...think about what you want to accomplish in 2019
I hope that you did great things on the marketing and business development front in 2018. Of course, as the new year arrives, we get the opportunity to start fresh and add new activities to our marketing mix. Here are a few ideas to incorporate in 2019:
1) Set new business development goals for yourself by reflecting and planning ahead: First, reflect on your marketing and business development activities in 2018 – what went well and what didn’t? What was worthwhile and what didn’t pan out from an ROI perspective?
Then think about what you want to accomplish in 2019. Be aspirational but realistic. Write down these goals along with the steps that you would need to take in order to accomplish them. Aim to add at least 10 objectives to the list. You can refine this list throughout the year but you should aim to hold yourself accountable for accomplishing these goals.
2) Create a target list. The cornerstone of your business development efforts should center on building strong relationships because it is human nature to want to do business with people we like and trust. So who are you going to reach out to in the new year? I recommend grouping leads by using the buckets that Karen Kahn talks about in her must-read book Daunting to DOable:
Individuals inside the firm
Past and present clients
Alumni (from former firms and educational institutions)
Try doing at least one BD/marketing activity within one of these groups per day (online or in-person). In her book, Karen talks about building greater connections with individuals in your network by helping and providing value to others, which we will talk more about later (I’ll show you how you can easily incorporate this into your BD and social media efforts).
3) Send personal new year notes: Instead of sending holiday cards, which often get lost in the mail or can seem impersonal when they come from a general firm email, make a list of VIP contacts and clients and send them personal Happy New Year emails. Offer to get together to catch up with the purpose to tee up conversations about the next year (more on that shortly).
If your firm is working on any year-end thought leadership pieces or recent client alerts, make sure to attach those as well. This is a great way to stay top of mind with your contacts.
4) Get to know your clients better: Make one of your resolutions to get to know your clients on a personal level. You’d be surprised how many lawyers don’t know that much about their clients and this is incredibly important in developing long-term, loyal attorney/client relationships. So ask your clients about their weekend, their children, a recent vacation, etc. Keep your approach personal, conversational and informal.
Sometimes, just asking “How are things going?” is enough to get them to talk about themselves.
One of the lawyers with whom I work recently tried this with great success. When the lawyer asked his client about his weekend, his client opened up to him about his wife who was experiencing a serious health issue. It turned out that the lawyer’s family member had a similar issue, and he was able to pass along a referral to a top physician, providing value to the client. The lesson here is that you just never know where the conversation will lead, and sharing personal information makes people real – on both sides.
5) Update your bio: Your professional biography is your opportunity to showcase your work, capabilities, areas of expertise and what makes you stand out from your competitors. Bios are among the highest trafficked pages on law firm web sites and they usually come up as the top Google search result for a lawyer’s name (second only to their LinkedIn profile). Given the power of bios, it has always baffled me that many lawyers do not update theirs at least several times a year or write them with a focus on clients. The new year is a great reason to take a fresh look at your bio and make enhancements to it. Take a look at my JD Supra article on How to Write an Engaging, Client-Focused Professional Bio for tips on how to make yours better.
6) Become a LinkedIn master: LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for business development. Your LinkedIn profile comes up one of the top Google search results about you. So spend the time to develop a strong LinkedIn profile that highlights your professional attributes and background. LinkedIn provides great reasons to reach out to those in your network through its job moves and work anniversary notifications. Use these professional milestones to reach out to VIP contacts – I have seen this lead to new business numerous times.
You can read my JD Supra article on how to Build a Stronger Professional Network Today with These LinkedIn To-Do's for more ideas on how to maximize LinkedIn for lead generation.
7) Develop a smart and inexpensive visual content strategy: Social media posts with images gain far more views and engagement. Today, anyone can incorporate visuals into their social media strategy, you just need to be creative and resourceful. You can easily reuse and repurpose images that you already have, and resize them using tools right on your smartphone. In addition, there are many photo and online design tools that enable you to create images for free or at a low cost, such as my favorite tool, canva.com. I have a number of other favorite social media tools that are free or inexpensive and easy to use.
Check out my JD Supra article on “17 Low Cost (or Free!) Social Media MarTech Tools to Try” to learn more about them.
8) Smartly network: Become an expert networker by making people feel special and being a better listener. Don’t hijack the conversation and talk about yourself too much – always remember to listen vs. talk. Maximize your time at the functions you attend so that you can meet as many key people as possible. Make sure to get business cards from the people you meet and connect with them afterwards on LinkedIn with a personal note.
9) Go onsite: Offer to do site visits in the first quarter of 2019 for key clients. These meetings are a great way to demonstrate your willingness to go above and beyond for your clients. In the meeting, look back on the work you performed, asking your client for their unfiltered views on how it went and what could have been done better. (Note that by asking for this feedback, you must act on it, so be prepared to follow through on what you hear.) Also use the meeting as an opportunity to look forward to the new year to find out what work is coming down the pipeline and how your firm fits into it.
