Marketing vs. Business Development? Not an Either/Or Proposition.
Over the past several years there has been a trend in the legal industry related to growing law firms’ business development efforts. And while a focus on business development is a critical strategic initiative, there is also evidence that this increased focus has come at a price – a reduced focus and emphasis on marketing and branding. This is not an either/or proposition, and rather than choosing marketing or business development, firms should be focused on both.
To confuse the issue even more, some firms don’t even understand the difference and consider them the same thing. Debra Andrews outlines this in her article, “Marketing vs. Business Development – Why it’s Critical for Law Firms to Know the Difference,” The terms marketing and business development are frequently used interchangeably, especially by law firms that utilize both to grow their businesses. To set up each department, it is critical that firm leadership knows the difference between these two roles. While both marketing and business development cover similar ground and ultimately contribute to growing your law firm’s business, each has different strengths and each department should have distinct responsibilities.
There is still confusion in some firms and it’s important to understand how they differ, and how they relate. The key difference between marketing and business development is that marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large whereas business development is the process of pursuing strategic opportunities by developing new products, entering into new markets and forming business partnerships with other companies.
Even if firms do have both functions, they are oftentimes considered completely separate when in fact, they must work together closely and integrate activities.
The Bloom Group explains the impact that having an integrated effort can have on firms’ bottom lines:
A survey by The Bloom Group suggests that when marketing and business development are on the same page, a professional firm has a significant competitive advantage. By working in concert, successful firms’ marketing and sales activities create many more viable leads. A much higher percentage of those leads turn into work, and much faster: they accelerate the sales process. And, our experience tells us, these firms sell bigger and more profitable projects. The key, we’ve found, is that the most successful firms:
View marketing and selling not as independent activities but rather as an integrated process in which marketing and business development have defined, complementary but different, roles. Organize their demand-creation process in a way their clients prefer to buy complex, high-cost, high-stakes offerings, which are hallmarks of all professional services. Concentrate marketing and sales activities on fewer service offerings rather than more to avoid fragmenting resources and reducing market exposure for each service. Base their activities on strong points of view-well-researched and rigorous insights on business issues and how to solve them-that redefine the way their target clients think about these issues and enables the professional firms to shape leads to their advantage and stop responding to standard requests for proposals.
So how does this look in a firm? Andrews gives some examples:
The marketing and business development departments have many opportunities to collaborate, which your law firm should take advantage of in order to maximize efforts and ensure that tasks are not duplicated. To ensure the firm uses its marketing and business development resources efficiently, these six tasks should be coordinated between both departments:
Strategy and Planning – smooth communication of firm messaging Firm Messaging – a message should be developed based upon how the firm is qualified to meet the wants and needs of a client Content – items created by marketing, such as articles, blog posts, and webinars should be based upon information on topics that the target audience wants to learn more about Hosted Events – marketing handles the coordination and promotion of the event, while business development provides personal outreach following the event Speaking Opportunities – the marketer successfully pitches a partner at the firm to speak at an event, and the partner or other business developer meets prospects, hands out business cards and follows up post-event Client Feedback – both marketing and business development must be aware of changes to client needs and challenges and adjust how the firm responds to these.
Bottom line – law firms cannot be successful without a marketing and branding strategy from which business development efforts can build. As always, a firm’s brand needs to be strongly defined and integrated throughout all mediums so that when business development efforts have successfully connected clients to an attorney or firm, when that client visits a firm’s website, sees a ad, or likes its Facebook page, they are receiving a consistent message about the firm’s services.