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7 effective BD Ideas that don’t involve networking … but do generate results

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Hate networking at events? There are other BD options

Within the legal profession a myth has arisen that business development has to mean networking and networking has to mean formal networking events.  By extension this has left many lawyers thinking that if you are going to be a successful business developer/marketer, you are going to have to be a flamboyant extrovert, adept with small talk and fully conversant with ‘working the room’.

This is not the case.

More worryingly it is a misconception that forces some solicitors to excuse themselves from the business development process (“I’m not that type of person … I wouldn’t be any good at it”) despite the fact they know that in this increasingly competitive  commercial environment, winning work is going to be pivotal to the progression of their career.

The truth is there is a BD vehicle that suits every personality and for simplicity’s sake we tend to split those vehicles into four:

To be effective marketers, do lawyers all need to be doing the same thing?
1 Networking (informal and formal)
2 Speaking
3 Writing
4 Research

I am yet to meet anyone who can do all 4 but that’s the beauty of a team and between your colleagues you will be able to tick all four boxes whilst making sure that a) everyone is making a contribution to winning work and b) everyone is only doing what they are totally comfortable doing which increases both engagement and the likelihood your efforts will generate success.

So if BD isn’t just networking what else could you do?  Here are some alternatives you can put in to practice quickly and very easily:

1 Clients: The path of least resistance

Just as there is a misconception that BD is networking, there is another misconception that BD has to mean new client acquisition.  It doesn’t; client development is the cornerstone of any successful practice and should be your marketing priority.

Could you go talk to your top clients/referrers somewhere you can both relax?

Generally speaking 80% of your fees will come from 20% of your clients.  Identify who those 20% are and go and talk to them.  And don’t talk to them about matters, files or cases, talk to them about them.

Find out what is going on in their lives/businesses and ask what their future plans are.  Clients value these wider discussions and the fact you care and these conversations will not only strengthen your relationship but also generate new opportunities and referrals to other people within their personal or professional networks.

2 Saw this and thought of you

Sometimes when it comes to business development no more is required than just sending a quick email with a link to a story you know will be of interest to a client, contact or target.  Moreover it doesn’t have to be about property, employment or corporate finance … it could be about football, stamp collecting or a holiday destination of choice.

All you need to do is find a relevant link then send it to the right email, address with a personal note saying ‘saw this and thought of you’ and you have implemented a potent, personalised and productive piece of marketing.

3 Use the phone more organically

Successful BD is built from relationships.  Instead of relying on email, pick the phone up and talk to people.  It’s often quicker (email is so easy to misunderstand or misconstrue) and it allows you to have the type of wider conversation that not only strengthens your relationship with the person at the other end but also leads to the mention of other areas that person my need help with.

4 Use the phone more systematically

One of our clients had huge success with the ‘10 before 10’.  They used the same hour every week (say 9-10 on a Wednesday morning) to call 10 people they already knew.  They never reached all 10 and quite often they’d only reach the first 2 and that’d take up the hour but over the course of the year even 2 calls per week generated new opportunities.

Sometimes they got hold of none but the fact they left a message saying hello and then followed up with an email reminded those clients/contacts/targets they were still out there which elicited its own response.

5 Get published … then make your content work harder

Regular blogging can reach a large number of potential clients

For those lawyers who know their stuff but are more comfortable writing about it rather than speaking about it, producing content will make a valuable contribution to your marketing efforts.

Find the titles your clients and prospects read then approach the editor suggesting an article and offering yourself as the author. Editors are duty bound to source new insight so you aren’t imposing; you’re making their lives easier.

Once your article is published make sure you sweat the resultant link or PDF:

  • Get it on your website
  • Use it as an email shot to all of your firm (or Chambers) or department’s contact
  • Put it on LinkedIn
  • Use it as a ‘saw this and thought of you’
  • Use it to reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • Use it as the basis for a seminar or workshop
  • Use it to show other editors what you can do so you win more free editorial slots

6 Use social media better

Let me let you into a secret. Sending 2 tweets a week won’t win you work and setting up a LinkedIn account with the scantest of details just to sit there won’t win you work.

Effective social media marketing requires consistent effort

If you are going to use Twitter as a BD tool you have to be prepared to tweet consistently and to join in with other people’s conversations, follow and follow back and post updates, links and opinion throughout the day. If you can’t commit to that, don’t do it because it won’t do anything for you.

However there’s no get out clause for LinkedIn today; it is as expected as it is professionally acceptable.

For LinkedIn to deliver a  benefit you need to do stuff; post articles, post updates (and these can be links to new content your colleagues have published or to news stories that relate to your practice area or the industry sector/s you specialise in) and make sure you LinkIn with everyone in your professional network.

And set aside 2 minutes a day (when your train is about to leave the station or when you’re making your cup of tea in the morning) to scroll through your timeline and like and share a few things your contacts have posted.

7 Research is BD too

Good research is the backbone to most worthwhile marketing activities at law firms

Of the 4 BD vehicles listed above the one that is most often forgotten is research.  However if your writers are going to know who to write for, your speakers are going to know where to speak and your networkers are going to know where to network, the research piece is vital.

If you are genuinely one of those people for whom self-performed root canal treatment is an attractive alternative to market-facing BD activities, you can make a valuable contribution to your team or firm’s BD by volunteering to do the desk research your team will need to support their efforts.

Better still, now we all have instant access to Google, EventBrite and free email newsletters, it is no longer the time-consuming task it once as which means it can easily be fitted in around your billable work.

If you’d like to discuss some new business development ideas (that do or don’t involve networking) please send me an email and we can arrange your first free 45 minute session.  

Alternatively if you’d like free copies of our special reports or top tips that dig down deeper into all of the ideas above, please click here

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Doug McPherson

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

7 thoughts on “7 effective BD Ideas that don’t involve networking … but do generate results

  • April 26, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with all of the above! My favourite: “For LinkedIn to deliver a benefit you need to do stuff”. These are all great suggestions of behaviours and activities and, as a coach, I find that the first step is getting into the right mindset (perspectives and habits). That is often the hardest part for many lawyers who are stuck in the “tactical mindset”.

  • April 27, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Great article, Doug. Really practical and simple tips that professionals lawyers / accountants et al can action.

    In my experience one of the issues stopping professionals frequently engaging on digital is not time or understanding, it is the fear of saying something wrong!

  • April 28, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    We have been advocating (and using successfully) web-based networking techniques since 2010. However, for those with an established client network, the ’10 before 10′ idea is really effective. I grew my practice strongly for more than a decade doing almost only that (indeed, the ‘set piece’ networking /glad-handing and entertaining stuff I rarely did at all).

    The trick was to identify the right clients to phone for a chat.
    I used to do a lot of item 2 as well: look at what is happening locally and phone nearby/potentially affected clients to ask how they thinkt about it.

    The important point is to be systematic.

    • April 29, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Absolutely Joe. I tear my hair out when I hear the “sales is an art” line …. it isn’t. It’s a science.

      Do the right things in the right order and do them regularly and you *WILL* win work! Be ordered, be organized and outcomes immediately become easier.

  • May 2, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I agree it is a good article and a good reminder about regular habits. Whilst I have incorporated a number of habits for connecting (and marketing to clients) I did not have one for telephone calls. The previous advice I had been given was to do this everyday but to start with I like the weekly suggestion which is much more practical for me. Thank you

  • May 6, 2017 at 11:21 am

    This is all terrific and anyone serious about BD needs to be speaking or writing or doing both. But then don’t kid yourself: go out there and get busy.


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