Mark Herrmann at ATL, wrote an excellent piece on “Is blogging a useful business development tool?” I thoroughly enjoyed the piece, but take issue with a core aspect of his thesis. He notes that “Blogging can be very rewarding in many different ways, but it will create only a very few (if any) serious rainmakers.”
My push-back on this piece is somewhat semantic – but in a crucial way. I question whether the legal industry understands the term “business development.” At many firms, you still can’t use the word “marketing”, so they call it client relations. We blend together and interchange the terms: marketing, client relations, client development, business development, rainmaking and on some rare occasions, we use the term sales. In a more traditional business environment you have the continuum of marketing - business development - and sales. Marketing is primarily about getting attention in the market. For law firms this is done via websites, brochures, seminars and ads. Business development (BD) is primarily relationship building with existing customers and with the new customer leads generated by marketing efforts. For law firms this is usually the follow-up efforts from marketing events, along with pure BD events, such as attending sporting events and social gatherings with clients. Sales is the closing of business deals. This is where one locks in an engagement with a client, and settles on the fee.
In many professional services firms, BD is sales. In reality, BD (although not always called that) is sales for law firms as well, which brings us back to Mark’s thesis. Blogging is really a marketing tool that extends itself into the BD realm via its relationship enabling aspects. But blogging doesn’t build relationships – people do. Blogging merely provides the platform to build relationships. Therefore, I wouldn’t expect a blog to turn anyone into rainmaker, any more than I would expect a kiss to turn a toad into a prince.
It has been my experience that the law attracts people who are uncomfortable with BD. Lawyers get much more excited about the facts of a case or the terms of deal than they do with relationship building. One of my golden rules of AFAs is that a lawyer will do anything to avoid talking to a client about fees. This demonstrates the non-BD personalities of most lawyers.
And again back to Mark’s article – what really caught my attention was the incredible success he experienced from his blogging efforts. Just to name a few:
- I became a better lawyer.
- We became unbelievably plugged in to events in our area of law.
- We dramatically raised both our personal profiles.
- People who sponsored conferences about drug and device issues were keen to have us participate.
- We got our book deal.
Most BD people I know would kill for these opportunities. Becoming the “go to” person in your field is approaching BD nirvana. Clients come to you, instead of you knocking on doors hoping to get some of their time.
My evaluation of the ROI of Mark’s blogging is extremely high. But no – his blog didn’t close any deals for him. And I wouldn’t expect it to.
Meanwhile – my blogging goals remain the same: Getting to know more fascinating people and learning interesting things.