In this episode of the Legal Marketing 2.0 Podcast, Guy is joined by Rebecca Edwards to discuss relationship techniques to establish and deepen client relationships in order to grow business. Rebecca is a legal marketing veteran with more than fifteen years of experience helping lawyers build their business and increase their brand. She currently serves as the senior marketing and business development manager for Williams Mullen, focusing on growth for both the Corporate and Tax Sections as well as attorney training and client service programs. Rebecca has been a long-standing volunteer with the Legal Marketing Association, currently serving as co-chair of the Strategies & Voices Editorial Committee. Her prior positions include service on the Mid-Atlantic Region Board of Directors and Virginias Chapter President.
1. How did you end up in legal marketing?
I was working here in Richmond, Virginia and I was actually thinking about relocating to New York City and living that dream after college. I got a call from a staffing firm, that was looking for someone to help a small law firm plan their 50th anniversary party with a one-month contract. I said, well, I don’t have a job yet, I might as well do this, so I did it. As soon as I got there the marketing manager of that firm said, “you know, actually, I really want somebody full time and you’re great, would you consider coming on?” I ended up working there and that person was involved in LMA, so she got me involved in LMA. One thing led to another and 15 years later, here I am.
2. What do you think is the most important tactic that attorneys could implement in order to grow their business?
After that good question you know, I think that attorneys, we all know that attorneys are busy people so it’s hard to get them to focus on marketing and business development when they’re trying to balance everything else. But I think reminding them that truly at the heart of it business development is all about relationships, so if they can take the time. To put together a business plan you know it’s a once-a-year thing that’s really going to lay the groundwork for success throughout the rest of the year. So I think that if I was giving somebody one tip it would be just to sit down, think through how you want your year to go, and focus on that business. You see on every single client service survey about the number one thing that clients want from their attorneys is for them to have an understanding of their business. There’s no way to truly grow business from a current client if you don’t understand their business, if you don’t understand the risks that they’re facing and how your fellow attorneys and other service areas can help them and mitigate those concerns.
3. What advice would you give other business development people at law firms to help their lawyers with putting together their business plan?
I think that pulling the data that you have at your fingertips, to share with them is always a good starting point. Whether that’s who they’re doing work for, looking at financials, looking at who may have come to events that they spoke at, etc. Pulling as much information together as possible is key. If you have time to, sit down with this person and coach them, inform them of that business plan and help them define their ideal client profile. Are they CEOs, are they general counsel, or the HR professionals? Are they in a particular industry? Are you typically working with public companies, private companies, etc? Thinking through all of that helps to generate ideas of individual people they know or people they may not know that could be added to their business plan.
4. How do you go about building a pipeline? What and who should be considered when creating a sales pipeline?
If you put together this list of contacts and relationships that you have, fingers crossed that’s going to lead to legal sales and more business for your firm and in your pocket. One of the things that I recommend to my attorneys is just thinking through who they know and making a running list of current clients, prospects, and referral sources like on a legal pad with a pen and really doing a data dump. I think that’s a good vibe for brainstorming when you’re thinking about who should be on that list. It’s going to be your current clients and that includes the individuals that are actively sending you work, as well as those who are your champions within the organization. Sometimes folks just think about who’s directing the work in the immediate, but not necessarily who has been the person who said, “you need to go to Sam because he’s fantastic,” or who may be a board member, or the CEO, or somebody else, so that’s important. Prospects are clearly someone that needs to be in that pipeline, and prospects in this case are who could send you work in the future. Creating that ideal client profile that we just talked about is going to inform who could be some prospects, and that’s folks that the marketing departments can research for you. But attorneys shouldn’t forget the people that they went to law school with, the people that coach their kid’s soccer team, or an alum that recently went in-house. All of those folks are important and would qualify as prospects. One other thing that I like to do is go into LinkedIn and search for second and third-degree connections of people that I know. Especially if you go in there and search for a particular type of industry, or your law school, or things like that you can unearth a lot of prospects that way.
5. You mention the importance of referrals. Attorneys can have some trepidation about this. How do you recommend going about this exercise?
You know, for all parties it’s really interesting because they can mean a lot of different things to different people. When I came to my current firm we focused a lot on that. I came from a larger firm where most of the work came from the clients that were top year after year. We did a lot of portfolio work for our big matters, so we were always focused on growing the client relationship. When they came to my firm now, which is more of a mid-sized regional firm, a lot of time and effort went into cultivating referral sources, and for them, that meant accountants, investment bankers, and other types of financial advisors. They do work for the clients that we want to have or have done some of the work on the deals that we’re already doing. It’s incredibly mindful to keep track of who you worked with on different types of deals and try to maintain those relationships moving forward. The last thing I would throw out about referral sources, in this case, is thinking about those super connector people, the people in your network that just know everybody. Make sure that they’re on your list because you never know who they may know who might have a legal need.
Take the time to define who you want to be doing work for and audit your current clients to see who has the potential for bringing you more work. Figuring out who could send you work from a referral source standpoint is really going to lay the groundwork for success. You have to take time to think about that, given where we are in the year, we are headed into the fall, which means we’re going to be in the new year in five seconds. All of those bits about outlining the business plan are going to be really helpful. Do not be scared to ask for referrals and then hop on LinkedIn and make sure that your account looks credible. These are going to be all the things to lay the groundwork.
You can find Rebecca on LinkedIn.