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Why This Topic Is Important
The first step toward successfully marketing your firm and developing busi-
ness is to define yourself and your target market. You cannot efficiently allo-
cate your resources and effectively market your firm unless you have done
this. Professionals are often tasked with the dual role of servicing their
clients and developing business by securing new clients or expanding the
scope of existing relationships. Because there are limited hours in the day,
you must work efficiently as a professional and as a marketer. The first step
in the path to success is to develop a detailed game plan. In doing so, you
must define yourself, your firm, and your target market or ideal client.
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Defining Yourself and the Firm
Firms differentiate themselves from the competition by carefully defining
their attributes and characteristics. This step is critical to success. Firms
that have focused service offerings generally have better performance than
firms that try to “do it all.” To attract new clients and retain existing clients,
you must define yourself and the firm in such a way as to differentiate your-
self and the firm from the competition. It is imperative that you convince ex-
isting and prospective clients that you offer something unique that the
competition does not. Failing the ability to offer a unique service, you be-
come a commodity product. Additionally, differentiating yourself and thus
taking the firm out of the realm of the fungible product enables the firm to
charge more for its services.
Defining and differentiating yourself may seem like a daunting task. How-
ever, a highly productive team-building exercise begins by gathering partners
and principals in a room to discuss the basic tenets and unique capabilities of
the firm. Each of the participants should spend a few minutes identifying the
attributes that make the firm a better option than the competition. Write this
list on a board or f lipchart. After the list is complete, the group should identify
the competition and list their attributes. Finally the group compares the lists
by crossing off every characteristic that you identified as also being a charac-
teristic of the competition. What remains are the attributes that make the
firm different. These differences could lie in the culture of your firm or a
unique service that you offer. Regardless, these differentiating factors must
be the focal point of any marketing discussion with potential or existing clients.
As part of this exercise, you may engage the strengths, weaknesses, oppor-
tunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis that focuses on key marketing issues and
should be a technique incorporated into the exercise of defining the firm and
the ideal client. When conducting the SWOT analysis, the participants should
be realistic and extremely critical of the firm™s weaknesses and external
threats. The analysis will not be effective unless the group avoids the natural
tendency to ignore weaknesses and threats. Specificity in identifying the
firm™s strengths and weaknesses and the market™s opportunities and threats
will make it more valuable and effective.
Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors. Strengths might include
such things as the firm™s focus or expertise, the quality of the firm™s work
product, the firm™s recent successes, the firm™s ability to think outside the
box, the quality of the firm™s process and procedures, and any other aspects
of the firm™s business that add value for the firm™s clients.
Weaknesses may include undifferentiated services that the firm offers in
relation to its competitors, previous damage to the firm™s reputation, a his-
toric inability to successfully manage the expectations of the firm™s clients,
and lack of experience in particular areas of the firm™s practice.
Opportunities and threats are external factors. Opportunities might
include developing markets that represent potential new clients, strategic
124 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth

alliances, new services that offer additional ways for the firm to drive rev-
enue, and areas of the market currently being serviced by a competitor that
offers an ineffective or inferior product.
Threats can include new competition within the firm™s market, new and
innovative services offered by the firm™s competition, successes of the firm™s
competition, and superior expertise and experience being offered by the
firm™s competition.

Defining the Firm™s Target Market and
Ideal Client
In addition to defining the firm and its capabilities, you can most effec-
tively utilize resources by identifying a specific target market or type of
client. The shotgun approach is an inefficient way to develop business and
usually results in bad business for both the firm and the client. Defining a
focused market and identifying specific clients or industries allows you to
focus marketing efforts and better understand prospective clients and their
concerns. After identifying the ideal market or clients, the firm will be po-
sitioned to efficiently market its services and ensure the efficient use and
allocation of your financial and human resources. A common mistake, made
particularly by smaller firms, is to attempt to be all things to all clients. Not
only does this lead to disappointed clients but also to burned out delivery
staff as they move from project to project with very little carryover of
knowledge, skills, and intellectual property to help them. A tight focus on a
specific, narrow service offering is important for small to mid-sized firms.
When defining the target market, the firm should evaluate the following
characteristics:

• Whether the client is an individual or business entity,
• The industry in which the ideal client does business,
• The annual revenue (or other measure of size) of the ideal client,
• The geographic location of the ideal client,
• The number of employees, and
• Whether the ideal client is publicly or privately held.

After determining a target market, the firm should focus its efforts on the
ideal client based on the analysis. For example, if the best client for the firm
is a mid-size manufacturing company, then all marketing efforts should be
targeted toward acquiring business from new clients in that industry or mar-
ket. Putting the firm in front of the target market and developing a reputa-
tion within that market will ensure success.
A few years ago, a New York-based law firm specializing in securities
compliance found itself assisting several privately held companies with general
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Marketing and Business Development

corporate issues. After engaging in this exercise, the firm discovered because
of specific expertise that it had developed, that its ideal clients were actually
publicly held companies and organizations involved in the securities markets.
The firm then refocused its efforts and was able to increase its client base
significantly. Additionally, by focusing on larger companies and well-estab-
lished securities firms, the firm was able to achieve higher billing rates. Fi-
nally, by developing a niche and becoming an expert in its field, the firm
soon found itself turning away business to manage its rapid growth. Although
this firm™s experience may be exceptional, it is not unique and is a useful ex-
ample of the value of focus in service offering and target market.


Using Human Resources Efficiently
and Effectively
An important challenge facing professional services firms is the efficient al-
location and utilization of its human and financial resources in the pursuit of
new business. While the firm may offer an excellent product and exceptional
service, if you are unable to market those services and develop a reputation
within your target market, your firm will fail to satisfy its potential and may
even fail to survive.
As discussed in Chapters 3 and 10, most professional services firms are
structured as partnerships or corporate entities with members who serve as
decision makers. Therefore, in the spirit of maximizing the return on human
and financial capital, it is not surprising that most professional services firms
use their partners/members and employees to market the firm and develop
business.


