Building Meaningful Relationships: An Interview with John Reed
John Reed established Rain BDM to help law firms improve their business development and marketing.Here he tells us the secret of how to build successful relationships.
Tiffany studied Language and Economics, and now likes to write about business topics and conduct interviews with interesting people. She spends her free time looking after her plants and with her dog.
After gaining experience in different fields during his career, John Reed established Rain BDM to help law firms improve their business development and marketing.
In his opinion, the secret lies in relationships and trust. Today, John tells us the secret of how to build successful relationships that will make you stand out from your competitors!
Hi John! It is a great pleasure to have you here today. As the founder and chief consultant of Rain BDM, a business development and marketing company for law firms, could you describe what the main services are that you offer?
Certainly. For law firms without marketing departments or perhaps only marketing departments with one person, we provide outsourced services such as content writing, social media management, website project management, graphic design, and brand strategy.
Many of our best clients initially had us write blog posts or refresh attorney bios, and our relationships continued to grow. Now, we serve as their full-service outside marketing team.
We also train and coach attorneys to build relationships with current and prospective clients, referral sources, and other key connections. We often become behind-the-scenes business development managers for law firms.
And you have a diverse background composed of knowledge on law, marketing, and sales. Why did you decide to focus on such different topics? And what do they have in common?
I’d like to say my entire career was carefully planned, but that would be stretching the truth. After college, I worked for an international advertising agency and later decided to attend law school.
That was the first big change. Then, after practicing law for a few years, I went into the legal staffing and recruiting industry - the second big change.
I then pivoted by joining the leader in legal information and publishing, first as a sales representative, then as a manager, and later a consultant to large law firms, helping them with their research and information needs.
But the biggest change happened when I launched Rain BDM. We just celebrated our tenth anniversary - I can’t believe how fast it’s been!
Oh, congratulations! Why is then your focus on law firms?
It just made sense, given my background. I understand the “business of law” issues that firms and attorneys face and speak their language. I often say that my team and I are translators - we speak the languages of law, marketing, and plain English, and we help our clients communicate their brands and stories to the right audiences. Our consultants are either former practicing attorneys or former in-house law firm marketers.
And your main goal is to help your clients distinguish themselves from the competition in the legal marketplace. What is your secret to achieving it?
The secret is relationships. In law firms and other businesses, clients want to work with people they like and trust. Marketing consists of tactics and activities to initiate connections, to help attorneys and clients have that first conversation. Business development is the series of conversations that follows. We help lawyers become proficient in relationship building.
It’s kind of funny. Lawyers generally dislike the idea of sales and selling. But when you recharacterize it as business development and building relationships, they warm up to the idea.
What distinguishes us from our competition is that we don’t have a templated, cookie-cutter approach to training and coaching. Every person is different with a unique personality and law practice, and we tailor each engagement to the individual.
By building trust with them, we show them how to build trust with others.
Yes, that is true! Relationships are very important. Is there any requirement that your clients regularly have?
Many clients first come to us thinking we will make the phone ring for them, that we have some magic to offer so they don’t have to invest in their own skills.
But after a discussion about their strengths, their practice expertise, their ideal clients, and their resources, they realize we cannot do the work for them and that our engagement is a collaborative partnership.
It often surprises prospective clients to learn that we don’t coach to dollars. By that, I mean we don’t set business development targets based on increases in billables or percentage gains in revenue. We coach to skill-building. That really resonates with firms.
So what would you say is the most important aspect companies should take into account in order to differentiate themselves from other companies? Could you give them some tips?
You hit on it before - be different. Law firms and other businesses must take the time to thoroughly analyze and evaluate their brands. The idea of “branding” or “personal branding” isn’t complicated.
Just ask, what is our role in the marketplace? Is there a particular context or environment we want to occupy? What skills do we offer? What is our style, that is, in what manner or mindset do we deliver our services? The key to answering these questions is, to be honest, and authentic. You can’t fake your brand.
And now after years of experience, would you change something about how you set up your own business?
I’m very proud of the organization we’ve built - not just me, but my team. We are entirely virtual, with people across the U.S. We’ve leveraged technology well, utilizing cloud-based tools (like Mailbutler) and applications to manage the workflow, communicate with one another, and run the backend of the business. We were very well prepared for the pandemic without having to change our structure at all.
If I could change one thing about the evolution of Rain BDM, I would have embraced corporate social responsibility sooner - for both our company and our clients.
Legal services, in particular, are often seen as commodity services. While relationship building is essential for successful business development, being a good corporate citizen and helping communities in which we live and work are powerful components to a strategic marketing plan.
In 2019, we created “Show Cause,” Rain BDM’s own social engagement program. We give each team member the opportunity to select a charity or non-profit whose mission is close to their heart and then donate money (and volunteering time, if possible).
Show Cause not only helps worthy organizations to help others, but it has been one more way to bring our remote team together.
It is a good initiative! And how has Mailbutler helped you with your email communication?
Email is both necessary and dangerous. It’s necessary as a communication tool and for getting work done, but dangerous because it can leave the impression you’re always available and accessible and because messages move in and out so quickly.
Mailbutler is my valuable virtual assistant. I can control my work-life balance with its snooze features. I can quickly bring up information about contacts (especially clients) to make sure I’ve got the facts straight on a particular topic or project.
And I cannot tell you how many times I forget to include an attachment that is the focus of an email - something that Mailbutler makes sure doesn’t happen so I don’t look foolish.
I am happy to hear that you are enjoying Mailbutler! Thank you for this interesting interview, I wish you all the best, John!
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