75% of Law Firms Have a Business Development Department

See the results: New Study:  Emerging Story of Law Firm Business Development

Conventional wisdom has it that law firms are putting a bigger emphasis on business development (BD) than ever before. With greater competition and changes in the ways clients buy legal services, firms have augmented resources and investments in marketing to focus on BD.

When this change first started, some firms struggled with how business development differed from marketing. You could trace this through the evolution of job titles at firms. Some firms had the same marketing staff but had added ‘business development’ to job titles. Other firms created new, dedicated business development roles.

Marketing and BD efforts should be intertwined.

Whether or not the functions were done by different people, some firms recognized right away that marketing and BD each require different skills sets.  Others fell into the trap of having a marketing mindset when doing business development.

Marketing is about being found and you want to target as big a pool of potential clients as possible. Business development for law firms, however, is about one-on-one relationships. It needs to be personal, and you want to reduce the pool to a smaller set of targets – just 15 people will make or break a law firm according to Darryl Cross.

Organizational Structure Misaligned

A soon-to-be released report analyzing a survey of 400+ U.S. legal marketers and business development professionals by LexisNexis found that firms across the board now recognize how the approaches to marketing and business development differ. (We’re providing an advanced look at a slice of this data exclusively to the LawMarketing.com for allowing us to be part of the community.)

law firm marketing vs. business developmentThe majority of respondents – more than 90 percent – believe that marketing and business development are different functions requiring different skill sets. Despite this agreement, precisely how law firms have structured their marketing and business development organizations varies greatly.

About 25 percent of respondents said their law firm did not have a business development department, while 29 percent indicated that marketing reports to business development. An additional 24 percent of law firms say they have a chief business development officer (CBDO) and of those, 81 percent said the CMO fills both roles.

Separate, yet Synchronized

I believe the opportunity going forward is not in how we can make further distinctions between marketing and BD, but in how the two functions intertwine as part of a full prospect or client journey.

A prospect may become aware of your firm through traditional marketing, branding, and PR efforts. These may drive them to your website where they may check out an attorney’s bio.

Further marketing efforts may lead them to attend an event or receive a mailing. For these marketing efforts to lead to actual work, however, the relationship-oriented approaches of business development have to come into play. At some point a human needs to have a conversation with another human. A lawyer, working alone or with a sales professional, may have a phone conversation, meet for lunch, visit the prospect’s office, or play golf.

There should not be a handoff between marketing and business development activities. Rather the marketing and BD efforts should be intertwined.

While the lawyer is building relationships with the prospect, marketing should still be going on. But as you learn more about the prospect, the marketing can be more targeted and more personal. For example, sending them a thought leadership article about a topic in which they have expressed interest or inviting them to an event tailored to a subset of prospects who share common challenges.

Modern approaches to content marketing and digital marketing blur the line between marketing and business development. Newer technologies let you track both the marketing efforts done by the firm as well as the BD activities done by individuals to provide an aggregated view of your pursuit of a prospect.

Matt Thompson

About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Vice President of Product Marketing for Foundation Software Group and is an industry thought leader on how professional services firms can leverage technology to enable best practice business development initiatives. With 18+ years providing marketing solutions for law firms, he is focused on how firms can adopt data-driven approaches to business development, deliver superior client experiences, and leverage relevant aspects of modern selling methodologies. 

Matt previously held senior management roles within sales, consulting services, product management, customer experience, partner relations and technical communications. A Six Sigma green belt, he is also certified in Pragmatic Marketing. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Lowell (Massachusetts).

Contact Info:

Email: matt@foundationsg.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mattthompsonfoundation

Twitter: @matt_d_thompson

Email: Matt@foundationsg.com
More posts:View all posts by Matt Thompson

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