In todayís highly competitive business climate, your success as an attorney depends as much on marketing muscle as it does on legal intellect. Unfortunately, when it comes to sales and marketing, many accomplished attorneys lack the skill set needed to effectively develop new business and use existing client relationships to expand their practices.
This is where an effective marketing professionalís expertise can prove invaluable. In fact, there are many ways in which members of your marketing department can help you save time, expand your practice, boost your reputation, and, in general, make your life a whole lot easier.
As is the case in any relationship, however, the value you receive depends largely on the value you give. Here are six ways you can help members of your marketing department help you:
1. Understand their capabilities. Many larger firms have formal orientations for new associates and laterals that includes meeting with members of the marketing department. In addition, many firms regularly ask their marketing staffs to make presentations to firm practice groups to inform them of the marketing and communication services available.
If your firm doesnít do this, take the initiative and schedule a meeting to learn about your marketing departmentís capabilities. While their roles and responsibilities can vary dramatically from firm to firm, most law firm marketers can help you to:
- Develop a personal business plan that ties your career goals with those of your practice group and your firm;
- Build your practice by focusing you on the right opportunities;
- Solidify existing relationships by surveying clients and overseeing any necessary follow-up;
- Set up monitoring and measurement functions to capture the information needed to prove return on investment;
- Learn more about your clients and their industries before important meetings and on a regular basis thereafter;
- Differentiate your practice and your firm from the competition;
- Save time by improving, organizing, and coordinating responses to requests for proposals;
- Increase your success ratio by ensuring that you deliver the right message during client presentations;
- Plan client-focused seminars and events;
- Schedule and prepare for seminars, speeches, and media interviews;
- Let the rest of the firm know about new clients, new matters, and your successes;
- Participate in trade and industry organizations;
- Coordinate related press releases, articles, firm newsletters, and client mailings; and
- Increase cross-selling opportunities by developing a centralized database of valuable business development information and by facilitating the exchange of information between attorneys and practice groups.
Take the time to learn more about each of these collateral marketing activities and the economics behind them. How much do they cost? When is it appropriate to use them? Do they reach the right target audience? Do they support your firmís objectives?
Asking these questions and taking the appropriate steps will help you put your business development efforts and your firmís marketing activities into proper perspective. Youíll be perceived as a team player by management and the marketing department. Most important, these efforts will increase the chances that youíll get the marketing support you deserve when you need it most!
2. Know their boundaries. With all of the benefits that marketing departments provide, it is not their responsibility to develop business directly. Still, many attorneys fall into the trap of relying too heavily on their marketing departments to help them grow their client base.
Unfortunately, there are no short cuts to successful rainmaking. It requires a commitment from you, and that means face-to-face networking, client development, and client relationship management.
3. Know your place. As you begin to develop expectations about how the marketing department can help you, keep in mind that your marketing department canít be all things to all attorneys.
For example, early in your career, the marketing department might help develop your biographical information, place this data on the firmís Web site, distribute announcement cards, and schedule business development and client service training for you. They might also help you build your network, join associations, and improve your speaking skills. For partners, in addition to helping you with your own activities, the marketing department will also be involved in determining the strategic direction of the firm.
Also, bear in mind that the members of your marketing department are trained professionals, not clerical workers. In many instances, they are involved in planning and implementing the strategic objectives of the firm as a whole. Consequently, the most senior members of firm management often perceive them as highly valued advisers.
Although they may not possess a law degree (many of them do, however), they have particular experiences and skills that most attorneys do not. They may not be able to negotiate a leveraged buy-out, but many of them can perform scenario-based strategic planning to help you and your firm get to where you want to go.
4. Think ROI. Just as you might be forced to choose among a number of competing client opportunities, so too must your marketing director choose among a number of competing projects. The difference is that your marketing director is probably working under a much more clearly defined budget than you are.
This means that they must consider the costs and benefits, or return on investment (ROI), of every marketing activity. So before you ask them for help with your next big marketing idea, analyze it from your marketing directorís perspective. How much is it going to cost? What is the return that you expect to achieve on this investment?
You may not know all of the answers, but by asking the questions, you show that you understand the business of practicing law. You also make it much easier for your marketing director to make apples-to-apples comparisons with several other potential marketing activities.
5. Involve them early. You preach to your clients to involve you in important deals or litigation as early in the process as possible. Now, change hats and heed the golden rule: Do unto your marketing director as you would have your clients do unto you. Whether itís firmwide strategy or an individual attorney project, the earlier you involve your marketing department, the better the product you will receive.
For example, before you begin to chart the course of your firmís future, your marketing staff can perform a wide range of market research and arm you with the information you need to make intelligent decisions. Also, when you receive a request for proposal, make sure the marketing department knows about it and has a copy well in advance of the due date for your response. If you schedule an important meeting with a prospective client, your next call should be to your marketing director, who can help you research the company and prepare for the meeting.
6. Market the marketers. Letís face it: Whether itís the adoption of new technology or creative marketing solutions, the last place youíll find most lawyers is on the cutting edge. Like dedicated missionaries slowly spreading the gospel from person to person, most law firm marketers must work their magic on one attorney at a time.
You can put yourself ahead of the pack by making the marketerís job easier. For example, if your marketing department hits a home run on an important proposal or runs the best seminar youíve ever had, make sure you go out of your way to tell other attorneys in your firm about it. You ask your clients for testimonialsógive one to the members of your marketing department.
Also, if youíre a new attorney or lateral, consider volunteering to interview firm veterans and write success stories or case studies about interesting matters theyíve handled. The experience will be invaluable for you and for the firm. Youíll quickly acquire important knowledge that you can use during business development meetings to better match firm capabilities with client needs. Youíll establish relationships with influential individuals within your firm, which canít hurt your career development. And the marketers will be able to use the stories you write to develop a fertile cross-selling program and to train the next generation of new attorneys.
Ultimately, by helping your marketing department spread the word, youíre really helping them make your business development efforts that much easier. In the words of Harry Beckwith, author of Selling the Invisible, ďMarketing is not a departmentóit is your business.Ē
In an industry known for its conservative ways, marketing directors have often faced an uphill battle to effect change within their firms. However, with the proliferation of multidisciplinary practices and the consolidation of outside counsel by Fortune 1000 legal departments, attorneys and their firms are increasingly relying on their marketing departments to keep them ahead of the pack. If you havenít done so already, get to know the members of your marketing department and discover the many ways in which they can help your practice succeed.
Felice Wagner, a former practicing attorney, is CEO of Sugarcrest Development Group, Inc., a D.C. firm that gives seminars and training programs throughout the country on business development and client loyalty. She can be reached at (202) 462-7046 or email@example.com. Want to see how you measure up as a rainmaker? Take the Rainmaker Reality Check today!
Kim Perret is the marketing director at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and president of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. She can be reached at (202) 383.0756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.