One of the largest conversational firestorms I have seen online
was sparked by a question posed to a law firm marketing group on
LinkedIn. The question was: "What is your single best marketing and
business development tip?"
Literally hundreds of answers blazed in from around the world,
which I subsequently recorded and categorized for my own
edification. I then posed the question to law firm rainmakers and
legal marketing pros I knew, and found that the answers were still
For purposes of this article, I have categorized and combined
the most popular recurring answers into the following "10 best tips
for legal business development:"
1. Meet with clients and prospects face to
face. This tip is the one most often given by successful
rainmakers and marketers alike, who say that no form of
communication is better for business than "in person" conversation,
which often results in new assignments or referrals.
2. Grow and nurture your referral networks.
Successful lawyers consistently state that referrals are a key part
of their business, and they offer lots of tips for growing and
maintaining referral networks. One frequent tip is simply to show
appreciation to those who refer business by sending "thank you"
notes and occasionally thoughtful, but not ostentatious, gifts.
3. Leverage your existing clients for more
work. At the successful conclusion of a project, you can
ask satisfied clients for one contact in their own company or
elsewhere who might benefit from your assistance. This tip is
consistent with my own experience - the vast majority of clients
I've surveyed indicate that they are happy to provide a potential
client contact if they think highly of you as a service
4. Focus on personal marketing plans. Marketing
pros in particular say that firms benefit most from developing
marketing plans and strategies for individual lawyers in ways that
fit their styles and abilities. A good plan should offer a
step-by-step guide to success, spelling out specific weekly and
monthly actions to be taken, such as phone calls, emails, in-person
visits, content marketing or other actions.
5. Focus on perpetual service improvement. A
number of academic business studies have revealed the importance of
cultivating a culture of continuous improvement. Organizations that
obsess over how to serve their customers or clients better are more
likely to grow their market share. Why? Clients rave about great
service experiences, but they tell even more people about service
6. Enhance your cyber-presence. In most
businesses, use of technology and the internet are key difference
makers. Having a website that is user-friendly, informative and
full of value-added content for clients will yield more visitors.
By adding in newsletters, client alerts, blogs and/or links to
social media pages, you can become ubiquitous in cyberspace.
7. Improve your marketing communications. When
you communicate simply, consistently and regularly who you are,
what you do, and how and why you do it, good things happen. People
have to know your story, find it memorable and like it. Developing
that story and telling it well is a matter of practice.
8. Measure and know the results of what you do.
Measure results of both your legal and marketing actions. As one
client said to me, "I have to know every measure of my business, so
I want my lawyer to know from past history the expected budget for
a matter, the average time to get to trial, the likelihood of
winning, and the potential verdict if I lose." Track your marketing
metrics and outcomes as well, so you can make targeted expenditures
on specific marketing activities that offer you the best return on
9. Run a client-driven law firm. Much has been
written about the success of customer-driven companies, which
operate on an upside down pyramid. The customers are on top, those
who serve them are the next tier down, and management is on the
narrow bottom, serving those above them. Clients should drive the
business strategies and planning of a law firm because they pay the
revenue … or not.
10. Know the client's business and industry.
More than one survey has shown that most clients rate industry
knowledge as both hard to find and critical to their buying
decisions. In a 2012 Altman Weil survey, 200 general counsel even
ranked industry knowledge ahead of referral recommendations as
their top factor in hiring.
You will notice that all of these tips take work - there is no
"magic wand" tip. But there is a track record of success among
those who follow through on these professional marketing
John O. Cunningham is a writer, consultant and
public speaker. As a lawyer, he served as General Counsel to a
publicly traded company and to a privately-held subsidiary of a
Fortune 100 company. For more information about his work in the
fields of legal service, marketing, communications, and management,
check out his website and blog at https://johnocunningham.wordpress.com.