This is not the year to take a break from social media during the summer. Even under the best circumstances, it's incredibly important to ensure your current clients are happy and that you are consistently generating new sources of leads and referrals. This is the time to focus on your ongoing business development and branding efforts.
Here are twenty-five ideas on how to do that, which now involves shifting your strategy from in-person networking and client entertaining to having a strong online presence and thought leadership platform.
1. Create a personal business development and marketing plan. There are many templates for this, but it should essentially be a one-page document that includes your goals, specific action steps to achieve your goals, support needed from your firm to achieve them and ways to raise your profile internally and externally (speaking engagements, engagement with contacts, article and blog writing, volunteer work, etc.). It’s one thing to create a plan – it’s another to actually follow through on it – so make it short and achievable.
2. Make it a weekly practice to connect with VIP contacts – mentors, former professors, former colleagues – anyone who could be a valuable connection or a referral source. Remember that everyone you know could be a potential source of business or a new position someday. Continue to invest in and cultivate relationships.
3. 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. Create a target list in Excel by using the buckets that Karen Kahn talks about in her must-read book Daunting to DOable and try doing at least one BD/marketing activity within one of these groups per day.
- Individuals inside your firm
- Past and present clients
- Alumni (from former firms and educational institutions)
- Personal connections
- Industry contacts
- Mentors/aspirational connections
4. Reevaluate your business’ goals for the year. Reflect on what went well over the past year and what did not (um, the pandemic for starters). This year has been unprecedented so reflect back over 2019 and 2020 when you do this and work with your marketing team to make a plan to find ways to pivot your efforts to end the year on a positive note. (Note, if you don’t have a marketing team, there are ways to outsource this.)
5. Get to know your top clients better. Make a list of 5-10 top clients/new clients. Conduct due diligence and learn everything you can about them. Then armed with this information, ask them questions about their business so you can become a better advisor to them. Outside counsel want lawyers who anticipate issues, truly understand their business and care about them.
6. Reconnect with former clients. If you haven’t worked with a client in the past six months or a year, this is a great opportunity to touch base with them. Reach out to ask how they are doing in light of current conditions or send them an article you think they might find of value. Staying top of mind with light touches is key.
7. Develop a smart and inexpensive visual content strategy. Social media posts with images gain far more views and engagement. Reuse and repurpose images that you already have such as headshots, past event photos and practice and industry group images. 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.
8. Provide personalized, value-added content. Your clients want to receive client alerts from the law firms they use – they trust you as a content source. So regularly follow up with important contacts by sending them value-added content with a 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 – don’t underestimate the value of taking the time to do this. Good content is a great lead generation source.
9. Enhance and update your bio. One of the first things that someone does when they want to find out more information about a lawyer is to Google them. And their web site bio is usually the first search result that appears, followed by their LinkedIn profile. Make sure your bio accurately reflect what you do and for whom – use buzzwords throughout the body copy to help you with your search engine results. For more on how to do this, read my JD Supra articles, “How to Write an Engaging, Client-Focused Professional Bio” and “Show vs. Tell - How to Create A Strong Lawyer Bio”
10. Update your LinkedIn profile – create a strong headline and about section, fill in all past work experiences, ensure your publications and accomplishments are updated. Join groups to connect with other professionals in your industry. Here are two articles to help you become a LinkedIn master: Build a Stronger Professional Network Today with These LinkedIn To-Do's and LinkedIn 101: How to Master Profile Basics & Build Your Professional Brand.
11. Since LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for business development, maintain a visible and consistent presence on the platform. Each day, like and/or share others’ posts in your industry and at your firm. Strategically congratulate successes of others using information from the notifications section (job anniversaries and job moves) and your newsfeed (someone writing an article, winning an award, etc.). Also, make a connections plan for LinkedIn and strategically increase your network each month. Use LinkedIn’s “People You May Know” tool to easily find connections.
12. Develop a social media strategy aligned to your business development goals. The individuals with the strongest personal brands are those who share content that is helpful and value added. They are purposeful about everything they share and control the narrative. In addition, they post content on social media at the right time of day (between 8am and 10am, lunchtime and 5pm to 8pm in your local time zone).
