Focus Marketing Efforts on High Potential Opportunities

One of the most common complaints I hear about marketing is that there is just not enough time to do it. Making the most of the available time becomes critical.

One of the best ways to maximize your limited marketing time is to focus your marketing efforts on those people who are most likely to need your services and are open to considering you as the provider of those services. These people are your "high-potential" opportunities.

How do you determine if people are "high-potential" opportunities for you? Here are 11 questions to ask.

1. Do they need your services?

A privately held company probably doesn't need your sophisticated securities expertise, or if the company contracts out the manufacturing of its product, your premises liability acumen is probably not a good fit.

2. Is someone else currently meeting their needs?

One of the toughest sales is trying to lure satisfied clients away from their current providers. If they are satisfied, why would they suffer the upheaval of a change in counsel (educating the new counsel about the company, the legal department and their management style) and take a risk on an untested provider?

If their sole dissatisfaction is price, you will likely find yourself defending your position against an even lower-cost service provider down the road. Bargain hunters are among the toughest clients to maintain loyal relationships with.

3. Are they willing to change counsel?

Even dissatisfied clients may not be eager to change counsel. If they have already invested millions of dollars in bringing their lawyers up to speed on their insurance policies for the last 50 years, they may not be willing to change counsel even though they are not delighted with their current firm.

4. Can you effectively market to them?

It's just not possible to "market to the world." Do you have a way to reach them? Do you know them or know someone who knows them and is willing to make an introduction? Cold calling is a colossal waste of time when selling something as complicated and intangible as legal services.

How easy is it for you to get in front of them? Do they have trade publications that you can write for or industry conferences that you can attend or speak at?

5. Can they make the decision to hire you or at least influence the hiring decision?

Hospital administrators are often delighted to attend seminars sponsored by lawyers to keep current on emerging laws, but they are seldom the people who actually hire lawyers. Hiring is done in the legal department or in the executive suite. Administrators may prove to be an attentive audience but may not be a high- potential marketing opportunity.

6. Can they afford you?

Nothing is more frustrating than landing clients who don't pay their bills.

7. Is there a likelihood of a continuing relationship?

Landing new clients takes a lot of time and energy. It's better to find clients who can become a continuing source of business (or of referrals) than ones who are likely to be one-shot engagements.

8. Is their work a strategic fit for your practice?

Will representing them help you build credibility in an area in which you want to expand your practice? If you want to focus your practice on IP litigation, a commercial litigation client is not a great fit (unless, of course, you can get someone else to handle the matter, with you getting the credit!).

9. Can you represent them without creating a conflict?

As obvious as this seems, I have had several clients who have invested a great deal of energy cultivating potential clients, only to realize they could not represent them because of either a real or a business conflict.

10. Under your firm's compensation system, will you be rewarded for getting them as clients?

Compensation systems vary from firm to firm. Some reward expanding existing client relationships (as they should), while others don't. It doesn't make a lot of sense to invest your precious marketing time developing potential clients for whom you will not receive some credit.

11. Would you enjoy working with them?

Life is too short to be filled with difficult clients.

It's unlikely that any prospect will produce "yeses" for all of these questions, but the more "yeses" you get, the more likely that prospect is worth your limited marketing time.

If you don't know the answers to all of these questions (which isn't unlikely), start by finding the answers. For many of these questions, that will mean going straight to the source and asking the potential client.

Gathering the answers to these 11 questions should precede any significant investment of your time in convincing someone to hire you.

Take the time to determine if you are focusing your efforts on "high-potential" opportunities before you start marketing. Your time will be rewarded in your results!