...it's time for you to lay the groundwork
It’s a challenging time for everyone in terms of generating new business right now. Some clients are reluctant to engage with outside counsel and certain matters have been put on hold with the world being in such flux.
If you are a senior associate or junior partner who has lost momentum on building your book of business and/or brand due to the pandemic, or you’re just starting to think about developing new business, I have a few ideas. Consider doing these now to lay the groundwork, put yourself in a strong position in the future when it comes to lead generation.
- Identify where you will focus your time. An important first step. Without a clear business development strategy (including an industry focus for most practice areas, as well as identifying the individuals that will be “buyers” or connectors to “buyers”) your efforts will be scattered and inefficient. Start small, list out actionable goals, and steps you’ll need to take to accomplish them.
- Find internal and external champions. Ask a mentor or senior partner for advice on what worked for them.
- Use LinkedIn to develop relationships. LinkedIn is the most important social media network for professionals. Especially now. Use it often, and use it wisely. Reconnect with individuals with whom you haven’t spoken in a while, such as colleagues from law school and former firms. Be active on LinkedIn by sharing posts and reacting to the posts of others in your network.
- Check in with individuals in your network. Right now, nothing is business as usual. The personal touch of reaching out to someone and asking them how they are doing will go a long way in terms of bolstering relationships. Your clients have a lot of choices when it comes to outside counsel. They often choose their lawyers based on likability, responsiveness and skills. The best thing you can do right now is to show your clients how much you care about them.
- Every interaction with a client or prospect is an opportunity to impress and build trust. Remember that you are always being evaluated so put your best foot forward, intently listen and think carefully about what you say and do.
- Set up an informal referral network. Choose a key group of contacts where there is mutual benefit. You can get together virtually, brainstorm ideas, and share information about your practices. This is especially effective if you are a specialist in a certain area or if you work at a niche firm.
- Ask for help inside or outside of your firm to develop a cohesive plan based on the realities of the existing legal marketplace. Think about the various ways that business development will assist you to achieve your personal goals: income, impact, ideal way of practicing, independence, invulnerability, indulgence, etc. Keep whichever of these elements are important to you top of mind, they are your motivators and why you do this work.
- Offer to write client alerts and blog posts. One of the most effective ways to build your brand and become known as a subject matter expert is to become a published author. Offer to help out a busy partner on an alert and raise your hand to write for a firm blog. This will also help your search engine results, as content that is educational will move you up on Google and other major search platforms.
- Make the time for business development. In order truly to be successful at business development you must make time for it. It’s an investment in yourself. You will see results if you commit to what you say you will do each month. Today, most established lawyers have to do some sort of business development and marketing in order to stay top of mind with their current clients, referrals and prospects. This is especially the case if you are trying to build your own client base and step outside the shadow of the senior lawyers with whom you work. Business development is an investment in your future. And it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. Effective business development efforts can be done in just five to ten minutes each day when you are organized.
- Create a strong biography and LinkedIn summary. Ensure that your profile is optimized and reflects what you currently do. Use keywords to describe what you do to enhance your search results. Look to competitors and peers for content inspiration.
- Get involved in a bar association, industry committee, alumni network or pro bono group. Raising your hand for a volunteer role will enable you to meet other people in the industry and acquire leadership skills, all of which are important along your professional journey.
Finally, for each of us there is no single way of successfully becoming a rainmaker, only your way. It’s never too early to start thinking about building your network, brand and business. You don’t have to sell, ask, schmooze, push or pressure anyone ever. I don’t believe in the elevator pitch.
However, you do need to develop relationships and be likable, and that can happen in many ways that fits your style, comfort zone, personality, values or goals. Remember that everyone who you meet can be a potential client, referral source or future employee/employer.
Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 17 years, she has worked with some of the most prominent and innovative law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating business development and communications strategies, including media relations, branding, and multi-channel content marketing and social media campaigns. She is very passionate about using social media for lead generation and brand building. She has a diverse range of experience in both Big Law and mid-size/small-law firms. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her latest writing on JD Supra.