You can also take things one step further and offer to do a brown bag lunch and learn/CLE program for these key clients on the issues they are most interested in learning about. This is a terrific way to position your firm and your lawyers as subject matter experts and can often lead to new matters down the road.
10) Do your homework: Spend the time to learn about the companies, businesses and industries of important clients inside and out at the expense of the firm and on the lawyers’ own time. What challenges and opportunities are your clients facing? How can you help them with these? Delving into these areas will enable you to better anticipate their needs and be a smarter legal solution provider.
Set up Google Alerts on your clients and prospects – this will provide valuable information and give you reasons to reach out to them to congratulate them on a success, or send an article that touches on a legal issue they might be facing. Use this intelligence to reach out to those individuals in your network who you’ve been meaning to contact. Such timely touchpoints enable you to stay top of mind with important connections.
11) Ask smart questions: Armed with the information you have from above on learning your clients’ businesses inside and out, ask for meetings to find out what challenges and opportunities your clients are facing, and where they see their businesses going next year. Sometimes all you need to do is ask them. You can subtly work in how you can help them solve their issues without selling anything.
12) Incorporate evergreen content into your social media strategy: It’s not always easy to generate a steady stream of strong content to fill your editorial calendar throughout the year, and it’s important to regularly post content to stay top of mind with target audiences. This is where evergreen content can help. Evergreen content is high-quality, helpful content that provides value whether it is read today, next week or a year from now.
In my JD Supra article, What to Do When You Run Out of Things to Say - Your How-To Guide to Creating an Evergreen Content Strategy, I provide tips for firms of all sizes on how to incorporate it into their social media strategy (the best part? It’s often low cost!).
13) Become a conference speaker: Speaking at a conference has many benefits – it helps you build your brand, establish yourself as a subject-matter expert, increase your professional network, and open doors that can lead to new connections, committee appointments, referrals and much more.
If you’ve haven’t had luck as getting selected a speaker or you want some tips on how to increase your chances for being chosen for a future conference, check out this JD Supra article Want to Be Selected as a Conference Speaker? Here's How to Increase Your Chances that I wrote with Kara McKenna.
14) Provide personalized, value-added content: Your clients really do want to receive client alerts from the law firms they use – they trust you as a content source and aggregator. So regularly follow up with important contacts by sending them value-added content with a personal note on what it means to them. An important trend that I am seeing over the past year is personalized content pushes like this leading to the opening of new matters – so don’t underestimate the value of taking the time to do this. Good content is a great lead generation source.
15) Promote good works via social media: Social media is one of the most powerful vehicles that firms have to disseminate information about their good works – pro bono, community service, diversity, recruiting and professional development initiatives – but most don’t utilize this channel enough for this purpose.
Clients really do want to see that your firm is a good corporate citizen – we increasingly see these questions asked in RFPs, and your social media presence is another important channel where you can reinforce these messages. It will greatly differentiate your firm to have a social media presence that does not solely focus on how great you are, but rather what you do for the greater good of the community and your employees.
So do everything you can to promote these programs on your social channels in between touting your big victories, firm news and award wins.
16) Become a thought leader: Creating value-added content during and after a conference or event is a strategic way to enhance your professional brand and position yourself as a subject-matter expert. Instead of just being an attendee or a speaker, why not publish an article just like I’m doing here? Take a look at my JD Supra article 10 Things You Should Do After Attending the 2018 LMA Annual Conference for more ideas on how you can do this at your next conference or event.
While you must make time for business development in order to be successful at it, you can do every single one of these tactics above, and you still may not hear back from a contact, or you may hear back from someone and it may still not successfully pan out. Don’t worry if that happens. You must have a long list of prospects in order to achieve success and of course there will be some failures along the way – that’s just business! But some will work out in extraordinary ways. I always keep the saying “you’ve got to be in it to win it” in the back of my mind whenever I feel discouraged, and I hope it inspires you too.
The business development and marketing/social media tips I’ve included in this article are for professionals at all levels because it’s never too late or early to start incorporating them into your daily lives. A word to the wise for young professionals – you should build your network before you think you’ll ever need it. Your peers will be tomorrow’s business leaders. And a word to the wise for seasoned lawyers who don’t think they need to spend the time on business development – today it’s not enough to just be a great lawyer. You need to market yourself as well as churn out exceptional legal work. One day your steady stream of legal work could dry up or something could happen where you need to rebuild your practice. Also, you never know who can turn out to be a client, referral or future employer. I always say to never underestimate the importance of every connection. Be friendly and kind to everyone. Because you never know.
[Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 16 years, she has been working with some of the most prominent law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating, business development, internal and external communications strategies, including media relations, branding, and multi-channel content marketing and social media campaigns. 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.]