Business Development Strategies in Legal Publishing Can Work for You

Hoping people will buy your published material or products will be the death of your business! No longer is the traditional one-way publishing model or company-centric thinking acceptable or profitable. According to Mark Rousseau, General Manager for Findlaw/Lexpert at Thomson Carswell, “You need to find out what the client’s needs are and develop products and services to address those needs to succeed in today’s business world.”

Let’s take for example, Mark Rousseau’s growth mandate of 30% compounded growth over the next 5 years. How does he plan to achieve this? According to Mark, they are undertaking a number of business development initiatives to meet their division’s growth objective.

Thomson Carswell acquired Lexpert Magazine in 2004 from entrepreneur and publisher John Alexander Black and hired Mark Rousseau who has more than 20 years of publishing experience to operate and grow the business. The staff size has since doubled from 15 to 30 employees. According to Mark, “the only other thing that has changed is billing and IT which has been centralized with Thomson Carswell’s operations”. The entrepreneurial operation of the publication itself has remained intact.

Always thinking of ways to grow the business, Mark Rousseau has shifted their advertising focus to include new potential advertisers in the business-to-business and luxury goods categories. This makes perfect sense when you realize that the average corporate reader’s annual income is in excess of $150,000!

If you want to be viewed as an industry leader, be the first to do something different! Lexpert is leading the way by planning and hosting the first ever Rising Stars Awards show this November for the top 40 Canadian Corporate Counsel and Leading Lawyers in private practice under age 40, in partnership with The Globe and Mail. This out of the box thinking has also led to other innovative initiatives. According to Mark Rousseau, the pilot for their business development course was so successful last year that they are planning to do six 1 ½ days business development courses in 2006. Each course will be taught by a leading lawyer in a specific practice area with his/her own unique course material for a maximum of 30 corporate counsel and senior level executives.

Building strategic partnerships is not a new idea but if you are able to leverage your partnerships like Lexpert has done with the two national dailies in Canada, National Post and The Globe & Mail, you too can have a captive audience of senior business executives in exchange for current and relevant corporate deal news. Once a week, features from Lexpert’s Big Deals column appear in the Legal Post section of the National Post; and coming soon, a new deal with The Globe and Mail which takes effect on Oct 1, 2006 will further assist Lexpert’s clients in reaching their target market of Canadian business executives.

Lexpert, now part of the global information powerhouse Thomson Corporation, understands the importance of leverage. Through joint initiatives with their U.S. sister companies Thomson West (the largest legal information provider in the U.S.) and Findlaw (a popular U.S. legal Internet site), Lexpert has been able to successfully enter the U.S. legal marketplace and reach 15,000 U.S. Corporate Counsel and 10,000 Leading U.S. lawyers with their magazine. They now do a 25,000 mailing twice a year in the U.S. market with the help of their U.S. siblings, to provide valuable exposure for their Canadian advertising clients and to increase the magazine’s readership beyond Canadian borders.

With an increasing base of web savvy clients, Mark Rousseau also plans to have everything in print, available online and has a team of web developers revamping their corporate web site at http://www.lexpert.ca to improve their users’ navigational experience. For example, if you are a corporate lawyer, you will be directed to view information on the site that is relevant to you.

Lexpert is certainly no stranger to launching successful products into the legal marketplace. Their print publications like “Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory”; “Lexpert/American Lawyer Media Guide to the Leading Top 500 Lawyers in Canada”; “Lexpert/CCCA Directory and Yearbook”; and “Lexpert Law Student & Associate Recruitment Guide” have all been well received by their intended markets. Even their much anticipated online product Deal Monitor, currently under development and slated to be released before the end of this year, is bound to be another huge success as this product promises to address the needs and demands of their key clients.

With assistance from Thomson Financial and Thomson West, this database will consist of Canadian and U.S. based corporate deals dating back 5 years. This online subscription tool will have analytical capabilities such as trending with historical data, customized search capabilities, and the ability to produce custom graphs and much more. According to Mark, they are not a magazine but “a vehicle to help their clients develop their business”. He contributes much of their success to the close relationships they have developed with their clients.

For those starting a publishing business, he recommends focusing on the web, as the print publishing industry is saturated and a tough model to build and sustain. He also suggests that you get audience generated content to guarantee the readership of your publication.

The moral of this story, no matter what industry you are from, finding out what your clients’ needs are and developing products and services to address those needs is the key to your company’s success and profitability.

Article Summary of Best Practices for Business Development:

– Find out what your clients’ needs are and develop products and services to address those needs

– Create a solid business plan to help achieve your company’s growth objective

– Research the demographics of your target audience to expand in the right direction

– Be the first out of the box with something new in your industry

– Create opportunities to allow your clients to demonstrate their expertise

– Form and leverage strategic partnerships

– Invest in the development of products and services that your target market needs & would pay for

– Create a company web site that is easy to navigate and provides a good user experience

– Have your products and services available online

– Focus on building partnership relationships with your clients

– Research the industry you are thinking of entering

– Survey your clients or potential clients for new ideas

Making New Business Development a Priority – You Wouldn’t Ignore Accounting, Would You?

