In Part 1 of this 3 part series, we looked at how business development tactics assist in attracting new clients, client retention and revenue growth. Also, how it is managed in firms that take a structured approach to business development. In Part 2 of this 3 part series, we discuss the tools that support business development.
There are a number of basic tools which support business development activities.
It’s easy to get bogged down in plans that are too complex or formal. It’s still important to plan, but make your plan a working document that is being constantly updated.
At each practice group or special interest group meeting, an action plan should be distributed and re-visited. Each action item discussed should be allocated to an individual who is responsible for its completion with a timeframe attached. The item only gets taken off the plan once it is completed or superceded. The actions should be simple and set out in a table. This allows for accountability within the group and also means the plan is dynamic.
Action Items – Mining & Resources Group
Tom [property partner] will take client XYZ to coffee and introduce Sam [new employment law partner]
Sue will contact client ABC regarding a date for a CPD seminar
Client Relationship Management (CRM) System
A Client Relationship Management (CRM) system is a powerful database that stores information about the firm’s clients and contacts. It is usually organised by client organisation. Generally, one or more partners can be listed as the liaison partner for either an client organisation or an individual.
All interactions can be recorded and tracked including phone calls, entertaining (lunches, coffees, firm events, etc) and any communications, eg. client newsletter.
Lists can be easily generated to send out communications such as invitations, newsletters, Christmas greetings, etc.
Depending on the CRM you choose, it can also integrate with other platforms you use to create more layers of information from your social media, website, email communications, webinars and digital advertising among others.
The main benefit is that a CRM allows the firm to map client relationships, ie. which members of the legal team know the key decision makers at client organisations.
However, depending on the CRM software you choose, the size of your firm and the amount of integration you require, it can be expensive to implement.
Top Client Program
The scope of this article doesn’t allow the space to go into the different ways to identify your top clients. However, it is important that the firm’s senior professionals get together regularly to ensure the firm’s top clients are:
- Getting top level service across the firm’s practices
- Being entertained and contacted regularly
- Being offering tailored, value added services
The following actions should be taken to manage the top clients:
- Financial information on the top clients circulated to partners each month
- Relationships should be mapped (see below)
- General/basic information on top clients should be shared with the wider firm, eg. via the intranet
- One-to-one or phone surveys are conducted annually
- Christmas gifts are sent to key decision makers
The list of top clients should also be reviewed annually.
Most commercial law firms will have at least a few industries in which it has particular strength in terms of experience and expertise. These should be formally identified and a program developed to leverage these strengths to expand your client base in these industry/s.
Senior professionals from different practices across the firm should meet regularly to discuss how to maintain or raise the firm’s profile within these industries.
This may include investing in sponsoring some key industry events, creating collateral and/or communications specifically for these industries, eg. a blog, a website page, a podcast, social media posts, etc.
Also, opportunities should be sought to speak and write for the relevant industries and you may be able to negotiate this as part of any sponsorships you take up.
This activity maps the relationships that exist between people at your firm and people at your existing and/or target client firms. Having a good CRM system helps enormously with this process.
Mapping is particularly useful when dealing with large organisations with many departments and complex internal structures.
Relationship mapping provides the structure for leveraging client relationships across the firm, ie. a partner can quickly find out who has the best ‘in’ with an existing or potential client.
Tenders and Credentials
The tendering landscape changed considerably post-GFC. Organisations began to use pre-selected lists to invite to tender rather than advertising. The public sector began to extend panel appointments rather than go out to tender as often. It became very hard to ‘get a foot in the door’ for any organisation that a law firm had not done work for previously.
Law firms began using credentials more frequently as a means to introduce themselves to potential clients, sometimes presenting three or four times as part of the process, before asking to be included on the next tender invitation list. The process can take as long as two years.
Having an ‘in’ to the organisation is crucial to this process, which is where relationship mapping becomes important.
Other articles in the series: