As an in-house legal marketer I am always challenged by the partner who is “too busy to market.” Her plate might be too full (at the moment). He has family obligations outside the office (always my personal excuse). However, one day they’re going to wake up and wonder “where have all my clients gone?”

I learned early on in my career that marketing and business development are not about today, they are about tomorrow. It’s about keeping that pipeline filled. It’s about knowing that when your big class-action, that you’ve been billing 95% of your time to for the past three years, suddenly settles, you’re not left in the lurch. Ask yourself, what would you do if you #1 client is acquired, or your key-client contact is promoted or retires?

Yes, you’re too busy to market. I’m too busy to market. We’re all too busy to market. But, we need to do it EVERY DAY nonetheless.

I’ve asked some of my colleagues to offer their suggestions as to how they encourage their “too busy to market” partners to market.And, SHOCK, I’m not even going to bring up social networking. We’re going Old Skool today!

Here are a few suggestions from me to kick things off:

Offer to collaborate with your key contacts.
If you are writing an article, presenting at a conference, get your key clients’ input and advice on your outlines, themes, etc. This automatically elevates your client into your inner-circle. This blog post is a prime example of this.

Send the family holiday card.
Years ago I started sending my family card to my network. Once again, it personalized our relationship. I receive more e-mails thanking me for my card than I do holiday cards in general.

Become Ms. Coffee.
If you’re too busy to commit to lunch or dinner, commit to a cup of coffee in your clients’ building. Chances are there’s a Starbucks or Coffee Bean within 50 steps of the elevator bank.

Take a later flight.
When you’re out of town, rather than rush to catch the 6:00 flight, take the 9:00 p.m. Use the extra couple hours to visit with a key-client or referral source.

Dedicate one trip a year to extend.
Those of us with school-aged kids are always rushing to get back home. We miss so much already, and feel guilty for staying any longer than we have to stay. You MUST elevate marketing and business development to that “have to” list. So dedicate one trip per year to extend. Stay an extra night or two while on the opposite coast specifically to catch up with your best contacts. Plan a 1-night layover in a key town and meet with as many people as possible in a 24-hour period.
And don’t forget to bring home extra fun gifts. You’d be amazed at what you can find in an airport gift shop. And, yes, I did bring my kids back cow tipping t-shirts from Oklahoma.

Business Development Through Content MarketingRussell Thomas, Director of Media and Public Relations, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice

Essentially, content marketing involves consistently creating and distributing relevant content that is of value to a clearly defined and growing audience. Instead of speaking at targets, up-selling them through advertising and other one-off marketing tactics, content marketing creates a “sticky” relationship with audiences because it educates and empowers them.
Content marketing can involve distributing content about a pressing issue through a network of blogs, e-books, digital white papers, audio books, e-newsletters, and/or a number of other channels that marketers use to get messages out. The content is delivered directly to audiences, which would bypass the need for lawyers to turn to news and media outlets as their sole platform for publicity and recognition on an issue. Occasionally, larger online publications will opt to syndicate the content distribution portals (blogs, e-newsletters, etc) of lawyers who acquire large followings.

(Before you accuse me of slipping in some social networking solutions when you weren’t looking, Russ is talking about social media)

NetworkingNat Slavin of Wicker Park Group

Clients want to know you personally; it’s a relationship business.

How true is that?? And simple! Nat encourages you to know your competition, and to make certain that you’re showing up at networking events. Your absence at these industry events is conspicuous (especially if your competition is in the room).

I will add to Nat’s idea and encourage you to Make the most of attending a conference. Don’t spend your time in your hotel room working. That defeats the purpose. Make sure you’re in the exhibit hall, the reception room (arrive early, leave late), the meeting rooms. Target the wallflowers. Introduce yourself. If you know others at the conference, introduce your new contact around.

FU – Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up Laura F. Pedrick, Marketing Director, Partridge Snow &Hahn

It’s the never ending follow up. And what I try to convey to our attorneys is that if you’re going to take any time to market, you have to follow up, follow up, follow up, or the original marketing time is for naught. When you go to a dinner and get a business card, call or email the contact and schedule a time to meet. Attending the event is only the beginning. When you complete a matter or you have passed it to a colleague to handle, touch base with the client to confirm that everything met their satisfaction. And if not, what do you need to do to fix it to ensure that they will give you more business? When you attend a meet & greet and meet a potentially good referral source, make a plan to schedule another meeting, etc. Not always sexy, but if you keep moving the ball forward, you will score.

Engage the AssistantAndrea Wood, Business Development Manager at Leonard, Street and Deinard

There are a good number of excellent, untapped assistants out there who love to be involved in marketing, PLUS they tend to know the contacts well. I tell attorneys to devise a system that works for both. A popular one is to have the assistant pull five contact names at the beginning of each week. The attorney must reach out to them before week’s end and give those results to the assistant for tracking. Each contact point and the follow-up that resulted from the contact can be tracked by the assistant. No doubt his/her assistant has better organizational skills and will devise a slick system. By year’s end there will be a minimum of 250 contact points using this system. The uptick? Increased revenue potential, great client contact and an organized system!

Know when to hold ’em and when to walk awayLaura Shovlowsky, Business Development Manager at Proskauer.

Because time is limited for business development activities, you need to make every minute count. Evaluate where you currently spend your time, how long you have spent your time on particular prospects and activities and whether you have received business from those allocations of time and money. Be willing to cut loose “dead beat prospects.” Many lawyers are afraid to do this because they believe they are about to be hired and those many years of Dodgers games are about to pay off.

Client Service Gary Mitchell, Managing Director, GEM Communications Inc.

My first thought is you are never too busy to market because how you interact and serve your clients and how you work with other lawyers at your firm should be included as marketing. This support client loyalty and cross selling and both lead to more business. Besides everyone has to eat. So take your clients/prospects and other lawyers at your firm out to lunch and discuss their business-that is marketing too.

Focus on the Clients’ Business Heather Suttie, Legal Marketing & Business Development Consultant, Heather Suttie & Associates

Invest in your client. Focus on them, understand their work challenges and environment, and their industry. Stay focused on the client’s business needs when communicating, sending information on legal changes that could affect their particular business is appreciated.

Don’t let fear paralyze your growthNancy Myrland, Myrland Marketing

I tell my clients and friends that this economy is the perfect time to step out of the box, and to figure out what marketing techniques and tactics you should be using. If you don’t know which ones to use, and many don’t as they are busy with their practices, then they just need to ask for help. Many professionals and firms are scared to death, and have retreated in to their seemingly safe worlds of cost-cutting, lean staffing, reduced marketing and hiding their heads in the wrong sand.
Firms, whether solos, small, medium, large or mega, should be seizing this opportunity to stand out from the crowd…and yes, there is definitely a crowd, and they are competitors, and they just might step up if your firms don’t.

Nancy’s talking about today’s economic climate, but it’s application is universal. Don’t let fear paralyze you. If you’re not too sure what to do, ask for help. Not sure where to begin, try hooking up with some of us on Twitter. We’re a friendly group and you can meet a lot of us by searching #LMA.

So Coolerites … what works for you to get that “too busy to market” partner out the door?