Client Co-Marketing – Business Development for Law Firms

Client co-marketing builds relationships and sends an unmistakable message. Imagine you’re Senior Intellectual Property Counsel of a Fortune 100 company. Every law firm within two continents of your main office has begun posting commentary, sending communiques, and publishing articles about the latest milestone ruling – as of this writing, that would be KSR v. Teleflex. There’s an article in a national journal by someone at the Smith firm. Someone at the Jones firm has a piece in the local legal newspaper. Another publication, however, has an article co-written by the general counsel of a major manufacturer and a partner at the Thomas firm about the possible effects of KSR on business and legal management.

There’s a very good chance that the general counsel’s article will be the first that you as an in-house lawyer will read. There’s an equally good chance that you’ll assume the Thomas firm represents that company. And, there’s an awfully good chance that you’ll also assume the GC thinks the world of the Thomas firm to let his good name run on the same byline.

Seem obvious? Then why don’t we see more such co-written articles? Are clients resistant? One shouldn’t think so inasmuch as it’s simply good marketing for them as well. And, if you offer to do the first draft of the article, the added advantage for the client is that it’s good marketing with relatively little effort.

Here’s another example that approximates a recent situation I observed. A law firm partner was being profiled in a legal trade publication. Among her major achievements is a stellar litigation record on behalf of the XYZ Company. During and after the interview, the partner (and her PR firm) urged the reporter to call the AGC at XYZ, not just for a quotable endorsement, but to learn more about the astonishing things the client has done in-house to deter lawsuits and reduce in-house costs. When the article was finally published, it was as much about the client as the law firm, and both profited equally.

Greatness by Association

To be sure, marketing the law firm is not an “us or them” proposition. You can recruit inside counsel and even CEOs as parties to your own marketing and business development efforts. They will typically appreciate the request because they want to be marketed too.

Perhaps the in-house lawyer is looking for another job and a little notoriety won’t hurt. Or perhaps more public prominence is politically beneficial in terms of his or her internal career track. Maybe the client wants to highlight the fact that, as in our example above, his is the last company in its industry that a smart plaintiff’s lawyer should want to target.

Periodically, certain in-house legal managers emerge as spokespersons for the in-house sector. In the past, such spokespersons (my own memory stretches back as far as Robert Banks at Xerox in the 1980s) give speeches, write articles, and spearhead programmatic efforts to enunciate what they as inside counsel expect from outside counsel, and how, in general, in-house services ought to evolve.

Right now there seems to be available space for another such in-house market leader to emerge. Could that leader be one of your clients? Imagine the marketing benefits that would accrue to your firm if you helped him or her fill that space, especially if your “partnership” were widely known via joint conference appearances, for example, or a few of those aforesaid co-bylined articles.

The relationship benefits are obvious. Even more important in some ways, by being an identifiable part of the client’s efforts to define and implement new professional standards, you become a part of the solution to whatever problem is under discussion. You’re now part of a collective campaign – a close-knit community of buyers and sellers – to improve law firm billing practices or discourage frivolous law suits or enhance diversity in the legal profession or in the client’s own industry. The relationship that ensues with the client is very nice. The message you’re sending to untold numbers of other legal service buyers and decision-makers is very, very nice.

A Wealth of Opportunities

Remember all the favors that clients have asked of you: “Take a table” … Donate a silent auction item … Sponsor a hole in a charity golf tournament … Offer a summer associate position to the CFO’s daughter at Cornell Law … Donate to the GC’s law school alumni fund drive.

These requests all more or less help clients’ own marketing with little direct benefit to you, but they’re not shy about asking. So don’t you be shy with them – especially with requests that, as we’ve seen, benefit them at least as much as you.

We’ve mentioned professional events and publishing as two obviously salient examples of how to co-market. But there are other venues that will likewise enhance your relationship as well as send a valuable message about both the company and you to the broader market. Two in particular deserve mention.

Community Service Projects

First, community service projects offer a number of opportunities, particularly welcome to clients if their companies happen to sell stuff to that community. Some community service projects provide a bigger, more national bang for the PR buck: Habitat for Humanity comes to mind. If there are pro bono award events, invite the client to sit at your table.

Diversity

Second, diversity initiatives are near and dear to many legal service buyers. Explore ways for you and your client to jointly contribute to or support nonprofit organizations fostering diversity (the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, for instance). Don’t be deterred if your firm’s own diversity numbers are disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that one reason for your increased involvement is to improve the firm’s diversity recruitment efforts.

The examples above remind us that conjoint marketing with clients is – like all marketing – ultimately based on the delivery of value. As we like to emphasize, the person to whom you are marketing should be better off as a result of your doing so, regardless of whether or not they invest in your services as an immediate result. By co-marketing with clients, this “value proposition” operates in a uniquely multifaceted way.

Value

“Value” is delivered to the marketplace via the content of a speech or article – here’s an issue bedeviling our industry, and here’s how a corporate expert and outside counsel size it up.

“Value” is simultaneously delivered to the community and the profession as a result of specific actions, such as pro bono efforts and diversity initiatives.

“Value” is delivered to your clients because they have serious marketing agendas of their own. By joining with you in efforts to be helpful to the profession, to their own industry, and to the community at large, they directly advance those agendas.

For the law firm, the leverage is powerful: You build tangible credibility in front of unseen corporate decision- makers even as you take a single important client relationship to a wholly new and collaborative level. It’s a no-brainer. Call a client today and brainstorm projects.

