5 Tips for Business Development in the “New Normal”

By Lisa Rory and Sarah Abreu, business development managers at Venable LLP

Unfortunately, it took a virus to force our law firms into the digital world. Yes, we have great websites and LinkedIn pages, and some of our savvy colleagues engage with epic Twitter content. So, the questions on everyone’s minds are: How do I weather the COVID-19 storm? How do I make quick content personal and profound? How do I develop business?

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The value of asking open-ended questions and listening to responses by in-house counsel goes without saying. But it is also important that you pay attention to the content being produced by your clients. How are they speaking and engaging with their market? Companies signal problems and contemplated solutions with their content. Subscribing to their newsletters and reading their press releases can speak louder than a veiled conversation with an employee. Use the information gathered to add value to your conversations with clients. They will remember that you are the one who offered a solution to a problem they were contemplating. You also may use this information to get a glimpse into what may be on the horizon in the industry and raise the concern with other clients before it is a problem. We always should be seeking to issue spot and offer solutions to those issues.

Research, Rinse, Repeat

Now more than ever, the news cycle is short, and what is relevant today is guaranteed to be outdated by tomorrow. Because of this, it is vitally important to do your research before reaching out to clients. Know what new piece of legislation has just been released or soon will be updated and how it may affect your clients. Ensure that your research is current so that your analysis stays timely. Creating content that people care about means research, rinse and repeat every day.

Pitches, Not Pixie Dust

Procurement processes have made shopping for a law firm less about who you know and more about being persuasive in 250 words or less. You can use the research you gather on a regular basis for contemplating ways to customize your standard answers. Are there patterns in what they seem to be reading and writing about regularly during this time? How can you use this information to speak directly to your prospect? Let’s not forget the fancy footwork required to come up with “close-out” fee structures that will pass the sniff test to make a profit on work.

Start to build a database of frequently asked questions with standard answers. Two can play and win at that game! And if you don’t have a pricing team working remotely to help with the magic required to submit a compelling pricing proposal, get one. Today. Don’t wait. I hear, “But finance has done so well with this,” and “Our managers can run those excels.” Yes, we can, but having someone who develops new ways of approaching fee structures all day and understands how our clients negotiate will ensure that you stay profitable well into the future.

Engagement is a Click Away

With everyone working from home, there are no face-to-face events, client dinners, or cups of coffee over which you can meet clients and prospects to catch up or “soft sell.” However, we can recreate all of these opportunities and moments digitally. Companies already have started by turning events into webinars and replaced in-person meetings with Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. You can engage clients and keep the momentum your firm has created by socializing virtually, through email and LinkedIn, and driving traffic to your website by linking to articles and blog posts in your email check-ins.

eLists for the Win

Take a look at your lists and check them twice. List management is absolutely vital in a time when we are relying heavily on digital content. Review and revise or remove email addresses that bounce back. Update contacts who have moved around and change titles for those moving up! This level of examination may reveal interesting facts about what your readers are engaged with – and those facts might lead you to consider segmenting your list based on their interests and differentiating the content you send them.

Using our existing tools smartly and creatively, we all have the capabilities to push ourselves and our attorneys to improve our business development initiatives.


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