Marketing, Business Development and Sales

"I want more clients, so I need better marketing." A thesis that sounds plausible. But is it true? The answer: Maybe... But maybe not.

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Marketing, Business Development and Sales

These three terms are often confused. Especially "Marketing" is popular. Also "Business Development" is on the rise and is often used to replace the less popular term "Sales".

Proposition: I want more clients for my firm, i.e. I need better marketing.

That's one approach. Maybe even the right one. Or maybe not. Because: Marketing might not be the reason why a law firm sells fewer services than it actually wants to.

One problem is the imprecise use of terms and the incomplete understanding of the three disciplines. When everyone talks about the same thing, everything is easier. So let's try to clarify the terms.

Business development used to be part of marketing, with the focus on the development of new sales channels

It's not like that anymore. The term is being interpreted in an increasingly broad sense and today describes the process by which new clients are identified, processed and acquired. Business development also includes the definition of new business models or strategies for growth or improving the profitability of a law firm. 

In other words: marketing and sales are already included. Today, business development therefore often refers to the comprehensive marketing and sales process.

Marketing (legal marketing) is a multifaceted process that goes beyond advertising

A good website is the foundation for successful marketing. But by no means everything! In marketing a company determines among other things

  • which products and services are offered;
  • the relevant target groups for these products/services and their pricing;
  • their own positioning as a corporate brand;
  • possibly also the separate positioning and advertising of individual products/services, which may well differ from the company brand;

The goal of law firm marketing should be to achieve the highest possible awareness in the target group for the defined offer. In the ideal case, this results in a measurable increase in qualified leads and potential projects (opportunities). Digital marketing in particular is a discipline that is perfectly suited to winning leads for law firms.

Sales: It is all about converting leads to clients

So sales follows on from marketing and deals with its products: the leads. These are converted into paying clients by the sales department.

Law firms and other consulting firms are reluctant to refer to their staff as "sales". It is assumed that the target group would not appreciate it if the sales department of a law firm suddenly knocked on their door. This sales tactic is too aggressive for many consultancies. So why not simply call these people "business development"? Sounds much less intrusive. Of course, this can cause confusion, because business development goes much further than sales.

This somewhat confused picture of the three terms is transferred into the practice of the legal profession

For this reason, the sales role in law firms in Switzerland is still reserved for partners. These partners are responsible for winning over clients as experts and thought leaders. An official business development function is still rarely seen in law firms (especially in Switzerland). But they do exist. Where a "Business Development" department exists, it usually supports the firm's marketing department (if such a function exists) in generating new leads. Under certain circumstances, Business Development also helps the partners with sales.

The result is usually not very satisfying. An unstructured approach that accumulates to a mess with the most valuable and experienced professionals (partner level). In the end, nobody has the capacity and competence to do things right. Possible leads are overlooked, lost or cannot be converted. Partners invest time that would actually have been better invested in looking after existing mandates, passing on their own knowledge (knowledge management) and generating revenue.

Marketing can certainly be the reason for faltering acquisition

In summary: Marketing can be the reason for faltering acquisition. However, caution is required. Maybe the marketing mix is right and the problem lies in the sales area. Anyone who then tinkers with the services in marketing by mistake, even though this is not the problem at all, may be doing more harm than good.

Are your sales people (i.e. the partners of the firm) investing enough time in converting the leads you have generated in marketing?

In our next marketing blog, we will look at the most popular business development strategies.

Improvement begins with the understanding of your own possibilities

For law firms that want to develop their marketing skills, we recommend the following workshop on "Digital Marketing for Law Firms". This workshop addresses the basics of marketing, especially the development of digital marketing and its influence on communication with the target group. 

The promise: At the end of this 4-hour event, participants will be able to plan the next steps for company marketing in an informed manner.

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