reason why so often marketing and selling activity is at the end of a lawyer’s “to do” list. In order to get realistic objectives you need research – to assess the size of the potential market, to evaluate the best channels, to identify specific targets and to prepare for selling. There also needs to be some internal research to obtain benchmarks against which to measure success and to identify current strengths, sources of work, conversion rates and profitability. We also touched on the need to provide targets for time invested in business development – as opposed to purely for fee-earning time.

3.     Firm vs individual brand plan

This is a topic that is generating a lot of interest as firms start to engage in social media. However, it is not a new challenge! We talked about how in big firms it is the firm brand that gets you in the door and then it is up to the individual, whereas in smaller firms it is often the individual who opens the door and the firm’s brand is then something to be addressed as part of the credibility piece. Like all things in business development, there needs to be a plan and an agreed balance in how the individual, team and firm are promoted and this will vary with issues such as the degree of market penetration and maturity, the methods used and the resources available. The pipeline (or funnel) model was found to be helpful in this respect.

4.     Integration – from the web to the lawyer

We spent a fair amount of time considering how to integrate various marketing and sales activities so that firm wide and team based inbound marketing and lead generation initiatives worked well with individual lawyer efforts. It quickly became apparent to delegates that a solid strategic plan made it much easier to integrate web sites, search engine optimisation, traditional marketing such as events, e-marketing, blogging, social media and personal selling. There was also some time spent on ensuring that there were appropriate calls to action in each activity.

5.     People buy people

Despite spending a fair amount of time considering the approaches to strategic planning and latest marketing tools and techniques, we also focused on the need to ensure that lawyers at all touch points (handling enquiries, networking, at meetings and pitches etc) were equipped with the necessary emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and also with relevant sales processes and techniques. And we came back to the thorny problem of getting lawyers to get into the habit of undertaking business development activity as part of their “business as usual”.

Some FAQs that are relevant to these issues:

Some other blog articles that are relevant to these issues: