How to make time for marketing and business development (First published in Professional Marketing Magazine)

“They know their market and can recognise the opportunities, but struggle to find the time and resources for the implementation.”

It is said that at the headquarters of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg put up posters everywhere saying "Better done than perfect".  In the professions, sometimes a good idea never makes it into the marketplace, as constant attention to detail and pursuit of perfection means that the project is never signed off.  

Often it is simply that the accountant, lawyer or consultant does not have enough time to devote to pushing an initiative through from idea to completion.

For many, it seems that the only non-chargeable activities to get completed on time are those with an external deadline, such as articles for external publication, presentation materials, awards submissions and tenders. 

Those rainmakers that are most productive in terms of marketing and business development have learned to make time to make things happen despite a busy workload. What are the secrets of their success?

Last year, Gary Richards published a book "Time Management for Lawyers" promising the answers to that very question.  The book is indeed full of practical advice for any professional, so Sue asked Gary if he could provide some specific advice regarding time management and business development.

“Professionals know how hard it is to find time to develop new business” says Gary.  “But you also know that your ultimate success depends on having a substantial pipeline of new business ready to come in the door when your present engagements are completed.”

So, here are some ideas from the book on how to raise the priority of your business development effort, followed by some specific tips that you can put to work immediately to gain time to implement your business development plan.


Clarify what you will do with the time you free up

You will be more motivated to change your behaviour if you know exactly how you will use the spare time to develop new business. 

Step 1: Set a SMART goal

The first step, then, is to state a goal for your business development, as specifically as possible. Once clearly and effectively stated, your goal statement becomes an object of pursuit, motivating you to find the time to pursue it.

Notice that setting a goal is recommended, not setting several goals. Get one success under your belt to build confidence. Like the Portuguese proverb says “Think of many things. Do one.

For example:  “My goal is that …

  • I have three new engagements by mm/dd/yyyy  to design commercial structures 
  • I have spoken with 10 possible sources of new business by mm/dd/yyyy
  • I have 3 new major facility expansion contracts by mm/dd/yyyy.

Step 2: Identify a short list of contacts

Most of your new business will probably come from existing clients or people that they refer to you. So, list 5 - 10 such individuals. This small list will be your focal point and are your targets for staying in touch with and to nurture during the next couple of months or so. 

Step 3: Schedule your next contact with each target 

You can personalise reasons to contact each of these possible sources of new business.  During each conversation you can express your interest in doing additional work for them, or one of their colleagues. 

Step 4: Schedule follow up 

Schedule follow up steps after the initial contact. Keep track of your contacts and next steps with each individual prospect until you either get results or learn that no results are possible.

You may discover that a purposeful pursuit of a focused list of targets will require 3 to 5 hours per week to do properly. In that case, you will now be ready to answer Gary’s key question:

“What can I do to free up 3 to 5 hours per week to pursue my new business plan?”


Over the years, Gary has inspected time logs of various professionals to learn what takes their time but interferes with reaching their goals - what he calls their “time wasters”. Here are the most frequently mentioned ones - are they plaguing you too?

  • personal disorganisation, cluttered desk etc.
  • lack of objectives, priorities and planning
  • ineffective delegation, getting buried in routine details; and 
  • interruptions.

Tip 1: Plan your day

It’s easy to walk into your office every day and stay busy responding to whatever comes to mind, is visible on your desk, arrives in your email or text inbox. It can all seem so urgent. 

Instead, Gary recommends that the first thing you do is make a written daily plan:

  • List the 5 to 7 tasks that you must get done today.
  • Estimate for each task how much time you want to spend on it today.
  • Set the relative priority for three or four tasks on the list.
  • Total the estimated time for each to get an estimated total commitment of your time today, but leave some time to respond to whatever comes up during the course of the day. 

When you know that the task that you are working on is the most important one for the day, you will have the conviction to stick with it, and defend it from interruptions and distractions. 

Tip 2: Do a written work plan for each project 

You may already do this, both for your proposals and when you accept a new case or engagement. If so, you already know what a huge timesaver it is to break down each project or case into its discrete tasks as soon as you can after accepting the work.

Tip 3: Delegate more

It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.”  Elbert Hubbard

Some tasks that do not need your level of skill are tempting because you enjoy doing them, or there is no one around to hand them to at the moment, or it is quicker to do it than to instruct others how to do it. But resist that temptation and delegate these tasks. 

Tip 4: Manage interruptions

One of the hallmarks of good professional service is to be available to clients when they need you. That does not mean you are necessarily available every time they “want” you. Remember that “We teach others how to treat us by our approach and our response to them.”  It is important to legitimise your right to be unavailable at times.

Tip 5: Diarise follow up

Use the “meeting X 3” approach when you put business development meetings or events in your calendar. That refers to the three necessary time commitments that you need for most events: 

  • Time to attend the event, scheduled as you normally do.
  • Time to prepare for the event, scheduled for well ahead of the event, rather than at the last minute.
  • Time to follow up the meeting, scheduled for as soon after the meeting as possible while your notes/recollections are still fresh.

By making calendar entries for each of these you will improve the overall results of your involvement in the event. 

In short, according to Gary Richards, the effective professional sets a clear business development goal with a plan for reaching it. Then, that goal can inspire the professional to examine how they manage themselves and their tasks to find which timesaving tips can generate the time needed to pursue professional business development, their route to future success. 


Part time working is no longer the preserve of women returning from maternity leave, although they remain in the majority.  Germany’s vice-chancellor recently hit the headlines for carving out Wednesday afternoons for his daughter.

As our parents live longer, you could find yourself needing to take time more off or reduce your hours in order to care for a relative and may need to re-engineer how you make time for marketing.

In addition to Gary’s advice above, Sue suggests a few practical tips specifically for part time workers and returning mothers:

  • Swap long lunches for a quick bite or a coffee.
  • Use your commuting time for keeping in touch by emailing or social networking.
  • Maximise use of technology to manage your diary and your contacts.
  • Set up childcare arrangements with your partner or spouse, so that you have at least one evening or morning a week for networking.
  • Makes sure that you book events ahead to use that time to network (not catch up on admin, reading etc).
  • Don’t waste that entire business lunch talking about the family.


Career breaks and reduced hours do not need to limit your marketing and business development activities – according to Sue Bramall, you can also find ways to be smarter with your time.

Maternity leave is the most obvious planned career break, but professionals may also take time out for a sabbatical or to write a book.  Naturally, whilst you are out of circulation, this can give rise to concerns about its impact on your business development activities. 

If you know that you will be out of the picture for a while, then there are a number of things that you can do to ensure that your profile will be maintained whilst you are not working.

Devote some time to making sure that you are connected with all your key clients and contacts on LinkedIn before you leave.  Ten per cent or more of your contacts could leave in a year, and you do not want to have lost touch with them when you return.  Spending a few minutes each month monitoring the updates to see what people are up to – making a small effort to keep in touch will be well worthwhile.

Case study: Planning for maternity leave

Alison Newstead is a partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon International, specialising in international product liability defence and complex health and safety cases.  Keen to ensure that the impact of her maternity leave was minimised, she planned and prepared a programme of marketing activity for the year that she was going to be away from work.  

In the field of product liability law, Shook Hardy & Bacon contribute articles to the In-house Lawyer Magazine.  For this, Alison authored four articles in advance which could be used whilst she was away. She chose evergreen subjects relating to unsafe products and product recalls that were unlikely to go out of date, and a colleague kindly agreed to check them over again prior to submission in case anything had changed unexpectedly.  Product liability cases can be lengthy, so Alison also used some of her “keeping in touch” time to call clients and this was appreciated.

In the field of health and safety law, Alison authored a further three evergreen articles, on topics such as handling a fatal accident or a police investigation.  These were to be distributed by email, and Alison was able to enlist the help of the health and safety barristers at Henderson Chambers, who volunteered to provide three guest articles on recent cases to complete the e-newsletters.  In addition, she prepared a hard copy fact sheet relating to the health and safety regulations for working in heat or extreme cold.  This hard copy was sent out to contacts midway through Alison's maternity leave.

Whilst this required a substantial investment of time in advance, Alison was able to relax during her maternity leave in the knowledge that a regular stream of material was being sent to both sets of clients and contacts throughout her absence. When she returned and followed up with her clients and contacts, many expressed their surprise that she had been away for a year.  Keeping her name, and what she could offer, on her clients radar, undoubtedly helped to maintain her profile and reduce the impact of her time out of the office.


According to Sue Bramall one area that firms, practice groups and individuals often struggle with is achieving the right marketing mix in the way that they spend their time.   For example, the recent emphasis on social media activity and mobile internet should not detract from the need to prioritise face-to-face time for building relationships.

Different marketing activities play different roles in terms of building profile, developing credentials, building relationships or securing new instructions.  A mixture of activities is required to both raise profile and build trust in the long term, whilst bringing in new business instructions in the short term.  

Inga Beale was recently named the first ever female chief executive of Lloyds of London.  In an interview published on the Lloyds web site she comments that “When I started out in my career I just worked and worked and thought that was enough. I kept my head down and thought, ‘well of course I’m going to get recognised, because I’m working hard and doing a good job.’ But it isn’t enough. You do have to work hard on those other things such as image and exposure.”  Of course, this all takes time.

Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and has over 20 years of experience in professional services, including the last 12 years specialising in the legal profession.

Gary Richards is the author of “TIME MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK FOR LAWYERS - How-to Tactics That Really Work”.  He conducts CPD/CLE seminars on professional effectiveness and practice management following many years consulting, initially at KPMG/Peat Marwick.

Gary Richards is the author of “TIME MANAGEMENT HANDBOOK FOR LAWYERS - How-to Tactics That Really Work”.  He conducts CPD/CLE seminars on professional effectiveness and practice management following many years consulting, initially at KPMG/Peat Marwick.

Back to Blog

Get in touch ...

We are always happy to have an informal chat. As a member of the Law Consultancy Network, if we cannot help you we may be able to introduce you to a specialist who can.

Tell us your communication preferences