Lawyers spent most of 2020 adjusting to remote working and new ways of doing business. In many cases, this includes a shift in the way firms and lawyers do their business development.
These five straightforward business development tasks will help you maximise your efforts and support long-term firm growth.
What is Legal Business Development?
Firstly, let’s define business development, and separate it from marketing.
Business development focuses on building and strengthening relationships with potential clients, referral sources and strategic partnerships – actions that contribute to business growth and revenue.
Marketing is more outwardly focused, responsible for understanding the target market, generating awareness and then communicating the benefits, capabilities and messaging to gain inquiries.
Why Business Development is important for law firms
Business development, no matter what size of a firm, is a core part of a business strategy. And, as technology plays an increasingly significant role in our lives and in law firms, the role of business development is evolving.
Business development doesn’t just mean sales and certainly doesn’t require a dedicated BD team at your firm. Growing stronger client relationships, establishing referral networks and creating your personal brand, are all examples of doing business development as a lawyer.
Business development is less about the immediate results and more about your long-term success.
So with that in mind, here’s a wrap up of the five simple business development tasks you can do now to make a big difference this year:
- Analyse and evaluate your relationships
- Identify and track your referrals
- Revisit your online presence
- Reflect on a firm process
- Measure your BD ROI
1. Evaluate your relationships
Your relationships are a key asset to doing business as a lawyer – don’t let them go cold.
A pile of business cards does nothing to help you stay in touch unless you build a system to organise, maintain engagement and nurture. This includes keeping track of your law school friends, legal peers, professional acquaintances and so on.
Think about your current relationships and assess where your opportunities are, where people have dropped off and where you can improve.
Evaluate your strongest connections – particularly when it comes to your clients and referral sources. Do this to plan in terms of resource allocation and who you want to continue to work with.
For your strongest or most valuable contacts, reflect on how you engage with them and what kind of things you do to nurture and maintain the relationship. Then determine whether you can rinse and repeat this process with future or lower-scoring clients.
A contact management system can be useful here to help manage your relationships in an efficient way.
2. Analyse your referral sources
Analyse where your business comes from, and how you ended up working with them, or for their client.
Your referral sources are strategically valuable to your firm – they’ve opened you up to their network.
Keep your referral sources up to date with your developments, and inform them about the kind of work they’ve referred to you. Thank those that referred work to you, and record how you or the client were first introduced.
Consider upgrading your technology and firm processes to stay on top of your client interactions, referrals and new requests. You can use a legal contact management tool (CRM), to keep track of referrals and strengthen relationships with valued contacts – just like a Rolodex.
By understanding how you gained referrals from sources, you can invest your time and effort into the networking and activities that bought them about. It will also help you maintain ongoing contact, add value and build trust with your strategic relationships.
Something you can do now is analyse your three strongest referral sources and outline your business relationship with them. How did you become to partner up? When did you last get in touch with them?
Use these insights to help plan your relationship management.
3. Revisit your online presence
Your online presence is essential in a digital-first world. It is more often than not, potential future clients’ first impression of you, and an easy way for them to access information about you and your firm services.
The internet is also a way your law firm can reach a wide audience and build authority in your field.
So before the holidays, revisit your website and social media channels. Think about your elevator pitch, the type of services you offer, and any recent significant matters or events. Then check to see if the information on your website and social media channels accurately reflect this.
By revisiting your online channels on a regular basis, you can keep your information up to date, and ensure you’re always presenting the best version of your firm online.
4. Review an internal process
Lawyers spend most of the day working on client matters and the day-to-day running of business. This can leave little time to pause and take a moment to look at firm efficiency and operations.
Before the holidays is a good time to review internal work processes and see where there is room for improvement.
Maybe it is a protocol for welcoming new clients, or a system for nurturing leads/ referrals. Whatever it is, even if it is a small tweak, it can make a massive difference.
Some things you can review are:
- How productive are your processes for digital marketing?
- If your firm has a strong management team in place for growth?
- Are there manual processes you could eliminate?
5. Measure your ROI
Measure and evaluate the results of your business development efforts to see what was effective and where you can create more return on investment.
It’s been a disruptive year, to say the least, and many firms may be reassessing their budget and resource allocations. Revisit your business development plan and map out your financial goals, the team requirements and what kind of activities to put effort into the firm.
It can sometimes be difficult to accurately measure efforts without hard metrics because a lot of what business development is about is forging business relationships. That’s why it is valuable to track referrals and track your contact relationships using a CRM.
Determine what the most important growth drivers are and align that with your firm strategy to plan this year’s tactics. If you are not already, assess your business development efforts on a regular basis, not just at the end of the year.