13. Never eat alone. This is the title of one of my favorite business books – the networking bible by Keith Ferrazzi. Essentially the book is about how to maximize your relationships and make each meal more productive – even in the time of social distancing – you just have to get a little creative about how you do it.
14. Ensure that all client-generated news (press mentions, blog posts, articles, events, sponsorships, etc.) is leveraged on your web site and social media (your company page and the corresponding professional’s social networks). Then take it a step further to make sure your employees share the news to their own professional networks – this is important because while there might be some overlap with the contacts following your company page, it is very likely they have valuable connections who do not, and that will help you cast a wider net.
15. Learn everything you can about how to use hashtags. This will help your content get noticed and amplified on all of the social networks. Then build a hashtag strategy for the social platforms you’re using.
16. Brainstorm ideas for future content and establish process for generating regular content on timely topics affecting the firm’s target audience, such as articles and blog posts.
17. Volunteer on a bar association committee, for a social cause or a pro bono project – this is a great way to meet others, even if it’s virtually for the time being.
18. 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 your clients and prospects. 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.
19. Become involved with your alumni associations – join the online alumni groups of your former educational institutions and employers – they often have robust online presences. Use these groups to reconnect with former classmates and colleagues. It’s totally acceptable to reconnect with individuals with whom you haven’t been in touch in many years in today’s environment. I find people are more receptive to cultivating relationships in this time of social distancing.
20. Find ways to help your contacts. Always give without expecting anything in return. This is key for building strong relationships.
21. Ensure the contact information in your address book is updated so that the great content you are creating is actually reaching your intended audience. Make sure to reconcile your LinkedIn address book with your email address book. You can export your LinkedIn Contacts into Excel, but depending on the user’s privacy settings, their email address may or may not make its way into the spreadsheet and you still need to abide by CAN-SPAM and GDPR rules.
22. Write a client alert, a blog post, an article or all of these. If you don’t like writing, buddy up with a colleague and co-author a piece together. Remember, content no longer needs to be long to be good. Most individuals skim articles. Sharing this content on social media will help you build your personal brand and stay top of mind with network.
23. Regularly Google yourself. I am a true believer in the positive power of social media, but as the lines between our personal and personal lives become blurrier by the day in the digital world in which we live, take the appropriate steps to protect your brand after all the work you’re putting into strengthening it. For more on this topic, see my article, “Why You Must Google Yourself Regularly and Protect Your Online Personal Brand.”
24. Ensure that all practice area and industry descriptions reflect current market conditions and what you can do for clients. This will enhance your SEO as well as let clients know that you can help them in a rapidly changing time. If you don’t say you do it, they may not think you do it.
25. Go back and look at the analytics of last year’s blog posts and client alerts to see the types of content that did well (and not so well). Look for trends and use this information to enhance your future content strategy. Smart content marketers will take this research and put it in action by writing a part two or updating a top performing piece.
Remember, when done right, marketing and business development is never about selling yourself or creating an elevator pitch – it’s about being helpful and client-focused and providing value (while showcasing your expertise).
The business development and marketing/social media tips in this article are for professionals at all levels – it’s never too late or early to start incorporating them into your every day. 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. If the pandemic has taught us anything - it's that nothing is certain in life. Many lawyers' steady stream of legal work has slowed down or their practice has shifted - this is where marketing and business development can really help you.
You never know who can turn out to be a client, referral or future employer. Never underestimate the importance of every connection. You need to market yourself as well as churn out exceptional legal work. Now is not the time to pull back on marketing – in fact, now is the time to focus on marketing to help you retain and attract clients and referral sources, and build your brand.
Stefanie Marrone advises law firms of all sizes, professional service firms, B2C and B2B companies, professional associations and individuals on the full range of marketing and business development consulting services designed to enhance revenue, retain current clients and achieve greater brand recognition. She also serves as outsourced chief marketing officer/marketing department for smaller firms. Over her nearly 20-year legal marketing career, she has worked at and with a broad range of big law, mid-size and small firms, which has given her a valuable perspective of the legal industry. At each of these firms, she has developed and executed revenue generating, business development, internal and external communications strategies, and social media and content marketing campaigns for practices, industries and individual lawyers. She is very passionate about using social media for lead generation and brand building. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her latest writing on JD Supra as well as her blog The Social Media Butterfly.