The Partner Model
There are numerous techniques and models used by professional services
firms to market themselves and develop business. However, using the firm™s
personnel”the partner model”is by far the most common method em-
ployed by small and mid-sized firms.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE PARTNER MODEL. There
are numerous advantages of the partner model. Some of them include:

• Professionals are often motivated by monetary gains and personal grat-
ification to successfully market the firm. Using the firm™s personnel en-
sures that financial and personal interests are aligned. The synergy of
aligning financial and personal interests is a powerful motivating factor.
This is important because developing business is difficult and requires a
126 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth

great deal of hard work, dedication, and comfort with rejection. Align-
ing firm and personal interests increases the chances of success.
• The professionals within the firm are well positioned to understand the
product and speak knowledgably about it. While it is possible to edu-
cate a professional salesforce or marketing firm about the firm™s ser-
vices and attributes, it is expensive and, if not managed appropriately,
can be less productive than the partner model. Further, it is a powerful
message for clients to realize that the firm™s personnel are personally
dedicated to the firm and its success.
• By utilizing the firm™s partners and members, the firm preserves its fi-
nancial resources. While the firm potentially loses revenue through the
loss of billable time, it is able to preserve its financial resources that
would otherwise be spent on outside services or a dedicated sales team.
• The relationships developed during the marketing process are the same
relationships that continue during the firm™s work with its clients. An
important determinant of professional services firms™ success is their
client relationships; this is an important characteristic of the partner
model. The sales approach is grounded in the concept of establishing re-
lationships rather than selling services. It is important to establish a
strong bond with your clients from the start.

The partner model, while relatively efficient and appropriate for small-
and some mid-sized firms, is not without its disadvantages:

• When using firm partners or professional staff to drive business, ensur-
ing the efficient allocation of resources is critical. Typically, as firms
grow and the number of clients increase, management is faced with the
decision of offering additional services to leverage existing clients while
continuing to develop new business. It is difficult to quantify but it is
much easier to expand on an existing relationship than to develop new
ones. Exhibit 5.1 illustrates the issues surrounding allocation of re-
sources as the firm continues to grow and increase its client base.
The most efficient use of human and financial resources is tradition-
ally found along the slope of the line. As a firm grows at some point man-
agement will be faced with the opportunity to develop additional
services through leveraging its existing client relationships. As a general
rule, professional services firms should, as they increase in size and client
base, begin to offer additional services (as opposed to adding new
clients) as a means of securing efficient growth.
The small firm, including the traditional litigation boutique, is
represented by Firm X. Exhibit 5.1 shows that Firm X has relatively
few professionals as compared to its larger competitors and that it is
offering only one or two primary services. However, within its target
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Marketing and Business Development



Number of professionals




Y
Z




X


Number of services



Exhibit 5.1 Firm Resource Allocation over Time



market, Firm X is specifically focused and proficiently services its
clients. In fact, by specializing in the services it offers, Firm X, even
with its limited human resources, can experience great success. Firm
X is also uniquely situated so that it can, as discussed earlier, preserve
resources by specifically focusing its marketing and business develop-
ment efforts.
The mid-size firm, represented by Firm Y, is at a fork in the road.
Firm Y must determine whether to offer new services to existing
clients as a means of increasing its revenue or focus its resources on
developing new clients. Firm Y may be able to expand on its existing
relationships by offering additional services more efficiently than de-
veloping new client relationships. If Firm Y offers additional services
to existing clients, it can increase revenue without being forced to ex-
pend the human and financial resources to develop new clients. Fi-
nancial modeling, which is discussed in Chapter 15, is critical when
determining whether to expand your human capital and increase your
financial obligations.
There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. For example, a
specialized commercial litigation firm, which is represented by point Z
on the exhibit. As a general rule, Firm Z should offer additional services
to its existing clients to maximize its efficiencies and capitalize on its
human resources. However, this is where pragmatism and theory di-
verge because Firm Z is, with its numerous attorneys, focused solely on
128 The Front Office: Driving Sales and Growth

high-stakes commercial litigation. Despite its extensive supply of
human capital and singular focus, Firm Z is profitable and successful.
Firm Z™s success originates and is in large part attributable to its ability
to differentiate itself from its competition and focus on a specific seg-
ment of the marketplace.
• Marketing and developing business are not easy tasks, and in fact, are
one of the most difficult tasks faced by the professional services firm.
As a result, a great deal of diligence, perseverance, and discipline is re-
quired to do both well. The firm should set specific expectations and
well-defined goals to ensure the diligent pursuit of developing business
for the firm and furthering its reputation. An effective tool to ensure
the appropriate level of effort in the pursuit of business is to require
professional staff to attend regular marketing meetings. Each meeting
should focus on the firm™s goals and the means by which those goals can
most efficiently be obtained. In addition to defining the firm™s target
market, the participants should discuss their network and marketing
ideas. The meeting should begin with a brainstorming session and end
with the allocation of specific business development or sales-oriented
assignments. The assignments can range from entertaining an existing
or potential client to speaking at a forum or symposium attended by ex-
isting or potential clients. It is imperative to provide direction and
make each person accountable for his or her actions or, as the case may
be, failure to act. Peer pressure as a form of accountability is a power-
ful tool that should be incorporated into the firms approach.
A large Houston-based law firm focuses a great deal of its market-
ing efforts on its partners. The firms sales volume is, therefore, reliant
on the diligence of its partners. Every month, each practice area holds

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