Marketing Effort Must Allow for Business Development

Stop marketing. Stop all the events, sponsorships and advertising. Stop updating your website, the firm blog and lawyer bios. Stop all the busy work that is often necessary in legal marketing.

If you don’t, you (and your lawyers) are at risk of not making adequate time to zero in on critical business development activities that bring in new work. The marketing function exists to build your reputation, raise your profile, establish credibility and generate interest. It will also help to identify where relationships stand and perhaps even the needs of your clients and prospects. And this is where marketing passes the baton to business development — outside of law, business development is referred to as “sales” — and where relationships are developed and new work comes in.

Photo: tableatny / Flickr

Too often, the baton never gets passed on.

Over the past few months I heard from managing partners who pondered why their marketing staff, past and present, focussed solely on marketing and not business development. They produced a lot of good work, but didn’t shift gears and use their marketing results to develop business. It’s a good question and here’s what I discussed with them:

Do less marketing

Do less; gain more. If you’re serious about business development, then do less marketing. That’s right. Less marketing.

If you run half as many marketing initiatives and place that time, energy and resources into follow-up and business development strategies, you’ll increase revenue.

Have the nerve to risk getting measured on results, instead of marketing activities alone. Include business development activities on all your marketing plans. Insist on making the time to follow-up, coach lawyers, and prepare winning proposals.

Marketers should analyze all the data you’ve collected since, say, January. Some of that you and your lawyers probably gathered quite by chance and other intelligence was collected because you’ve been thoughtful about how you might follow-up after activities.

Take a day, or a few days and ponder all the intelligence you’ve gathered about clients and prospects. Gather it all together. Claim some quiet “white space” to think strategically about how to turn those leads or contacts into more work for your firm. Make a separate business development action plan if you need to. Be sure to follow-up on proposals that didn’t garner a response. Understand why you didn’t get the work and ask how the firm can better position itself for next time. Ensure that lawyers follow-up with their best contacts, clients and referral sources. Support this effort with training or individual coaching. Make the investment count.

Hire the best and let them lead

Perhaps you’re not hiring the right individuals. In a mid-sized firm, for instance, the marketing and business development responsibilities are often, if not always, combined. It’s a tall order for one person, or one small department, to do both well. Hire carefully, but hire well. Get external help to give you a lift where needed.

Rather than focussing on salaries or costs, consider the return on your investment. The marketing and business development functions are both investments in your business. Long term success in a competitive environment requires thoughtful planning, business savvy, resources and discipline. Don’t hire an inexperienced individual and expect the phone to ring. Hire marketers with a proven track record because it’s those folks who will lead your business development effort and inspire your lawyers to participate in building their practice. They will know when and how to fit in business development.

Effective leadership gets support from the top, so let your marketing or business development professionals lead. Listen to their expertise and let them orchestrate a plan towards increasing revenue, instead of measuring marketing activities alone.

You must provide reliable support

If you want your bios up to date, a website that does you proud, typo-free seminar name tags, clients communications that are well-written, and compelling ads that neither offend the lawyers, yet are worthy of your ad budget, then give your team some tactical support.

So much of marketing is hands on, get it done kind of work. And a lot of it is, sadly, time-consuming and thankless. The challenge for the firm is to have the discipline, within the confines of their marketing time and resources, to know where to draw the line. It requires pulling back on marketing projects in order to allow for business development activities to help bring in the billable work.

Recalibrate your marketing program to allow for business development. Manage the expectations of lawyers who regularly use marketing services if you’ll be reducing service to any great extent.

Whatever you do, just clear the decks and ensure that the baton gets passed to business development. Marketing must lead to increased revenue and the route is through business development.


  1. Great article Susan.