I am often asked: What’s the difference between marketing and business development? Lawyers use the terms interchangeably. Since many people conflate marketing and business development, it may be useful to clarify what they mean as you develop your plans for the new year.
Marketing is generally about being known and standing out. It’s about branding, perception, being recognized, and being heard in a crowded marketplace. It’s about communicating to and with your target audience about what you do. It’s about being “the go-to person” that folks call when they have a legal need. Some call it getting your foot in the door.
What’s in Your Marketing Toolbox?
Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. You have many ways to market your practice and you should choose what feels comfortable to you and that you enjoy doing.
- Write articles; consider writing an article on a legal practice trend and/or industry specialization. This is something that you can do on your own time and pace, and even in your underwear.
- Participate in social media; comment on your connections’ posts, share online articles that brand you, and post that article you’ve written. This is the best form of staying top-of-mind with little time and money investment.
- Join an organization; work toward a leadership role in an organization. The benefits are endless when joining an organization, whether it be the opportunity for public speaking or getting to know other business people in a planned monthly setting.
- Attend events, seminars, and conferences; what events are your clients and potential clients going to? Are you getting the list of attendees before the event for proper planning? Are you sending follow-up emails after you’ve met someone? Are you connecting with them on social media?
The more we brand ourselves via the ways mentioned above and become known for what we do, the more likely we will get a seat at the table—that’s business development!
Business Development Follows Marketing
Think of it like this: marketing provides the groundwork for business development. So, you’re engaging with others on LinkedIn and you’ve met new contacts at events you’ve attended, etc. Now what? Since these contacts know you, the time is ripe to develop the relationship. Invite someone to breakfast or lunch or dinner or coffee. Get to know them. Find out what their business is like, what their pain points are, what keeps them up at night, what problems they are facing in their business, and who the decision-maker is in their company when it comes to hiring an attorney. During these encounters, you need to listen. Don’t pitch you or the firm. You may be pitching something that they do not need. Remember, you are problem solving. Listen, listen, and listen.
Of course, if your phone is ringing off the hook and business is flying in the door you would not need any of this. Your receptionist would be your chief marketing officer. However, that is not the real world. Marketing and business development needs to be planned and takes time in addition to client service. Some lawyers work 8-5, but the lawyer who excels in business development also works 5-8.
About the Author
Lori Rabinowitz is the director of marketing and business development at Trenam Law in Tampa, Fla., and has more than 20 years of experience in professional services marketing. Contact Lori at 813.227.7495 or LRabinowitz@trenam.com.