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Commentary: Rainmakers share some business development tools

By: dmc-admin//September 28, 2009//

Commentary: Rainmakers share some business development tools

By: dmc-admin//September 28, 2009//

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In the Chicago office of Foley & Lardner, partner Donna Pugh characterizes herself as a heavy user of marketing tools to develop clients.

“I’m constantly thinking of unusual ways to engage clients and prospects,” says Pugh, who works in the real estate practice area. “Frequently I have cocktail parties on a boat or roof deck or in a skybox at a rock concert to create a unique experience.”

Pugh also positions herself as an expert through writing and speaking engagements in front of target audiences. But beyond these strategies, she has found success in simple online approaches.

“One of the best things I did was to improve the content of my bio on my firm’s Web site,” says Pugh, who has handled large land use and zoning issues for the likes of the United Center in Chicago. “Simply moving keywords toward the top of my bio on the website improved my search ranking and click ratio.”

Pugh even delves into purchasing Google AdWords and online directory space. Opinions are mixed among lawyers as to the effectiveness of such tools. But Pugh says the key to managing costs and return on investment derives from a narrow focus.

“I’m targeting general counsels’ younger staff members who use online searches to compile the initial list of attorneys specializing in land use and zoning issues in Chicago,” Pugh says. “I receive two calls a week. Some callers are outside my focus, but I refer those to others. This builds goodwill among professionals who in turn refer business to me.”

Expand your contacts

Business development efforts often depend on the strength of one’s client and prospect database. An efficient way to develop a qualified prospect list is by commissioning an industry trend study with a qualified research group.

According to Business Development Directives’ William Lowell, who has worked with several top 25 U.S. law firms, the research “doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. A trend study costs around $10,000-$20,000.”

Lowell works with one of the nation’s largest law firms on an annual industry study about issues facing its clients. The firm, which has offices in more than a dozen cities in the United States and five other countries, is able to get a lot of mileage out of its study by posting the results on its website, authoring articles about trends identified in the study, hosting breakfasts to discuss the study results and using the results to obtain speaking engagements.

New York City’s Furnari Scher LLP faces marketing challenges common to most small firms: striking a balance between marketing time and time spent on client work, while working with a limited budget.

Attorney Stephen Furnari says that success in marketing comes not just from the technique you use to get in front of prospective clients, such as speaking, publishing articles and networking, but the follow-up system you have in place to stay in touch afterward.

“We have scheduled points of contact so when we meet new prospective clients they are contacted again with pre-written correspondence that our staff sends on our behalf,” Furnari says. “Within a few days of meeting a new contact, they will get an e-mail recapping the meeting, an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, an invitation to get access to an e-course with messages and an invitation to receive our monthly newsletter.”

Admittedly not all prospects are ready to retain the firm’s services immediately, Furnari says. But frequent and consistent contact with prospects and referral sources increases the likelihood they remember his firm before calling another lawyer.

Furnari’s firm also schedules specific points of contact throughout the year. Examples include a gift on the date a client’s business incorporated or a gift bag filled with snacks and sport drinks to CPAs at the start of tax season.

“Whenever we engage in a marketing activity, our goal is to accumulate contact information,” Furnari says. “If we publish an article or speak to a group, we always make an offer of free information like the audio of an interview or a sample legal clause for their contracts. Accumulating data widens our marketing funnel substantially, which increases qualified leads.”

Karl Robe, APR, counsels attorneys and executives on communications strategies that support achievement of growth objectives and overcome business challenges. Contact him at Karl James & Company LLC by emailing [email protected].


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