Client Co-Marketing – Business Development for Law Firms

Client co-marketing builds relationships and sends an unmistakable message. Imagine you’re Senior Intellectual Property Counsel of a Fortune 100 company. Every law firm within two continents of your main office has begun posting commentary, sending communiques, and publishing articles about the latest milestone ruling – as of this writing, that would be KSR v. Teleflex. There’s an article in a national journal by someone at the Smith firm. Someone at the Jones firm has a piece in the local legal newspaper. Another publication, however, has an article co-written by the general counsel of a major manufacturer and a partner at the Thomas firm about the possible effects of KSR on business and legal management.

There’s a very good chance that the general counsel’s article will be the first that you as an in-house lawyer will read. There’s an equally good chance that you’ll assume the Thomas firm represents that company. And, there’s an awfully good chance that you’ll also assume the GC thinks the world of the Thomas firm to let his good name run on the same byline.

Seem obvious? Then why don’t we see more such co-written articles? Are clients resistant? One shouldn’t think so inasmuch as it’s simply good marketing for them as well. And, if you offer to do the first draft of the article, the added advantage for the client is that it’s good marketing with relatively little effort.

Here’s another example that approximates a recent situation I observed. A law firm partner was being profiled in a legal trade publication. Among her major achievements is a stellar litigation record on behalf of the XYZ Company. During and after the interview, the partner (and her PR firm) urged the reporter to call the AGC at XYZ, not just for a quotable endorsement, but to learn more about the astonishing things the client has done in-house to deter lawsuits and reduce in-house costs. When the article was finally published, it was as much about the client as the law firm, and both profited equally.

Greatness by Association

To be sure, marketing the law firm is not an “us or them” proposition. You can recruit inside counsel and even CEOs as parties to your own marketing and business development efforts. They will typically appreciate the request because they want to be marketed too.

Perhaps the in-house lawyer is looking for another job and a little notoriety won’t hurt. Or perhaps more public prominence is politically beneficial in terms of his or her internal career track. Maybe the client wants to highlight the fact that, as in our example above, his is the last company in its industry that a smart plaintiff’s lawyer should want to target.

Periodically, certain in-house legal managers emerge as spokespersons for the in-house sector. In the past, such spokespersons (my own memory stretches back as far as Robert Banks at Xerox in the 1980s) give speeches, write articles, and spearhead programmatic efforts to enunciate what they as inside counsel expect from outside counsel, and how, in general, in-house services ought to evolve.

Right now there seems to be available space for another such in-house market leader to emerge. Could that leader be one of your clients? Imagine the marketing benefits that would accrue to your firm if you helped him or her fill that space, especially if your “partnership” were widely known via joint conference appearances, for example, or a few of those aforesaid co-bylined articles.

The relationship benefits are obvious. Even more important in some ways, by being an identifiable part of the client’s efforts to define and implement new professional standards, you become a part of the solution to whatever problem is under discussion. You’re now part of a collective campaign – a close-knit community of buyers and sellers – to improve law firm billing practices or discourage frivolous law suits or enhance diversity in the legal profession or in the client’s own industry. The relationship that ensues with the client is very nice. The message you’re sending to untold numbers of other legal service buyers and decision-makers is very, very nice.

A Wealth of Opportunities

Remember all the favors that clients have asked of you: “Take a table” … Donate a silent auction item … Sponsor a hole in a charity golf tournament … Offer a summer associate position to the CFO’s daughter at Cornell Law … Donate to the GC’s law school alumni fund drive.

These requests all more or less help clients’ own marketing with little direct benefit to you, but they’re not shy about asking. So don’t you be shy with them – especially with requests that, as we’ve seen, benefit them at least as much as you.

We’ve mentioned professional events and publishing as two obviously salient examples of how to co-market. But there are other venues that will likewise enhance your relationship as well as send a valuable message about both the company and you to the broader market. Two in particular deserve mention.

Community Service Projects

First, community service projects offer a number of opportunities, particularly welcome to clients if their companies happen to sell stuff to that community. Some community service projects provide a bigger, more national bang for the PR buck: Habitat for Humanity comes to mind. If there are pro bono award events, invite the client to sit at your table.

Diversity

Second, diversity initiatives are near and dear to many legal service buyers. Explore ways for you and your client to jointly contribute to or support nonprofit organizations fostering diversity (the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, for instance). Don’t be deterred if your firm’s own diversity numbers are disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that one reason for your increased involvement is to improve the firm’s diversity recruitment efforts.

The examples above remind us that conjoint marketing with clients is – like all marketing – ultimately based on the delivery of value. As we like to emphasize, the person to whom you are marketing should be better off as a result of your doing so, regardless of whether or not they invest in your services as an immediate result. By co-marketing with clients, this “value proposition” operates in a uniquely multifaceted way.

Value

“Value” is delivered to the marketplace via the content of a speech or article – here’s an issue bedeviling our industry, and here’s how a corporate expert and outside counsel size it up.

“Value” is simultaneously delivered to the community and the profession as a result of specific actions, such as pro bono efforts and diversity initiatives.

“Value” is delivered to your clients because they have serious marketing agendas of their own. By joining with you in efforts to be helpful to the profession, to their own industry, and to the community at large, they directly advance those agendas.

For the law firm, the leverage is powerful: You build tangible credibility in front of unseen corporate decision- makers even as you take a single important client relationship to a wholly new and collaborative level. It’s a no-brainer. Call a client today and brainstorm projects.

Ad Agency New Business Development Secret – Mystery Shopping

For decades advertising agencies and communications firms have competed for new business in a high stakes race to show prospective clients how they can help them improve their business. The process usually involves review of credentials as well as demonstration of initial business ideas and thinking. Sounds exciting? Not really.

So, how does an ad agency get up to speed on a prospective client’s business enough to show them smart and relevant thinking?

Well, the internet has had a huge hand in helping agency management find information on a specific company as well as their industry – and often their key competitors. And many, if not all advertising agencies are using that approach in varying degrees. But that still leaves the burning question: “what are the decision makers and influencers experiencing throughout the sales process AND how can we control that in our favor?”

Traditionally, that is where agency quantitative (statistically sound surveying through the mail, phone or internet) as well as qualitative (more intimate, one-to-one communications usually through methods like focus groups) research is used to provide the foundation for strategic recommendations that will hopefully knock the socks off of their prospect and win the account.

Innovative advertising agencies are finding alternative ways to access this important insight which they previously obtained from those costly, time-consuming research approaches. These innovative ad agencies are developing their ideas and recommendations for the “review” or “pitch” by using an old mainstay from the restaurant industry – Mystery Shopping.

Mystery Shopping: An Innovative Business Development Tool

Mystery shopping has been used extensively in the hospitality sector to manage and improve customer service performance – as a way of more effectively managing the customer engagement from the first call to the check. This helps companies identify areas needing sales process improvement. Used in a slightly different context, it becomes a cost and time-effective goldmine of insight to perfect a business development pitch.

Mystery Shopping Process:

– Mystery shoppers, who represent the targeted customer profile, visit a specific site, experience all aspects of the sales process and fill out a customized online survey which is compiled with other shopper’s data from the company’s geography.

– The mystery shoppers are also trained to obtain any collateral or relevant materials, as well as take photos, and mail it back to the ad agency, giving the agency the ability to see, touch and feel tangible aspects of the experience and potentially use this information in their pitch.

– Using this approach has other advantages, too. Mystery shopping firms have large pools of trained researchers who can rapidly deliver on fast turn-around projects over broad geographic areas, including global reach.

– These surveys are tracked and trended against each location, for regional differences, and even against national averages. The data can then be used to direct recommendations, or support new ideas.

– In some cases mystery shoppers are only shopping competitive locations to provide information that will translate to opportunities for improvement and differentiation.

Instead of leaving behind somewhat dry research, advertising agencies are now immediately able to add interest and dimension to their pitch that sticks. Eliminating the problems inherent in focus group research such as one individual dominating a group’s input. What are some of the additional nuggets of information that ad agencies glean from their mystery shopping results?

