Business Developers: Think Like a Consultant

As law firms continue to invest in business development, more marketing roles at firms are being tasked with helping attorneys with their BD initiatives. The success of these BD support roles, however, is often limited by the extent to which the lawyers buy into the marketing and BD activities and actively participate.

Lawyers may be reluctant to engage in the marketing and business development initiatives for a variety of reasons. To overcome this reluctance, business developers should try to think like an external consultant rather than as an internal resource.

Here are four ways to change your mindset and behaviors to embrace thinking of yourself as operating an internal consulting firm.

Proactively market yourself – Marketing and business development professionals could fill their time each day just reacting to requests from lawyers. As a consulting firm does, however, you must set aside time to proactively market the services and value you can provide.  We preach to lawyers that a key to business development is committing dedicated time to the actions and activities that drive BD success. Think of the lawyers as your prospects and clients whom you need to market, nurture, listen to, and educate.

Track the right metrics – Marketing departments sometimes fall into the trap of tracking activity metrics in order to justify their expenses and future budget levels. Consultants work with their clients to identify the appropriate metrics for their business. Demonstrate your value by tracking smart leading indicators to measure which programs deliver return on investment against the firm’s goals.

Pitch new projects – Firms often run the same events and marketing motions year over year. If you have used metrics to track which initiatives provide benefits, you can discontinue ones that do not provide a return on their investment. Pitch new projects with practice groups and individual lawyers. Like a consulting firm would do for one of their clients or prospects, define the project scope, estimate the costs (including lawyer time), and identify the benefits to the practice groups, lawyers, and firm.

Earn trust by exceeding expectations – The marketing and BD department is often viewed as an operational cost center rather than a strategic service provider. When someone engages a consultant, however, they view paying for the consultant’s expertise and services as a critical investment. The difference is the amount of trust and expected value. You gain trust by consistently exceeding expectations with each project. Identify what unasked-for value you can add to each project that helps the firm get closer to achieving its strategic priorities or helps each lawyer achieve his or her goals.

The table below summarizes these behavior changes.

From: To:
Reacting to lawyer requests Proactively marketing yourself
Justifying your role by providing reports on activity metrics Tracking smart leading indicators to measure which programs deliver ROI
Doing the same events and programs that the firm has done in the past Eliminating programs that do not provide ROI while pitching new projects with practice groups and lawyers
Being viewed as an operational cost center Being valued as strategic service provider

I will be presenting these concepts and more with Katherine D’Urso and Mo Bunnell at the LMA conference in Austin, TX on April 12. Our session is called “Elevating the Value of Your Marketing and Business Development Resources.” I hope to see you there!

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).

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Twitter: @matt_d_thompson

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