Always the first step of building any business or professional brand is being excellent. As difficult, fundamental (and rewarding even) as that is, relying on quality and word of mouth alone is increasingly known to be a losing strategy in law firm BD. The competition is steadily increasing as more business development know-how is incorporated from other sectors.
Many point to how the opening of firm ownership to non-lawyers may be an accelerating trend.
Whether this is or isn’t an inevitability, focused BD is gaining in importance and with good reason since its absence as a formal category has been long perceived to be lagging in the slow-to-change field of law.
Plan With Intel
What does the implementation of BD look like? Whether you already have a bd department or not or are just exploring ways to improve on it, professional BD begins with having a plan.
Going from no BD or less developed BD to any amount of formal BD requires a thoughtful plan. Plans can always be adapted and changed whether it is developed by in-house teams or marketing agencies since effective flexibility requires structure to work from. It’s important always to make your plan grounded in solid intelligence, not only in a more general knowledge sense such as market conditions and best practices. With a CRM you can build a detail rich picture of your current clients and prospects. From that starting point you can begin developing a plan based on knowing how you’ve already acquired your best and most loyal clientele and what kinds of events and mailings yielded impressive results.
Not taking this crucial step of data analysis can lead to a lot of misallocated resources in the expense-heavy field of advertising.
What is the difference between marketing and business development?
There’s a lot of overlap between the two, and one firm or professional’s definition can differ from the other. Business Development however isn’t just another buzzword phrase but in fact a useful definition of not-strictly marketing activities that are aimed at building business.
At least one important commonality between marketing and BD though is that CRM is an equally important tool for both categories.
In the simplest terms marketers aim for visibility and getting their message in front of the right people. Marketers work from a firm’s present position in the marketplace and develop creative content in advertisements and outreach. They may also work to optimize the client experience and seek networking opportunities.
Business development is oriented to overall strategy and adapting to the needs of the marketplace in order to prepare your firm to grow more. That can include nearly everything else that isn’t just running the firm such as relationship management, exploring strategic partnerships etc. and all the other manifold things that planning for the future requires.
While Law Firms typically have marketers or marketing departments, having a specialized business development personnel remains less common though even though that is changing more now.
Know not only your best clients but your best prospects.
In a trust-based field like law effective communication is key to gaining clients and this can only be achieved when internal communication is on point. But that level of high detail isn’t only possible for existing clients, with a CRM that that has BD features, opportunities can also be tracked and cultivated intelligently.
Opportunity management allows provides kind of common BD dashboard for attorneys marketing professionals and other personnel. Marketing and business development professionals can then leverage their knowledge to implement the best strategies from the data, they have access to through the CRM. The visual data will also be helpful for persuasion and cohesion in viewing how resources are directed.
Any platform requires people who are going to use it consistently and apply their skill to the tool. Still though the immediate benefit of having a CRM versus not and only using its most basic timesaving functionality can be easily experienced without much too much investment in advanced BD.