Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2009 - When the Going Gets Tough...

From every angle, getting and keeping good legal work is going to be challenging in 2009. Competition is at an all-time high; there are fewer financial institutions (who in past years generated anywhere from 20-50% of many major law firms annual revenues); there are very few new loans/lending/projects in the pipeline; money is tight all around; litigation will rise (but getting paid will become harder). Belts are tightening, layoffs abound and it will likely get worse before it gets better. When the clouds part, those firms that practice fiscal conservatism will remain successful. There is no better time than now to review all firm expenses, and assign relative values to each on a continuum from "necessary" to "nice but not necessary". Make sure to differentiate between true costs/expenses (i.e. money once spent yields little in return) versus strategic investments (money spent will generate a significant ROI). Many traditional marketing tools such as advertising, public relations and brochures may not be necessary in this economy, whereas well-planned, strategic and direct one-to-one communications with clients and prospects are even more critical.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

2009 Planning & Budgeting

Law firms are currently in the process of reviewing and evaluating their 2008 mar com/ bus dev budgets and preparing 2009 budgets for the approval process. Factors affecting this process include: available funds for these budgets are tight; competition for clients is at an all-time high; the U.S. recession/stagflation is looming; and overall, many clients remain less than 100% satisfied with their current firms. Given this climate, enhancing existing client relationships AND developing new work is no longer optional – it is a requirement for continued success. As a result, many firms are re-evaluating their current investments in non-contact, mar com expenditures such as advertising, branding campaigns and pr with the goal of streamlining their investments towards those that have a proven payoff or are necessary to support key clients’ causes. Additional funds are being devoted to: key client programs and efforts; helping lawyers make the most of their entertainment efforts and dollars; and institutionalized, solid business and client development training and coaching programs that are repeated quarterly or monthly. Increasingly, firms and staff are realizing that internal mar com and bus dev staff may not be able to “do it all” and are adding line items in their budgets for experienced, proven outside consultants and or other professional outside assistance to help support their strategic growth objectives.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

For Law Firms: Marketing Programs Give Way to Formal Business Development - Coaching is the New Branding

A few years ago, it was all about "branding" for most law firms. Huge investments were made in high priced advertising, marketing communications and branding campaigns. Now, the pendulum had swung back to "relationship marketing" - better know as "sales" in most circles. This recessionary economy coupled with the intense competition among and between major law firms and alternatives for a relatively flat amount of legal work, it is no longer enough to wait for business to come in the door and/or hope it does. Branding, marketing and advertising campaigns (if well done) can certainly re-enforce an existing relationship or buying decision, but do little to get the business in the door. That is accomplished one-to-one or in small group settings i.e. the "sales" process - by definition is what happens once personal contact is made.

There is a linear, systematic and somewhat predictable process to effective "selling" of legal services. Too many lawyers think effective selling amounts to some combination of: random acts of lunch; attending conferences; doing articles and speeches plus a little luck. This approach demonstrates a lack of complete knowledge about the "sales" process for lawyers. Recently, to support their lawyers' efforts to sell effectively and ethically, most firms have had some client development training programs. Some programs are very successful, others not so much. The latest trend is to support quality bus dev training program content with personal business development coaching (making what was learned stick with consistent application/action). Lawyers with interest in becoming better rainmakers can benefit by utilizing qualified, proven coaches experienced at buying and selling legal services. Lawyers who do not have a personal business development coach and/or have not participated in a solid "sales" training program for lawyers are falling behind the competition. If you want to hire a proven bus dev coach and/or trainer for your firm, please consider my services.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Recessionary Economy Heightens Need for "Spot On" Client Development

The future downstream fallout from the contraction in the financial services industry is yet to be felt by law firms and other professional service providers. A significant percentage of most law firms' books of business consists of work directly or indirectly originating from financial institutions, banks, real estate entities, insurance companies and other related companies. The sub prime mess, a contracting economy, the vast amount of available outside legal talent and the fact that increasing amounts of legal work are being handled by in-house counsel means it will get tougher and tougher in coming months to maintain and gain client share and market share. Firms that will prosper are those whose "house is in order": those who have the right existing relationships and are initiating the best possible communications in this belt-tightening time. Now is the time to insure all senior partners and other rainmakers have specific, coordinated action plans in place to insure a consistent stream of good business in coming months. To augment your firm's efforts, consider attending the acclaimed program entitled "Mastering the Sales Process for Lawyers" on May 22, 2008 in NYC. For more information, click on this link: http://www.busdevinc.com/welcome.bdi?id=310&page=TrainingPrograms

Sunday, January 20, 2008

3 Common Business Development Mistakes

Only about 5-10% of lawyers or key professionals in any single firm are "natural" rainmakers who are born with the predisposition, personal style, contacts and/or skills that help make them significant business sources. Depending upon the total revenue generated annually by that 5-10%, the key issue is in most firms: Is there enough business coming in the door currently and in the pipeline to keep the remaining 90-95% of practitioners 100% billable and collectable? For those lawyers and other practitioners who are not natural-born rainmakers, but have the interest and desire to become one, there is significant hope. Examples abound of self-made rainmakers. To be the best rainmaker you can be, it is wise to avoid the most common mistakes in thinking and approach:

Mistake #1 - Thinking: "I AM marketing! I do seminars, write articles and attend conferences" - Simply "being out there" is no longer enough. Speaking, writing articles, attending seminars and conferences in and of itself will help develop viability and recognition - but not necessarily lead to new business. To successfully compete in today's market, client development must be added to marketing efforts in order to consistently generate new business. Successful client development comes by focusing on whom you know and meet; whom you communicate with; what you communicate and how; and most importantly, your follow-up discipline. The law and all professions are - after all - inherently people businesses. Without a client relationship development focus, wanting to develop business by just "being out there" is mainly wishful thinking.

Mistake #2 - Thinking: "I will do this when I have time" - This mind-set is a slippery slope and fallacy: the more successful you are, the busier you are and the less time you have. So, you may think that time will open up and/or appear, but it rarely happens. The key is to carve out specific and routine time each week or month. Not just to engage in a stand-alone marketing or business development activity - like simply going to lunch. Instead, allocate time to think, strategize, prepare, plan and then execute your client development follow-up.

Mistake #3 - Engaging in shotgun efforts and approaches - The thinking may go something like, "Aha! I have a few hours this week - I will write an item for the firm's newsletter." This is fine if you are trying to build your list of credentials. But the majority of business is developed one-to-one or in very small group meetings - not by articles or media exposure. The best an article can do is generate inquires, but most firm newsletters no longer accomplish that because they are so firm-focused that few clients bother to read them. Clients are inundated with such pieces and unless they are focused on and written for a specific industry, type of company, problem or issue, the old "Smith & Smith Legal Update" has become too generic and cumbersome to generate significant inquiries and/or new business.

To become a better rainmaker, to help increase the number of rainmakers in your firm or the amount of revenue rainmakers generate in 2008 and beyond, consider:

Mastering the "Sales" Process for Lawyers - Thursday, May 22, 2008, New York City at the offices of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, 1133 Avenue of the Americas. For more information or to read what recent attendees had to say about this program, please click here.