Barriers to Business Development for Law FirmsLexisNexis recently released its survey of more than 400 law firm marketers and business development professionals entitled, Law Firms in Transition: Marketing, Business Development and the Quest for Growth.

The survey seeks to shed light on the current state of law firm marketing and business development activities, including the most prevalent challenges firms face in winning new business.

Not surprisingly, the top barrier to business development is competition. More than half those surveyed (52%) said that competition is the #1 challenge when it comes to firm growth.

The second biggest challenge was involving attorneys in business development and marketing. This chart illustrates the top five challenges and some of the comments from respondents:

winning biz

I highlighted two of those comments that I found particularly illustrative: lack of follow-up by attorneys and too much focus on what the firm can do instead of the client’s needs.

As readers of this blog and anyone who has ever heard me speak on business development know, one of my main mantras is: never make an attorney responsible for following up! While attorneys may have the best intentions, this task is the largest crack that qualified leads fall through every month.

While most attorneys may think they are great closers, the truth is that few are. This is why law firms need sales professionals involved in business development — to make the sale! Nothing happens without this expertise.

Many lawyers are also notoriously bad about focusing more on their legal expertise than a client’s needs. Once you understand your target market, you will stop making this common mistake. Prospective clients focus on three things: benefits, value and results! In other words, what’s in it for them. This is no different than any other sales transaction and the skills necessary to compete effectively are vastly different than what it takes to practice law.

Fortunately, it seems that many law firms are waking up to this distinction. The survey showed a full 85% of respondents believe that marketing and business development are very different functions that require a different skill set than practicing law.

Top 10 Activities Where Law Firms Plan Increased Investment

According to the LexisNexis survey, the top 10 activities that law firms expect to increase their investment over the next year are:

  1. Thought leadership (63%)
  2. Analytics (58%)
  3. Blogging and content marketing (57%)
  4. Social media marketing (55%)
  5. Technology/CRM (51%)
  6. Client events (48%)
  7. Lead development (44%)
  8. Business development calls (41%)
  9. Public relations (40%)
  10. Digital marketing (35%)

However, when it comes to measuring ROI for these activities, two-thirds of the firms — 66% — are either unsure if they have quantifiable data to measure ROI (which means they probably don’t) or say outright they do not.

Without some sort of tracking system, it is impossible to know which marketing initiatives are working well for your firm, leading you to either repeat mistakes by continuing to invest in what doesn’t work or rendering you incapable of repeating successes.

If law firms would just fix their follow-up and invest in systems and people that lead prospects down the path to a purchase, they would be much more successful at growing their firms.