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Curing the growing pains of business development

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In a recent survey conducted by the LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions, fully 88 % of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the strategy and activities required to win new business have shifted in the last several years.

A key difference is the transition to a greater emphasis on business development, which involves very different activities to marketing. The survey reflects this with the majority of respondents (94%) believing that marketing and business development are different functions requiring different skill sets.

Whereas marketing focuses on pushing out information and messages via events, newsletters, emails, PR, and thought leadership, business development is clearly focused on maximising the relationships with existing customers and targeting a few, clearly defined prospects.

As a result, business development requires a large contribution from fee earners working alongside business development executives. However, in many cases, this is causing problems. Respondents to the survey cited pursuing too many opportunities (35%), obtaining lawyer participation (33%) and lack of follow up on business development training for fee earners (28%) as challenges.

The problem is that if, either through a lack of training or participation, fee earners are not effectively engaging in business development activities it results in wasted time, money and resource. And ultimately the transition from marketing to business development stagnates through frustration, lack of confidence and/or apathy.

The good news, however, is that software can be used to help speed up the transition, arming fee earners with knowledge that will help them see the fruits of their labours and focus their future business development activities more effectively. It does this by providing consistent processes, reporting and analysis. So, when information is shared across multiple practice areas or sector groups, it is identifiable and familiar to the fee earners.

Historically, practice areas would work in silos, using their own processes and styles to managing business development initiatives, including business planning, pitch management, relationship mapping, client analysis and targeting. However, if firms are going to successfully make the transition from marketing to a greater focus on business development, it is imperative that business development professionals use existing software to build consistent processes and reporting across all practices and groups within the firm. By leveraging existing processes and reporting, rather than reinventing the wheel each time, business development executives can deliver huge efficiency gains.

In addition, we see more and more firms breaking down historical practice group organisational structures and choosing to arrange their free earners around clients and industry sectors. Doing this enables fee earners to have an understanding of the work being billed and the engagement with clients across all practice areas for the specified client or sector. CRM software can play a large role in providing fee earners with this knowledge.

A global process also means that trusted data and analytics about how the firm engages with clients will be more readily available to fee earners, encouraging the adoption and use of the software – arguably the most difficult part of introducing CRM technology to a law firm.

The message is you are not alone! Many law firms are experiencing the same growing pains in their approach to marketing the firm, developing new business and retaining clients. Using your existing tools to help the firm adopt the new approach will bring efficiencies and clarity to the fee earners as they learn and develop the new skills they need. You have CRM software in your arsenal – use it to your advantage!

Download the full report - Law Firms in Transition: Marketing, Business Development and the Quest for Growth.

Tags: InterAction

About the Author:

Tennille has worked in business development and marketing for professional service organisations for over 12 years in various roles. These include event management, digital communications and business development operations. For five years, she focused specifically on InterAction, working with business development executives to align the database to business planning, key account programmes and marketing strategies.

Tennille also specialises in repositioning misunderstood (or failed) systems with business development teams and partnerships. At Lexis Nexis, she works with business development teams to adopt marketing and client relationship management techniques managed centrally through InterAction, to support the growth of professional service firms from domestic, office centric environments to connected global organisations. By aligning systems to firm goals, she helps firm increase user adoption within the fee earner community, ensuring the system speaks specifically to each lawyers needs and objectives. Her aim is to help streamline your processes and successfully report client growth, value add and return on investment back to the business.

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