I’m not big on resolutions.
Some years I have, some I don’t, but they’re usually things I’d like to add to my life (like the year I decided to try learning to knit – I was crochet since I was about five years old – yes, they are two different things).
Do I still have a business development plan? Yes.
So what am I advocating here? Pure anarchy??
Uh no. Do not worry.
Now you wonder if I’ve totally lost track, dear reader. But I didn’t – bear with me for a moment.
It can be terribly tempting when you begin your planning for the year to start with what you had the year before. And hopefully you’ve already crafted your 2022 business development and marketing plan (you have it, don’t you?).
But, while it is important and valuable to build on the successes and progress of the previous year, it can often be very instructive to start with a clean slate, especially given what we have faced. the last two years.
So I encourage you to start with a clean slate – pull out a blank sheet of paper, wipe down your whiteboard, mentally erase any plans you’ve ever made from your brain, and start over. Throw away the plan you already made for 2022.
Yes, it’s scary and intimidating, but sometimes we can get caught up in what we’re doing and miss the forest for the trees. I’m not advocating anything that I haven’t done myself and it’s also something I’ve done in the past. Why and how does it work?
Start over and act like you’re entirely new to your practice – I recognize that for some of you this might sound really silly, given where you are in your career, but I promise you it will. is important.
Ask yourself – and not just mentally, but write down these answers:
- Who are my High five to ten customers?
- What sector(s) do they work in and what work should I do for them?
- How did I meet them?
- Who are my favorite five customers? (Do they overlap?)
- What sector(s) do they work in and what work should I do for them?
- How did I meet them? (I hope these clients and these answers overlap)
- What one to three things do my customers REALLY want? You may need to ask your customers for these things and you should do it – if they’re your best customers, they also want to maintain that relationship, and it’s good to check in periodically to make sure you know what they really want so you give them that, especially since it can change from year to year. Do they want to look good to their boss? Do they need to work a little on their plate? Do they need to find a way to cut costs even further? Do they need faster answers in a more digestible way? Do they need an associate seconded to them this year? A chat is a great way to figure this out – don’t forget to make that chat non-billable.
- How can I add value? This is a slightly different question than the previous one because wants are non-negotiable (in terms of customer relationship). That’s what you’re going to do anyway to keep your customers. the value is how you go beyond. There are two ways to add this – first, listen to the things they are NOT saying. What can you take away from your conversations that would be helpful, but that they may not be asking directly? Lawyers are trained to be good listeners and to identify their clients’ problems before they have them, so use them for client management as well as detecting legal issues. Second, you have already added value to all of these relationships throughout their lifetime, so identify what has worked before and what could continue to work. Again, you may need to ask your customers. Do they find it helpful to receive your company’s newsletters on relevant topics? Are timely webinars useful? Are they listening to the podcast your company does for their industry? Ask them about what you may not yet offer that might be in your wheelhouse.
You will notice here that I have only mentioned current customers, but this is a business development plan, it is not a coincidence. Once you have that in place (more on that in a moment), you’ll use these transferable CRM tools and leverage them for business development. The idea is to replicate what works successfully with the customers you love and are successful with you in the places you found them to find other customers you love and are successful for you. Rinse and repeat.
Once you have your list of customers (also known as your target audience), the things they really want, and the ways you can add value, you can create a plan that first identifies some goals. specific – do you want to get more work from these clients? Do you want to get more customers of a specific type (perhaps you would like more customers of the type you like compared to your best customers, for example)? Do you want to break into another market or move into another niche? Do you want to increase your notoriety with potential customers similar to those you already have?
Using your goals, you can then use the ideas you have developed based on the wishes and added values of your existing customers to show how you can achieve those goals. Then break them down again with descriptions of how and why those ideas will help you achieve those goals – at this point revisit your previous plan to see what may be worth continuing to incorporate and what may not. will serve more in pursuit of your goal. goals.
Ultimately, you’ll come up with a streamlined plan, which you can review quarterly and make individual to-do lists and deadlines. It will be much simpler and stronger overall, allowing you the creativity to come up with new ideas to achieve your goals, which you may never have had the flexibility to come up with if you stick with your previous plan. You also have a clear audience to start with and you know where you’ve been looking for customers before – and you don’t have to limit yourself to those places either. While many lawyers have obtained clients through word of mouth (still a valuable and valuable way to do business), identify where your ideal client is to know where you should be – online networking events? Social media? Industry conferences? Trade magazines? Again, if you’re not sure, talk to your customers to find out where they are and what interests them for a snapshot that will help you engage further.
Why bother writing a plan? I get it, you’re a very busy lawyer and it seems like a big investment of time for someone who could just keep doing what they’ve always done, and attracting clients. First of all, I like the phrase, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” partly because I’m Capricorn and type A, so planning is in my nature. But seriously, there are plenty of good reasons to do so:
- During the planning process, you’ll notice I mentioned talking with your current customers. There is never a bad time to manage the customer relationship. I’m guessing you already have regular customer checks built into your best customer relationships, but a temperature check with your best customers, especially one where you find out what they want and need as part of your relationship on an annual basis is an opportunity to find out what you are doing well and what you could be doing better, and build that into your plan for the year. Can it be uncomfortable? Sure. But not as uncomfortable as losing your best customers.
- You spend MUCH less time sitting down to write a plan and going over it monthly to jot down a few activities and checks and actually DO those activities and checks than you do ad-hoc business development. Without a plan, you have to take the time to evaluate every opportunity that presents itself as worthwhile or not, you’ll spend too much time at networking events that may or may not happen, and you’ll probably spend time doing a bunch of activities that will not work together as a cohesive whole. With a plan, any activity that comes along is immediately evaluated against the plan, and if it doesn’t fit, it’s rejected (unless it sounds like fun, then do it). The plan works for you, not the other way around.
- I’m a marathon runner (you know that, unless you’re new here). I don’t just arrive at the starting line with my fingers crossed and my hopes and dreams. I come with a basic training (like your schooling) then I train for 16-20 weeks (like the business development plan). You can be the best advocate, but if you don’t know what you want (ie your goals), things will only work out if you’re extremely lucky. Do some people run marathons without training? Sure. But it hurts. And I don’t want to be one of them. Can you grow a business without a plan? Certainly, but it may not be sustainable, and at what cost? Who knows. Be there for the long haul and make a plan. It’s like hard work for runners – we hate it, but we need it.
Sometimes when we rush to put the plan aside so we can get back to business at hand, it seems quicker to build on the past. But when we throw away everything we know to start from scratch, we can end up developing a more effective and efficient plan for next year!