Marketing & business development (MBD) and client relationship management (CRM) are central to the ongoing growth and success of any organisation. After my conversation with the in-house lawyer, I was inspired to turn to another friend - let’s call her Fatima - for insight into the role of the legal business development specialist, and how it has changed.
It is clear from my conversation with her, and further research that marketing and business development leaders need to harness everyone’s ‘sales’ potential. One recent survey claimed that only 20% of firms get their lawyers involved in the sales process, so we must improve this.
I conclude this post with a use-case scenario which brings together the three threads of discussion, and will hopefully get you and your colleagues inspired to become business development champions. Here is my easy ABC:
Align your business strategies across the firm
Move Beyond the Buzzwords
Communication is key
Align your strategies
It is clear that over the past 10 years or so, BD teams have moved centre stage. As one commentator pointed out in relation to legal information teams, ‘historically, supporting the firm’s business development (BD) efforts was not a priority… [but] with a flat market and fierce competition, BD reigns supreme’.
"This journey hasn’t been without challenges but it is exciting to see how much progress has been made. We have broken down silos, and balanced the budgetary needs of competing service departments."
Fatima, BD manager
MBD’s role is to drive growth through increased revenue, as well as maintain existing client satisfaction - all within the strategic framework of the firm. It is now standard for Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) to be involved with high level goal setting, meaning that everyone can be strategically aligned - in business development terms - across the firm.
Beyond the Buzzwords
It is already becoming apparent this year that the focus is shifting from the buzzwords and hype towards a more meaningful #bringbackboring approach. After all, we mustn’t forget that technology is merely the means to a specified end. In this case - enabling genuine engagement with clients and putting them at the centre of the business.
"We have faced frustrations with multiple heritage systems which are either no longer supported or have never been fully utilised’. So not only is there is an issue with ‘garbage in, garbage out’ but colleagues were never able to fully engage and take ownership."
Fatima, BD manager
Something as fundamentally basic as choosing a new practice management system has allowed every area of the firm to rethink their processes and look at what is important. As expected with implementation of such a system there have been consultations, discussion, and plenty of time and money invested at every level. There is now no excuse for people not to take responsibility and make use of relevant technology.
Communication with Clients
Preparation for GDPR compliance had an unexpectedly positive effect on the new practice management system: it addressed the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ problem. Data cleansing has resulted in incredibly targeted contacts. As a result there seems to be a renewal of enthusiasm amongst both the lawyers and our contacts.
“There was the initial disappointment as one lawyer’s contact list was dramatically reduced, but when he saw how engaged those people were - and generating new leads - he was happy.”
Fatima, BD manager
It’s not just about email lists, but how you communicate using other channels. For instance the re-invigorating of the firm’s calendar of events is partially responsible for increased social media activity. And once you have started a conversation face-to-face, you can maintain momentum online and the client feels like part of something special.
This firm has always been sociable but they wanted to provide something of true value for contacts. They consulted with clients to ensure that seminars/round tables addressed relevant and important issues. There are still those regular attendees, but there have been an astonishing number of new faces at events - and a new audience can mean new leads.
Making ABC work in practice
I was interested in how this marketing and business development department compiled their client news alerts and external current awareness bulletins. Simply put: the library and information service feeds raw information to business development, it is curated and formatted by the team, and then updates are disseminated to clients.
It is always professionally satisfying when law libraries play a measurable, pivotal role in business development opportunities. Client relations are established and maintained when there are regular conversations about important issues. After all, contact shouldn’t just revolve around billing, or when a deal is taking place.
The following scenario illustrates how my ABC theory works in practice:
The client has asked their legal advisor for a quarterly industry news round-up. The lawyer approached the business development team who then collaborated with the library and information team to create a bespoke update to send out to this one client. The business development director has questioned whether technology could assist in making this service available to others as part of a wider client engagement strategy.
Aligning the needs of the client and role of the advisor is a win-win. In this example, the firm is already thinking strategically, aligning teams so that they can work together for the benefit of the client. Technology used in the right way can facilitate a connection between the client and firm, as well as assisting internal collaboration. No buzzwords, no gimmicks.
Clients are reliant on timely, accurate information but as we have learned, they don’t always have access to dedicated research resources. Firms are constantly looking of ways of adding value, and taking current awareness to the heart of the client could make a real difference. Once in place, economies of scales will apply and can be rolled out to other clients - monetised or not.
As their trusted adviser, you already have their attention when they need it most, but it needs to go beyond the usual - you have to stand out in a crowded market place.