On Friday, we had an excellent, excellent panel following lunch with some truly brilliant people – moderator Nancy Mangan of Wicker Park Group chatted with Paul Malanowski (@pmalanowski) of Saul Ewing, Melanie Green (@melaniegreen) of Faegre Baker Daniels, and Dave Bruns (@dbruns) of Farella Braun + Martel about some of the innovative things they do to combat the most prevalent problems in business development.
Whether you’re at a large firm, or a small firm (or a service provider), there were a lot of tips in here that we can use to better drive business development.
Key Takeaway: Talk to your Clients
When I use the word "clients" here, it has different meanings for different people:
- For attorneys, it’s your clients.
- For marketers, it’s your attorneys.
- For service providers, it’s your clients.
The panelists emphasized that we need to understand what our clients’ goals are, so that we can help them to reach them. To find out what these are, we need to regularly talk to them – this both helps us identify their goals and build trust.
For those of us in marketing, when we talk regularly to our attorneys about their goals and their clients, we’ll be able to make connections – they might not know that their partner down the hall is working with the same client, or hoping to pitch the same potential client, but you will. Helping them to connect will strengthen the client relationship.
For attorneys and service providers, although it may not always lead directly to business for you, helping to connect clients with similar needs with each other will build goodwill that will ultimately lead to giving you a reputation of a true advocate, who is looking out for the best interest of your clients. And that will build loyalty, and lead to more business.
Key Takeaway: Do as I Do, Not As I Say
I said it in yesterday’s post, and it was said in this session as well – in the work that we do, we have the opportunity to model the behavior that we’re asking our clients to do. We’re advising our attorneys to meet with their clients, to find out what’s important to them, and to understand their business, so we as marketers must do the same – we need to meet with our lawyers, understand their business, and find out what’s important to them.
Key Takeaway: Build Relationships Internally
Once again, it all comes down to relationships – and these relationships need to be built internally at law firms, as well as externally with clients You’ll remember a person before you remember their practice, so relationship-building is essential.
The panelists had some unique ways that they fostered these relationships:
- Internal "trade fair" – this event helped the practice groups to get to know one another within the firm after their merger. They used a little competition to encourage the attorneys to get to know one another and to develop a list of action steps for following up. The marketing department collected these, typed them up, and then sent them to their business managers so that they would be sure to follow up.
- Limited programming – they don’t over-program at partner/attorney retreats so that the attendees have time to get to know each other.
- In-house general counsel networking group – made up of mostly clients, with only a few lawyers. The clients choose the topics that they’d like to focus on. Getting access to the clients can be difficult, but if you use what the clients want to get the ear of your attorney, it may be more successful.
- Speed dating – this is the next undertaking for Faegre, and is something that’s worked well for ILN lawyers.
Key Takeaway: Don’t Cave in at the First Sign of Skepticism
My favorite moment was when Melanie said that she’s heard so many times from her attorneys "Wow, I didn’t think that would work, but I loved it!" I’ve heard that from our ILN attorneys too – sometimes the most unique and risky social exercises can be the most effective for relationship building.
So how can you get projects approved and move forward with them if you’re facing rampant skepticism?
- Identify champions in the firm for new programs, and involve the managing partner.
- Use client feedback to drive programs – if the clients ask for something, it’s easier to sell it to your attorneys.
These are some great lessons for all of us, and I’d like to add a couple of other comments from the panelists that might be helpful:
- "Cross-serve" not "Cross-sell" – we all know "cross-sell" is a dirty word these days with our lawyers, so change the language to get them thinking about serving their clients better.
- "Keep ‘time vampires’ busy" – there are sometimes attorneys who monopolize a lot of the marketing department’s time, without generating a lot of business ("time vampires), and the recommended solution for dealing with them is to keep them busy so you can focus on other attorneys.
Thanks to the panelists and moderator for a great session!