Business development is the new
imperative, and every lawyer in practice knows that marketing is
critical to survival and success. And while marketing is usually simple,
it isn’t necessarily easy. This article explores some of the challenges
that lawyers often struggle with when it comes to marketing, and how to
deal with them. Here’s a rundown of common stumbling blocks.
No matter how diligently you apply yourself, the results will not be immediate. Unless you have hit on a target with a pressing need, it is typical for open files to take one to two years to materialize, and often much, much longer than that. Accept the fact that success takes time, and stick with it.
Results are not predictable. Although conventional wisdom dictates that if you work long enough and hard enough at something, success is guaranteed, that’s not the case when it comes to business development. There are many factors completely outside of your control that will impact on whether or not a particular client or matter will land on your desk. Be prepared to accept the fact that even if you’ve given it all you’ve got, you still might not get the work. That’s not a failure — that’s just the way business development works. It’s a numbers game. Although you can’t predict or control whether or not you will land any given client or file, the more targets you are actively engaged with at any given time, the greater the probability of a win.
There’s a difference between thinking about objectives and writing them down. Some lawyers think about marketing, but they don’t know exactly what they want to accomplish and they don’t write anything down. Writing down your objectives makes them concrete and specific. In addition, the very act of writing your goals down makes you more committed to them.
Planning is different than implementing. It’s amazing how many lawyers think that, once the plan is made, getting it done is also taken care of. We think this despite everything in our experience that shows us it simply isn’t so, and we make assumptions that don’t reflect reality. For example, we assume we’ll always feel highly motivated, we assume there will be no unexpected obstacles or distractions to get in our way, and we assume that changing our behaviour and developing new habits will be easy. We make these assumptions even though none of them have ever been true. With all of these factors threatening our best intentions, we need to be very disciplined. But the level of discipline required is unfortunately beyond most of us. Read on.
If you have structure, you don’t need motivation and you don’t need discipline. That’s because, if there is structure, you no longer have a choice about whether you are going to do something or note. The structure takes care of the doing, because there is no “option” of not doing.
Business development is a long, long road. In fact, it is a road that never ends. You won’t ever accomplish all that you want to on the business-development front, and you won’t ever become the best business developer that you can possibly be every minute of every day. The most that any of us can do is to make a solid, consistent effort. That is what marketing performance is really all about, and when it comes to developing new habits and changing behaviors, we should focus on the effort that we put into it. We have to be honest with ourselves about how hard we are really trying. The implication of this is …
There’s only one way to measure your progress. It’s not about measuring your successes or marketing wins. As discussed above, successes and wins are in part outside of your control. What you need to measure is the part that you have complete control over — that is, your effort. In other words, how hard you are trying.
If you are using this approach to evaluate your marketing performance, you won’t be able to excuse or deflect underperformance by saying that you were too busy, too tired, or that someone else dropped the ball or made a mistake. When you measure effort, it doesn’t matter how challenging your circumstances are — the question is, are you doing your best regardless of the challenges and your circumstances?
Donna Wannop, LLB, MBA, is a practice-development coach (www.wannop.ca) who has worked exclusively with the legal profession for over 25 years. She can be reached at [email protected].