I had a fantastic conversation with some colleagues last week on the broad topic of business development. We bantered back and forth about the challenges and rewards of our collective roles within and outside of law firms as we prepared for the panel discussion I will be moderating at the annual Legal Marketing Association’s New England Chapter conference on November 4th in Boston. (For the record, we are charged with giving perspectives on best practices for business development within law firms of all sizes. We plan to provide our audience with tips to increase law firm business development efforts with visible results.)
One of the most interesting conversations surrounds the broad topic: ’What results can you reasonably expect in a law firm and how do you measure those results?’ Without giving away the secrets of our program, each speaker provides fantastic insight into determining success that all look different. The more I thought about this, I identified a few critical components that need to be in place before defining success, including:
- Clearly defined goals. Before you can claim success, you must know what success looks like. Develop a crystal clear vision for your business and set some achievable goals for measuring before you even start out.
- Who is your audience and what are you offering? Develop a profile of your ideal prospect and conceptualize the problems you want to solve for that individual so that you recognize the opportunities when they arise.
- What sets you apart and can you articulate it? Many businesses have similar views on their top-quality skills and services. But how do you define your unique qualities? It is really difficult to identify the true gems that set you apart from the competition, however, these differentiators are the key to selecting what you sell and to whom. The qualities may not be gigantic in scale, but they will lead you to stronger relationships when you hit upon matching needs.
- How do you build and maintain your relationships? Success in business is all about the depth of your relationships. Treat your relationships personally and continually give them the gifts of helpful information.
- Are you providing extraordinary value to your clients so that they want to help you with referrals? By carefully grooming your relationships, you open the door to referrals from truly satisfied customers. Perpetuate the habit so that you see the string of positive results.
- Do the follow-up! It’s been said that “the gold is in the follow up.” If you’re not systematically following up on every business encounter, you’re missing out on a gold mine.
I had an experience yesterday that got me thinking about service and point of view. Let me walk you through my experience… yesterday was a glorious fall day in New England– blue skies, cool breezes and crisp air. I was inspired to cook a hearty meal to warm ourselves after a day outdoors. I pulled out recipes, created a list and headed to the store for ingredients. Feeling productive when I got home, I emptied my bags to begin cooking. To my unpleasant surprise, I was missing a key ingredient that I knew I paid for. Feeling aggravated by the error, I now had to go back.
I started thinking about how this may have happened. When I was in line, I noticed that the bagger had forgotten an item and so I quickly grabbed it and left the store, not checking to see if anything else may have gotten placed aside accidentally. If I had taken two more seconds to really look at the counter, I would have seen that one of my main ingredients was still there.
Did my plan get sidetracked because I wasn’t paying attention to the details of that interaction? Or, was it poor service?
From my point of view as a customer, it was poor service. But the more I considered the options, from the point of view of the service provider, perhaps I wasn’t paying attention? This begs the question… how many times have our clients had similar experiences with our service?
Right or wrong, good customer service is defined by the experience of the recipient. Good service is not a few grand gestures, rather it is the immediate experience weighed against the compilation of all of the smaller interactions. Each reaction to an encounter makes a difference between client service success and failure. It’s the attention to detail that makes the difference. It is up to us, as individual service providers, to make sure that each experience is positive because in any negative experience, whether of our own fault or not, we could be perceived as not providing great service. When we regularly provide solid customer service in each interaction, regardless of the magnitude of the event, we build loyal relationships that thrive over the long term.
Believe me…I am a believer in using social media, blogs & websites and other technology tools to market a business. However, I have to emphasize that these tools are meant to support your relationships. Despite the growing popularity of digital tools, face-to-face interactions are extremely valuable and essential to building long-term, loyal business relationships.
A white paper I recently came across, “The Future of Meetings: The Case for Face-to-Face,” found three reasons why live meetings continue to be an essential part of the marketing mix. In-person meetings accomplish the following:
- Captures an individual’s attention and focuses it on your business at hand for a defined period of time.
- Inspires positive emotions through a human connection.
- Builds solid networks and relationships.
These points sound like common sense, but the paper was based on a scientific study conducted jointly between Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and a sales and marketing services company. It is a fascinating study that when you boil it down, makes a great case for keeping it real.
Think about it…in a virtual environment, people try to ‘multi-task’, resulting in a diluted interaction. We allow the human connection to be interrupted by technology. We eliminate the ability to read body language, create an emotional link to an other person and disconnect the natural pull of a compelling relationship. This research confirms that relationships are more easily built (and are ultimately stronger) when forged in person. Deep trust is built through repeated in-person encounters, not conference calls and linked in posts.
We have all heard the term “doing business on the golf course.” Whether seeing someone on the course, in the coffee shop, over lunch or at the gym, build face-to-face time into your marketing and business development initiatives and continue to use technology tools as support to the relationships you take the time to invest in.