With would-be clients’ decisions about which lawyer to hire more than 80% complete before they first reach out to a lawyer, content is the key way B2B lawyers can toss their hats in the new business ring.
We’ve heard throughout our lives that we can’t win a game if we aren’t on the field.
We’ve most likely heard this in connection with sports, but figuratively speaking, this concept applies to many other areas of our lives. Whether we’re talking about education, hobbies, socializing, or dating, we need to get off the sidelines and onto the field of play if we want to both participate and win (however you define “winning” in these areas).
The idea of getting in the game is also applicable to lawyers working at business-to-business law firms with respect to their marketing and business development efforts.
We are well past the days where those lawyers could just sit back, do good work, and expect new clients and referral sources to come to them. Today, the B2B segment of the legal industry is fiercely competitive. Many law firms are throwing loads of money toward building their brands with the hopes of attracting more of their ideal clients.
If lawyers want to build their books of business, they can’t just sit and wait for clients to come to them. They must stand out from their competition by proactively increasing their marketing and business development efforts. They need to get in the “build your book of business” game.
Lawyers getting on the field for the “build your book of business game”
As we’ve established, to win a game you must first get on the field it’s played on. For a long time, lawyers at B2B law firms got on the “build your book of business” field by networking, attending community events, sitting on boards, meeting people for meals, coffees, and drinks, and engaging in other similar relationship-building endeavors.
While these tactics are tried and true, they are difficult to scale. There’s only one of you, so when you are lunching with one contact, you cannot simultaneously be attending a meeting of a board of a nonprofit organization you’re on.
But beyond problems with scale, the old-time method of face-to-face networking may not necessarily be the best way to play the “build your book of business” game today.
According to research consultancy Gartner, 83% of a typical B2B purchasing decision happens before a buyer engages directly with the provider. 83%!
So what’s that mean for the typical lawyer at a B2B law firm?
There’s a good chance that both their potential clients and referral sources are 83% of the way there in terms of making a decision about whether to retain a particular lawyer before they even speak with that lawyer. (Those potential clients and referral sources are likely also 83% of the way there when it comes to evaluating that B2B lawyer’s competitors.)
Lawyers playing to win the “build your book of business” game
So what information are potential clients and referral sources considering as they get 83% of the way toward making a decision to retain a lawyer before they decide to speak to that lawyer?
They’re probably getting some word-of-mouth feedback.
They might be looking at online reviews.
They might be looking at Chambers and Partners and other kinds of awards, rankings, and ratings.
But there’s a good chance the majority of what they’re going to be relying on is content that a lawyer has published in the form of blog posts, bylined articles, client alerts, videos, podcasts, white papers, etc. In addition to (generally) being freely available on the internet to access and consume, this content provides prospective clients (and referral sources) a sneak preview of both a lawyer’s knowledge and wisdom about the area(s) of law they practice, as well as a glimpse into their personality through the style in which they write and their on-camera or on-podcast presence.
That is why content like the types I mentioned in the last paragraph is so important. It is a chance for lawyers through written, video, and audio content to show would-be clients and referral sources that they are qualified to handle their legal and business issues while creating an opportunity for a personal connection to form before one is established in real time in person or via a phone or video call.
Content that analyzes and discusses ramifications of legal developments, such as judicial opinions, proposed legislation, or administrative agency actions, or explains how to handle certain complex situations, such as how to carry out an internal investigation in connection with allegations of insider trading, can provide the kinds of insights and wisdom that catch the attention of would-be clients and referral sources who are compiling information about lawyers they may want to retain.
Because, according to Gartner, 83% of a B2B buyer’s purchasing decision is made before a conversation with a provider takes place, a B2B lawyer’s would-be clients and referral sources are likely to have their minds mostly made up before an initial real-time conversation takes place. And when that conversation takes place, it normally will serve mostly to confirm whether a buyer’s gut instincts about a lawyer—based on their research, including reviewing the lawyer’s content—are correct.
Gartner’s stat shows how vital it is for lawyers to regularly publish marketing and business development content like blog posts, client alerts, articles, videos, white papers, podcasts, and the like. They need to be participating in the marketplace of ideas because that’s where prospective clients and referral sources are conducting research and evaluating their options—a process that will get those people 83% of the way there toward deciding whether to retain a particular lawyer.
Playing the “build your book of business” game to win
B2B lawyers’ would-be clients and referral sources are getting 83% of the way toward making a decision about the lawyer they will retain before they even speak with that lawyer or other candidates.
If B2B lawyers want to win the “build your book of business” game, they need to get on the field and start playing.
They need to meet their would-be clients and referral sources where they are and where they are doing the lion’s share of their research about the lawyers they will retain: in the marketplace of ideas, which will mostly be located on the internet, including the websites of publications that serve the same industries those clients and referral sources are in, as well as social media.
B2B lawyers can do so by consistently producing marketing and business development content that shows they’re knowledgeable and insightful about the kinds of legal issues clients and referral sources come to them about.
If they choose not to, they are doing the equivalent of taking their ball and going home. Because when it comes to the “build your book of business” game, if B2B lawyers are not consistently creating compelling content, they will be hard-pressed to win the game.