There are no ends to the methods that can be used as business development strategies for law firms. Many of them are what you might call traditional as they have been around for a long time and yet are still effective. Then there are the newer initiatives that arose with the surge of the internet, and now we also have access to some more recent strategies that I am going to call ‘techie and trackable’.
We’re going to cover the best of these methods for law practices in this article. But first, we’ll begin with what you need to do before selecting the options you see value in.
How To Create A Law Firm Business Development Plan
When you are looking to develop any law firm business development plan, you really need to start with a SWOT analysis – identify what you know to be your practice’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in terms of business development strategies. That is, what you already do well, what you do poorly, what you haven’t tried and then identifying if any of those options could be problematic in any way for you and the practice’s brand.
Another way to do this is to create a list of each of the business development strategies that you have undertaken in the past and rank them on a scale of 1 to 3 in their effectiveness. That is, if they were highly effective for you in the past, label them as a three and a two or a one if they have been somewhat or not at all effective. Then, review that list and identify which one of those was done with a degree of thoroughness.
Was it ineffective despite a solid plan and rollout?
Or, was it because it was approached with a half-baked strategy or didn’t follow through properly?
Be critical of how business development has been done in the past. What we sometimes see is people discounting powerful initiatives because they have tried it without success. You need to be really honest with yourself and if you have a team, they do too. Think about whether you truly undertook that initiative as effectively as you could have, because if a method needs revisiting, then you want to include that in your future plans.
Here are my top recommendations for business development strategies, broken into three categories:
- Traditional & credible
- Newer and noteworthy
- Techie and trackable
Traditional and Credible Methods
The first traditional and credible method of law firm business development strategy is to make sure that you and your team are on top of your technical skills as lawyers. While this one might seem obvious, it is important to be aware of the most up-to-date developments in your field. For some of you, that will mean taking the leap into attempting a specialist accreditation. This is also about choosing a CPD not just for the sake of getting the CPD hours completed, but to choose wisely to arm yourself with some really solid skills that you can then update your peers and the broader market about.
When your network knows that you have undertaken a specific course and you publicly share your reflections about what that training has done for you as a lawyer, this one action has the effect of boosting your profile. When peers or referrers are made aware that you achieved accreditation or when potential clients or referrers see what you are leaning into with your work via social media, they will see you differently. Comparatively, not sharing this type of information and keeping your learning and interests relating to your area of law to yourself, does nothing for business development. Sharing it, does!
And you want to be perceived as being at the top of your game. This is a really important foundational element of bringing in new business. If you are hesitant about sharing on social media for fear of being seen as bragging or self-promoting, think about how you can deliver that news in a way that displays your insights and stop concerning yourself with what others think.
The next traditional and credible approach I recommend is to look at joining an association that is tied to the area of law you are involved in, with the goal to be active in that group. When people know that you are active in driving change or assisting in some capacity, this also adds to your credibility with your peers and referrers. Then, take the next step to share your involvement across the social media platforms where those people are connected to you. This sharing keeps you top of mind for your networks. Your credibility can be bolstered by simply sharing what you are doing.
The third traditional and credible method for business development is to truly leverage your referral network. Keeping up regular touchpoints whether that be in-person or, through online catch-ups, sending emails and cards or thank you gifts.
If you are sending gifts, before choosing something, be mindful of who that person is and what they are interested in, outside of work. Wine is lovely for many, but a gift that matches back to a specific interest or theme that connects to them as an individual will have a greater impact.
That being said, you do not need to send cards or gifts, this gesture might be as simple as forwarding relevant articles that you know would be of interest to them. Something that demonstrates you are thinking of them and their interests.
To do this, you will need to set aside time to attend to your referral network. It is a powerful way to ensure you are building up your touchpoints with your network, and assists in helping you and your team be top-of-mind.
Newer and Noteworthy Methods
The first newer and noteworthy business development strategy is online networking. We all know about networking in real life, which definitely has its benefits. However, the benefit of online networking and connecting into different communities or groups online is that there are no geographic limitations as to who you can connect with. Before the pandemic, you might only go to live networking events. But today you can meet online and have an opportunity to share your expertise. Even if you are not a coordinator of these groups, where appropriate, you can share your knowledge, and potentially answer questions for others. This involvement will contribute to your peers and referral network being more aware of you and your expertise. There are many people who sit back in these groups and do not actively engage, but many are watching on. For those that contribute positively, this is an incredible way to enhance your reputation.
