Finance Concept - ROIThe setting was a business development workshop, and a law firm leader was raising a question: what should we be doing to get the highest value from our marketing and business development investments?

The context was a familiar drill. Plans are drafted…and they gather dust. There is talk (hours of it at times) about websites, events, collateral materials, technology, and a platform that seems to perpetually shift.

Experience tells us there are no short-cuts to real business development; but we often act like we believe there might be a silver bullet. So we’re repeatedly teased by and invest in the latest flavor-of-the-month solution (and the supply of these is endless).

The law firm leader concluded with an exclamation. “We dissect analytics, reorganize groups shift support functions, and invest more. And most of the time progress is difficult to discern.”

Whence Cometh Value?

It should be noted that value can be an eye-of-the-beholder or a timing thing. But at least part of the answer to the law firm leader’s question has nothing to do with state-of-the-art technology, isn’t packaged in SEO, and doesn’t even require creative messaging (gasp).

It does require direction and discipline. And let’s be honest…we’re often too impatient for either.

There are plenty of necessary conversations about content, tools, PR, technology and grand events. And, while each may be important, none form the foundation for long-term success. Or failure.

Growth and practice development in a professional service arena begin with the identification of strategic relationships. Specifically, who do we want to work with, and how do we establish meaningful connections with the individual or team that can help us make this happen.

The logistics of this target identification are not glamorous, and may vary depending on the specific practice; but this is the foundation for realizing measurable and long-term value.

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. Of course they do.

It is to suggest that, from time to time, our focus just might be misdirected.

On the other hand, when the focus is on the identification of targets, we have a framework for decisions about the tools and investments necessary for progress.

In the case of every extraordinary business developer I know, long term success hinges on relationships — direct contacts, referrals, recommendations — the connections that put you in the right place at the right time.

It isn’t easy. It takes time. But the simple answer to the law firm leader’s question is — when we invest in and stay focused on the pursuit of strategic targets, we’ll reap the long term rewards that come with professional relationships.