Market Math is a concept to help you visualize how thought leadership distills to concrete sales opportunities. If you focus on a specific industry in which your demand-triggering business problem is inescapable, unless a company is an outlier, as long as your problem has meaningful consequences, if the market is large enough and has a sufficient number of trusted channels through which you can communicate, mathematically it's almost impossible to fail, no matter how many reductions you introduce to the model. I've used it to give lawyers confidence that what we're doing together not only can work, but must.


You’ve developed some innovative employment solutions for companies who employ a large number of highly skilled technicians. You’ve seen the data that solar now employs 374,000 people, and is growing at 7% per year, so you decide that’s an opportune industry sector for you. Here’s how market math distillation works:

market math funnel
  • There are 374,000 people in the solar industry

  • Let’s say that by consistently communicating your fresh thinking through a number of robust communication channels as often as they'll tolerate (reach + frequency), over time 150,000 of them (40%) are exposed to your ideas

  • At any moment, the problem you solve becomes acute enough to command the attention of 20% of those (30,000)

  • In turn, 20% (6,000) of those are in roles that are directly affected by the problem you solve




Among those 6,000, at any moment there's a Bell Curve of Alignment with your ideas:

market math- idea alignment curve
  • 1,200 (20%) strongly agree with you and choose to follow you

  • 240 (20%) of those who pay attention to you and strongly agree with you decide to discuss the problem with you

  • 48 (20%) decide they must take action and invest money to solve the problem

  • 10 (20%) of those decide they like you and would enjoy working with you

  • 2 of thos e (20%) hire you

This is pretty extreme reduction, i.e., 20% at each of nine steps yields a microscopic percentage. You'll do much better. But it makes the point: No matter how many reductive steps you insert, if you're disciplined, consistent, and sustain your effort, you can't get to zero. If your average annual revenue per client for solving this problem is $50,000, the process will yield at least $100k.

These numbers aren’t important other than as an illustration of the process. The only way it doesn’t work is if:

  • The problem you solve has only modest consequences, making it easy to delay action

  • The market is too small, i.e., it has too few total stakeholders. For example, an industry with only 20,000 people would be difficult to succeed in

  • Your ideas aren’t fresh or provocative

  • You’re unable to produce content, or get it published, frequently enough to make an impression

  • You’re inconsistent, publishing only occasionally, or about scattered topics

Step One is to identify the high-impact problem that you solve. We call this your Door-Opener because it makes your recognizably relevant, and opens doors to productive conversation. For example, when considering the issue of engineers moving to a competitor with valuable knowledge in their heads, you might be inclined to talk about “Employment issues,” or “trade secret issues.” You’re oriented to your internal language. But the market conversation is more literal.

Review your significant matters over the past year or two. They didn’t spring up fully formed and defined as legal issues. Where did they come from? They originate in human behavior, attitudes, actions, and decisions. The conversation inside the affected companies is about symptoms and effects. “Joe just left to join XYZ Tech. He was the lead designer on the next version of our key product.” That’s what a problem conversation sounds like. To be welcome, you need to sound like that, too, demonstrating that you understand what’s happening in their world.

Many lawyers struggle with this shift in perspective, often because they don’t really pay much attention to how business works, and what’s going on in the business world. If that’s you, you should expand your reading with a goal of understanding business better, because that’s where your next client or matter will come from.

Mike O'Horo

Are you tired of wasting time and resources on biz dev activities that don’t grow your practice?

Join me June 13 at 1:00 p.m. EDT for Becoming a Better Rainmaker: How to Grow Your Legal Practice, a webinar in which you’ll learn how to improve your business development results:

  • How to have your prospects approach you after a presentation to discuss how your topic affects their company

  • How to write articles, blog posts, and LinkedIn comments that cause prospects to respond to you and follow you

  • How to leave voicemails that gets your call returned

  • How to compose emails that trigger an invitation to call

  • How to get invited to decision-level discussions

  • How to contribute to your prospect’s success before you get hired