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Marketing: Program your firm’s development

Every Issue

Cite as: (2009) 83(06) LIJ, p.86

Choose the development program that best fits your needs now.

Presenting a marketing seminar to a large group of lawyers interstate recently, the same old basic question came up: What’s really worth doing in marketing my practice? What really works?

In larger firms, terms like “client relationship program”, “client development program”, “business development program” and a lot more synonyms are bandied about. They sound expensive and involved. But they’re not. They are what your practice should have – above all other marketing activities.

The programs are terms for the way you develop clients and the way you develop the business of your law practice.

1. A client development program assumes you have clients, so it’s about developing what you have.

2. A business development program usually focuses on what you wish you had – the clients you want, the business you’re chasing. It’s about what you don’t have.

Of course, you may say they are one and the same thing, or inseparable – but that is not going to help you be clear about marketing activities that will help you bill your time out to clients you want to be working for.

Better the devil you know

Practices that focus on personal injuries, family or criminal law should replace the word “client” with “referrer” because this is where you get your repeat business from.

For these kinds of practices, it’s more likely that your referrers are the key to your success.

The aim of a client development program is clear – working with the clients/referrers you already have, you:

  • want to make sure your clients use as many of your services as are relevant (cross sell);
  • want to service them on the big, important matters (depth of service); and
  • you will want to have as many contacts between people in your practice/firm and their business as possible so the relationship does not fall over if one person leaves either.

The key questions for this program are: how well have you achieved each of the above and what can you do to enhance those possibilities (often referred to as “strengthening the relationship”).

Activities that keep the necessary lines of communication open generally with your existing clients include client newsletters or bulletins and firm events – end of year events and so on.

Activities that have the potential to actually develop the relationship include: phone calls with an item of interest; emails with a piece of information that may be useful; targeted seminars or updates for select clients; lunches/social events with a purpose; joint sponsorship or community projects; and secondments of lawyers (or staff) to the client.

Greener pastures

So you have clients who are all smiling and buying as much service from your firm as they need or want and paying your invoices promptly . . . but you want more.

[If you cannot put your hand on your heart and tick off every single one of the above points about keeping your clients happy, then you have to focus on your client relationship stuff and get back to this
later. Because getting in new clients is going to cost you more than working on the ones you have.]

What you need to get “more” of is a business development program.

That means you want to find ways to put yourself in front of potential new clients. You want leads. A “qualified” lead is one that has a real probability (not possibility) of being a client you send invoices to.

But before you get to the qualified lead stage you need to think carefully about what kind of greener pasture is greenest for your practice. Do you have a particular sector you want to target – geographic area, type or size of business, or particular person profile?

Once you organise your target sector you need to think carefully about your “pitch” to this group of clients.

This will include things such as what you can offer and how they will benefit.

Put your plan in writing. Include the target clients you are chasing and the offering you have (scribble on a piece of paper and pin it above your desk – it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to keep you on track).

Now the rest of your business development plan will be a little easier to plan and determine. This will include:

  • activities that open the lines of communication and raise your profile in the target market;
  • targeted media (trade press);
  • occasional, very small scale, letters of introduction to select targets (with follow up phone calls);
  • sponsorship of events where your market will be;
  • speaking opportunities/presentations;
  • introductions and referrals from existing clients and contacts; and
  • firm newsletters/e-bulletins.

And finally – you do not need to do all of these things to have a great marketing plan.

You need to pick a few things you want to do, that you can afford to do, and you need to do them simply and well.

Alicia Patterson is the director of House Communications. She was previously the LIV Head of Marketing and can be contacted on ph 8611 8188 or


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