MARKETING the LAW FIRM, American Lawyer Media
Sales Speak: What’s Missing in Law Firm Business Development?
For the past decade, business development training and coaching have been considered the standard for growing more firm business. Those who have benefited are primarily senior associates and newer partners. And certainly there have been multiple examples of real success. But with competition growing, clients terminating long-term relationships and the inability of firms to keep up with technology and market place changes, business development training and coaching have become mainly a palliative measure, ignoring the primary problem:
… the absence of leadership that will overcome what you are missing in the marketplace.
“Palliative” is defined as “relieving pain or alleviating a problem without dealing with the underlying cause.” The way to overcome the underlying cause for these and other business growth issues is to shift from the traditional business development training and coaching currently in vogue to placing more emphasis on “critical improvement areas.” To accomplish this means transforming the firm’s leadership (Executive Committee, Marketing Committee, Practice Group Leaders, Partners-in-Charge of offices, etc.) in order to transform your business growth.
Business Development Issues
Primary issues often mentioned to us during strategic business assessments include:
• Need to expand the number of attorneys actively selling;
• Number of new engagements per client is dropping;
• Resistance to transitioning clients is growing;
• Absence of cross-marketing and internal-marketing;
• Senior attorneys producing less and taking more;
• Missing hidden opportunities, i.e., building up referrals; and
• Erratic performance by practice groups and offices.
Note that those who can have the most influence in turning these issues into productive revenue are the firm’s leadership. And while business development training and coaching for senior associates and newer partners should continue, the firm’s leadership requires an organizational assessment and implementation map to accelerate the transformation of your teams to open up many more opportunities.
The key is to refine your organization to actively deal with the issues and turn them into ROI.
Just as “marketing” has evolved into “business development,” business development must now evolve into “business generation and creation.” Refining the roles and requirements of firm leadership needs to focus on the complete picture: the underutilized assets and development of suppressed skill sets of each professional; the hidden opportunities , both current and future that every firm has and needs to identify and use; and those undervalued relationship s and timely associations with contacts and clients that have not been fully explored and exposed to total benefits to generate new matters. Revealing and implementing these key avenues to your firm’s leadership are keys to achievement, growth and success.
Are the time commitments and costs associated with social media content being measured and evaluated? Are they attracting the readership and driving actions as traditional advertising and public relations did? What are the “openings” scores of firm e-blasts, alerts, etc.? Are attorneys assigned to follow up with those who open and read your communications on a frequent basis? Is the firm ignoring the power of an occasional direct mail piece?
Important questions include, Is your brand being used as a marketing theme by all who are face to face with clients and prospects? Or is it nothing more than an image on your home page? In other words, does your firm culture actively define the themes you want the marketplace to associate with the firm? Are your practice group leaders and PICs using group meetings to remind and refresh the needed approaches?
Most firms today employ either a collegiate or consensus form of leadership. While there are often Managing Partners who take strong stands on certain issues, the biggest problem we see consistently is the absence of holding people accountable for results. When applied to firm leadership as defined earlier in this article, this is the area of greatest weakness. Yet, it has the most potential for success if firm leaders are reminded of their commitments, helping them overcome obstacles and challenges, and not letting them skip “next steps.”
Well-organized follow-up, using an implementation map, focuses accountability on activities that have the greatest impact and value. It isn’t necessary to revamp your entire organization; just shake up the system a bit to make it clear what the expectations, time lines, and results are for the business generation tasks assigned.
Think of it this way: If every “leader” in your firm generated only a 5% increase in their new business, with virtually no extra overhead costs, what a powerful impact that would have on ROI. Take a hard look at what can be refined in order to identify those “critical improvement areas.” Place your leaders in charge of implementing each, set specific timing, hold them accountable and watch the revenue grow, more doors open, and the firm’s reputation cower the competition.
Dr. Allan Colman, a member of this newsletter’s Board of Editors and CEO of the Closers Group, specializes in Accelerating Rapid Revenue Growth for Law Firms. He may be reached at www.closersgroup.com