Business development is so essential for any law firms with growth as a goal that is has a common nickname: law firm biz dev. One person who understands this well is Terry M. Isner is CEO and owner of Jaffe Associates, a multiple LMA Your Honor Award recipient and one of LawDragon’s “100 Legal Consultants You Need to Know.”
Calling upon his vast experience crafting innovative approaches to law firm marketing and PR, he shares his advice on ways law firms can succeed with business development.
1. Why is sharing information critical to law firm business development success?
Terry: As children, we are taught that sharing is caring. It’s a lesson well learned and a best practice in business development and client retention.
By sharing tips, news, and thought leadership related to an existing or potential client’s need and interest, you position yourself and your organization as a brand they can trust. Sharing allows you to show your expertise without making it about you and your firm, but more about how you can help them. Your client or potential client will see that you care about their needs. This is critical not only in business development and client retention but also in branding.
2. What are the top three ways a law firm can cultivate a culture of sharing?
Terry: To create a culture of sharing you have to first understand your audience(s) and their need(s). Sharing isn’t a shotgun blast; it’s targeted and should be tailored to each audience based on their interest.
Second, know your brand promise, core values, and culture, stick to them and be sure whatever you share articulates, promotes, and reinforces them.
Third, create information worth sharing, be strategic in developing a sharing program and remember it needs to be about your clients, not you. Outward, not inward, thinking.
3. What’s the smartest move law firms can make to enhance client retention?
Terry: Listen to your clients. Find out what they want, what they question, and what keeps them up at night. Then give it to them. This is where sharing leads to trust and loyalty. When this loyalty is in place, clients become an important part of brand awareness and business development options through word-of-mouth. They don’t question billing, and they know you and your services are extremely valuable to their success. They trust you have their back.
4. How does a culture of sharing enhance client retention?
Terry: The idea behind a sharing culture is giving someone something they didn’t ask for, that they truly need. “I want to educate you, and help eliminate barriers so that you can be innovative and focused on your business’s success.” It says I know you and I am here for you. Building a relationship of trust and loyalty by sharing information has become a key tactic and strategy in successful marketing and business development programs.
5. Why is a business development team a smart investment?
Terry: Two reasons: to gain perspective, and to divide and conquer.
Perspective. Your business development team will have a different perspective than those with boots on the ground dealing with the client day in and day out. It’s hard to listen and see things when you are dealing with real-life, real-time issues. Business development gives you a 10,000-foot view of the client or industry, allowing them to tailor business development and client growth programs to be more effective.
Divide and conquer. Those who provide expert advice stay focused on continually providing services above and beyond the client expectations and living the brand promise. At the same time, business development can comfortably align opportunities based on culture, values, and thought leadership by sharing examples and information to a greater like-minded community. They can provide a much more tailored, efficient and effective sales cycle.
6. What are the three most important steps to make law firm biz dev teams more effective?
- Set goals. Everyone needs to be working toward the same goal. Business development is a team effort. Share those goals with everyone involved.
- Know your clients and the industry. Knowledge is power, have an ear to the ground at all times. Be agile and ready to adapt to change.
- Know your brand, and culture, and be sure to always lead by those core values and brand promises. Be authentic, relevant, and outward thinking (i.e., client and industry focused).
7. What is the smartest way to invest in business development?
Terry: Create a business development coaching program for associates. This isn’t a one-day seminar, but a long-term program that teaches them about business development, marketing and branding. Skills they are not taught in law school. Invest in them.
Create a business development program for partners. Set goals. Hire a consultant or in-house business development director to create strategies and tactics to reach these goals, measure activities and make changes when needed. Make sure management supports this effort and leads by example.
8. What is the most foolish way to invest in law firm biz dev?
Terry: The following are the wrong way to go about business development:
- Not setting goals is a huge waste of time and resources when it comes to business development.
- Not having a means of measurement and accountability is foolish when it comes to a successful business development program.
- A lack of strategic and creative planning will provide little to no ROI in your business development program.
- Not getting top-level buy-in and support.