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Business Development for lawyers: How to build an effective personal marketing plan

Written by: The Lawyer
Published on: 15 Dec 2015

If you’ve been following this series the last two questions you will have asked yourself are: ’Which marketing and BD activities suit your personality best?’ and ’Which potential sources of work (current clients, new clients or referrals) are most likely to be productive for you and your practice?’

If you haven’t been following this series, don’t worry. Take five minutes out to ask yourself those questions. The answers to them will form the skeleton of an effective personal business development plan – they clearly state where your work will come from and how you plan to get it. The next step is to put some flesh on that skeleton.

If yours is going to become an effective plan, you need to expand upon the ‘where’ and ‘how’ by adding in ‘who’ and ‘when’.

By adding these two details your plan becomes both focused and measurable and, as soon as you know what to do and when it needs to be done by, the implementation becomes a whole lot easier and the likelihood your plan will generate tangible success will immediately increase massively.

Being able to measure is at the heart of building a successful personal BD plan.  I know it’s a cliché but what get measured gets done and, as with all clichés, it only became one because it’s absolutely true.

When it comes to designing an effective measurement tool there are two rules to follow:

1. Keep it focused

You have billable hours to deliver and only a finite amount of time (and budget) to put towards your BD. This means your list can not be exhaustive. You have to focus on the targets you think are most likely to deliver work.

Concentrate on the most important people and try to fil in the blanks with events (internal or external) that will allow you to see a wider list of contacts/clients/targets in one hit.

2. Keep it simple

This is not meant to be a comprehensive business plan nor is its upkeep supposed to be an onerous and time-consuming process although, if it’s going to be of benefit, you will need to keep it up to date.  

This means a tick box template is fine; list your contacts/targets/activities down one side and the months of the year along the top and just put an ‘x’ in the months you wish to see or do each (if you’d like a copy of our ‘Coffee Plan’ template feel free to email).

When we’re helping solicitors put together their personal BD plans the one question we are probably asked more than any other relates to frequency. How often do you go to certain events?  How often should you see people? How often should you blog, publish LinkedIn posts or email updates and articles?

The somewhat glib – though totally accurate – answer is ‘as often as you’d be comfortable with’ and this rule is equally applicable to the other mainstays of business development; following up after meeting someone, chasing a proposal or quote, following up on an invitation to meet or eat.

The other filter that needs to be applied is the time to return ratio. Being human beings, the prospect of spending time with those we like most is naturally more attractive prospect. However, the most time should always be spent with the people who generate the most work.

Similarly you should also apportion your activities (and the budget required to facilitate those activities) according to past and potential spend. My old boss at the Corporation of Lloyds taught me very early on that “there are people you have coffee with, people you have a beer with, people you have lunch with and people you’d see over the weekend. If you’re going to have a credit card you need to work out which is which… and quick!”

While your context may be slightly different, the sentiment behind that speech hasn’t altered a jot since 1997.

As a general rule of thumb I’d suggest you want to see your key contacts monthly and your secondary contacts quarterly. To keep the plates spinning you may wish to consider producing content (blogs, articles, email bulletins, LinkedIn posts, a simple ‘saw this and thought of you’ type email or, preferably, a mix of all of them) fortnightly.

The last point I’d make is that while the main objective of your personal BD plan is to start potentially useful conversations and keep those conversations going, there needs to be a blend of the social and the formal in your contact plan. Make sure there are enough social events (drinks, coffee, lunch) to build a personal relationship but also enough ‘office’ stuff (meeting onsite, team-on-team events, round table discussions) to make sure you always return to the fact all of this is centred on your work.

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