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Some thoughts on business development for professional practices

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Why is it that we professionals are often seen as being poor at business development?  We must be doing something right, otherwise we wouldn’t have the abundance of successful legal and accountancy firms here in Yorkshire. In fact some of the UK’s most successful regional firms are based here in my home city of Leeds.

I was with one of my partners, David Mitchell, this week and we were discussing marketing and business development in professional firms. David, who heads up our Consulting division made some insightful comments which I thought worth sharing.

How often do we critically look at our marketing spend and measure the output from that investment. Accountants and I suspect lawyers also can be too prone to only measuring actual spend against budget or even worse, against last year’s spend. Measuring output by the number of brochures produced, the updated website published etc etc. Of course what we should really measure is how our marketing spend has created new work for the practice.

So here’s a thought for you to chew on. How about halving the marketing spend and using the amount saved to fund your rain-makers to go out and win more work? It can be done and the right people will make a massive difference to your top and your bottom line. The attraction and development of these people are key and they should be managed like any industry sales force.  Simply throwing money at a marketing budget will not generate new fees.

David explained to me some of the models he works within Consulting. Think about how you go about marketing and compare to some great marketing companies. Perhaps one of the best is Apple. Why are they so good?  I believe that this is because they have a philosophy of firstly considering WHY they are in business to do what they are. That then drives HOW they deliver their business. It is only after that they focus on WHAT they sell. Sounds a little strange, but I recommend it.

When you are explaining to a potential client about your firm or if you are producing your latest brochures and information sheets start with the WHY, get to the HOW and then explain the WHAT, in that order. Not easy to explain or visualise, but basically I am asking you to get passionate about why you do what you do in business with your potential clients.

Remember, clients to professional firms are buying your expertise and experience “on trust”. It is difficult to gain trust quickly. It helps if you have advocates – clients or referrers prepared to endorse you. But you need to build empathy with the client and that can take time. Clearly explaining the “WHY” will help in demonstrating empathy. From there you start to build trust.  Once trust is established you can start to identify and diagnose issues and your client is going to respect your diagnosis. Of course this then leads to providing solutions and adding value to your client. Sounds simple, but this is the process you need to go through with every client. That process may happen within one meeting or over the course of one year. Either way, if you want happy clients who will continue to use your valuable services you will have gone through this process.

If you want more insight into making a real difference to your business development I would be happy to introduce you to our Consulting team!!

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