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Still at their desks, hard at work, just like you are, lawyers have come to realize the broad range of services their marketing departments provide and, yet, most of them often express a lack of understanding of what this team does on a daily basis and why they are always so busy. Becoming knowledgeable as to what your marketing department is – or should be – doing will make you a better marketer.

Show me a lawyer who prepares a form for a client without reviewing and updating it and I’ll show you a lawyer who doesn’t have many billable hours. Your marketing department supports your business development the same way.

Minutes before a meeting you call for brochures and bios – sound familiar? Like the documents you send to clients, these materials do not – or should not – just come off the shelf. Given reasonable notice to assemble materials, after a brief conversation with your team, your marketing professionals will understand your objectives well enough to assemble materials of greater relevance as well as raise questions that will assist you in honing a more focused presentation.

You are also underprepared every time you enter a meeting with a client or prospect without having reviewed a brief dossier of relevant information about the specific company and recent industry developments – again, readily prepared by your marketing department when given more than a few minutes notice about a business development meeting.

Your marketing department is actually continuously monitoring relevant client and industry developments. The most effective marketing teams, often with the assistance and complementary knowledge of your library staff, are aware of the information their lawyers need to know and provide it when it occurs so lawyers are continuously up-to-date on the issues that are of greatest importance to their clients.

Your clients wouldn’t be meeting with you if they were not confident of your legal knowledge. Knowledge of their organization and industry is what, amazingly, sets apart a superlative few lawyers from the masses. It is also astonishing how stale and outdated the majority of lawyers’ biographies are. Your marketing staff solicits updates as time permits, but it also makes a great deal of sense to both periodically review, update and even consider your profile as compared to lawyers at other firms.

‘I don’t see our firm in the news like other firms’

Your marketing team is probably more aware than anyone else in the firm of how often they are able to obtain press coverage. And they can only do so when your firm actually has news.

Elections to a bar association committee or a presentation at an industry conference rarely qualify as news because professionals do these types of things all of the time. Your marketing team, however, does make sure that type of information is communicated internally and on the appropriate pages of your firm’s Web site. In addition, they regularly advise and assist lawyers with utilizing everyone’s time to market this type of accomplishment more effectively than a paragraph in the periodical sections that have come to be nicknamed “the love me pages.”

These strategies will include identifying a targeted few clients and prospects to invite to a relevant event and identifying a second targeted group – it can be as few as two or three — to follow up with afterward. What would you respond to more – a blurb in a publication you’re flipping through or a personal call or e-mail?

We are proud to support . . . or are we?

How often do the ads in the program books at the rubber chicken luncheons and dinners capture your attention or leave you with an actual understanding of what the sponsoring businesses do?

Lead time from lawyers on these ads also tends to be the exception, but the primary reason the advertisements tend to be ineffective is because these events are rarely an appropriate marketing opportunity. Your marketing department and firm management have very specific revenue-related criteria on which they base decisions on whether to support the broad range of events proposed on an ongoing basis. And just like more effective ways to market speaking opportunities and appointments, your marketing department welcomes all opportunities to strategize as to whether an event is effective and how to make it more so.

Ask any lawyer who has had the task to fill a table for one of these events how surprised they are by the amount of time it takes and the number of last minute dropouts. Multiply that by the number of events the marketing department coordinates and you have another factor to consider in evaluating if a more effective business development initiative exists.

The amount of hours and effort necessary for firm receptions and programs is similarly surprising to many. When well-strategized and targeted, substantive programs and receptions are extremely effective means for keeping clients and contacts informed of caliber and capabilities as well as often providing additional value to the services clients receive. However, without the abilities and support of your marketing staff, lawyers would feel that handling the numerous logistics involved with a successful event would nearly be a second full-time job.

One logistic lawyers should not leave to their marketing resources is extending the invitations. We all receive numerous invitations and offerings. However, personal calls and e-mails are the exception and greatly increase the effectiveness of firm programs and receptions.

No need for concern on the budget front, either. Your marketing staff is not serving you if they don’t share your respect for the bottom line and advocate investing in anything unjustified by potential return.

Haiku Proposal

XYZ lawyers.

Good work at discounted rates.

Skip the RFP.

If only. It is repeatedly acknowledged and documented that RFPs are one of the most ineffective marketing initiatives. Will reams of paper containing canned practice descriptions and hastily updated biographies actually appease a client unhappy enough with current firms to solicit proposals from others? And if you’re not the incumbent firm, how effective can that same type of tome be in communicating the benefits of your work to in-house counsel, who are faced with reading dozens of similar documents.

RFPs are increasingly a fact of practice development life, and while your marketing department will be more effective if they don’t have to pull all-nighters to meet RFP deadlines, they truly make response recommendations on the individual merits of each opportunity. Bottom line: RFPs are generally very intensive projects and should rarely be taken on if the firm cannot be certain that they will be seriously considered.

Another reason for intensive consideration prior to responding to RFPs is that, in this day and age, they don’t seem to end. The document that required days and days of drafting and assembly leads to a presentation that requires additional days of preparation, which then can lead to requests for additional fee proposals and information. Firms often find both their marketers and lawyers investing hundreds of hours of work over many months before the remotest prospect of billable time. Those hours alternatively devoted to 10 lunches or dinners with current clients, on the basis of the individual attention, could easily lead to additional work or referrals with hours left over for prompt delivery of work already in the pipeline, associate mentoring, etc.

Reminder: the first word in ‘newsletter’ is ‘news’

How many do you get? And what do you do with them – in a pile? A rapid scan before tossing? Note that “read” is rarely the first word that comes to mind.

Newsletters can be very effective marketing tools. And unfortunately, many lawyers rationalize that they can simultaneously reach many with a newsletter as opposed to the number of personal meetings that can be accomplished with the same time investment. You may want to reread previous paragraphs here.

Newsletters, however, will only be effective if they, in fact, do contain news. News is information provided in a timely fashion or accompanied by relevant analysis that will enhance the readers’ job performance. And this has to be done consistently in every newsletter issued.

Your marketing department’s role in all of this is the execution of every news product your firm produces. That quantity of news products produced by law firms with marketing departments along with the quantity of tasks required for effective distribution (design, production, mailing list maintenance, among others) of them are not insignificant.

Again, what will be more effective for retaining your current clients and attracting new ones – an anonymous, generic fly sheet on news blurbs they’ve more than likely already encountered in other publications and forms or, each week, reaching out to a small quantity of valued contacts with a specific item of interest and two or three sentences of your own insights?

Marketers do not shirk working hard. However, we know we are more effective when we can work smart. The first step in proceeding with a suit or deal is to strategize the approach. Brief preliminary strategizing with your marketing department will greatly enhance the effectiveness of every practice development effort and provide you with a much greater understanding of why your marketing department is working just as hard as you are.

Julie Meyer has assisted hundreds of services professionals –– including lawyers, accountants, consultants and academic agencies –– with increasing the effectiveness of their business development efforts. She is also a member of the Delaware Valley Legal Marketing Group steering committee and can be reached at [email protected].

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