Business Development: An Investment, Not A Cost
By Peter A. Johnson
A number of years ago, United Airlines ran a well-received television commercial in which a company owner distributed airline tickets to members of his sales staff with instructions to pay a personal visit to customers in order to reestablish ties face-to-face. The CEO understood and appreciated the value of personal contact in building and maintaining relationships.
Even though United’s commercial aired decades ago (the airline tickets were actually printed on paper), its lessons are valid in today’s technologically wired — but regrettably disconnected — world.
Email, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and all of the other communications options available today can serve as an electronic bridge to clients, prospects, colleagues and referral sources. But they can just as readily become an electronic wall — making it easy to believe we have a “relationship” with someone when, in reality, we are connected by a few tenuous threads.
Author John le Carre warns that “a desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” That is doubly true for an attorney trying to build a practice or expand a client list.
The legal business is built on a foundation of trust at a level that can only be built through personal contact. That means venturing out of your office and into the real world, where you can make meaningful, memorable contacts. Even in today’s electronically wired world, trust is often still built by looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand.
It is an easy defense to claim a lack of time. Writing briefs, reviewing case files, preparing for trial — all can expand to fill your days, leaving no time for practice development. But you can’t strengthen a personal relationship through a LinkedIn post or assume that the “canned” newsletter your firm sends out every month is making an adequate impact on clients.
The options for personal marketing and networking are even more numerous than the electronic crutches we have come to rely on. Join a business association or trade group and become an active participant. Call a client and invite them to lunch for no reason other than to catch up. If the client is too busy, offer to bring lunch to their office. Share your expertise by seeking speaking engagements with business, social and civic groups. Volunteer with a local charity. Play at least one round of golf each week with a client or potential referral source. Support local arts organizations.
Don’t view business development time as unbillable hours, but as an investment in the future of your firm. Invested wisely; the time you spend on the other side of your desk will come back to you many times over.
|Peter Johnson is founder and principal of Law Practice Consultants, LLC of Newton, MA. Law Practice Consultants, LLC offers consulting, coaching and training services that help law firms respond to the challenges of today’s highly competitive legal marketplace. For more information visit www.lawpracticeconsultants.com.|