During the course of an average day, a person views and hears more than 3,000 marketing messages.
Referred to as "information overload," consumers are becoming numb to advertising tactics, which is why some business developers are taking an even more radical approach to client cultivation: They're leaving people alone.
The metaphorical term, rainmaking, is described as the process of bringing new clients into a professional service firm such as law.
The activities of rainmakers include generating important leads, developing a core group of powerful contacts, mastering cross-selling strategies, producing positive results, mentoring younger professionals, and securing lasting relationships. The art of rainmaking is accomplishing all of those tasks without becoming obvious, something only a talented few can execute. The idea behind this theory of low-key selling is slow and steady nurturing, an effort that requires more patience than expertise.
For emerging lawyers lacking contacts, experience, and resources, quiet selling is a sigh of relief.
According to Jim Hassett, creator of The Legal Business Development Workbook, associates can become involved in marketing even though their exposure may be somewhat limited. After learning what the firm's expectations are for new lawyers, Hassett suggests that associates try to form relationships with others at their own professional level within the client's organization. Internally, associates should get to know the lawyers in the firm, learning as much as they can about the practice area that appeals to them. Once the firm begins to extend social invitations to associates, new lawyers should take full advantage of the networking opportunities.
If rainmaking is reserved for the seasoned professional, and mistmaking is the role of new graduates, then "see and be seen" might be the activity that coincides with becoming a player in the legal field. By developing a personal marketing plan, new lawyers can build an identity for themselves, something that is vital to experiencing success in a legal career.
The international banking industry has adopted a new policy regarding business development, which includes a code of conduct that prevents harassing sales calls. Technology consultants warn clients that pop-up advertisements, flash features, and other types of attention grabbers are more distractive than effective, which sends people in search of less annoying Web sites. Legal consultants warn attorneys to be careful of the wine-and-dine effort, in that clients feel a guilty pressure to send matters to their lawyers, which leaves a bad taste in their mouths. Rather than buying new business over lunch, lawyers are encouraged to thank clients for old business (with no strings attached).
A recent study stated that 80 national and regional law firms collapsed in the past decade. Failures were blamed on corporate takeovers and downsizings, but industry insiders claim that law firm casualties occurred in the client war. The firms that believed marketing was useless simply perished, and those firms that created an active plan for every partner, associate, and professional staff member remained in the game.
Whether a firm's approach is to perform a rain dance or create a misting effect, one outcome is certain: A dry spell is normal, but a severe drought can be devastating.
Brown is a legal marketing executive and the managing member of a writing and editing agency in Charleston.