October 23, 2012

Law Practice Magazine

March 2006

Volume 32 Number 2 | PAGE: 35 | BY: Mark Beese


Mark Beese responds:

Don't confuse marketing with business development. Outside of the legal world, business development is spelled “sales,” and it is seen as an acceptable—and critical—business practice. Inside of the legal world, where it’s about services, not products, there is a very central factor: People hire lawyers whom they trust. Trust is built over time through a series of positive interactions that give the client personal and business reasons to have you help solve, manage or eliminate a problem of consequence. And that’s where business development differs from marketing.

Marketing tools such as Web sites, brochures, advertisements, public speaking, article writing, Yellow Pages listings, media relations, community involvement, seminars, events and sponsorships support marketing goals. Doing these things well creates an impression in the mind of the legal services buyer as to your competence, experience, expertise and attitude. Good marketing can also help reinforce a reputation, increase market awareness, and affect a buyer’s inclination to hire a lawyer or a firm. In total, this is called branding—and it may not land you a single new client.

Business development (aka sales) is the art of developing trust so that people will pay you to solve their most challenging problems. It is a complex process that involves listening, understanding the unique needs of the client, establishing credibility, creating custom solutions, designing low-risk opportunities to “test-drive” the relationship, and progressively “contracting” for more and complex work appropriate to the level of the relationship and circumstance. All these elements rely on face-to-face meetings, clear communication, establishing mutual expectations and meeting those expectations on time.

Look at it this way:

  • Marketing makes an impression, sales confirms a reputation.
  • Marketing is telling, sales is listening.
  • Marketing opens doors, sales makes appointments.
  • Marketing sets the stage, sales creates revenue streams.

You measure marketing by metrics such as awareness, visibility, reputation, readership, message recall and likelihood to hire. Marketing effectiveness is often measured by surveying current clients, potential buyers of legal services, or both.

You measure business development by metrics such as number of sales meetings with prospects, revenue growth of existing clients, number of existing clients with whom you’ve expanded work (or not), conversion rate of qualified prospects to clients and the like.

Don't make the mistake of investing time and money in marketing expecting results only gained through relationship-building activities. Marketing will make sales more efficient, focused and effective, but it is no substitute for meeting clients at their workplace, understanding their industry and business, listening for their official line and personal agenda, and proposing helpful solutions, some of which you will charge a fee to implement.


Mark Beese is Director of Marketing at Holland & Hart in Denver. His blog is at www.leadershipforlawyers.typepad.com.