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Passion, People and Principles

Broadcasting Tactics to Generate Enquiries

post # 12 — February 3, 2006 — a Client Relations post

Beverly Hedrick, Director of Business Development at the Waller law firm in Nashville, TN writes to ask:

cover of David Maister's book, Managing thice Firm

I am wondering if the tactics listed below, and their order, which you published in 1993 in Managing the Professional Service Firm, are still correct in your view. If not, what has changed?

Proven Business Development Tactics for Professional Service Firms (In approximate descending order of effectiveness)

Proprietary Research for the client




Attendance at client industry meetings


Referral Sources

Community Activities

Getting Quoted




Cold Calls

Direct Mail


I said in my blog philosophy that I wasn’t going to blog about old topics that I’d already written about, but in this case I’ll make an exception, Beverly, because it’s cleverly phrased by you, asking for an update.

Before I give you a direct answer, remember that my 1993 book (and the recent videos and podcasts on this site) remind you that this list of BROADCASTING tactics (generating enquiries from people you don’t know)is only done long after you do other, more effective business development: achieve such a high level of client service that you are getting your new clients by existing clients telling their friends about you, and investing nonbillable time in your key existing relationships to turn them from a series of transaction into a dependable romance.

In other words (and I’m serious) you really shouldn’t have to do too much of what’s on this list at all, because it’s low ROI compared to other ways of winning business. (Read the books, watch the videos or listen to the podcasts if that’s not yet evident to you from real life.)

However, if you do have some left over to do pure broadcasting (the items on the list) it would still be my experience that the ROI is as shown, with one obvious exception – the implications of the internet.

The top 4 items (research, seminars, articles, speeches) are all at the top because they are attempts to demonstrate not assert – put some substantive evidence out there that allows me as a client to judge whether you have fresh content or are just making claims about your expertise.

My eternal rule, Beverly, is simple. All you have to ask if you want the answer to any business development question is to ask – what would work on me? So, look at the list and consider. If you or your firm were trying to hire an accountant, a plumber, a nanny for your kids, a management consultant like me – assuming that we don’t have an existing relationship, which of these tactics would most affect YOUR buying behavior and make YOU want to follow up? A press release you read in the newspaper? Someone you met at a church social? Someone who cold-called you? You figure it out for your part of the world. But face up to the fact that clients, by and large, are influence by the same thing that influences you in your purchases of professional services.

Which leaves us just one BIG topic to address, whether or not the net has changed things. Personally I think it’s changed our ability to do the SAME list better, but still in the same order.

The most effective (for marketing purposes) websites and blogs are not those with great graphics, but those that offer fresh content, in absorbable fashion eliciting the reaction (as research, speeches, article, seminars were suppose to do in the old days) – wow, I’d never thought of it that way, I’d like to talk with that person some more. (See my article Marketing is a Conversation)

The net allows increased effectiveness in make these old-style vehicles entice people to want to contact you, but the underlying approach hasn’t changed.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a need to emphasize number 5 on my list a bit more (attending client meetings) since if you end up (as I do) doing a high percentage of your seminars, speeches and articles on-line, (webinars, etc.) you’ll be leaving out the flesh-to-flesh, face-to-face meeting people that you did with speeches and seminars in the old days. That’s a problem that needs to be corrected, and you do that by going to client industry conferences (which was always high on the list.)

So, Beverly, I think the logic, the real world evidence and the conclusions are still the same all these years later. (Which doesn’t mean that many firms continue to rush to do activities with lower ROI than those with higher ROI). Go back to the original book for a discussion of why that – still – happens.

Any dissenting opinions out there?


Beverly Hedrick said:

Thank you for your thoughts on this topic, David. Real world experience has demonstrated to me (after being in this business for nine years) that it’s all about starting, building and maintaining relationships AND providing superior client service. I agree that the activities that have a substantially bigger ROI are those that require face-to-face contact. It’s an important concept to impart to lawyers that there is no magic bullet when it comes to developing business – because the tactic that pays off in the end takes time and effort on each individual attorney’s part.

posted on February 3, 2006

Stuart Jones said:

I speak from a very small client base so referrals don’t generate enough new clients so I would go for:



Attendance at client industry meetings

Any other personal (= face to face) contact.

I am wary of the benefit of written “stuff”. There is just too much stuff out there.

I firmly believe the best returns come from knowing people. Sadly that is also the most difficult to do. Especially for accountants!

posted on February 3, 2006

Michelle Golden said:

Not a dissenting opinion, but I do think the list order has shifted somewhat. First, I totally agree with you that one shouldn’t have to do too many of these things UNLESS the professional is fairly new to practicing (demostration of their skills helps build credibility) or if a seasoned professional begins practicing in a new area for the same reasons of building credibility. Some recent examples I’ve seen are an employment lawyer becoming tired of that practice and becoming impassioned about IP law and a CPA beginning to serve in a new, unrelated industry sector.

Back to your list, the things I would change are: seminars should move down the list UNLESS the professional is speaking at an industry/trade event of the desired customer. Firms that hold general tax seminars or other dull accounting topics have found for years that they tend to lose against the other competing factors for their would-be attendees’ time. If the topic isn’t downright urgent and focused, firm conducted seminars are simply not a draw. The web has changed much. Fortunately, blogs and websites can more effectively demonstrate relevant expertise than an occasional seminar or more formal article.

Furthermore, the internet makes these materials more accessible to buyers of services whereas lawyers and accountants, anyway, have tended to write and speak more to their peers than their prospects, so they didn’t get as much exposure as they now can. Their efforts get much more mileage in other words.

Websites (including blogs) should now be higher on the list. They are no longer brochures.

Community activities seem to be even more important now…especially to recruits. Universities are teaching students to seek out firms who are responsible corporate citizens.

Your other list items: brochures, newsletters, direct mail, and especially advertising definitely belong right where you have them—at the bottom of the list.

posted on February 5, 2006