Who was the most memorable speaker at one of your law firm’s retreats. For me, that speaker was Barry J. Gibbons, the former Chairman and CEO of Burger King. I came away from his presentation with many new ideas about client development.

He spoke to us on Saturday morning just after a speaker from Fidelity showed us at least 100 PowerPoint slides while explaining our 401K program.

Gibbons used no PowerPoint slides, so the focus was on him rather than the screen. He also told vivid stories to make his points stick with the audience. He made them in a way that I could easily remember them.

For example, the way he presented innovation was to say that he had always been fascinated by what happened when man for the very, very first time got milk from a cow. Gibbons asked:

Just what was that guy thinking? What kind of mind says to itself: ‘I’m going over there to that beast, and I am gonna pull on those things, and drink what comes out.

He said that kind of mind changes the world’s diet. When I think of innovators, I think back to that description of an innovator.

After hearing Mr. Gibbons speak, I had to buy his books, including: “If you want to make God really laugh, show him your business plan: The 101 Universal Laws of Business.” I laughed and I think God would also. I also found that Mr. Gibbons universal laws apply to law firms and lawyers. Over the last few years many law firms have adopted some of his ideas, without ever hearing of Barry Gibbons or his book.

Let me give you an example. One of his laws focuses on branding. He suggests that branding has moved away from supply-side (as lawyers what we do) thinking to a demand-led (as lawyers what our clients need) approach. Gibbons says we are moving from an era of mass marketing to an era of mass-customization. He describes this as “an era in which winning companies will know as much about their customers as they would if they were dating agencies.”

His views are supported by what clients and potential clients look for in law firm web pages. Specifically, they are looking for experience and industry knowledge. Think about how your firm’s webpage has changed to reflect these ideas. It would be very interesting to compare your law firm’s web page from 2000 with the one you have now.

But, how much time are your lawyers spending on what we do, compared to how much time they are spending on understanding your firm’s clients’ individual and unique needs and figuring out how you can add value?

Even clients in the same industry will be unique and have needs differing from other companies in the same industry.

I speak often about the “targeted differentiators.” It is how you can differentiate your self or your firm and your services in the eyes of your clients and potential clients. Just suppose one of your targeted differentiators was that you know each of your clients’ industries, their unique and individual needs and you provide value based on those needs far better than any other lawyer or law firm. My guess is that you would have an incredible volume of business.

Would God laugh at your law firm’s business plan? Hopefully not.

Do you want to learn more about developing a niche practice and differentiating yourself or your law firm from others? Sign up for my October 2 Develop a Niche Practice and Differentiate Yourself Webinar.