Know your client
You cannot do effective business development anymore without truly understand your clients at a deep level. All your marketing and business development efforts must start with knowing who your client is.
Do you know who your ideal client is?
You might say, “anyone who needs estate planning.” or “Fortune 500 companies” or something in between.
This might seem like the logical thing to believe. However, to really succeed at business development, you need to think more closely about your client. Niche down. You might think you’re going to dilute your appeal. If anything, you’ll be magnetizing yourself to attract the right people.
Think at the level of people. Even a Fortune 500 company is made up of people. Your goal is to figure out who is the person in a specific department or branch that you'd like to turn into your client.
Often, I hear lawyers talk about how they want to land a large Fortune 500 company as a client. Of course, they are immediately intimidated by such a prospect. After all, such large companies might have many people knocking on their doors. They look big and imposing.
Many lawyers give up around that time. Some search through their contacts and hope that someone might know someone that can open a door for them.
Others complain their network is not good enough to open such doors and give up.
That's why thinking at the level of a person can be the most important thing you can do. Whomever your ideal client is, spend more time thinking about the exact sort of person you'd like as a client. Know their title, know the department you'd like to get into. It is easier than ever using LinkedIn to dig into a company and figure out who is in charge of a particular department.
Even if your practice is built on estate planning for individuals and not companies, you still need to get really specific.
What sort of people need this? How old are they? What would their net worth be? Where do they live? These demographic details make all the difference.
However, this is still too broad. These demographic details are not enough to connect with your ideal clients and make inroads. That's why the next idea is equally important.
Get Into the Psychology
I often speak with General Counsels who tell me they feel frustrated dealing with lawyers. They tell me that most lawyers work under the delusion they understand 90% of the picture, whereas they really just understand 5% of the situation at hand. They are completely missing the rest of the business logic or personal story behind a particular scenario.
This next step will seem pedantic. I assure you it isn't. It is the difference between being a pest, a commodity, an annoyance vs. someone who is worth doing business with. It’s meant to prevent the above situation from happening to you.
Think of your ideal client, and ask yourself:
1. What keeps this person up at night, staring at the ceiling?
2. What are they afraid of? What can go wrong in their world?
3. What makes them angry and frustrated?
4. What makes them hopeful? What is their biggest desire?
5. What things are going on in the world that will impact them?
6. What's their bias? How do you think they make decisions?
7. How have others failed to sell them?
The answers are not meant to be specific (e.g. rush hour traffic can make them angry). They are meant to focus on their business life and their private life.
An example might be a busy CEO who gets angry that the company's expansion efforts are being held up by paperwork and regulations that they've been trying to manage around. In her personal life, she is trying to juggle being a mom and a wife and feels guilty about not making enough family time. Finally, her real wish is to make this expansion happen, but internally, she wants to be a great role model for her daughter. She makes decisions by seeing how well her problems are being solved. She ideally also wants someone who can manage this themselves and not lean on her already busy time to figure things out.
This is a composite image of one prospective client persona.
Another one, for our estate planner friend might be:
A high-net-worth individual who came from nothing. They have worked very hard to come as far as they can. They have 2 kids who are unmarried. They are concerned about passing on their assets to their kids, making sure they are not burdened with excessive taxes from that transfer. They also want to protect their wealth from falling into the wrong hands in case one of their kids marries the wrong person and later has to divorce them. They're really worried about that, as they have seen this happening more and more often amongst their friends’ children.
Do not skip this exercise. You really do need to form a holistic composite image of your client. Think of them on a personal level. Interview your existing clients to get answers to these questions if you haven't already.
Keep in mind that this doesn't have to be exact. The reality is that 9/10 people will never even bother thinking about their clients in this detailed way. Even if you're right about only 1 or 2 things, you will be far ahead with how you can reach out and connect with your clients. We're looking for general patterns that you can expect to encounter across multiple clients that you serve.