Steve Bell, Chief Client Development Officer at Womble Carlyle, is known by many as one of the first people, if not the first, to head a major law firm’s sales department. In fact, his LinkedIn profile describes him as a “connector of dots between inside and outside counsel.” However, Steve is quick to note that he belongs to LMA because he has been involved in communications and traditional marketing in addition to sales.
Steve’s career began as did the careers of many communications professionals – as a newspaper reporter and editor. He moved through the journalism ranks to become the associate editor of the Indianapolis Monthly Magazine, a role that combined journalism with design and management. Steve then joined a Westchester County, NY communications agency before landing a job in marketing communications at Price Waterhouse
When an opportunity arose for Steve to move into sales at Price Waterhouse, he took it. Later, after founding the sales function at accounting firm Grant Thornton, Steve found what he calls an “adventurous law firm” that wanted a sales director, and that’s when he moved to Womble Carlyle as National Director of Sales. He later became Chief Client Development Officer at the firm.
Steve says his experience has taught him certain lessons as a legal marketer. First, he believes that law firms hire marketing people because they think their investment will translate to “ringing the cash register.” He says businesspeople never lose sight of the business’s ultimate objective -- delivering value extracted from the business’s knowledge and, as a result, generating profit. Steve notes that all members of an organization need to concentrate on revenue. Whether it’s writing a press release or developing a brochure, marketers need to remember that their goal is to drive business in the door. Steve says that once marketers understand this, the materials they create will be better focused and effective.
Second, Steve understands that as people advance in their careers, they develop relationships with people who have the authority to purchase legal services. He encourages legal marketing professionals to introduce their personal contacts to decision-makers at their firms. A partner isn’t going to turn down the opportunity to talk with a CFO whom a marketer knows. A marketer’s role is to initiate, advance and, when appropriate, monetize relationships. Just having the mindset that you can make these connections is enough to change behavior. According to Steve, “We all can do sales.” Since a law firm is the sum of its relationships, when a marketing professional is able to use his or her contacts to help the firm, the marketer’s value, standing and promotability will increase.
Another aspect of Steve’s job is to keep his eyes on the horizon for his firm, as most of his lawyer colleagues are too busy focusing on their daily work. He is an avid reader and suggests using Manzama to “listen to the web with a design in mind” to spot trends. Steve advocates the use of predictive analytics to see how big data can provide guidance to his firm’s marketing efforts. As for trends related to the law, he is investigating a new sector known as impact investing – sophisticated, unprecedented new businesses that are doing a combination of commerce and good. Next on Steve’s must-read book list is Tomorrow’s Lawyers by Richard Susskind, which focuses on the near-horizon for law firms.
Steve believes that the legal marketing profession in general, and his own Client Development Department in particular, is composed of talented, motivated, innovative professionals. “A lot of what I know and have accomplished,” he says, “is based on lessons learned and insights gained from other law firm staff professionals, “including the amazing people in the LMA Capital Chapter.”
By: Aileen Hinsch, Knapp Marketing, for the May/June 2013 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.