Business development is proving to be a secret to success in a growing number of law firms. Rather than leave this to marketers more focused on branding and communications – or to attorneys and partners who are more focused on their current clients – smart firms are assigning dedicated resources to this critical strategy.
Here are 10 steps your firm can take to put its own business development strategy in place.
1. Define Your Mission
It’s easy to jump on the business development bandwagon but you need a clear reason for doing so. Don’t just say you’re going to prioritize business development and then haphazardly throw resources at it. Think through and write down why you want to put this initiative in place. What is the purpose and what do you hope to accomplish?
2. Secure Buy-In
Gather the powers that be – the key stakeholders whose support will be crucial to your strategy’s success – and present your mission. Once you gain their blessing, you can confidently move forward putting all required elements in place.
3. Evaluate Your Firm
You won’t know the best plan of action for driving growth unless you fully understand what is and isn’t working in your firm to date. Figure out precisely who your firm serves, how it serves them, and your marketplace position. Don’t forget to explore ways that your different practice areas might already – or could – be collaborating to drive more business.
4. Research the Market
Getting trapped in an inside-out view is one reason many business development initiatives fail. To develop a complete picture of what it will take to succeed, you need to understand who your firm is up against and what emerging trends are shaping the law field. Do your research to identify competitor strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
5. Identify Ideal Clients / Target Accounts
Your firm’s best bet for growth is to expand relationships with existing clients and find more clients like your best (i.e., most profitable) ones. Spend time with your finance group to identify these premiere clients and figure out their common characteristics. Understand what additional services existing clients have already purchased, and what defines the ideal new client. Once you have this information in hand, interview top clients to zero in on their perception of your offerings, their communication preferences, expectations for interactions with your firm, and even future interests. Doing so will help you uncover opportunities, determine the ideal client experience, and guide your business development professionals to focus on the most promising prospects.
6. Formalize Your Strategy
Approach this initiative as you would any other strategic firm ambition. Define and document your strategy for developing business, covering everything from the mission, the necessary and available resources, and the processes and tools that will support the endeavor. Outline both high-level and micro goals and the approach for tracking and measuring progress. During this exercise, gather all key stakeholders and drive consensus on all major program elements to ensure a smooth launch.
7. Curate Business Development Best Practices
Whether your staff includes seasoned business development professionals or newbies, equip them to succeed. Let them hit the ground running by gathering proven approaches and ideas for developing business. Here are a few to get them started:
- Seek referrals from your established network
- Establish a strong line presence (start with a complete LinkedIn profile)
- Connect with all the lawyers and partners in your firm to identify client opportunities
- Showcase expertise in the form of thought leadership by publishing content or speaking
- Collaborate with marketing to boost the impact of business development efforts
8. Develop a Business Development Blueprint
Define a formal process your business development professionals should follow for identifying and engaging potential clients, closing new business, and tracking their efforts. Establish a clear framework for assessing opportunities so your staff doesn’t wonder whether they’re on the right track – and doesn’t waste time on the wrong prospects. This exercise will also be your way of validating that you’ve figured out all necessary processes and tools to ensure success.
9. Communicate and Socialize the Plan
Now it’s time to get your business development team in place. If you have experienced professionals on staff, terrific. If you need to hire, get started. You might even choose to train existing staff to handle business development. Whatever your approach, once you’ve got the right staff in place, share the business develop strategy with them and then with the firm at large so everyone is clear on the mission and program.
10. Implement the Required Tools
Your business development team will be focused on building relationships with prospective clients and cultivating relationships with existing ones. They will be most effective when they can spend time preparing for interactions and are armed with valuable insights that spark engaging conversations.
Your CRM system is a proven, centralized location to store important prospect and client information. By augmenting it with CRM automation, you can get more out of that investment.
CRM automation provides your business development professionals with relationship insights that help easily determine what’s important to a client and fuel meaningful conversations. It can also streamline new client acquisition by sending a pre-meeting digest of valuable information – such as insight on meeting attendees, previous communications, and useful company news – to your business development managers. That eliminates low-value busy work so they can focus on the important task of driving firm growth.
Now you know what it takes to put an effective strategy in place. Start today to get your program underway!