Having run three different in-house BD functions and having had responsibility for delivering value, I offer these ideas for improving marketing effectiveness. Some of them are high level and others are rather more specific. Some are about getting the thinking right and others are about ways of encouraging more marketing.
The big ideas
- Distinctive brands are better than being me-too – the stronger the brand the more your firm stands out from your rivals and the less you need to spend to promote your practice
- Having a clear strategy in terms of what work you’re trying to win from what type of clients – otherwise the marketing risks being too disparate to be effective
- Focusing on two or three things and trying to do them well, rather than 10 things done averagely
- Aiming high but attempt foothills before Everest – otherwise people might become despondent
- Having your lawyers being enthusiastic about marketing makes a huge difference –it might even be more important than having the right strategy?
- Try to find the time to arrange 1-1 BD meetings with clients while your firm is enjoying a high profile – the combination of profile and selling works well
- The importance of databases – an investment early on to build a comprehensive database of contacts can save a fortune later and can help you avoid irritating clients by over-marketing and measure what works
- Asking your clients what marketing activities work well for them – they’ll be flattered and will tell you
- Having personal marketing plans so each partner and senior lawyer knows what they should be focusing on when not doing chargeable work
- Delighting your clients with great service is the best start for attracting more work – keep asking your client for feedback on what’s working and what needs improving
- Learning from experience and assessing benefits vs costs (including time costs) – do a review after each marketing investment
- Senior partners leading by example in terms of marketing best practice – without this, it’s hard to get others to change, because others will be watching them and copying. People do what senior partners do – not what they say!
- The importance of planning marketing – not a big bureaucratic process, but being clear what you are trying to achieve
- Having campaigns rather than a series of one-off activities on completely different subjects – this way you’ll get noticed as the firm that knows a lot about X
- Squeezing the most out of marketing investments – if you speak at a seminar, use the same notes to write and publish an article
- Internal communication of marketing successes (and failures if done sensitively) to ensure useful know-how spreads throughout the firm
- Creating an internal culture that rewards effort and success and does not punish failure – this might help partners feel more confident to have a go!
- Having good things said about you is much more persuasive than saying good things about yourself – how can you ensure this happens?
- Really getting to know your clients’ and prospects’ businesses – “people don’t care how much you know until they know you care”
- As a general rule, avoid any heavy selling – heavy things tend to sink without trace!
Some Specific BD Ideas
- Joint marketing initiatives with leading non-legal but related specialists (eg defamation with PR agency etc)
- Hiring MBA students for value added projects (eg in-depth market studies that prospective clients would be interested to hear about)
- Chairing industry trade associations, or even setting up such a body
- The power of referrals – have you tried systematically asking your delighted clients to mention you to others? How you can you make this easy for you and for them?
- Train some of your more presentable and eloquent partners to be more ‘journalist friendly’ and be on hand to add some spice to any current legal stories. Your firm could get some great publicity
Hope some of these inspire to increase your firm’s BD activity and improve converting contacts to clients.