Not everything always goes according to plan. Sometimes you have to change your vision to see results.

This week we asked: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from a marketing mentor or consultant?

1. The importance of a marketing and business development plan – 52%

2. New ways about thinking about networking – 0%

3. Finding strategies that work for your individual strengths – 18%

4. Developing a personal brand – 25%

5. Other – 5%

My Thoughts:  I’m thrilled to see that over 50% of you learned the importance of creating a plan, while developing a personal brand and playing to your strengths together were almost as important. All three are key elements in a successful business development journey!

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’ve learned my fair share of lessons after over two decades of working with clients on their marketing, branding and positioning. Here are few lawyer-specific things to consider as you make your way through the marketing world.

You’ve got to have buy-in support. Years ago my team and I conceptualized an incredible strategy for a mid-sized firm to cater to its varied industry clients–the marketing committee loved it. Yet, from the beginning the concept was poorly communicated through the organization, and as we progressed the marketing committee got more and more push-back from others.  What was, at first, an innovative concept turned into a nightmare for both us and the client. The lesson: No matter how exciting the idea, without the support of a large portion of the firm it’s destined to fail.

Know when to back down. This is a lesson I continue to learn on a daily basis. Whether it’s compromising on a firm name (something I’ve done many times) to meeting attorneys halfway on marketing strategy, it’s the age-old wisdom of picking your battles. The truth is, no matter how much experience in marketing, branding and positioning I bring to the table, my clients are the ones who know what clients they want and how they want to present themselves to the public. The lesson: I can give my advice, impart my experience and expertise and usher them into what I see for their future… but the real decision has to come from them. As long as I have given them both sides of the issue… I have served my client well.

Not every attorney has to do everything. I’ve learned to identify early the skilled writers and set them up as bloggers; recognize the networkers and help them target industry organizations; and cultivate the large personalities into prolific speakers. It’s all about understanding where their talents–and comfort zones–lie. The lesson: Let attorneys play to their strengths. They will only pursue what feels comfortable… if they like it, they will do it.

Overall, the lessons I’ve learned are applicable to almost any profession, but they’re solid ideas to consider when approaching your own legal marketing. Whether it’s being open to a new way of speaking to clients or making marketing and business development fall into YOUR comfort zone, the key is to pay attention and focus…and never get frustrated. There is always a solution.

Gail McQuilkin of Kozyak Tropin Throckmorton reminds us that along with what we’ve discussed above, patience is an essential ingredient in a legal marketing plan:

The most challenging marketing issue I face is trying to convince the lawyers in my firm that there is a return on their investment. That’s difficult because there’s always a time lag in cultivating new business. It’s not the same as deciding you need office supplies and you meet somebody at a local activity and say, ‘Gee, I can get the same supplies from him that I’m getting from my current vendor. I’m going to give this guy a chance.’  It’s different when a client needs legal service – it’s usually a serious matter. It’s not going to be something where they meet you at a social activity and just give you the business. That’s why it’s important to work your relationships and keep working them, so when the moment comes when they need a lawyer, you’re top of mind.

Black Pearl: Want to learn a few things from a corporate giant? Here’s a great piece on what lawyers can learn from Toyota.