Many hands make light work

Many hands make light work


When deciding who to partner with for new initiatives, law firms should consider both internal and external opportunities, suggests Douglas McPherson

When it comes to successful business development, the mantra ‘many hands make light work’ is one you’d do well to follow. The more people who are involved, the less each party will have to do to implement the initiative and the more likely it is you will reach a higher number of people. This in turn will make it more likely you’ll achieve your primary objective – bringing in new work.

Your first choice, however, is exactly who you need to partner with, and here you need to look at opportunities on both an internal and external basis, so I’ll look at both in that order.

Internal sources

It never fails to amaze me just how difficult firms find it to cross-market despite the fact your current and lapsed clients are by far your most likely route to new fees.

Talk with your colleagues who have a similar sector focus and ask them to suggest which clients, contacts, and targets should be interested. It may be you are planning on running a roundtable, social, or sporting event and they should be willing to suggest potential invitees and personally invite them.

‘Personally’ is the key word here. People respond more quickly, positively, and with purpose when they know the person who’s sent them the information. Moreover, if there is a follow up action required they are more likely to complete that action if they know who they’re doing it for and why.

Admittedly there is some reticence in firms when it comes to asking for colleagues’ help, particularly if you’re ‘asking up’ to a partner. Thankfully, the person being asked is usually flattered and more than happy to help.

There are exceptions, however, and there those who insist on keeping their arms wrapped tight around ‘their clients’. Yes, your clients are your lifeblood and future, but if you keep them compartmentalised and in isolation they will go to other firms for other work. If those firms are taking a more enlightened view of client management, they could well move to them, lock, stock, and barrel.

Similarly if you’re not building multiple relationships between your firm and your client at every available level, you run the risk of losing the client totally if the partner responsible for the relationship leaves or retires.

External opportunities

As with all BD, when it comes to partnership possibilities you have three possible sets of targets – clients, contacts, and targets. We can discount the third as it’d take one heck of a sales job to get someone to market for you who you don’t already have a direct relationship with. The other two, however, are proven marketing partners.

When it comes to choosing contacts you have two possibilities: professional contacts and recognised industry contacts – trade associations, circuit speakers, consultants, and journalists.

Professional contacts can open their client base to you and the fact you’ll have a more diverse speaking panel means you’ll be able to provide a broader benefit to your invitees.

Again this is the point where a bit of doubt can creep in. Why would they want to talk to me? They’ll be too busy, won’t they? Well, just as you have someone on your shoulder telling you to ‘do’ BD, so do they. The fact you’ve approached them will be met enthusiastically as you’ll have saved them a job and given them something positive to report internally.

Industry contacts are a little different but given they can provide instant access to their extended memberships, networks, and readerships, it’s worth taking the time to find the right approach.

Speaking and editorial slots are the obvious items to pursue but you have to make sure that you have a tight, relevant angle to offer, a point of view that is unique and will deliver real benefit.

It is better to sit down with a blank piece of paper and think where you can really add benefit. Do they have a newsletter they need help to fill? Do they have an information repository that would be improved with your content? Do they offer clinic style events for members where you could set up a booth. Is there anyone you could introduce them to in return for a one-off use of their membership or subscriber list?

There are a myriad of ways to approach partnering internally and externally but the golden rule every approach has in common is simple: it needs to be blindingly obviously of benefit to the end user and not something that will only benefit you. Work that out and the partners you approach will find it difficult to say no to you.

Douglas McPherson is a director at 10 ½ Boots