Business Development 101

In my 25 years of being in and around sales, marketing and advertising, it surprises me how many small business owners don’t have someone working on business development. Many owners and managers I’ve met should be the “biz dev” person but just don’t have the desire or truly understand what to do. I think this comes back to a few things, fear of sales, pride, and/or social interaction. In other words they look at themselves as the President of their small business and are unwilling to go out and pound the pavement for a few hours every week. Some even use the excuse of being tooo busy, but constantly whine about how bad business is.

Many a sales person I come across is caught up in chasing after the next sale, wasting so much time during the day instead of constantly developing and cultivating a large pipeline of prospects. I see them reading the paper, surfing the internet or standing around yackin’ about the weather and recession. These actions show laziness, lack of focus, and desire or unwillingness to venture out. In other words they aren’t hungry enough. If you work around people like this, I would recommend that you step away from the pack and make a positive change.

Whether your business is online or offline, business development should be an integral part of your sales and marketing plans.

What can you do to enhance your business development skills? Consider implementing these 6 steps:

  1. Learn the art of cultivating relationships. Read books, listen to MP3’s and then take what you learn to polish your people skills. Develop and use personal relationship marketing to better your relationships.
  2. Get involved in the industry, not just the companies you are looking to engage with. If you are tuned in, the opportunities might come your way. If you’re tuned out, then they’ll pass you by.
  3. When an opportunity comes your way, take action immediately. Communicate. Pick up the phone, send an email, and get the process moving in a positive direction.
  4. Learn and engage in different kinds of online social media. It’s great for networking, market research and keeping a pulse on what’s happening in your industry. But make sure to test what you do and don’t get too caught up in socializing.
  5. Plan the work and work the business development plan on a weekly basis. This way you stay consistent and persistent all year long. To many people give up or don’t stay at it long enough to get traction.
  6. Find a mentor to guide and counsel you. This last step is crucial and I believe will truly make a difference if you’ll find someone who is willing to help you in your endeavors. It might take a month or even up to a year to find the right person and/or persons.

The bottom line with business development is that it starts with you. So start where you are, make a plan, take action, and stay focused on a daily and weekly basis.

The Business Development Process

Starting a new business is far more than simply hanging a sign out and waiting for customers to pour through the door and I’m sure anyone willing to invest in a new venture is well aware of this fact. What you may not be aware of is the intricacies of what is needed to complete the process.

Most entrepreneurs who are planning a new venture first look to the business plan as the initial step. While the business plan is critical for the success of the new venture, it is not the first step in the process. We must first look at the business development process itself.

The process is not static. What I mean by that is it is not something you do up front and then you’re done. It is an ongoing process that will take on many forms in the life of your business. In a new business development it is a visionary process, in which a direction for the venture can be identified and a systematic and orderly processes can be established as part of the overall business plan.

The process should be thorough but not overly-complicated. An effective business development approach is to encompass several major steps in the evaluating process including: your identification of the opportunity; what are your committed resources; the actual development of your business proposal; market evaluation; competition; and your time restraints. A successful business development process is being able to get a clear and concise evaluation of the inherent strengths and weaknesses, goals and issues that face the development of your new venture.

One very important part of the whole process is creating an identity; designing a logo and establishing brand recognition, and product awareness.

Regardless how much you know about the business your in the development process will be an incredible learning experience.

What Is Business Development and Why It’s Vital?

Business development is simply a broad term that is used in the process of reinforcing ties with existing customers/clients as well as luring clients in various areas of the consumer market. To accomplish this objective, professional development usually crosses conventional barriers between marketing, sales, operations, management and customer care in order to ensure that this process is promoted on more than one level. In order words, business development expert should be able to demonstrate a high degree of competence in a variety of areas in order to clearly spot and take advantage of growth opportunities.

Assessing the present assets of a business as they relate to the expansion and the maintenance of the company is one of the initial aspects of business development. The professional development experts will then work pretty closely with marketing and sales specialist in order to identify the level of penetration already benefitted by the business in various areas of the consumer base.

Business development experts will at the same also work with customer care experts in order to evaluate the feedback that have been gathered from existing customers on the perception of the business and the products and or services it offers. This particular activity can most times spot ways to refine present sales and marketing practices in order to get a larger share of the consumers in sectors where the presence of the company is already felt. The information gotten through customer care contacts might help in identifying applications for a new product line and could even help in capturing new customers – that is, if the product is marketed well.

It is very vital to note that successful professional development experts do not focus only on boosting sales or just keeping current clients or customers happy. Agreed, those aspects are also a strong part of the total picture, business development experts will also be ensure that they make the best use of the businesses resources, improving the process and role of management and a variety of departments and attend to any legalities that should be monitored as the business continue to grow. In a lot of companies, this will provide the professional development expert a lot of authority to seek information from everywhere in the corporate structure and also control every area of company function.

Business development processes can be applied to virtually any corporate establishment. Even small businesses will require this kind of activity to remain in business and to achieve growth over a period of time. Most times, including at least one individual who will have the job of focusing on the various activities of business development will make it possible to get the big picture of the organization that is difficult for individuals with responsibility for particular functions with the company to attain without assistance.

Professional development may actually take place by simply creating a section or department of the business that will carryout these functions. Business owners can also seek the help of a business development consultant in order to assess present circumstances and spot strategies for future growth.