The Maraia Minutes


How Much Time Should I Spend Marketing?

Volume 11, Issue 6

From time to time we get asked how many hours per week lawyers should devote to business development at the various stages of their careers, especially as associates. Most people want to know what the norms are, but there really aren't any norms. To quote Cleat Simmons, one of our coaches, "Too many people approach marketing with a 'one size fits all' mentality." As a rule, it is misleading to set forth a number of hours one should devote to business development. This is true for several reasons.

What's Your Goal?

First, your goal may be different from another lawyer's goal. If you want to generate seven figures worth of business and you are only investing two hours per week on business development activities, you will not achieve your goal. By contrast, the lawyer who doesn't have a business development goal won't want to and doesn't spend two hours per week on business development activities.

Quality of Interactions

Business development is about building relationships. It's nearly impossible to put a purely quantitative standard on such activity because relationship building is about the quality of each interaction. One associate can easily spend 10 hours per week on some form of business development and accomplish little or nothing. Without interacting with people -- law school classmates, potential referral sources, and future decision-makers -- most of it is wasted time and effort. By contrast, another associate can spend two hours per week establishing her network and be well on her way to building a solid foundation for future business.

Your business development activities increase in value when you add quality interaction with people. For example, if you want to write an article for publication, you could ask a couple of your clients or referral sources for their opinion on the topic you want to cover. If you call three people, not only will they be flattered to be quoted, you will also have increased the value of your relationship with each and will likely improve the quality of your article.

Value of Activity

Just as important as your goal and the quality of your interactions is the value of the activity you undertake. Some business development activities are far more likely to produce results than others.

Before heading into an activity, determine the value of the activity. For example, if you are thinking about attending a conference, ask yourself these questions to evaluate its quality: Is the conference attended mostly by competitors or will it be well attended by prospects? What are my goals for the conference? Who else (clients, prospects, etc.) is planning to attend the conference?

Once you've determined an activity is worth doing, leverage your involvement in that activity to build on existing or desired relationships. For example, you will have already determined that speaking to an audience of PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS is far more useful and valuable than speaking to an audience filled with your competitors or your peers. To maximize the value of a speaking engagement, call on some clients to let them know you're making a presentation, ask them what they would like to hear if they were attending (which will more than likely enhance your presentation), and be sure to follow-up with those in the audience after the talk.

Play to Your Strengths

Are you choosing business development activities that play to your strengths? If you love public speaking and hate writing articles, do more speaking and less writing.

If you like group events, attend them. If you don't, find another activity that fits you better. We have coached many lawyers who have attended group events. Some have met many great prospects at these functions; others have never met a single prospect at a group event. From a purely quantitative perspective, if a lawyer who has never met a prospect at a group event is spending six hours each month attending group events, it is a total waste of time. If that same lawyer is able to generate ten meaningful connections from one speaking engagement, then he is well advised to do more speaking gigs!

Focus on activities you enjoy and do well as a means for building your practice. It is axiomatic that if you're doing something you enjoy, you will be better at it, and other people recognize that. One of our coaches was working with a young partner who enjoyed volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, but wondered if that was a good use of his time. His enthusiasm for Habitat was apparent. Our coach encouraged continued participation knowing that the outcome will be that the young partner will be happier doing something he really enjoys, others will pick up on that and be more likely to seek that partner's legal services because of his enthusiastic attitude.

Integrate Business Development into Your Daily Life

How attuned are you to business development during your daily life? Most lawyers find themselves at events that provide rich marketing opportunities, but they don't recognize those events as marketing opportunities. For example, the lawyer who stands along the sidelines of his son's soccer game each week and always asks other parents high energy questions is far more productive with his time (not marketing time, just time) than the person who doesn't even know what the other parents do for a living. That time counts for a great deal in the first instance, and counts for almost nothing in the latter instance.

One of our clients was a lateral partner who commuted by ferry to his office each day. This lawyer had been doing this for several years and was under extreme pressure to produce business. After a moderate amount of self-reflection and analysis of what was already working for him, he realized that some of his best prospects were generated from getting to the ferry parking lot and "just missing" the earlier ferry. In other words, he did some of his best marketing while commuting to work!! He also began following up more systematically with those same people. While this example is unique to this one client it is not unique to your opportunity to play to your strengths and unique circumstances.

Focus on Fun

One final thought to consider. If you engage in activities that are enjoyable and fun, you won't be counting the hours you spend marketing. Instead of counting hours, we encourage many clients to begin a journal or log that spells out the business development actions they've taken each week. Doing this serves as a great reminder to make relationship building a priority and will be a great resource in determining where you are most effective.

It also proves useful at the end of the year when the firm asks what contributions you've made in the business development arena. You can whip out your log and say, "I'm really glad you asked me that question. . ."

Copyright 2008 Mark M. Maraia Associates