Online networking in this way is not exclusive to lawyer groups. You can also contribute to other relevant groups. For example, groups for business owners, if they are your target market. Community groups where people are looking for answers, and you can contribute by way of providing insights rather than advice. I have seen a number of lawyers take this approach and with consistent contribution, they have built their profiles and become the go-to in their markets. Choosing which groups you belong to and contribute to with consistency, is not just important, but incredibly powerful.
The next newer and noteworthy method of business development is boosting the profile of your lawyers within the firm and not just the Principal or Partners. Often an issue we know exists for partners in firms is that they get incredibly busy because the market knows them as the specialists, and new clients insist on having those key people be their lawyer. Being so desirable can be a problem if they have no capacity to take on new or more complex work, and sometimes this results in their younger and less experienced lawyers having not enough work coming in directly to them.
If you are prepared to boost the profile of other lawyers, it can make them as desirable as your more prominent lawyers, and that can make a great deal of difference in business development. When people see that your firm has multiple specialists or high-level lawyers on the team, it adds to your practices’ overall credibility.
So, how do you give them a profile? This means being prepared to share the limelight a little, sharing their headshots and their interests and skills on the social media platforms you use. Or, have those lawyers create articles and content to share online that speaks to the target audiences they can assist. We help businesses do this because this can be time-consuming and hard to fit in around client work, but is incredibly powerful in driving new business.
Techie and Trackable Methods
The techie and trackable way to develop business is to have what is called a lead capture and lead nurture strategy. When people come to your website and are looking for the services you offer in your firm, rather than just come to your site and then forget about your firm, consider offering them something information-wise in exchange for their email address. This is what lead capture is, the ability to capture a potential client’s name and email address, at a minimum.
This is done so that you have the means to be able to reach out to them over time through email communications, to develop trust in your business and nurture them towards having an initial conversation with you. Depending on the type of law you practice and specific services, people can sometimes take a long time to convert because they need to deliberate and feel confident that they want to move forward, or that you are the right lawyer for them.
So when you capture their interest at its peak, when they are on your website, you can increase your chances of turning them into a client. This is done by communicating with them over time with the use of automated communications. We help lawyers set this up in their practices regularly, as it is a powerful way to capture and keep the attention of people who are looking for the services you offer. It is a sequence of communications that build up touchpoints and trust with the interested person, instead of letting them go back into the cycle of searching online.
The next method is what is called retargeting campaigns. When someone visits your website, and they visit a particular page, you can retarget them via advertisements online. An example of retargeting campaigns that you would have experienced is when you have searched online for a product, for example, some footwear, and then an ad is shown to you on another website with the specific shoes that you were looking at, that is a retargeting campaign in action.
It is a good way to remind people of products or services they were interested in, at some point. It is a great way to get people back to your website if they have moved off it when they might have gotten distracted online or occupied elsewhere and left your site. Often you will see retargeting ads appear on blog sites or news sites. Businesses that sell products do this prolifically. This method is underutilised in professional services. It can be done elegantly and can bring significant results.
The final techie and trackable business development method is Google Advertising. We all see Google Ads when searching online and can be very effective for legal businesses when set up correctly.
When people type phrases online on the internet, they will either find the business they are looking for, or they will see the paid ads placement at the very top of the listing. A Google ad is something that can drive traffic to your site in the event that you do not have any organic ranking to speak of.
In our experience, we have seen some very poor Google ad strategies when people come to us. Our Google ad strategies are, when assessed by Google, being awarded an optimisation rate of upwards of 90%, enabling the campaign to optimise performance over time to become a cost-effective lead generation method for our law firm clients.
Which Of These Business Development Strategies For Law Firms Will You Focus on First?
I hope these examples have given you some ideas for how you might be able to reinvigorate your approach in your law firm business development plan. If you are only using the traditional and credible methods, give some attention to the newer and noteworthy methods, and certainly some serious consideration to the techie and trackable methods. These are all highly effective methods when applied correctly. Start with one method, do it thoroughly, and then progress to test out the other methods.