BD Tips to Get You to the End of the Year

July 17, 2023

If August is for vacation and rooftop happy hours and December is for holiday parties and collections, you’ve basically got three months left to hit your 2023 business development goals. Here’s how to make the most of September, October and November.

Revisit Your Goals

Whether you created a formal plan at the start of the year or just crossed your fingers and hoped that a $5 million book would finally manifest, now is the time to take a serious and realistic look at your targets for the year. If the goals no longer make sense — if, for example, you were anticipating a ton of SPAC transaction work — you can still shift your focus to something more achievable rather than simply giving up. Your business development goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. And, of course, they should be in line with your firm and practice group’s overall strategy.

Checking in with leadership and colleagues about these goals now looks proactive and smart — “Hi Catherine, as we head into the Q4, I want to make sure we’re aligned on priorities” — while asking about them in late November just looks desperate.

Lean In to Client Service

At any time of year, the best business development tool is a happy client. Whether they’re sending you more work directly, or acting as references on your behalf, the in-house counsel you serve have more impact on your book of business than virtually anyone else. So while you are always, of course, doing your best work for them, this is the moment to think about how to exceed expectations.

Are they responsible for tracking legal spend and results? Offer to help crunch your firm’s billing date to make your client’s administrative burden lighter. Can you adjust a meeting schedule or buy extra time on a deadline to make their lives easier? Can you make an introduction that helps them find a new hire or business partner? Can you connect them to a valued resource in your personal network, like a top medical specialist or a college admissions counselor for their teen?

Prepare Contact Lists for the Holidays

If your firm has a gift-giving program or end-of-year celebrations, make sure your client contact information is fully up to date and entered and tagged appropriately in Outlook or your CRM. If someone’s working primarily remotely, make sure their home address is included for delivery of that very expensive bottle you’ll be sending them. If you beat the “holiday rush,” marketing team members and other administrative staff might have more time to help with these tasks, so if it’s been a while since you uploaded business cards or email contacts to a master list, reach out now to arrange for some support to help you get it done in an efficient way.

Increase Marketing “Touches”

While the start of a new year is a great time to launch a new marketing communications initiative, this final quarter is the time to double down on what you’re already doing.

Whatever you typically do to stay in touch (or at least top of mind) with your contacts — phone calls, emails, newsletters and client alerts, LinkedIn posts — block out time on your calendar to do these things more frequently over the next three months. Just like law firms, corporate legal departments have certain targets to hit before the end of the calendar year. Many of these — such as expanding the company’s approved panel of litigation firms or pushing out an RFP related to a planned series of transactions — will involve reaching out to law firms to request submissions or presentations. You can’t be in the room if you’re not invited…and you won’t be invited if it’s been so long since you’ve interacted that your client has forgotten your name.

Data about the effectiveness of these marketing communications channels varies, but, in the end, the marketing that works is the marketing you actually do. In survey responses for the ABA’s 2021 Profile of the Profession, 29% of lawyers who use social media regularly attribute at least one client relationship to their social media presence, and 46% of lawyers who blog routinely say a client has retained their services because of their blog. The key is not what they’re doing, but instead the simple fact that they’re doing something on a continuing basis, building audience and credibility over time.

Make the Most of Live Events

As conferences and in-person events continue to come back, invest time up front in crafting a game plan to get the most “bang for the buck” from your attendance: Use social media to find out in advance who’ll be attending, and make a list of people you want to be sure to see while there. If there’s a conference app or an associated group chat or list, make sure you’ve got a complete profile available for fellow attendees to see so that you can be fully visible to anyone there who might want to meet you.

Similarly, if you’re back into business travel, do a quick scan of your contacts to see who lives in the same city you’re visiting so you can work some quick coffee or meal dates into your schedule.

Polish Up Your Online Presence

Ultimately, when making a decision about who to hire for a piece of work, clients want to know about matters you’ve handled that are similar (in scope, substance and/or industry area) to the ones they’re facing and what results you achieved in those matters. So if you want to close new business quickly over the next few months, make sure your firm bio and your LinkedIn profile reflect your expertise using specific and client-focused language. Make it easy for potential clients to understand what you know by ensuring that your notable matters are up to date and that you’ve got a well-edited and maintained archive of media clips and published articles that reflect your experience.

Be a Good Citizen

If there’s a committee to join or an industry group or nonprofit board looking for members, this is a great time to jump on an opportunity to serve your practice area or community. Many of these organizations have quarterly meetings, so you’ll likely have at least one chance to participate in a substantive discussion about the group’s work, followed by a holiday gathering where you’ll be able to meet like-minded fellow members in a social setting. Of course it’s important to have a genuine interest and affinity for any group you join, since it’s your authentic commitment that will best demonstrate your value as a potential colleague or advisor, but the last part of the year offers a chance to “jump start” your involvement in a meaningful way.