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Business Development Plans vs. Marketing Plans: Why They're Different

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 15, 2015 1:58 PM

When it comes for planning for your practice's growth, your business development plan and your marketing plan shouldn't be the same. Sure there's some overlap. In the way that all bugs are insects but not all insects are bugs, all lawyer marketing is part of business development, but the two require distinct approaches.

Here's how law firm business development and legal marketing differ and why your firm needs a unique approach to each.

Legal Marketing: Messaging, Branding, Media

In a recent survey, legal professionals were nearly unanimous in agreeing that law firm marketing and law firm business development were unique beasts. Ninety percent of 400 legal professionals recognized a distinction between the two.

When it comes to legal marketing, your firm goals are generally focused on messaging, branding, and exposure to potential clients. A strong marketing plan, for example, will help develop a vision and a brand for your firm and effectively convey that message to current and future clients. It shows the public how you're different from other firms. Are you "the best family law practitioners around" or "skilled at protecting clients' children, finances, and reputation during divorce." The first is a generic message, the second is a well-branded one.

Such marketing efforts tend to be broad in scope. Their goal is to cast a wide net, reaching many potential clients, and to make sure that messaging is consistent and effective across your firm advertisements, social media, websites, etc.

Business Development: Targeted Research and Relationships

Business development is more targeted. It's about getting in there and getting specific clients. Generally, a business development plan includes focused research and building specific relationships with potential clients. It also includes that you and other attorneys do the research, follow up, and client coddling necessary to keep existing clients around and get those who come through the door to chose your firm.

In other words, your marketing plan should help bring leads in. Your business development plan should convert them to paying clients.

Of course, if you need help planning for growth, the experts at FindLaw's Lawyer Marketing are always available to help you out.

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