Having run my own business for 12 years, I’ve spent countless hours engaged in business development, probably more hours than you would imagine. In reviewing year end results, I consider revenue as only one measure of success. More important is whether I’ve connected to the “right” clients and my coaching work has been beneficial to them. The best results occur when I take the time to develop my marketing plan and am persistent about implementing it.
If you have some resistance to creating a marketing plan, consider what Yogi Berra said: “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” And even if you are sure that you can keep track of that brilliant plan in your head, you are much more likely to be successful if you write it down. Keep in mind that your plan won’t be like anyone else’s. Before you commit to a plan, consider your own long-term goals for building your practice and understand what marketing activities work for you. Even more important, remember that a marketing plan isn’t a one-time event. A plan should be a living document that you constantly revise.
Abbreviated Marketing Plan
I’ve created a detailed template for my clients (and myself) that includes a range of marketing activities. The plan is too complex to cover in this column, so I’ll share key points from three sections of the plan that you could focus on now.
Section One: Client Retention
Two-thirds of your biz dev time should be spent on client retention, and one-third on new client acquisition. In the January/February CMCP newsletter, my column focused on client satisfaction and client retention, and contains several ideas that you can use in your own marketing efforts.
For this part of your plan, create a list of your current and past clients. For each client:
- Determine their level of satisfaction with your service.
- Commit to at least one nonbillable phone call or meeting to discuss your client’s business within the next quarter.
- Implement better communication (status reports, calls to review invoices before you send them, follow-up calls at the end of a matter).
- Schedule regular calls or meetings at least quarterly over the next year.
Section Two: New Client Acquisition
Given that it may take two to five years to land a new client, one of your challenges is to clearly define the ideal client for you and your practice. Do you like working with start-ups or established companies? Are you focused on California, national, or international clients? What is the ideal revenue range or number of employees? What specific industry is particularly interesting to you? All of these factors should be considered for this part of your plan.
Once you’ve generated a list of ten potential client companies:
- Research each company and assess their need for your services.
- Assess your current contacts within the company.
- Identify referral sources who can make introductions for you.
- Build relationships over time through quarterly email or phone contacts, and face to face meetings.
Section Three: Associations and Non-Profit Organizations
Being an active member of an association can help you expand your network, raise your profile in a particular community, and give you practice on basic biz dev skills. Choose an association that is meaningful for you so that you will be motivated to show up consistently.
Once you identify an association:
- Join a key committee, such as membership, programs or events.
- Volunteer to moderate a program, speak on a panel, or write an article.
- Strengthen your relationships with other members by meeting between programs.
Planning Doesn’t Always Guarantee Predictability
Even when you have a well-defined plan, not everything works out the way you would like it to. I find that in the midst of focusing on my plans, unexpected events often show up. Some of my most interesting clients have come to me through a referral that I couldn’t have predicted or planned. I am convinced that being fully engaged in biz dev efforts helped that opportunity occur. And I can guarantee that persistence does make a difference.