When lawyers fail to market, time (lack thereof) is often mentioned as the primary reason. The pressure to do billable work will usually trump investing time in developing new clients. The long term danger of this approach, though, is that by not purposefully pursuing new clients who meet pre-selected criteria, the attorney and the firm fall into slack client acceptance standards. By taking a more progressive position, one is empowered to churn some bottom rung clients in favor of a stronger client list. Yet, the challenge of where to find the time persists.
Sally Schmidt is a national leader in law firm marketing and shared some principles of better time management for client development in a recent article. What you will find below are slight revisions of her list, with some added commentary.
- Follow your professional passion. Instead of trying to do marketing in a niche that does not interest you, identify what you most enjoy and find organizations that serve that niche. Once you find the right organizations, research different ways you can become actively involved.
- Cultivate synergy. Most attorneys do marketing in either isolation or cliques. Instead of going to a meeting by yourself or attending but hanging out with people from work, find someone strategic with whom you can participate. Whether it is serving on a committee, writing an article, or making a presentation together, you should consider inviting a prospect or center of influence who may also have an interest in the organization to join you.
- Explore overlaps. An overlap occurs when one activity performed in one setting complements a desire to be involved in something else. Schmidt gives the example of a construction attorney who volunteers with Habitat for Humanity or similar nonprofits tied into the industry served by one’s section.
- Integrate marketing into life! Whether you are pursuing a hobby or hanging out with friends, it is easy to deepen your connection with your targets if you intentionally invite them to join you. (Or, find out what they are into and join them–if it fits your interests as well.)
- Develop and follow a plan. Set goals for activities like entertaining clients, writing articles or client alerts, or meetings with new prospects.
- Be consistent. As the saying goes, “the race belongs not to the swift, but the persistent.” Starting well, with enthusiasm is good. Finishing what has been started through self-discipline is better.
- Choose what to pursue. Instead of just taking any and all opportunities that come your way, be choosy. Establish criteria as to what–or who–you are targeting, why, and in what ways. When considering whether to pursue an “opportunity,” remember that many requests are not strategic for you to honor.
- Chunk your time. Put marketing and client development activities on your calendar like you would an appointment with a doctor–not easily changed unless rescheduled. Set aside days of the week, and/or times of day to focus on marketing and client development. Break down projects into tasks that can be accomplished in one sitting.
- Lead! Don’t just be a participant in an organization. Look for the chance to serve or head a committee, be on the podium as speaker or facilitator, or take a board role. You’ll get more “bang for the buck” with your time.
- Establish yourself as a subject matter expert. If you get the opportunity to speak, or write, tell people about it. Work with your marketing folks to get you some recognition via website, press release, microblog, or LinkedIn updates.
You can be a better marketer as you learn how to overcome the time objection and become intentional about your activities.