Everybody’s in Sales

Business development should always be a priority, but it’s especially important for organizations that don’t have a sales force. In my opinion, everybody within an organization is in sales, because every touch-point with the outside world is an impression that you leave and an opportunity to sell. Too many times I have encountered a culture where business development was viewed as something that someone had to do (begrudgingly) and nobody took ownership. Somebody within your organization has to own sales and business development. This person needs to understand the process, or be able to hire somebody who does. Talking to somebody at an airport bar while waiting for a flight is one way to plug your business, but how many times can you do that? We need to think of business development as something that is replicable and that could be continued even if people leave the organization.

Set Up Systems

My opinion is that, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow and nobody can continue your job, because there is no system in place, you don’t really have a business. Warren Buffet once said “you need to set up a system for your organization that an idiot can run, because at one day that will happen” (check out the quote!).

Systems are used for engineering, IT, production, or accounting. Nobody would expect a company to not have an accounting system but it’s highly common for companies to live without any system when it comes to sales. That is when I developed the blueprint of “Selling & Dating” and how the two compare. It’s a humorous way of looking at the process, but if one follows the steps sales becomes more transparent.

Selling is a Process

That’s probably why most people are afraid of sales, because there is no guidelines, no blueprint. Hiring somebody who is charismatic is very often an option that is chosen. But charisma only takes you so far. Sales really is a process and once everyone in the organization understands that, it will be a lot easier to follow. There is this fear of selling, almost a disdain where sales is viewed as a practice where we have to persuade another person to buy something that they really need or like. Once we shift that mindset and understand that as long as we meet a need that another person has, it’s so much easier to embrace selling.

In my opinion, the fear and reluctance to selling stems from the fact that we are not taught to do it in a process oriented way. “Just pick up the phone and pitch our business”, seems to be the advice that many people are given, especially in smaller organizations. Once you have developed an ideal prospect profile and you know that what you are offering is something that your target will need, you can be structured in your approach and have a conversation rather than a sales chat.

Trust me, it works every single time.

Never forget those 3!

When developing the benefits to your audiences, always remember to develop messaging that helps them get their attention. If you have read my blog you will remember that people buy because you can help them:

  • Make money and/or
  • Save money or time and/or
  • Improve their reputation internally

How to Make Time For Legal Marketing and Business Development

One of the chief complaints I receive from the attorneys that I meet and work with is that they just don’t have time for legal marketing. While billable hours, day-to-day emergencies and time outside the office all add up, there are definite ways to go about making time for legal marketing and business development. The key is to think of it as an ongoing habit, not something to “make time for.” Rather than seeing marketing and business development as a burden, think of it as an integral part of your day-to-day life. The interesting thing about creating this kind of habit is that once you find the right system for your individual lifestyle it should simply become second nature.

The benefits to making time are numerous. Aside from building relationships with potential clients and referral sources, taking advantage of marketing and business development opportunities can help increase your visibility AND credibility in the legal arena and beyond. Writing articles and participating in social media help you create and build a personal brand-something that every lawyer should have. True dedication and time commitment can even bring you recognition as an expert in your chosen practice area or within a specific industry.

Below are a few suggestions and lessons from attorneys I’ve worked with, as well as my own observations and experience. Choose the path that make sense for you or adapt the suggestions to work within your own day, but give it a chance. Do something! The rewards you will reap are far greater than a 5-minute time commitment.

  • Multi-task. No one I know comes into the office and immediately gets to work. One solution to the time crunch is to fold your marketing and business development efforts into your morning routine. As you sit down to your desk with your morning coffee or tea (or breakfast…) browse through your contacts or referral lists and send a few emails; read a legal marketing blog; update your social media or even spend 10 minutes working on a potential article or speech. By 9 am you’ll have accomplished something solid and can focus the rest of your day on other endeavors. Alternately, you can do the same thing during a quick lunch at your desk or coffee break. You’d be surprised how far 10 minutes can go.
  • Save it up. One attorney I know has created a special folder in her email Inbox specifically for legal marketing emails. As the weekly or daily updates from the blogs and social media groups she subscribes to come in she simply directs them to the folder. Then, once a week she takes an hour out of her day to read through the week’s emails and respond to them accordingly. She’s able to keep up to date on legal marketing news and colleague updates, post articles and communicate about possible speaking engagements without disrupting the flow of her day.
  • End your day. A colleague of mine channels his efforts into work all day but integrates marketing into his nighttime routine. With the stresses of the day (and impending deadlines, phone calls and emails) over, he sets aside 15-20 minutes a night before bed to investigate marketing leads, send emails to potential referral sources and work on articles and social media.
  • Schedule it in… for the first month. If all else fails, treat legal marketing as a literal client. Put it on your schedule and make no excuses for not paying attention to it, just as you would a client. Whether it’s once a week or biweekly, set aside specific time for uninterrupted focus. After the first month I can guarantee that finding time for business development will feel effortless.

Simple in theory but never easy in practice, without a true commitment you can never reap the rewards of a solid marketing habit. Filling your pipeline with work, receiving recognition as an expert and gaining credibility and visibility won’t happen all at once, but you can be sure they will happen. Just as with any other endeavor, it takes focus and time to see results.

