Published in the Professional Marketing Magazine July 2011
Peter Kane looks at why firms find it so hard to maintain or increase their focus on lead generation.
I bring you shocking news. Sin is rife within professional firms and in this article I am going to expose some of the most sinful behaviours.
Before any of you apply for a super-injunction though, please relax, no names will be mentioned. The following is a quick rattle through the seven sins and how they raise their ugly heads when you are trying to build a new business campaign. Although the vast majority of firms (97% according to theRaintoday.com 2010 survey) want to maintain or increase their focus on lead generation, most firms are hindered by the sin within. I am confident you will recognise some within your firm – and if you do not, make sure you chain yourself to your desk –as you are one of the fortunate few and there are not many firms like yours.
The Seven Sins
There’s a lot of procrastination in professional firms, but often when feeearners finally focus their considerable minds on a new business campaign, they can be over-eager in their desire to get cracking. Some agencies exploit this and shout “Act quickly, act big!” when often a more measured approach would work better.
Some people leap in, make a few silly mistakes and get their knickers in a twist. Yes the design may look great and the thought leadership seems very clever – but does it create opportunities that your colleagues can work with? Also, do all the different media support each other and create one compelling message – or is it a bit rushed and incoherent. To prevent people racing off in the wrong direction, the effort of all involved needs to be measured. A stubborn focus on results and a clear
project plan, like that opposite, showing the steps involved, how long each will take and who is involved, will temper anyone’s ardour.
It is understandable that people want to get the most out of the campaign, but there is a risk that they will go full tilt for as many opportunities as possible. Even though you don’t want to dampen enthusiasm you need to be sure that all responses can be managed properly. The risk here is that people will gorge on new leads and then lose their appetite. This over-indulgence will cause neglect of further opportunities. This will lead to waste and diminishing returns. To prevent this, make sure activity is spread out over time so that each response can be handled with the high level of service required.
It may be tempting to think: “I see money and opportunity over there – I simply can’t ignore it” but this can lead to a bloated and ineffective campaign. As David Maister says: “If you try to catch two monkeys – you might just miss them both”. Focus efforts on those targets or individuals where you will have greater understanding of their needs. This will come from your knowledge of your existing clients and the sectors they operate in. More time spent in defining targets at the outset will not only ensure that you are able to engage more prospects in dialogue – but also that you are able to convert more opportunities.
In our experience, inactivity often springs from two things: fear and focus.
Fear arises from a lack of self-confidence within professionals about their own ability to win new business – or ignorance about the right process to follow. This is quite simply fixed; through clear communication and training to address both soft skills and approach. However, unless the issue of focus is also corrected, then sloth will remain.
Focus in itself can be a hugely positive attribute and many fee-earners succeed by being very motivated and brutally efficient at focusing their energy where they will get greatest payback. Some fee earners will think ‘this is not for me – if I keep my head down it will go away’. Others will be complacent, saying ‘we have always done it this way’ when faced with new or challenging ways of working. The only solution is to motivate them: through a clear message that success within business development is crucial to career progression – and those that are active and somehow balance it with the pressing immediacy of client demands, will be rewarded through cash incentives, public recognition and promotion.
There are also times when you want to achieve scale and momentum, that you should consider working with dedicated sales people, rather than seller/doers. One very interesting statistic to emerge from the 2010 Raintoday.com survey on Lead Generation was that the high performing firms are much more likely to use dedicated sales people than those firms which perform below average (70% of high performers use dedicated sales people versus 41%).
Professionals are conditioned to achieve absolute precision, minimise errors and avoid incurring the anger of their superiors. Hence new activity can be stifled or watered down for fear of ‘getting it wrong’or that their lack of knowledge will be exposed.
Reassurance is key; advise people that they should be realistic, that not all marketing and business development tactics will work, not all prospect meetings will be a raging success and people will occasionally make mistakes. The firm leadership needs to create a sense of adventure by giving a
clear message that with more market activity there will be the odd administrative mistake, some toes may be trod on and some eggs may be broken – but this is all more than justified by the end result.
Some fee earners will not venture onto the marketing battlefield as they perceive that others are better armed than they are. Either their offering is ‘superior’ or they have better marketing tools and higher marketing spend. You might hear such phrases, for example, as ‘if only we had that budget, size of marketing team, CRM system’.
To overcome this you need to think creatively, cut your cloth to suit your needs and make the most of your budget. This can be easily done by employing the right tools, which in some cases may be different from those you have tried in the past. Many of the best marketing tactics today are also the least expensive, for example using blogs and social media such as LinkedIn; nurturing and exploiting referrals from third parties and speaking at industry events.
Some fee earners, especially those who have been with one firm for a long time start to suffer from the ‘illusion of fame’. While they may be recognised in the industry for their expertise, they fall into the trap of thinking that they are better known than they really are. As a result many believe that they do not need to spend effort explaining their offerings and strengths to prospects, work will simply come to them.
