Marketing vs. Business Development for Law Firms

We constantly hear the terms “marketing” and “business development” used interchangeably, often with respect to law firms, but how do they differ? What do each of these strategies entail and how should they be utilized within a law firm setting to grow business? Typically, since clients hire individual lawyers rather than law firms, it’s pretty much up to the attorney to do both marketing and business development.

  • Marketing is essentially everything you do to raise a decision maker’s awareness of the firm. It involves identifying your firm’s points of differentiation, developing a key message, and creating a strong positioning in your firm’s target markets. Traditional marketing tools and strategies for firms include advertising, sales collateral, website content, media relations, thought leadership materials, and other credentialing activities.
  • Business development is all about the individual lawyer creating, fostering, and leveraging partnerships and strategic relationships with existing clients and new prospects to generate business. At its core, business development is leveraging existing clients and referral sources as door-openers to prospective clients, as well as consistently creating new contacts and relationships. This is the attorney’s chance to sell themselves and their points of differentiation.

Attorneys often ask which one is more important. The answer is: it’s not about doing either marketing or business development––it’s about doing both of them. They are both components of the best practice-based approach to firm development and expansion. Marketing supports business development, and business development supports marketing.

Academically, it is clear that marketing and business development are separate disciplines; however, practically they operate on parallel tracks. Implementing both marketing and business development will result in successful firm branding, expanded individual relationships, and overall business growth.

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