By: Kimberly Alford Rice, Principal of KLA Marketing Associates
In over 20 years of partnering with law firms and lawyers to support their business development goals, I have witnessed some of the same (unproductive) behaviors over and over, and just shake my head thinking to myself, “my dear clients just will not get out of their own way.”
Below are a few questions in which readers may see themselves and instructively consider for greater business development success.
I. What is your Marketing Mindset? Do you recognize that working “on” your practice is as important as working “in” your practice? Do you proactively carve out time to work “on” your practice through high impact business development efforts?
Client often ask “how many hours do I need to market”? First, I would respond by saying that’s not a question a lawyer who is serious about growing her practice should even pose. The more productive question would be “Am I being as strategic as I possibly can be and, if so, am I properly following through on all my action steps?”
Action items, what action items? Savvy lawyers know that to truly excel at almost anything, having (and executing upon) a plan is vital. That is one of the reasons that we consistently encourage law firms and their lawyers to develop an integrated marketing plan which includes specific action steps by which to measure progress and results. Most lawyers are long on planning and short on execution. What we have come to know is that success and accomplishments are tough, if not impossible, to track if they are not written down and measured. A well-crafted marketing plan can be a tremendous tool and blueprint for your business development journey. It need not be an albatross under the “one more thing to do” category.
Successful rainmakers recognize that marketing and business development is not a “one and done” proposition but rather a required component of your practice throughout your entire career. The elements that will shift according to the particular phase of your practice are the specific tactics upon which you will focus your efforts.
For example, in the early days of a legal practice, young lawyers must focus on learning their craft, on how to become a top notch technician and on how to develop a broad and deep network of relationships. As a lawyer matures in her practice, more focus is directed towards developing a reputation as an expert in a chosen niche area of law and getting in front of qualified targeted prospects WHILE she continues to build a solid network. As a lawyer nears the last third of his practice, learning how to leverage the relationships he has cultivated over many years should be a focus of particular concentration. In the end, through all the phases of a legal career, it is the relationships that are the constant thread.
II. Attitude is EVERYTHING. Do you believe in what you are doing? Are you resentful that you are placed in “selling situations”? Do you begrudgingly attend networking events? And, when there, do not use the time productively? You are not alone.
What we see very often is that lawyers frequently behave from a position of f-e-a-r, not confidence. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “I’m not good at xxxx”, I could buy an island in the Pacific somewhere. The question is not whether you are “good” or “bad” at any particular behavior or action, but rather whether you are WILLING to work at it.
This reminds me of a great quote by Henry Ford, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.”
It’s all in the attitude. No question, lawyers are intelligent folks but building a successful, profitable practice requires much more than ‘being smart’.
III. What Drives You to Engage in Business Development? Is it the journey or the destination that motivates and inspires you?
Too often we have worked with lawyers who become impatient with the process of developing a profitable practice. Then, the excuses start flying, “I don’t have time to xxxxx.”; “I don’t feel comfortable when I xxxxx”; “I tried xxx and it didn’t work”…sound familiar?
What law firm clients often neglect to realize is that it is not ‘enough’ to go through the motions of executing upon an action step (say, to present an educational program before an audience of qualified prospects) in order to plant productive seeds of high impact business development value. No, there must be adequate planning and preparation prior to the event, certain action steps executed during the event, and targeted activities following the event in order to maximize the activity. Merely showing up, reading through a presentation (or off of a Power Point presentation) and leaving does not qualify as a high impact business development initiative. For lawyers who are willing to learn how to maximize their limited time and focus their efforts on “high impact” activities, building a solid practice can actually be an enriching, fulfilling experience. Business associates may eventually become some of your best friends and resources; your social life may explode with new connections and experiences you would have never imagined.
So, where does this leave us?
As we stand at the turning point of another year, may I suggest you carve out some “noodling” time over the next month to ask yourself some of the questions I have posed above and then get real with yourself by looking deep within.
Ask yourself, “what motivates me”? How committed really was I in 2012 to the growth of building my practice? “What am I willing to do differently or more of in 2013? What should I cut back on and/or eliminate from my action steps in 2013? Is what I’m doing working (according to some measurement metric)?
Only you can answer these questions though with some guidance, the answers often come quicker.
What I know for sure: we ultimately engage in activities that provide some sort of “pay off” for us. Are your business development mindset, attitude and efforts working for you?
About the Author:
Kimberly Alford Rice is Principal of KLA Marketing Associates, a business development advisory firm focusing on legal services. As a law marketing authority, Kimberly helps law firms and lawyers develop practical business development and marketing strategies which lead directly to new clients and increased revenue. Additionally, Kimberly provides career management services to lawyers in transition. She may be reached at 609.458.0415 or via email at email@example.com.