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Last week we produced a blog, available here, that introduced the proverbial business development funnel and provided a step-by-step guide on how to implement it into your sales strategy. We know that lawyers can have difficulties with this aspect of their business, read here, but, from experience, we also know it’s something that can be improved with a few changes.

We want to go a bit deeper and address ‘the client approach’ – the hurdle along the business development channel that many lawyers, professionals and marketers find most daunting and where in fact they fall the quickest… and the hardest.

To do so, we’ve come up with five starting points that can help you approach your clients successfully both online and offline.

        1. Do your homework and identify issues affecting prospective clients

It goes without saying that market research is an important starting point for any business development.  Do your homework and know your market and prospective clients collectively and individually.  Compile a list of irrelevant, possible, probable clients and know their strategy, goals, competitors and what ails them.  We like to use a traffic light system and keep it as a rolling list, which is regularly reviewed.

Then approach them in a targeted, calibrated and planned out manner.  Identify a problem that affects their business and bring them a solution.  Don’t try to sell them something they don’t need.

However you choose to approach your clients, online or offline, if you hit them with a solution to a pressing issue you should have their attention.  From this, you could get an immediate response or at least drive traffic towards your webpage or blog.  Remember, always follow up each initial contact with a personal note or phone call.

You should also have a little black book (or online folder) of business that helps you to monitor market movements, your clients and prospects.  As the business cycle changes you can keep track of the needs of clients and prospects, who you’ve contacted and who you’re yet to approach.

        2. Have a digital backdrop to back up your initial approach

In a digital world, initial approaches often followed up by a web search of you and your business.  This means that your targeted approach needs to be supported by a strong digital backdrop.

Ensure that you have all the digital connections that are relevant to your business and that they’re kept up-to-date.  A static website, an empty blog or an unused social media account isn’t going to inspire your prospective clients to find out more.

Social media marketing allows you to make the relevant contact and engagement with your prospective clients.  Over LinkedIn you can show your expertise and influence.  And through blogging you can illustrate a real competency, authority and depth of knowledge.  Don’t jump on the Twitter, Facebook or Google+ bandwagons unless you are certain you can keep your pages relevant, updated and interesting.

        3. Show your commercial acumen and the added-value you bring

When you send out initial contact content, you need to show the added-value that you can bring to clients.  Ensure that your website, blog and other channels show the authority and expertise that you wield, as well as your print materials and pitch information.

There are some pretty monumental changes going on in the legal and professional services industry.  The ways in which business is done and relationships are managed are in the throes of a revolution, see here.  Clients no longer want cheaper rates and legal technocrats; they want commercially aware strategic advisors that provide added value (and the cheaper rates too…).

When you send out information to your current and prospective clients, include links to blogs and briefings you have published.  By showing your expertise, commercial awareness and client-centricity, you can make certain that your client approach is relevant and efficient.

       4. Continue to follow the market and approach and engage when appropriate

If you don’t receive a response from initial contact, don’t assume that clients aren’t interested in more updates that are important to them.  If new legislation is on the cards and it affects possible clients, get in touch.  By contacting them on a topical issue you’re demonstrating your expertise and that you know what is relevant.  You’ll also be showing that you’re on top of events, interested in the client and that you understand their needs and issues.

Try implementing this into your routine but rather than bombarding clients with any information you can find, create regular news roundups and unique briefings when relevant news or events break.  And don’t worry if all your competition are doing this too… clients are more likely to notice if you aren’t than to feel that you’re an irritation.

        5. Show that you’re as approachable away from the computer screen.

While, for many, a quick Google search or a head hunt on LinkedIn may be a first port of call when researching you and your firm, it’s important to also consider those who like to keep it simple.  Although you don’t want to inundate prospective clients with countless leaflets and brochures, it is useful to have some good copy and design in print.

When attending events consider creating a small postcard, an extension of your business card, that gives a brief biography of you and your business and directs clients to where they can find more information.  Similarly, think hard about what goes into your pitch materials and the messages that they give out.  With eblasts and social media you may not need to create brochures or leaflets as regularly but for those who want to get an essence of your business without a search engine they’re ideal.  Again, do your market research and see if this would suit your current and prospective clients.

Finding the right way to approach your clients, current and prospective, will take some time and research but by considering your market and by keeping it relevant you can ensure that you overcome this hurdle without stumbling.