Top 10 Trends in Sales and Business Development for 2014

Will companies be hiring more salespeople in 2014? What will companies do to stand out from the competition? Will CRM systems expand or contract? How will the economy impact business growth? These are some common questions I hear as I address audiences around the world. Here are my predictions for the ideas and trends that will shape sales and business development in 2014.

1. Evolution of Subject Matter Experts

Buyers can now get just about all of the information about your company, products, and services from your website. However, what they do not have is the trends, best practices, or creative applications that determine whether or not there is a fit for the customer’s situation. Buyers will continue to value the subject matter experts.

If you want to know whether or not you rise to this standard already, ask yourself if your ideal clients would value the meeting from your team enough that they would pay for the session. If so, then you might already be there. If not, then you have a goal for 2014.

2. Content Becomes Emperor

Last year, people said, “content is king.” In 2014, content will continue to be the core to building value and getting heard above the noise. Buyers (and Google) value the best educators, as Marcus Sheridan of TheSalesLion.com says. It used to be that companies feared sharing their best stuff on their websites. As more initial investigations for solutions move to search engines, your ability to stand out from the crowd comes down to whether or not you are addressing the most important questions for your ideal customer. If you are stuck with your head in the sand, you might just get run over.

3. Continued Shift Toward Vertical vs. Geographic Focus

The shift from vertical to geographic focus tends to work in cycles. With the advancement in video-based communication and collaborative technologies, geography becomes slightly less of a big deal. However, the increased value placed on subject matter expertise will shift the table in a big way in 2014 toward vertical markets.

4. Collaborative Sourcing and Selling

Over the past five years, there was a trend of buyers beating up on weaker suppliers. While the short-term goal of the buyer was a reduction in costs, the unintended consequence was the destruction of many suppliers and companies who either lacked a competitive advantage, or failed to identify their lack of negotiation and sales prowess before it was too late. Ultimately, buyers lost a portion of their supply chain. The more sophisticated buyers will seek sellers with whom they can work collaboratively to obtain the greatest value. Buyers realize that the cheapest price has little meaning if the vendor cannot deliver as needed.

Collaborative selling will reward results and outcomes, but will continue to punish those selling commodities.

5. The Shift Toward Project-Based Services Engagements

Buyers have discovered that paying by the hour creates a disincentive for innovation and efficiency. The longer it takes the vendor, the more they earn. However, for the client, the faster they get a solution, the better. The hourly-vendor who delivers the most efficiently makes the least money. In 2014, the top performing professional services organizations will start shifting as much as 30% of their billing to project-based, or outcome-based pricing (with assumptions to protect themselves). Buyers want results, and they’ll pay for it. However, the savvy customer rarely wants to sign a blank check for hours of time without a defined outcome.

6. Sick of Waiting for the Economy – Build your own

Most economists say that the economy will continue to bump along in 2014. Innovative companies with a great story will start putting their capital reserves to work to build their own economy. The economy grows when businesses grow. And, those with creativity and value will get tired of waiting for the so-called “economy” and will build their own environment to thrive. This will drive accelerated growth in the latter half of 2014 to carry into a strong 2015.

7. Hiring Trend for 2014

Recognize that there is a need for subject matter experts. Be on the lookout for businesses cross-training their subject matter experts on how to manage a sales process. Those who do hire sales professionals or sales managers will rely more on specialized recruiters to ensure their next hire is the right one. Hiring people who were just looking for work has burned many companies. Often, the hiring companies discovered that those people were out of work for a reason. There are great ways to find a gem without using a recruiter, but recruiters are still the best way to attract superstars from other companies.

8. Simplified CRM Solutions

Years ago, companies realized they needed something beyond a spreadsheet (or napkin) to keep track of their business pursuits. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions emerged to maintain knowledge, automate forecasting, and improve communication. However, over time, the CRM solutions have taken on a life of their own. The data entry requirements had become so overbearing that few organizations enforced compliance (mostly because the only people who filled out all of the fields were the worst performing reps). Look for a shift in 2014 for companies to identify the top eight (or three) pieces of information they need to understand if a deal is legitimate or not. They will ask reps to maintain fewer pieces of information, but will require compliance.

9. Better Qualification for Efficient Pipelines

It used to be that if a company was trying to reach $5 million in revenue, it would often look for a pipeline of $8 to $10 million. Today, companies often set a three to five-time multiplier. So, for $5 million, they pursue $15 million to $25 million in opportunities. Sharp organizations have started tracking the cost associated with pursuing unlikely deals. Instead of chasing everything, companies will define specific criteria for what makes a good pursuit, and which ones should be dead on arrival. The definition maintains focus, and preserves resources for the proper pursuit of the opportunities that deserve the company’s attention. Look for companies to qualify based on the relative impact and importance to the customer of solving the issue, rather than the desire of the company to sell something.

10. Honesty Prevails

With so much hype and old-school tactics, buyers will reward sellers who identify their own limitations. Claiming you are an expert at everything will be hard to believe when the buyer can search to discover the truth. Humility and candor will be sought after skills in 2014.