Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'Tis the Season for Peace, Equality - and Providing Value

This is the time of year for celebrating (or at least aspiring to) things like peace on earth and equality for all. In that spirit of the season, I’ve included this week’s holiday business development quote with a message from Hanukkah.

May the lights acts of Hanukkah business development usher in a better world for all humankind your Clients. 

This slightly embellished quote from an unknown author shows the similarities between the spirit of the holiday season and the spirit of successful business development. To summarize the sentiment: To develop business, find ways to help your Clients and give first before you ever expect to receive.

This means you don’t walk into the meeting with the glossy multi-color brochures that talk about all your fancy offices and pedigrees. The minute you leave, they go right in the circular file. Don't talk about how great your firm is: “the smartest attorneys from the best schools with the most expertise in most every area of law and the most offices to serve the most prestigious clients with the most difficult problems..."

Enough with the fa la la blah blah blah. They’ve heard it all before, and frankly it doesn’t differentiate you from the other firms they are talking to. Instead, to set you and your firm apart, focus on consistently providing value to Clients and prospects before you ever expect to get something in return. Here are a few ideas:

Instead of a brochure, carry a folder to the meeting that contains an article you’ve written on a topic this is relevant to the person. Brief them on a change in the law that will likely affect their company. Provide ideas for avoiding potential risks. Find ways to improve efficiency. Suggest sources of financing. Most importantly, ask questions about their issues and needs in the upcoming year – and come up with solutions that you could help them implement.

If you just do a few of these things with a spirit of giving, without expecting anything in return, you will often find that that the prospect will want to work with you. See, sometimes it really is better to give than to receive…

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nailing Events with CRM

There is often no better way to develop business than getting face-to-face with Clients and prospects. This may explain why so many law firms spend so much time and dedicate so many resources to events. 

While the types of events are diverse – lunches and dinners, cocktail parties, seminars, roundtables, golf outings, sports tickets, political mixers, charity projects, open houses – the challenges are the same: distributing the event details, sending invitations, gathering RSVP's, assembling attendee lists, printing name tags, scheduling follow up and, in a perfect world, tracking business development progress with prospects who attended.

As a result, successfully managing events can be extremely complex and challenging. It requires a significant amount of effective communication and coordination. Hmmm, sound familiar? Yes, you guessed it: exactly the things that CRM does really, really well.

As with other types of communications, CRM allows the attorneys to quickly and easily contribute contacts to the firm’s central CRM database, where those contacts can be deduplicated to prevent sending multiple invitations. They can also be categorized and added to event lists, or lists can be generated by searches of contacts who meet certain criteria like: people with HR Director titles to be invited to an employment seminar or people in the Hospitality industry to be sent an invitation for a roundtable on hotel financing options.

Before the event, invitations can be emailed to relevant lists of contacts directly from the CRM system or the lists can be imported into the firm’s email software for distribution. With advanced analytics, the firm can track who received the invitation, who opened it, who RSVP’d and who actually attended. 
At the event, attendee lists and nametags can be printed for check-in. Activities will then be added to each contact record automatically so that end users can see the status of each invitee. 

After the event, reminders can be set in the system and assigned to individuals who will be tasked with following up with prospects or leads. With additional CRM modules or modifications, these leads can be turned into opportunities that can be assigned to individual attorneys and tracked through the business development cycle or pipeline. All with CRM. See why there is often no better tool than the CRM ‘hammer ‘when you need to nail down events …

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Every Day 'Tis the Season for Business Development

"Peace on earth Plenty of Clients will come to stay, when we live Christmas business development every day."

This is a great (and slightly modified) holiday quote from Helen Steiner Rice – and it couldn’t be more applicable. To be successful at business development, we have to focus on it literally all the time – even during the holidays.

Every day, we have to make the time to build and maintain relationships. One of the reasons that business development requires such a consistent and continual time commitment is that research shows that it often takes more than seven interactions to turn a prospect into a Client. Yes, I know that sounds like a lot. The good news is only 10 percent of people are willing to commit that time. So really, all you have to do is hang in there and 90 percent of your competition will give up. Persistence really does pay.

We also have to take the time to reach out to Clients and prospects we haven't connected with in a while. Here’s a little something sobering to think about while drinking your eggnog: any Client you haven't spoken with in six months or more may not actually be your Client anymore. If we don't take the time to nurture our Client relationships, someone else will be more than happy to. 

So forget the fruitcakes (or other only slightly more thoughtful gifts) - break out the mistletoe and get close to Clients (ok, maybe not that close). Just pick up the phone and wish them a happy holiday. Or better yet, connect with them in person. Take them out to dinner and thank them for their business. This can also be the perfect time to arrange end-of-year reviews. Talk to them about what next year may bring. If you ask the right questions and share information about how you can help them, you may even discover an opportunity to work together in the new year. What a nice present...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pounding Out Communications with the CRM Hammer

When it comes to issues with firm communications, the CRM hammer hits these challenges, well... right on the head. CRM is an excellent tool for helping a firm plan and execute marketing campaigns and distribute all types of communications.

First, CRM allows all of the professionals' contacts to flow into the system directly from Outlook, which means there are very few changes to their business processes and they don’t have to use – or be trained on – new software. Then, CRM systems provide tools to allow contacts to be more quickly and easily standardized and deduplicated. This ensures that contact information is consistent and complete and prevents multiple communications from being sent to the same recipients.

Finally, contacts can be easily categorized and added to lists. This allows the firm to segment contacts to make sure, for instance, that the firm’s alerts are sent to all Clients and prospects, while at the same time preventing them from being sent to competitors. Contacts can also be sorted by industry or practice to make sure that they get the communications that are relevant to their needs and interests.

Additionally, after each e-mail or other communication has been sent, an activity can be automatically associated with each contact so that the professionals and other users can simply open a contact record to see who received what, and when. And if you think CRM is great for managing communications, wait ‘til you hear how it can improve event management…

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'Tis the Season for Business Development

As the holiday season kicks off, the sounds of the season are in the air and everywhere (including the almost unlimited commercials that make me want to hug my Tivo). After being subjected to a multitude of mundane messages and monotonous Hallmark moments, I started to wonder if some of them might actually have some value for helping my Clients to develop business. So for the rest of the month, I’ll be looking at a few of these little ‘gifts’ to see how they might be helpful for improving our business development efforts and keep on ‘giving’ all year long. 

"Christmas Business Development is doing a little something extra for someone."

This quote, borrowed (and slightly improvised) from Charles Schulz, seems a particularly relevant message, since true business development is all about doing things for others – and often, it really is the little things that count.

Business development is all about building relationships – authentic relationships. To establish these types of relationships, the potential Client has to feel that you are putting their interests above your own self-interest. Conveying this impression is almost impossible to fake (that's why they are called authentic relationships, right?) One of the best ways to build authentic relationships is to do a little something extra.

Like what, you may ask? Well, here are a few ideas you can try with potential Clients: spend a few minutes of non-billable time to answer an important question, send a personalized e-mail or note with an article on a relevant topic, give some money (or even better, time) to a charity that they care about. People will forget that animated e-mail holiday greeting with the canned jingle in about 4 seconds, but they rarely forget these types of things.

So stop spending all of the time, money (and anguish) that is often wasted on the holiday cards and instead focus on building relationships. If you do this, not only will you grow your practice, you might even start feeling that holiday spirit all year long.