Yesterday, I ran one of the regular CLT training courses on “Business Development for Lawyers” in Holborn. We were located at the De Veer Hotel and it was a small but friendly group. A diverse range of lawyers were present from an equally diverse range of firms – a sole practitioner from Surrey, commercial and residential property lawyers from the Isle of Wight, a litigation specialist from the Midlands, an environment and planning assistant from the South Coast and a technology law associate from a large American firm. There was even a head of marketing from a medium sized mixed practice.

As is usual with this course – which covers in a day the entire spectrum of activity from strategic planning, to operational implementation of promotional campaigns, to new business development and selling through to existing relationship management – the needs and interests of the delegates was equally diverse. Some were interested in entering new markets and niches, others were focused on getting more from existing client and referrer relationships and others were tasked with promoting cultural change and greater engagement with business development across their team or firm. I like a challenge!

As part of the wrapping up at the end of the day, I always ask people what they found most useful and relevant and also what they intend to do once they return to the office. The main responses were:

Focus on client needs

One of the key elements of marketing is to anticipate client needs – and a couple picked up on this as a key learning. Others were sparked by the discussion of brands and how often they focus on a key client benefit or even a different measure of satisfaction to the established players. They were determined to step out of the inward looking approach of “what we sell” and become more market and client facing by really trying to find out “what does the client think and need?”. They’ll be implementing market listening and client research programmes. And then hopefully crafting more focused and realistic marketing plans.

Understanding the market

One of the favourite exercises of the day was the preparation of a market map – to try to understand the dynamics and elements of a market, the various channels and competition and possible alternate routes to market. It’s always good to get people drawing – it opens up different ways of thinking about things, tapping into resources in parts of their brain that they seldom use.

Social media

Having spent a little time demystifying the hysteria about social media – and explaining the fundamentals and some of the more useful facilities (e.g. polls, questions and answers, advanced search) in LinkedIn and Twitter most delegates said that they would be taking a look at how to integrate the facilities into some of their existing communications and relationship management programmes. Happily, all were aware of blogs and one or two identified innovative new topics on which to blog both on their own and on others’ blogs.

It still surprises me that lawyers still regard, incorrectly, LinkedIn as being the same as Facebook (i.e. for younger folk on a purely social basis) and are not aware of its roots as one of the first professional and business online networks. Many mistakenly think that once you have put your profile up the job is done.  As we had spent a while looking at how LinkedIn and Twitter can really assist as a time efficient means to gather market and client intelligence, monitor trends and ideas and stay on the radar of diverse groups of people they were convinced that it was worth further investigation. And the value of these as an additional channel for information from their newsletters, blogs and other knowledge programmes as well as for direct client communication was acknowledged.

Sales stuff

As is common, most delegates were not aware of the separate skill sets and toolboxes for marketing, selling and account management. We had only a short time to spend on sales topics – such as understanding the sales process and cycle, the decision making unit and rapport and relationship development and whilst some were attracted by the frameworks and practical tools, others were intrigued at the various psychological concepts relating to personality and cognitive styles.

It’s always a pleasure to facilitate this course when the delegates are so enthusiastic and keen to put into practice the most helpful and relevant ideas for their firms. Keep in touch now!