Back in 2002, I presented a session for the Law Management Section of The Law Society on cross firm collaboration where I suggested that, in the broadest sense, most business development activities in a law firm could be encapsulated by integrating brand strategies with CRM (Client Relationship Management) programmes. In effect, there is a spectrum of integrated activities in business development integrating awareness and relationship marketing.

This presentation came to mind earlier this week in two situations. In the first, I was talking to a firm of patent attorneys, which, like many partnerships, indicated that the partners were focused on serving their clients and had no time for “marketing”. What this revealed was that the partners held the commonly incomplete view of marketing that it was concerned only with promotional activities such as web sites, e-shots and seminars that were concerned with generating new business.

This particular firm had a professional, responsive in-house marketing team that were kept tied to their PCs producing tactical marketing communications campaigns – the branding and profile element of marketing. When we got chatting, it became apparent that – like many other professional firms – their focus should be a little more focused on identifying and developing a few target clients and referrers and building stronger relationships with their existing clients in a structured way – the CRM bit. I explained that good marketing (incorporating the more sales oriented business development elements) usually involved getting the right balance of awareness marketing and relationship marketing. Progress.

In a meeting shortly after with some litigators at a law firm, we had an epiphany. Whereas usually we see litigation as non-repeating and transactional where the major effort is on communications – raising awareness of possible future issues, brand development, expertise in particular market and service areas, developing the profiles of individual “stars” – the analysis we did painted a different story. The charts showing the breakdown of the nature of the work completed, the source of the various cases (by both volume and value) and the breakdown of their major referrers showed that over half of their work came from existing major clients and referrers. So the awareness element of their programme was pulled back a bit and more resources were devoted to relationship strategies aimed at existing clients and referrers. Yet more progress!

It’s good to know that whilst marketing is changing at an incredible rate at the moment, some of the fundamental strategic ideas are rather more enduring…