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Business development for lawyers: four ways to approach BD

Written by: Douglas McPherson
Published on: 19 Oct 2015

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For some reason when business development is mentioned in the context of the legal profession, solicitors immediately think networking. However, while networking is still an essential marketing tool, there are a huge number of other tools at your disposal.

In very general terms these activities split down into four elements:

1. Networking: There are two types of networking. The first is probably the first you think of when the word ‘networking’ is used, formal networking events. These are a superb way of meeting new contacts and potential referrers and to boost your profile within specific industry groups and/or geography.

The second is more social. Informal catch-ups over a coffee or a beer either on a 1on1 basis or in small groups (preferably small groups where you know all the invitees can be useful contacts for each other to show you in the best possible light) are a very effective way to build the types of relationships that will continue to generate work throughout your career.  

2. Writing: Content marketing is now a promotional staple.  Whether your firm/department’s marketing plan calls for articles for the trade or local press, blogs or content for your firm’s electronic news pieces or updates, the ability to write is now a highly appreciated marketing skill.  It also tends to suit those for whom networking or presenting is less comfortable whilst allowing them to make an equally valuable contribution.

3. Presenting: I have long compared the ability to present well with being a goalkeeper – there aren’t many people who can do it around and when you find one, they are more than worth their weight in gold. While traditional seminars may be on the wane, there is still a need for solicitors to:

  • Promote their firm by speaking at local networking/industry groups
  • Speak at relevant conferences
  • Deliver training for clients and/or targets
  • Deliver the keynote speech to open a facilitated ‘round table’ event

For all those jobs a confident speaker is required because a speech delivered nervously or without any real impact is worse than no speech being delivered at all.

4. Research: The first three activities fall very much into the ‘front of house’ bracket but it is important to recognise the part research plays in making sure those three activities happen. Without having someone to find out where to go to meet people, where to be published and where to speak, very little tends to get done.

While I would never recommend anyone forsakes the other three activities completely, it is important the contribution research makes to the effective implementation of a marketing plan is neither overlooked nor undervalued.

If you’re going to be an effective business developer the first decision you need to take is which of these activities suits you best.

When it comes to marketing and business development you will always be at your most effective when you are involved in doing something you are comfortable doing. Moreover if it’s your choice and your preference, the chances that you will see your marketing commitments through with the enthusiasm and regularity that’s required to make them successful will dramatically increase.  

Douglas McPherson is director of Size 10 1/2 Boots, a BD agency that specialises in the professional services.