The setting was a roundtable session.  The floor belonged to an Am Law 100 law firm leader.  And the question she posed was clear:  “what must we do to get the highest value from our marketing / business development investments?”

The context for her question was the all-too-familiar drill.

Plans are drafted.  And they gather dust.

There is talk (hours of it at times) about web sites and collateral materials, staffing, technology, and a platform that seems to perpetually shift.

Experience tells us there are few, if any short-cuts to business development; yet we search for a quick-fix or a silver bullet, and repeatedly invest in the latest flavor-of-the-month solution.

The law firm leader concluded with an exclamation.  “We dissect analytics, reorganize groups and support functions, and reengineer process and procedure And progress is negligible.”

Whence Cometh Value?

It should be noted that often value is an eye-of-the-beholder thing.  But at least part of the answer to the spirit of that leader’s question has nothing to do with state-of-the-art technology, isn’t packaged in a glitzy new App, and doesn’t even require innovative or creative messaging.

It does require direction and discipline.

There are plenty of valid-in-the-right-context conversations about content, tools, PR, technology and grand events. While each may be important and represent noteworthy anecdotes, rarely will any form the foundation for long-term success.  Or failure.

In the world of the professional service provider, growth and practice development begin with the identification of strategic relationships.  Specifically:

  1. Who do we want to work with; and,
  2. How do we establish meaningful connections with the individual or team that can help achieve that goal?

The logistics of this target identification aren’t  glamorous, and may vary depending on the specific practice; but this is the foundation from which measurable and long-term value is generated.

This is not to argue that the deliverables and various work products that are part of executing a plan, or the tangibles that are conventionally considered part of the marketing function do not represent value.

It is to suggest that if this is the focus of most of our attention, our angst just might be misdirected.

On the other hand, when a strategic plan leads to the clear identification of targets, decisions about the organization, necessary tools and appropriate investments suddenly have framework.

Every extraordinary business developer I know traces success back to relationships — direct contacts, referrals, recommendations, the right connections in the right place at the right time.

Perhaps part of the answer to the law firm leader’s question is — when we invest appropriate attention and resources on identifying and pursuing targets that align with a strategy, we’ll witness positive change when we step back to measure value.