1. Identifying Strategic Opportunities

2. Testing Brand Positioning

3. Discovering Triggers for Promotional Planning

4. Uncovering Valuable Competitive Intelligence

Savvy advertising agencies are even using mystery shopping as a form of insurance for promotional program executions. Mystery shopping is put in place when a promotion is rolled out to monitor and manage the operational aspects; ensuring that from signage placement to sales conversations everything is supporting the promotional message.

Mystery shopping is also helping both advertising agencies and their clients manage the multiple “Touchpoints” necessary to ensure a successful sales process improvement and customer relationship building. For the business it translates to sales and profit – reducing the expense to both acquire a new customer and to keep a customer engaged and loyal.

For ad agencies it provides the critical data on a prospective client that they need to show them relevant recommendations, sell themselves to, build a relationship and create loyalty. And, it provides it in a way that lends color and interest to the pitch – it excites, it is valued, and it sticks. The opportunity for strong, relevant insight exists in this simple, tried and true research process: mystery shopping. No wonder more ad agencies are using it!

Business Development Strategies That Work

As a manager, one of the foremost concerns to an organization is developing and exploiting business opportunities that are presented to you and your company. In order to grow, you need good knowledge and best management practices and strategies. It comes to down to whether as a business development manager, you are revolutionary or evolutionary. Any strategy that you undertake, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem will revolutionize your company or will evolve it.

Successful business development takes a multi-disciplinary approach in that it involves financial, advertising and legal skills. It is not enough to reduce activities to a simple template that can be applied to all situations faced by real-world enterprises. Being creative in this regard goes a long way in ensuring that any new and unforeseen challenges contribute to sustainable growth of a company rather than its demise.

There are several areas where business development strategies can help your organization to grow and succeed. Development strategies based on a strategic marketing plan for example will address a changing customer base and market dynamics, help one to understand horizontal and vertical target market opportunities and how to develop the right products, services and solutions to meet the target market needs. This plan should not just be an accident. Most successful business owners will tell you that a carefully planned business strategy was involved. A plan can take either a ‘bottom up’ approach or a ‘top down’ approach. A bottom up approach is where the employees make suggestions and the best are passed up the management while the top down approach is where top managers create the business development strategies and implement them down the chain of command. Another approach is the use of collaborative process where managers and employees work together.

In order for a business development strategy to work, you will need to evaluate its weaknesses, strengths, risks and growth potential. If possible, a strategy consultant may be included. Several factors will need to be taken into consideration, depending on the complexities that come with implementation. These include assigning responsibilities, sufficient resources and establishing a chain of command. A timeline will also need to be developed to evaluate if the desired goals are being achieved. Obviously, no one type of business development strategy is going to work for every business. Find out what works for you and your organization and the benefits of sticking to it.

Business Development Strategies That Work

In the almost 30 years that I’ve worked as a CPA, I’ve had the opportunity to see businesses go on to achieve amazing results in the marketplace and for their community and for the owners. And I’ve seen many more businesses founder and fail.

One of the biggest challenges for small business is figuring out how to grow your business, especially in the beginning. The problem is that the desire to grow your business can turn into “grow at any cost” and that’s a dangerous position. Growth can be deadly to your business if you don’t first weigh the cost of that growth.

That cost can come in two forms:

  1. The expense of the development strategy itself, and
  2. The cost of ramping up your business with inventory and/or personnel to meet the demands of increased business.

In this article, we’re going to look at the expense of the development strategy itself. It really is the second thing you should consider, though. Fast growth can cripple a small business if there isn’t enough cash flow to fulfill on the sales. First determine how much growth your business really can stand.

Assuming that your business is able to handle new clients and/or sales, now let’s take a look at the business development strategy itself. A good rule of thumb is that you should expect to receive 5 times gross income (in other words, sales) for the amount you spend for promotion, marketing and advertising. In other words, if you spend $10,000 in total to put a new business development strategy in place, you should expect to receive $50,000 in new sales.

