Should you be focusing on marketing or business development activity?
Although the terms “marketing” and “business development” are often used interchangeably, their functions are separate and unique. Simply put, business development encompasses creating and growing relationships, while marketing encompasses building your credentials, credibility, and reputation.
Creating written materials such as blogs, articles, and newsletters is marketing, as is branding and strategic planning. Business development includes the process of attending association meetings, perhaps speaking, and following up with contacts. Business development is the one-on-one (or team-on-team) conversation that precedes being retained. Cross-selling and discussing the expansion of the scope of a representation is also business development.
This distinction matters because understanding it will help you to determine what kinds of activities you should pursue at any given time.
If you desperately need new work, you should focus on business development and having conversations with those who may be in a position to help you get that new work, either directly or by referral. If you need to have a better perception of you and your practice (which is usually a condition precedent to effective business development conversations), then you should focus on marketing activities such as writing or speaking.
The traditional rainmaker model focuses almost exclusively on business development, but if you haven’t taken the time to build a solid foundation through branding and positioning, you’ll find it difficult to get into those business development conversations and to conduct them effectively.
So, should you be doing business development or marketing activity? Of course, that’s a trick question. You should be doing both, and for maximum effectiveness, the two kinds of activity should be mutually reinforcing.
- You might publish an article (marketing) that addresses a hot problem that your services or product can solve; you might use that article to introduce yourself to a new contact (business development).
- You might invite a new contact to a speaking engagement (marketing) and then follow up to discuss any questions your contact may have (business development).
- You might invite a contact to join you (business development) to speak on a panel that addresses topics within your area of practice for an industry organization (marketing).
Even though you’ll be performing both kinds of activity, you should tailor your focus at any given time based on your objective.
Need more clients right now? Focus on business development and get into conversation with potential clients and referral sources. Those conversations represent your best bet for getting hired in the short term. If, however, you’re entering into a new area of business, you have a solid flow of business from some outside source, or you’ve surveyed the market and found that you’re a “best kept secret,” you should use marketing tactics to raise your profile.
As always, clarity about your objectives (both interim and ultimate objectives) will lead to clarity about the activities you should undertake.
As between marketing and business development, where is your focus right now? Where should it be?
About Julie Fleming
Julie A. Fleming, JD, ACC, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!