Over the past several years there has been a trend in the legal
industry related to growing law firms’ business development efforts. And
while a focus on business development is a critical strategic
initiative, there is also evidence that this increased focus has come at
a price – a reduced focus and emphasis on marketing and branding. This
is not an either/or proposition, and rather than choosing marketing or
business development, firms should be focused on both.
To confuse the issue even more, some firms don’t even understand the difference. Debra Andrews outlines this in her article, “Marketing vs. Business Development – Why it’s Critical for Law Firms to Know the Difference,”
The terms marketing and business development are frequently
used interchangeably, especially by law firms that utilize both to grow
their businesses. To set up each department, it is critical that firm
leadership knows the difference between these two roles. While both
marketing and business development cover similar ground and ultimately
contribute to growing your law firm’s business, each has different
strengths and each department should have distinct responsibilities.
In “What’s the Difference Between Marketing, Business Development and Client Development?” Jayne Navarre of LawGravity LLC explains it this way:
Marketing is about influencing opinions and attitudes.
Business Development is about influencing and encouraging actions.
Further, Navarre says:Marketing sets the stage for providing exposure of products or services. Business Development connects people to products and services.
Even if firms do have both functions, they are oftentimes considered
completely separate when in fact, they must work together closely and
The Bloom Group explains the impact that having an integrated effort can have on firms’ bottom line:
A survey by The Bloom Group suggests that when marketing and
business development are on the same page, a professional firm has a
significant competitive advantage. By working in concert, successful
firms' marketing and sales activities create many more viable leads. A
much higher percentage of those leads turn into work, and much faster:
they accelerate the sales process. And, our experience tells us, these
firms sell bigger and more profitable projects. The key, we've found, is
that the most successful firms:
- View marketing and selling not as independent activities but rather
as an integrated process in which marketing and business development
have defined, complementary but different, roles.
- Organize their demand-creation process in a way their clients prefer
to buy complex, high-cost, high-stakes offerings, which are hallmarks
of all professional services.
- Concentrate marketing and sales activities on fewer service
offerings rather than more to avoid fragmenting resources and reducing
market exposure for each service.
- Base their activities on strong points of view-well-researched and
rigorous insights on business issues and how to solve them-that redefine
the way their target clients think about these issues and enables the
professional firms to shape leads to their advantage and stop responding
to standard requests for proposals.
So how does this look in a firm? Andrews gives some examples:
The marketing and business development departments have many
opportunities to collaborate, which your law firm should take advantage
of in order to maximize efforts and ensure that tasks are not
duplicated. To ensure the firm uses its marketing and business
development resources efficiently, these six tasks should be coordinated
between both departments:
- Strategy and Planning – smooth communication of firm messaging
- Firm Messaging – a message should be developed based upon how the firm is qualified to meet the wants and needs of a client
- Content – items created by marketing, such as articles, blog posts,
and webinars should be based upon information on topics that the target
audience wants to learn more about
- Hosted Events – marketing handles the coordination and promotion of
the event, while business development provides personal outreach
following the event
- Speaking Opportunities – the marketer successfully pitches a partner
at the firm to speak at an event, and the partner or other business
developer meets prospects, hands out business cards and follows up
- Client Feedback – both marketing and business development must be
aware of changes to client needs and challenges and adjust how the firm
responds to these.
Bottom line – law firms cannot be successful without a marketing and
branding strategy from which business development efforts can build. As
always, a firm’s brand needs to be strongly defined and integrated
throughout all mediums so that when business development efforts have
successfully connected clients to an attorney or firm, when that client
visits a firm’s website, sees a ad, or likes its Facebook page, they are
receiving a consistent message about the firm’s services.