If you’re the typical small business starting, growing or even just surviving in a tough economic market with little or no credit, you also need business development strategies that don’t eat up your cash flow. There are plenty of people happy to sell you tens of thousands of advertising space, but can your business afford that? And what if the campaign doesn’t work? You’ve just used up some hard-won cash from your small business.

The best business development strategies are ones that take little or no cash flow.

Here are nine high impact, low-costs for your business:

  1. Get noticed. Small business often start with an entrepreneurial urge to do something better than anyone else has done it before. That’s working in the business. And to a certain extent, you need that. But, in today’s world, it’s highly unlikely that the world will beat a pathway to your door based on something great you’ve done that no one else knows about. Some ideas to get you started: Write articles, post a blog, build a social media platform or press releases. It’s possible to get noticed in today’s world for little money. The trick is to stand out above all the other noise. The best way to do that is to provide solid content. Each product and product line must stand on its own merit. There is no room for dogs in a bootstrapping company. Unless, of course, you have a pet grooming business.
  2. Have a good accounting system in place so you can quickly make business management decisions. If something is working, then put more money into promoting that item. If something isn’t, cut it quick.
  3. Create a sales funnel. The sales process resembles a funnel. At the top end, the widest part, are the people who are just finding you, checking out their options, considering using your services or buying your product. If you can adapt your product or service to match the funnel, you can often pick up sales. For example, at the top, where the funnel is widest, you may want to offer an entry-level product or a special report at a reduced price. This may help you to capture some of those people who otherwise may not have gone past the looking point.
  4. Can you create some kind of recurring business model, where you receive automatic monthly payments? This is a great way to generate steady cash for your business and is often easier to sell then one big product. For example, our tax firm has a monthly billing service. Clients get unlimited consulting during the year and the cost covers the preparation of their business and personal returns. The benefit to them is that they have a budget and know exactly what it’s going to cost. The benefit for our firm is that we have steady cash flow. One of our clients sells equipment. They offer a monthly fee to provide ongoing maintenance. The benefit to the customer is that they have someone checking on the equipment. All costs of repair are covered as part of the ongoing monthly fee. So there are no big cost surprises down the road. Our client picked up extra revenue, a steady stream of cash flow and a happy client. Is there a way to create something like that for your business?
  5. Create different service levels. Not all clients want the same thing. Can you create a premium service level that allows you to charge a higher rate for some of your current clients? What are the things that would make your service more valuable? Increased access to you personally? Front of the line option? Our firm has 3 levels of service available. Ironically, it’s the most expensive option, with ‘front of the line’ service and unlimited consulting with partners in the firm that sells the most. Because of the nature, though, it’s limited and so there is a waiting list. That helps sell the other levels of service.
  6. As you create a product or a service, think about what other products or services could be offered to complement and augment it. What else do your clients or customers need? What other services can you give them to create additional streams of income for your business? For example, a chiropractic office may offer therapeutic massages, yoga classes or nutritional supplements. These services and products aren’t chiropractic services but they are related to health and something that chiropractic patients might be interested in.
  7. Form strategic relationships. When you focus on a niche, you often find that there are things you can’t do, but are things that augment your service perfectly. By affiliating with other service providers, you can create a bigger, higher-value product that benefits everyone. A website designer/programmer builds websites for business owners. He finds that his clients also often need quality writers. If he refers services, he may make a referral fee. To be honest and ethical, that relationship and possible payment should be disclosed to the client as well.
  8. Create a high-end and low-end solution. One of our new passions is talking about the bi-modal graph. Imagine a two-hump camel. One hump represents the people who want hands-on, concierge service. The other hump represents people who want the lowest-cost solution. The depression in the middle is what used to be our target market: people who wanted a little of both. Today, that market is largely gone.
  9. Bill and collect in advance. It’s much easier to collect money up front then it is afterwards. It might be a little harder with the first sale, because your customer doesn’t have any experience with you, but after that, you’ve actually got to question why they don’t pay you in advance. If you are willing to extend credit, make sure you bill at a premium. There is a cost to carrying debt, especially in a tight credit market like now.

Business development strategies that double as cash flow development strategies are vital for every business, but especially if you’re going through your own business recession.