This article was first published in Lex Witness September 2014 issue.
In the last month’s article, we discussed the need for branding a law firm. Before deciding on encroaching a seemingly achievable task like branding a law practice business, it is essential to understand the seriousness involved in undertaking such a responsibility.
When it comes to law firm positioning and business development, no single solution works for all. However, following are some important aspects to consider for a planned and strategic positioning exercise.
Most business generated in the legal industry are based on referrals. However, this just doesn’t happen all by itself. Lawyers who invest time and resources in nurturing relationships with the key influencers or decision makers, are the ones who can cultivate the most referrals.
But, it is important to remember to never adopt a false ‘marketing’ persona. Be your true self, and carve the best way to present yourself in a way you find appealing.
The lowest hanging fruit to cultivate referral based work is with your existing clients. These are people who you are already doing work for. Albeit they know you and trust you well with the matters you are currently handling for them, it is unfair to expect of your clients to actively keep referring you their own or other contact’s work, unless you have explicitly expressed interest regarding welcoming more cases from or through them!
Other referral sources besides existing clients include but not limited to, your acquaintances in other professions with a legal or regulatory inclination, such as investment brokers, accountants, and bankers. They will be more than happy to send you business, as long as you tell them that you would like them to and what kind of work to send.
INVEST IN WHAT YOU CAN MEASURE
Don’t waste resources, in terms of money, time and talent, on anything that is not measurable. Pursue the techniques that you can measure. Identifying or creating long term customized positioning platforms, like your own blog or newsletters, can not only be much more effective as compared to a display ad (Indian law firms can only advertise outside India), but also easily measurable.
Similarly you can hire a Media Strategist who can advice you on the relevant media vehicles and provide real time insight and coverage on the right media platforms, which in turn provides an immense uplift to your image. You can also publish an article on your blog/website, and see how many people visited. Various readership matrix can be measured and deduced from, which in turn can be analyzed to help you modify your positioning techniques and channels as required. This is also very true for -newsletters, wherein you can get a report on how many people actually opened it, and if there are links inside it, how many of the links were clicked on and who clicked on them. The beauty of it all is that it is VERY MEASURABLE!
Similarly, aspire to make the best of every in-person relationship building and business development task you initiate. If you are participating in a conference, research whom you would like to meet with well in advance. Arrange meetings with the ideal partners, and after you have met with them and set up a relationship, you can always evaluate on the business conversions you have made along with their value. However, in this case it is imperative to understand, that there are relationships that may take time to cultivate. Here, we again go back to the ‘seeking work through referrals’ exercise, wherein once we have developed a strong enough connection, can only then both parties feel comfortable enough to seek and refer work and vice versa.
THE RULE OF 2.5% AND 200 HOURS
Now that we have discussed the importance of being original in your positioning messages and persona, and the need to measure your investments, let’s talk about setting standards. This only means that a law firm investing time and man hours in positioning exercises should be observant and determined in taking such activities seriously, and abide by certain guidelines on how to go about it.
It is crucial to create a business plan right at the very beginning. Then calculate the 2.5 percent of the firm’s gross revenue. This includes the money that is directly spent on generating new business, like on taking clients out to lunch, or business development trips, conference sponsorships and so on. This 2.5% does not include the compensation of the professionals you hire (in-house or external) to undertake such positioning initiatives for you. When you take out such a measurable and tangible sum out of your firm’s revenue and invest it back into growing the firm, you psychologically become accountable to every initiative you pursue.
Alongside the monetary investment, it is key to put in man-hours in all positioning and active business development initiatives. This may sound like a lot, but when you break it down on a per week basis, it’s really only about four hours a week. You can meet a referral source for coffee , or take a client out for lunch. You can become a member of a trade association and attend their meetings once a month. All these short and non-time consuming tasks can be weaved into your weekly to-do list, and before you know it, you have already devoted more than 200 hours in a year!
The way to strategic positioning in the highly competitive but relatively conservative legal industry lies in creating a right mix of initiatives, with elements of being personal, analytical and holding yourself accountable to a plan.
Photo credit: Impact B&D