Despite the oppressive heat that is summer in Washington, DC, my mind is firmly fixed on January 1 and the 2011 sales and marketing program for Womble Carlyle.  Yep, it’s budget time again, so it’s time for some resolutions.

Disclaimer:  I work for 150 partners, who have their own imaginations and opinions.   Translation:  My sales and marketing resolutions may meet the same fate as the “lose 15 pounds” one that ends up on my personal list each year.

That said, here is a starter list of 2011 resolutions:

Aggressively seek referrals.  The evidence is clear (not to mention overwhelming) about how buyers find lawyers and law firms.  Peer-to-peer referrals among buyers are the most-used referral pathway by far, but there are many other highly productive referral channels that need to be explored and fleshed out.  This stuff is largely free.  Why aren’t we focusing on it more?

Get even more focused on direct, face-to-face sales.  The same BTI survey cited in item 1, above, indicates that face-to-face meetings, while not quite as effective as peer referrals, are pretty darned effective.  So, let’s put more leather on the street.

Acknowledge that sales and marketing departments at law firms ARE cost centers.  I, personally, along with a horde of fellow CMOs, have challenged this contention for years. But after listening carefully to buyers over the last five years, I’ve altered my opinion.  It’s obvious buyers want law firms to address SG&A costs as aggressively as they (the buyers) are required to do.  No doubt, we must do sales and marketing, and also no doubt, effective sales and marketing contributes revenue to law firms.  We just need to be more specific than ever about which elements of sales and marketing are effective and deliver value (and not just cost) to the ultimate bosses – the buyers of legal services.  As part of this, consider a fearless ROI analysis of the out-of-pocket and time costs related to directories.  

Help lawyers become social media experts. Talk about a direct pathway to points 1, 2 and 3, above!   This includes internal social media to break down silos and to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Achieve viral nirvana.  What would it be like to deliver to the world the law firm equivalent of the The Old Spice Guy?

Acknowledge that “institutional relationships” are not necessarily what buyers want (see a previous NewLegalNormal blog post.)  Focus on the “fit” of individual lawyers and individual practices to the specific needs of a specific buyer.  Hit more singles.  Quit swinging for the fences.

Develop and promote law firm offerings that result in recoveries.  In the past, at least, accounting firms created a lot of high-value business relationships by, for instance, helping businesses obtain tax refunds.  What analogous kinds of things can a law firm do to contribute to a company’s revenue?

Happy New Year, everyone!