When it Comes to Business Development, Have a Plan, Start Small

Many lawyers I meet seem to be intimidated by the prospect of marketing themselves. There is a never-ending list of things they think they should be doing to develop business, and they’re so overwhelmed that what they often end up doing is nothing.

To those lawyers I say: Have a plan, and start small.

Formulating a plan will ensure that you’re not just throwing money and time into the wind, and starting small can help prevent overwhelm.

I find that overwhelm is one of the biggest impediments to many attorneys’ marketing efforts. Unless you are the exceptional lawyer with unlimited financial resources, no personal life and boundless energy, you will not be able to do everything you think you should be doing to market yourself while also paying the bills. You won’t be able to give all the speeches, write all the blog posts, or take all the clients to dinner that you think you should.

You simply can’t do it all, or maybe not even half of it all. But you can do something, so make your something count.

Creating a Plan

I see lots of companies promoting marketing strategy templates, but some of them are so complex that they can stop you in your tracks before you get anything down on paper. So, if you’re just getting started, simply answer these questions:

  1. Who are your prospective clients? This could encompass more than one group, but keep it to a manageable number. If you’re marketing to everybody, you’re marketing to nobody.
  2. How can you get in front of them? What publications do they read? What groups/trade associations are they members of? Do you already have, or can you get, their contact information?
  3. Why should they hire you? What makes you the person who can help them solve their problems?

From there, map out the steps you’ll take to raise your profile among your target clients. That can include writing for trade publications, speaking engagements, blogging, advertising, social media, newsletters, personal networking, webinars, sponsorships, and any other number of other tools.

Of course, each of those tactics requires multiple steps to execute, so don’t attempt to do all of them at once. Pick three to four – ideally the ones you’re best at and that you have the resources and expertise to do well – and get started, one step at a time.

Important note: When mapping out your BizDev plans, don’t forget to include other lawyers, who are often the best source of referrals.

Starting Small

Demonstrating knowledge: Lawyers sell knowledge and expertise, so it’s important for prospective clients to see proof that you have both. One way to accomplish that is through content marketing. That includes tools such as:

  • Blogs
  • Speeches
  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Books
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Client alerts/newsletters
  • Analyses & commentaries in trade publications
  • Social media

Good content marketing isn’t about sales, at least not directly. It’s about becoming a source of genuine value and demonstrating your knowledge in such a way that the reader (or viewer or listener) says, “This lawyer sounds like she knows what she’s talking about. I’ll give her a call.”

Automation and Accountability: To whatever extent you can, automate your BizDev actions and hold yourself accountable. Automation can be technological (such as instituting a Client Relationship Management [CRM] system) but it doesn’t have to be. One form of automation could simply be volunteering to serve on a committee that meets monthly and puts you in front of your prospective clients. So, every month, you’ll have a scheduled interaction with a group of people and a prime opportunity to demonstrate your expertise. It’s also important to hold yourself accountable. A coach or even an assistant can help you map out your BizDev goals and make sure you’re taking the steps you need to meet them.

Combine BizDev with your civic and social action. Your prospective clients and referral sources aren’t just involved in industry-specific groups. Lots of civic, political and non-profit organizations can provide worthwhile exposure to prospective clients and referral sources, so you can multitask by doing something you care about while also working your BizDev muscles.

Outsource what you can. There are some things only you can do. And there are some things you can delegate to someone else. Figuring out who on your contact list is still a viable prospect and who isn’t is a You Job. Making sure you have their right email, phone and mailing address is something you can delegate. Giving final approval to what goes out in your name is a You Job. Many steps leading up to that point can be delegated. An assistant, an associate, a marketing staffer, an outside agency – any and all of these can be called in to help. (In fact, at Muse Communications, that’s how we spend our days.)

The biggest sin in business development is doing nothing. The inherent desire among most attorneys to be perfect in everything, including developing business, can lead to “paralysis by analysis,” which only maintains the status quo.

By, first, formulating a sound plan and, then, starting small, you will approach your business development efforts with more confidence, which produces the best results.

Amy Boardman Hunt began her career in legal journalism and has been in legal marketing and public relations since 1997. When she’s not helping lawyers grow their business, she’s trying to find someone to go hiking with her. She can be reached at amy.hunt@muselegalpr.com.

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