For those rare few that are held in the highest esteem by peers, this works. For the rest, the simplest way to encourage them is to show them examples of how the successful ones have done it and work with them to find the methods they are comfortable with. This could be through writing and publishing articles, hosting round-table discussions or simply publicising excellent results that have been achieved for existing clients.
The 10 questions to ask before you start planning the campaign
Many of us, through both nature and politics, are keen to be optimistic and positive when the firm wants to engage in a new campaign – but sometimes we need to challenge the idea before embracing it with gusto.
Ask yourself – and the sponsoring party, the following before investing time and money…
- What do we want to achieve – raising awareness, increased sales, market knowledge? Make sure all parties are clear and fanatically focused on the results.
- Is this directly linked to the firm’s strategy? The planned activity needs to be relevant to wider effort across the whole firm.
- Who are we going to target? As mentioned above, knowing who and limiting the numbers that you will approach will make the campaign more effective and successful.
- What credibility do we have with that section of the market? You need to be sure that what you are offering to your targets and your ‘standing’ in the arena in which they operate, marry up.
- What media are we going to use and how will they interconnect? If you are planning a multi-channel campaign, all elements must be synchronised in time, appearance and call to action. Sending impersonalised letters or e-mails, having designs that do not co-ordinate and proclaiming mixed messages will mean wasted time and money.
- How will we qualify leads? You may have run the campaign, you may have had an encouraging response and you may be ready to set that first important date for a meeting. But making sure you send the right person, that they are properly briefed and that the meeting is likely to lead to work requires care and research.
- Do we have the aptitude and appetite internally to drive this campaign? This is about the right people, spending the right amount of time doing the right things. Will people commit to act and support the campaign – or is it just a bit of fiery pre-appraisal rhetoric?
- How are we going to measure results? How will you know if it has worked, whether the returns outweigh the costs and whether future campaigns will be worthwhile? Is it the number of responses to direct marketing, the number of meetings or the value of any work that follows? You need to decide beforehand what success will look like.
- Do we have the resource to attend appointments? Ensure that the right people are around when you need them– and willing to prioritise new meetings even when the initial excitement of the campaign launch has passed.
- How are we going to keep momentum? Regular but brief progress meetings, conference calls and emails are key to keeping people interested. Also, what can you do to shout success from the rooftops?
Case Study: Why you should embrace cold calling as part of your BD Strategy
IBB Solicitors has a strategic objective to build its client base. The IBB Marketing and Business Development team advises on all of the marketing mix, but the engagement of an external telemarketing company, such as The BD Consultancy, was new to the firm.
How does it work?
The idea of using partner or solicitor time to make calls was discussed at an early stage but it was quickly decided that an external consultant would provide a better return on investment.
The first step is to produce a full project plan including specific objectives, KPIs and a SWOT analysis. Once a plan is agreed target companies and key decision makers, in this case the buyer of legal services, are identified.
This information is not always readily available but a combination of bought lists and publicly available information provide a good basis.
The BD Consultancy is responsible for generating a meeting based on the data we give them. That does not mean that we sit back and wait for the opportunities to roll in, far from it. We keep in touch with Peter and his team, offering suggestions around topics of potential interest, we refine the approach depending on target industry sectors and, when a meeting is secured, act quickly to confirm and follow up.
What can you do to make your cold calling campaign successful?
Stakeholders need to be committed to the process and understand that it could take up to three years from the first point of contact to a target becoming a profit generating client. Don’t expect business to come your way immediately. Convert the sceptics by using firm champions to promote your cause, communicate successes and demonstrate the value of cold calling at every opportunity
Choose your consultancy carefully. Meet them face-to-face, understand how they will work, their approach and methodology and agree on the outputs you are looking for. In IBB’s case the objective was to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the buyer of legal services at a corporate and representatives from IBB
Put together a comprehensive project briefing for each campaign – not only does this ensure the right targets are approached but it also greatly assists those making the cold calls
Understand that your consultant is calling as a representative of your firm – this means providing them with enough information to enable them to carry out their role effectively. Give them the authority to agree meetings, provide deal / experience information and give them access to diaries
Once meetings are set by your consultancy it is important to take responsibility for the opportunity. This should lie with the partner who will be attending the meeting. The meeting should be confirmed, agendas set and any queries dealt with directly with the contact
You should encourage partners to take a business development person with them to meetings. It helps to view the opportunity from a non-lawyer perspective. We business developers are often happier to ask the sort of questions a partner may feel uncomfortable with, such as “how much is your legal spend and who is it with?” You’ll be surprised just how many companies are happy to answer questions such as this.
And finally, remember that cold calling is the start of a potentially long process. There is no value in securing a meeting and identifying a real opportunity if it does not get followed up. This means employing all marketing and BD activities and strategies available to you. And yes – it can take years, but when that client is established and is generating income for the firm, it’s a great feeling to know how the relationship started.
Peter Skinner is a business development manager at IBB Solicitors –
If you would like to find out more, please contact: