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  • Writer's pictureWinston Schultze

Four Strategies for IP Legal Business Development

Business development in the IP legal market has witnessed interesting changes. This is mostly because clients now have direct access to lawyers globally and have made changes to how they purchase the services of IP lawyers. Consequently, lawyers have to embrace new approaches to business development.

What are some of these new business development strategies for IP legal practice?

1. Identify and Separate Business Development and Marketing

First, you need to identify the salient difference between business development and marketing and separate them within the firm. Business development deals with building and nurturing relationships with potential clients, referral sources, et cetera. Marketing, on the other hand, deals with increasing visibility in a specific area.

The marketing team within an IP law firm should be responsible for the firm's marketing efforts, but not the firm's business development. Many firms have begun to move business development responsibilities into the hands of a special business development manager and partly or completely back to the hands of the lawyers. This is largely because business development demands a completely different skill-set and mindset to that required by marketing.

Little wonder why marketing efforts, such as joining an IP professional network, yields poor results and may not lead to actual work. Marketing efforts must be combined with business development. This requires a dedicated team to develop and nurture relationships with potential clients.

2. Include Business Development in the Client Engagement Process

Secondly, you should gradually include business development in your engagements with your prospective clients.

As you learn more about a prospect, your interaction with that prospect should be increasingly tailored and personal. This could be giving them an interesting book that will be useful to them or an invitation to a conference.

This way, your business development efforts will be more efficient.

3. Know Your Business Development ROI Numbers

Lawyers are poor with data. Many IP lawyers cannot point to data reflecting the direct results of and return on investment (ROI) from their business development efforts.

You need to measure your ROI and learn to change practices based on these measurements.

These measurements will help you identify what works and what doesn't. The growth of your IP law firm will result from knowing your numbers, intensifying efforts where necessary and halting business development projects that add little or no ROI to your practice.

4. Switch from Practice-Focused to Client-Focused

Business proposals are an opportunity for you to boost your firm's business development by focusing on the client rather than only your specific capabilities. You should convey that you understand the client's complex problems and share how you've resolved issues for similar clients.

Being client-focused requires a switch from trying to get attention from clients to giving attention to clients. Several IP law firms like yours are trying to attract these clients by getting their attention. But this is a wrong and limiting approach. As content has grown increasingly abundant, clients have less attention span. By learning to give attention to prospects, you stand out. Such attention will be used by the prospective clients to filter out the most important information from a larger pool of proposals.

These new approaches to business development will help you stand out from other IP law firms.

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