Step 6 - Coordinate with others.
Coordinating your business plan with other lawyers in your firm will increase your efficiency, and it will increase your chances of followup.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories about large firms where two groups of lawyers from the same firm independently went after the same business, without realizing they were competing with their partners. This is unbelievably inefficient. And from the client perspective, it creates a terrible first impression.
Coordinating activity with others can also increase the chances that you will actually follow up. Trying to develop new business by yourself is a little like buying a NordicTrack as part of a New Year’s resolution to get more exercise. By February, there’s a good chance that it’s primary use will be to hang up your clothes.
As I noted in my November marketing tip, it is a good idea to schedule regular marketing meetings. They could be with your entire practice group, a formal business development committee, or just two or three like-minded lawyers.
Even if you just decide to meet for breakfast once a month to review your to do list, working with a group will provide social support, increase accountability, and lead to steady progress. The simple fact that you know you have a meeting coming up will help spur you to action. No one wants to report that they failed to follow up on all their action items.
Step 7 - Track time and activity, every week.
“What gets measured gets done,” according to management guru Tom Peters. So if you are serious about developing new business, you will need a continuing system to measure your time and activity.
If your firm has a time code that fits, tracking business development time in the official system can be useful. But whether you do this on the record or off the record, you should keep a simple list of hours by week out on your desk. A picture is worth a thousand words, so a graph that compares your weekly goal to the hours you actually put in can go a long way to keeping you on track.
You may be thinking it would be better to track time every month. Great minds think alike: that’s what I said to my first sales coach. What he said to me was: “Doing it once a month makes it too easy to put it off, and to fall behind. Do it every week.”
When it comes to tracking activity, the most important thing is to keep your To Do list up to date. If you want a more sophisticated tally, you could also measure the number of advances you achieve each week. I would not recommend tracking new revenue every week. Save that for your quarterly review. In the short term you need to reinforce activity by measuring leading indicators of success that you can control.
Step 8 - Review the plan quarterly.
However carefully you develop your marketing plan, it will be wrong. The only question is: will it be wrong sooner, or will it be wrong later?
Clients change. Industries change. The best strategy for bringing in business this year may be the worst strategy next year. Therefore, it makes no sense to spend time making a business plan perfect. It should be made just good enough to spur you to action, and then tested in the real world.
I would recommend stepping back once a quarter to evaluate whether you are on the right track. And remember that even if you produce no new revenue in a particular quarter, you may still be on the right track. Business development takes time. So when you evaluate your plan, ask yourself these questions:
• Are my top clients very very happy?
• Am I meeting enough people who could become clients in the future?
• Are the relationships progressing at a reasonable rate?
• Am I spending an appropriate amount of time on increasing visibility?
If you answer yes to these questions, consider your quarterly review a success, and keep going. New business will follow.
What you should do today
If you already have a written plan, now is a good time to review it in light of what’s going on in the economy. Be sure to consider defensive marketing to protect the relationships you already have with clients and referral sources.
If you don’t have a written plan, this would be a great time to write one. To get started, many sample formats can be found on the web. Or see my book Legal Business Development: A Step by Step Guide for an outline of a “one page business plan” focused on action items. Or sign up for my webinar “Eight Steps to a Better Business Plan” on December 16 or January 14 and get a copy of “The LegalBizDev Guide to Business Plans,” which includes the proprietary format for our new expanded “two page business plan.”
Whatever format you choose, don’t forget to make a commitment to marketing time every week, whether it’s five hours, or two hours, or even just one hour. Because the most fundamental law of marketing is simple: if you spend no time, you will get no results.