From surviving to thriving: business development in a post-pandemic era
By Neil Lloyd
Neil Lloyd discusses how a proactive approach to business development can help firms bounce back from the pandemic
When I look back to where we were in March 2020, I imagine most of us were in the same boat. In the most unprecedented of circumstances, we found ourselves having to learn new ways of operating remotely, adapting to an environment where our usual networks moved online, while finding new ways to support colleagues and teams.
But with the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us and the economy showing signs of recovery, it is time to start thinking positively about the future and how to make the most of opportunities to develop our businesses.
To achieve this, it is essential to dedicate time and resources to new business development and ensure it is considered as an integral part of your sales and marketing plan.
At FBC Manby Bowdler, we recently appointed a head of new business to drive the business development strategy for our firm and here, we share some of our learnings.
Knowing where to focus your new business efforts can help accelerate the success of your strategy, so having a plan with clear objectives from the beginning is essential.
For some firms, new business objectives may be focused on finding clients for teams which are being underutilised, or growing a particularly successful area of the business which has established a reputation for excellence.
But opportunities for growth don’t always have to come from outside your walls.
When looking at establishing our key business development objectives, we chose to focus on increasing share of our clients’ legal spend. As such, our firm aims to nurture and strengthen the existing relationships we have with our customers, rather than putting our efforts into bringing on board new clients.
This is a particularly cost-effective way to increase revenues. Research shows acquiring a new customer can be anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Therefore, allocating all or part of your new business resources to existing customers can give an impressive return on investment.
Another area where we have looked to grow is through peer-to-peer business development opportunities. Hub.Legal is our department ‘next-door’ service for other law firms. The service essentially outsources our teams’ expertise to other firms which may not have specific legal expertise in house. Growing this outsourcing service is another way to expand our earning potential.
Forming a dedicated team
One of the mistakes often made when it comes to business development and attracting new clients is delegating the task to already busy members of the team. It is perhaps tacked onto a marketing role or given to partners or associates, as the more senior representatives of the firm.
However, driving new business development requires a dedicated team and resources.
The good news is your new business team doesn’t need to come from a legal background. Rather, they just need to have a good understanding of what we do in the legal industry and have the skills to sell it to potential clients.
In January, we appointed Dawn Tuck to the position of head of new business. Dawn has a background in banking and finance stretching over three decades. She was brought in to focus on new business generation as well as to work with our existing clients to review their current legal arrangements.
Dawn is a chartered banker member with a diploma in credit, not a solicitor (we have plenty of those!). But what she does have is years of experience in managing customer relationships and that is the skills gap we were looking to fill and that is why she was appointed.
Recruiting talent from outside the industry can feel counterintuitive, but attitudes towards the appointment of non-lawyers to key business roles are shifting.
We believe external candidates offer a fresh pair of eyes on a firm and its operations, and they can bring new ideas to the table, as Dawn has done for us.
Dawn has oversight of our entire new business and business development operations, but we have also given her own team and resources, including people dedicated to answering new enquiries which can be time consuming.
Our client relationships are still managed at fee earner and partner level (where appropriate) as these are the important day-to-day contacts and the ones with responsibility for ensuring our customers’ needs are met and exceeded. But Dawn now has visibility of these different relationships and is able to look at our clients holistically – not just through the lens of one area of expertise.
For example, a client who comes to us for assistance with an acquisition might also need our support with employee relations for a TUPE transfer. It is about spotting the cross-sale opportunities to increase the client’s spend with us. And with a helicopter view, Dawn is able to offer those insights.
As well as recruiting a solid team and getting your business development structure in place, we’ve found it is also important to have the right infrastructure in place to help drive new business activities and to make them more efficient.
Technology can really help you to better manage client relationships and identify new business targets. At FBC Manby Bowdler, we have three different IT systems which support our business development objectives and help us identify new targets. Firstly, we have used Accesspoint to build reports for our case management system which allow us to see which clients use which discipline, or not as the case might be.
Then we have Artesian to help us track when our clients are in the news or are on social media. This allows us to spot proactive opportunities where we can offer our help to clients. And lastly, we have introduced Introhive. This system allows us to track the strength of a clients’ relationship with us across the firm and in turn helps us to increase revenue.
We look to the future with enthusiasm and optimism, knowing there are new opportunities out there for our firm to grow and to deliver a more complete service to our clients.
As well as helping generate more revenue, our focus on nurturing existing customer relationships shows our clients we are there for all their legal needs and allows us to offer them proactive, rather than reactive advice. So, if and when they do need us, we know they will call.
Neil Lloyd managing director of Midlands-based law firm FBC Manby Bowdler. fbcmb.co.uk