No events – now what for BD?

August 24, 2020

The pandemic has put an end to in-person marketing events for firms – conferences, seminars, cocktails, lunches, sporting matches, opera tickets etc. are now a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.

Some firms have moved some of these events online, with varying degrees of success. Which means it is now time to shift from marketing activities (which often masquerade as BD) into client-centric business development.

As firms, look to find new ways to engage with their clients, it’s worth considering the following: 

  • Get serious about true business development – that means defining, communicating and obtaining buy-in for your business development plans, and then driving continuous focus on the on-going the BD process. However, given current events, be prepared for change as plans, systems and processes may need to be amended rapidly – it’s a time for being dynamic and fluid as market conditions change.
  • Delve into the data – obtaining useful BD data is not always easy. A good CRM system will go beyond tracking only meeting data. It will offer features that allow access to and analysis of data for business development planning, track individual client engagement to obtain insights, help identify and understand the specific challenges each client faces, provide insight into future topics for thought leadership papers and then track who is opening published content, understand more about client and market trends, analyse historical data and map the breadth and depth of client relationships across a firm, and connect marketing effort with billing data, preferably through a dashboard and data visualisation tools which make the information easier to digest. Ultimately, data held needs to be turned into useful information that is easily accessible and actionable by leaders.
  • Generate new ideas – assemble a BD think-tank that is well-informed on the BD data, meets regularly and is tasked with identifying and sharing what’s working as well as brainstorming new ideas.
  • Share market intelligence by holding regular meetings that focus only on BD – ask partners to share stories and perspectives about what they’ve been hearing in the market and from clients, but watch out for online meeting fatigue/ Too many online meetings can sap energy, creativity, enthusiasm and be unproductive, especially if they lack true interaction or are not action-based.
  • Get your BD teams close to their clients – BD team members need to be close to their clients – practice, sector and key client groups – so it makes sense that they should be considered an integral part of these teams and their meetings, not an adjunct to be called upon to simply to deliver on assigned tasks. Where BD professionals spend time with these groups, they are better able to understand the specific needs of each team and their clients, and in turn, generate more relevant ideas. 
  • Train leaders on how to have better conversations with their clients – this includes how to prepare for a call with a key client, how to work with a typical call structure for each conversation, how to ask insightful questions, how to listen actively, and ideas around how to keep the conversation on-going.
  • Offer short, sharp BD coaching sessions for partners – to review their preparation for a client call. These sessions can help identify any gaps before they approach a client and are likely to produce more meaningful connections with clients.
  • Move from marketing into BD – clients are now weary of receiving (being flooded with?) generic Covid-19 alerts and attending one-way webinars; the need is great to find more creative ways to nurture key client relationships. If you want to continue sending email updates, then they need to be personalised and customised to a client’s specific issues, and in doing so, they create the opportunity to connect over a followup call.
  • If you can’t do the followup, then don’t do the event – in the same way that alerts and updates need to be customised, so does any followup after any event that is held. There is no point holding an on-line gathering if leaders are not to prepared to followup with each client, engage in a meaningful conversation, gather the relevant feedback and then define and deliver on agreed next steps.

Firms can take a number of steps to re-direct and intensify their business development efforts. The key now is to leverage firm data and move from a broad-based marketing approach to a more individual, specific, client-centric way of thinking.

We would be delighted to hear your thoughts and continue the dialogue with you. We hope you’ve found this Insight to be constructive and thought-provoking. We share comments and ideas of a general nature, with the aim of helping firms contend with current challenges. As such, the content above is unlikely to be complete and comprehensive enough for a firm to re-imagine the future. Rather, it may be a beginning or a conversation starter, as each firm is different and the challenges each face are unique. If you would like to continue the conversation, then please connect with us for a confidential conversation at click here.

Post Author

Jennifer Milford