...think of these summer months as a marketing and business development gift and use them wisely.
Sometimes it’s really nice to have some quiet time just to think and focus on what you want to achieve, and there’s no better time for that than summer when your workload may be a bit slower and you have a little more free time on your hands.
Instead of taking a break from doing business development and marketing activities while the sun is shining, smartly use this time to focus on those activities you always wish that you had more time to do. This is a great way to get an advantage over your competitors who may be lounging poolside for the summer – don’t be them! Instead, think of these summer months as a gift and use them wisely.
These efforts will help set the stage to enable you to be more productive for the busy fall season, which is often filled with business development opportunities. You’ll head into September recharged, ready, and, most importantly, laser focused on what you want to accomplish in the business development and marketing areas.
Here are some ideas on how you can incorporate in-person networking and online networking to help you build your brand and your book of business during the summer months:
- Create a personal business development and marketing plan. There are many templates for marketing plans, but it should be short and succinct without throwing in the kitchen sink. Outline your goals, action steps, and support needed from your firm to achieve them, ways to raise your profile internally and externally (speaking engagements, article writing, volunteer work, etc.) and assemble a list of contacts with the best potential.
- Ask your clients for true, honest feedback on your performance. Your clients really do want to provide feedback, and you don’t need to have a fancy client feedback program in place in order to do this – you can simply ask how you are doing as long as you are prepared to hear the good, bad, and ugly. This will result in more satisfied client relationships and ensure fewer surprises down the road.
- So many busy lawyers hunker down in their offices, being good little worker bees, waiting for opportunities to find them or, worse, they’re oblivious to the fact that they should be doing more than client work 24/7. Guess what? One of your competitors is likely doing things differently. Most of the time, great opportunities don’t fall right into your lap, you must work for them. It’s so easy to not go above and beyond, so try raising your hand for something out of your comfort zone even when you don’t have the time.
- Make it a weekly practice to connect with VIP contacts – mentors, former professors, former colleagues – anyone who you think can be a valuable connection. Continue to invest in those relationships. Make a list of individuals with whom you've lost touch and reach out to them.
- Volunteer on a bar association committee, for a social cause, or a pro bono project. This will enable you to meet new people who may be a good referral or business source.
- Consider teaching CLE seminars or a course. Adjunct professor work is a great way to build your brand and build valuable connections. Not only is this a great way to meet others in your field, but you can also give back. If you aren’t sure of the leading associations, ask others and conduct some good old fashioned online due diligence on what your top competitors are doing.
- Go to alumni events and get involved with your alumni associations. Here's an article on how you can build your own alumni network: Why It's Important to Cultivate Your Alumni Network (and How to Strengthen Yours).
- Find ways to help your contacts. This is key for follow up and relationship building. If you think about ways in which you can help someone without expecting anything in return – such as helping the relative of an important contact find a job or sending a client who is vacationing in a place you know well an email with a list of your favorite restaurants – you will build strong relationships over time. This kind of TLC really does result in real business and enhanced brands.
- LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for business development. Every day, like and/or share others’ posts in your industry (and at your firm) on LinkedIn. Strategically congratulate successes of others.
- Focus on enhancing and updating your bio and LinkedIn profile. One of the very 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, with their LinkedIn profile in second place. Your bio and LinkedIn profile are your opportunity to showcase your work, capabilities and areas of expertise, and what makes you stand out from your competitors, so spend the time to craft a bio and LinkedIn profile that truly conveys your value proposition. For more on how to do this, read my JD Supra articles, “How to Write an Engaging, