"You don't change your horse mid-race" is good advice for jockeys, but perhaps not as good for lawyers looking to take their practices to the next level. As you move through the course of your career, you may "outgrow" marketing activities that served you well in the beginning.
A strong reputation in your area of specialty is a tremendous asset in your business development activities. If you're like many of my clients, you may attribute that reputation to your tireless participation on the speaking circuit, prodigious writing, or having filled your calendar with bar association committee meetings. I don't doubt for a minute that all of these activities are powerful for developing a reputation as an expert.
Once you've developed that reputation, though, the question is no longer whether these activities worked in the past, but rather whether they are what is needed at this point in time to grow your business.
As anyone who has ever traveled across country to give a speech or spent countless hours in a bar association committee meeting in a far-off city knows, these are very time-consuming activities.
(If you doubt me on this, keep track of just how much time that next speech actually takes--including all the preparatory conference calls, developing your presentation and the accompanying handouts, and travel to and from the venue. It may be a real eye-opener.)
Don't get me wrong. There's a lot to be said for giving back to the profession, doing things you enjoy doing, and getting together with people you like -- just don't mistake those activities for effective business development.
Stop and Reflect
If you intend to engage in effective business development, don't just fill your calendar with the same activities that you have employed in the past. Instead, it is valuable to ask:
- Are you continuing to do these activities because you like them and they are well within your comfort zone or because they are generating work from new clients?
- Is building your reputation what you really need at this point to be successful in business development? Or is your reputation now premised more on the clients you represent and the work you do rather than the speeches you give and the articles you write?
- Is it time to move on to activities that may be less comfortable but more effective at this stage in your career?
Take an Inventory of Your Marketing Activities
To determine which activities are most effective for you at this stage in your career, take an inventory of all the marketing activities you were involved in during the last twelve months.
For each activity, record how long it took (be honest, now) and what business development results it produced--a new matter, a referral, an opportunity to meet a key decision maker, or (gasp!) nothing.
Then review your list and identify which activities produced the greatest results for the least investment of time.
As you look over the tasks that weren't as effective as you might have liked in getting results, determine whether there are ways you might make them more effective, or what you might replace them with.
- You might decide to replace a calendar full of speaking events with one annual conference strategically selected for the visibility and credibility it gives you.
- If you chaired a bar committee to encourage referrals and didn't meet with much success, perhaps you could generate more referrals by having lunch with a former client and asking for a referral.
- Consider exchanging time-consuming, minimally effective activities for new strategies like reconnecting with a former client, sending a thank-you gift to a referral source, or creating a marketing database to stay in touch with all the people you have already met through your speaking and bar association activities.
If you find you've outgrown some of the old marketing activities that have served you well, replace them with focused, relationship-building new approaches that will maximize your business development.
Maybe it's time to get off that comfortable, tried-and-true "marketing horse" and switch to another that just might take you to a new level in your practice.