Business development for lawyers - International marketing

At a recent CLT course on Business development for lawyers, I was working with employment, construction and commercial lawyers. The key points of interest were as follows:

Pipeline management

Pipeline management is particularly important for those selling commercial legal services to organisations. There is often a significant lead time between targeting or making first contact with an individual and receiving an instruction or referral from his or her organisation. The average time is estimated at nine months and with an average of nine separate contact points.

Marketing is the process designed to generate awareness and interest amongst your target audience. Then selling activity takes place to start developing the relationship and exploring needs and the decision making process and other people in the decision making unit (DMU).

To avoid the feast and famine cycle, when you are busy it is important to concentrate business development activity at the early stages of the pipeline (where there is little prospect of immediate work instructions) so that when you are less busy you can focus efforts at the later stages of the pipeline where conversion is imminent.

This led to the need for a structured marketing plan or campaign which identifies the target audience(s), the business development goals (see and the strategies to achieve them.

Relationship marketing

When the focus is on selling to organisations (either businesses or not-for-profit) the main approach is relationship marketing. Whilst there may be some marketing communications activity to raise awareness and help position the firm and generate interest, the main strategy will be on lawyers adopting a relationship management approach to business development.

This means targeting the specific organisations (whether potential clients or referrers), undertaking research to refine the search and develop the proposition, establishing contact with them and developing a relationship.

Selling skills – whether consultative selling, solutions selling or insight selling – will be paramount to win new business. Larger firms with often focus on key client management (or Key Account Management KAM) to strengthen and expand relationships with major clients and referrers. Co-ordination of service delivery and cross-selling is a critical activity for these firms.

Underpinning all relationship management is the need for good information systems – and a Client Relationship Management (CRM) database. The impact of GDPR on database management was discussed at the course.

International marketing

For lawyers who are looking at generating work from overseas there are both international marketing and international sales activities to consider and the tool box for referrer management. There are lots of blogs about referrer management (see, for example, and

International marketing is a slightly different kettle of fish. It requires an appreciation of the different cultures and business practices around the world (see, for example: Different channels (especially on-line ones) are needed.

International marketing and selling usually requires you to get on a plane and go to visit potential referrers and clients. The Government provides help with overseas visits – see

Alternatively, there are numerous international business, professional and legal associations that organise conferences where you can either arrange to deliver presentations or attend as a delegate for networking purposes.

LinkedIn is important for all lawyers but especially so for lawyers who are reaching out to an international audience. LinkedIn provides a useful source of information when following companies or connected to contacts as well as a method of regularly appearing on their radar with good quality content in an unobtrusive way. There are also good examples of LinkedIn groups creating communities for those interested in particular territories.