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Bar News - August 14, 2009

What to Focus on During the Economic Downturn


Because of the downturn in the economy, you may not be as busy as you would like. So now what?

How about using some of this "found time" to build your marketing infrastructure so that when the economy turns around, you will be well-positioned to take advantage of that turnaround?

Think back to two years ago when you were so busy you didn’t have time to market as much as you would have liked. What systems, strategies or tools would have been helpful to maximize your marketing efficiency? What was missing from your "marketing toolbox" that would have made business development easier? Whom do you wish you had stayed in touch with? What article do you wish you had written? Which organization would you have liked to participate more actively in?

Here are some suggestions that can help you be well-positioned to be hired when the economy improves:
  • Craft a thoughtful business development plan, not a to-do list nor a bunch of post-it notes spread around your office, but a strategic business development plan – one that starts with where you want your practice to be in three to five years and then focuses on whom you need to market to in order to make that plan a reality.

    In formulating your plan, use my "pebble in the pond" theory to focus your marketing [see:]. Focus first on past or current clients, then those who have previously referred matters to you and those within your firm who have good potential as referral sources. Only after you’ve exhausted this list should you turn your attention to new opportunities.

    Pick activities that draw on your personal strengths and that address why a particular individual has not yet hired you. Don’t forget to include deadlines for each of these activities.

  • Write a modular bio so that you can easily customize your bio to address specific client needs. This way, when you're putting together proposals, you'll be able to quickly and easily provide relevant information.

    A modular bio should be made up of paragraphs describing your specific experience and expertise for various possible representations. For instance, in one concise paragraph you could describe your experience handling class action litigation. In another paragraph, you would focus on your broad representation of financial services companies. You'll then be able to cut and paste the paragraphs as needed, enabling you to compile a biography that lets a potential client know you have the precise expertise the prospect seeks.

  • Update your other marketing materials, including your practice group description, your client list and articles in which you've been featured. By being proactive, you won't need to frantically update out-of-date materials when you get that call from a prospective client.

  • Create a robust contact management system. A strong contact management program will help you to stay in touch with clients, prospects and referral sources.

    Go through the database and update out-of-date contact information first. Then, segment your marketing list based on the interests of the contacts – both personal and professional. The software you use will often allow you to add tags and categories to make it easy to group people together by anything from hobbies to professional needs and interests.

    If you aren't currently capturing important information on the people in your database, now is the time to start. When you're making your regular check-in phone calls [see:], add notes to the contact’s record with the information you glean, from children’s names to important business issues.

  • Call the chair of the program committee of an organization that serves your clients or prospects and offer to organize and moderate a panel on a "hot" topic you've been thinking about.

    Make sure you're smart about this one--speaking engagements can either be a time waster or a high-payoff business-building activity, depending on both your audience and the focus of your panel.

  • And, perhaps most important, get back in touch with people you haven't spoken to recently. Have breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner. Connect with people you meant to stay in touch with but couldn't squeeze in when your plate was full. Just remember to focus on them and their needs in those interactions – not your anxieties.
Take advantage of that extra time you may have right now to build your marketing infrastructure. When things are busy again, you'll have the systems in place to be a more consistent business developer and you'll be glad you took this time to regroup. A slowdown in your workload is a terrible thing to waste!

Sara Holtz is president of ClientFocus. Contact her at or or call 916-797-1525.

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