July Program Recap — "Driving a Business Development Culture"

By Marty Grego

The current legal landscape has led to increased pressure on law firms to grow their revenue and client networks, thus creating a heightened focus on the business development process. Firm leadership is looking to marketing departments to drive this culture, while simultaneously managing costs and demonstrating growth.

“Lawyers don’t understand the difference between marketing and business development,” said Nancy Mangan, senior consultant and client growth specialist with the Wicker Park Group. “Reassurance is key,” she said, when guiding an attorney through this process.

Mangan moderated the Legal Marketing Association Midwest Chicago Program Series “Driving a Business Development Culture” on July 25, which included a panel of Dave Bruns, director of client services for Farella Braun + Martel LLP and Susan Kurz, director of marketing, business development and client services for Keating, Muething & Klekamp PLL.

Order Fulfillment vs. Revenue Generation

Mangan urged that marketing departments cannot fall into a “Do you want fries with that?” culture. It is vital to show lawyers the difference between marketing and business development.

Mangan presented the following definitions to help clarify this contrast:

  • Marketing: “All about us.” Includes newsletters, most bar association activities, ads, brochures, website, etc.
  • Business development: “All about the client.” Includes client initiatives, short specific proposals, face-to-face business meetings, building business relationships, etc.

Bruns said the key is to know the difference between the two. While marketing departments can certainly do both marketing and business development, they have to know what drives the practice.

Kurz shared an analogy she uses when explaining the difference to her firm in Cincinnati. Marketing is used to raise recognition and awareness of the firm and is “targeting suspects.” Business development is an understanding of potential clients, or specific decision makers and specific companies, and therefore is “turning the suspect into a prospect.”

Targeted Business Development

Mangan also illustrated the keys to targeted business development. “Hit the right decision maker” and “know your rate schedule. It’s the work you want at the rate you want.” Kurz presents a plan to her attorneys and follows up quarterly in order to achieve great results. The plan calls for attorneys to identify two prospects from the following groups:

  • Current clients
  • New clients
  • Contacts from other practices

When sitting down with attorneys, Kurz advises them to work together and to involve secretaries in the process. She noted that it’s important to identify those attorneys who can do business development well.

Offering an additional perspective, Mangan stated that trust is integral. The most success is garnered when an attorney trusts the marketing professional. Bruns commented that the marketing team should “become a facilitator of information which increases value.”

Specific Techniques and Tools

Kurz and Bruns presented advice on dealing with hurdles to success and the immediate steps that can be taken to fuel the business development process. In her previous experience, Kurz believed that a big obstacle to success were silos, where the firm’s attorneys were competing with each other. She recommends holding small business development groups every four to six weeks to allow for moral support and brainstorming amongst the group. Bruns uses “organic pods” and secretaries as much as possible to drive success. Each panelist handed out action plan matrixes that they use at their respective firms to increase accountability and remain organized.

Wrapping up the session, the panel agreed that a huge part of growth in the business development process is a marketer’s relationship with an attorney, which can be built in workshops and one-on-one meetings. Bruns noted that “you cannot outsource the business development process. You have to be involved.”

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