In mid-2000, Steve Boehm and Cynthia Krus, partners at the law firm of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, approached the firm’s marketing department with a request: “Make Sutherland the premier provider of legal counsel to Business Development Companies (BDCs).”
BDCs provide capital to small- and middle-market businesses, allowing public investors access to portfolios that resemble private equity funds. Although BDCs have been part of the regulatory landscape since 1980, Sutherland’s partners identified the dearth of legal representation in the niche and were confident they had the expertise necessary to own the market.
Turning $40K into $1,000,000 plus.
However, research indicated that BDCs weren’t a very exciting a topic for reporters; only six articles had appeared on BDCs since 1995, and, unfortunately, Sutherland was mentioned in only one. Therefore, the primary marketing goal was to increase the partners’ visibility by doubling the number of BDC articles and generating at least 75% coverage for the firm. (The firm wisely wanted to market the business niche to the broader business community as well as just their position within it.)
Additionally, the firm wanted to bring BDCs to the attention of SEC regulators and Congress in order to change legislation and make BDCs a contemporary option for investors and entrepreneurs.
HC devised and implemented an 18-month media relations plan to achieve the primary goal, which included media training, editorial coverage, speaking engagements, byline article placement, and white paper generation. For the secondary goal, the plan included a public affairs and events component. Major business publications were targeted and pitched information about the benefits of BDCs.
The firm organized the Committee for Modernization of BDC Regulation, which includes all of the leading BDCs, and held a heavily attended, full-day BDC symposium in conjunction with U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
Results exceeded expectations. Sixteen BDC articles appeared in the media (Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Daily Deal, Washington Post, Fund Action, etc.), and Sutherland was mentioned in every one, representing a 300% increase in coverage.
Boehm and Krus are now considered the absolute “go-to” lawyers on BDC issues. In fact, Krus recalls two occasions when they were presenting to the Boards of Directors of prospects and saw that the “Board Books” contained numerous media clips touting the firm’s expertise. (They got the clients.)
Most importantly, on an investment of just less than $40,000, the firm achieved a 2500% ROI adding 17 new BDC matters to its client roster and more than $1,000,000 in new revenue.