By John F. Reed
BridgeTower Media Newswires
With almost two months of 2017 behind us, there is no time like the present for lawyers to be working on their business-development plans. Whether you commit to a formal marketing plan or not, there are a few steps you can take now to make sure you have hit the ground running.
Know and promote your brand
Although all lawyers have brands, few evaluate, reshape and strategically communicate them. Start by asking yourself, “What do I want to be known and valued for?” and “What do I want clients to trust me to do for them?” Then write a one-sentence summary starting with the words “I help” followed by a brief description of your target audience and your particular abilities, talents and style.
Next, take an inventory of your online and offline presence to ensure you are promoting yourself accurately and in ways that will attract new clients and referral sources. You should, for example:
Review your website bio, firm brochures and marketing pieces to confirm not only that the wording is correct but that it differentiates you from the competition.
Reconsider your business development goals
All too often, attorneys gauge the effectiveness of their business-development efforts by origination, billables and financial yardsticks. Though these measures are important (after all, dollars keep the law firm’s doors open), they shouldn’t be the only benchmarks. If existing and prospective clients and referral sources don’t think of you first or at all when a legal need arises, whatever revenue projections you might have attached to them become worthless.
Awareness is essential, so place relationship-building activities at the top of your business-development goals:
Take your client’s temperature
The old adage that it’s easier to keep a client than bring in a new one has never been more true. Doing good work may have been enough to earn client loyalty in the past, but lawyers today need to know more and do more for clients to keep them close.
If you rely on repeat business from a portfolio of clients, in-person, on-site reviews provide an excellent opportunity to talk to them about:
Now is an opportune time to contact clients to schedule reviews. If they are available to meet before the end of the year, great, but if not, press to get a date on the calendar as soon as possible. And if clients are across the state or in another part of the country, hop on a plane or get in your car and go to them. You cannot establish the rapport you want over the phone.
Dust off — or tear up — your business development plan
Let’s look at a law firm that requires partners and associates to submit annual business plans. With the use of a pro forma MS Word document, lawyers are asked to list their top 10 clients and prospects and revenue forecasts for each of them, their “best” referral sources, and the bar and professional organizations they belong to, their level of participation, and the expected work that these memberships will generate.
Every January, the typical lawyer opens the file, changes some dollar figures, substitutes a few names on various lists, saves the file and sends it on. The plan sits idle until a performance or compensation review in December and then the process is repeated a month later.
Sound familiar? If so, reconsider the content and value of the plan:
John F. Reed is the founder of Rain BDM, a business development and marketing consultancy company that helps law firms of all sizes build client relationships. Working with clients across the country, he trains and coaches attorneys in client development and social media.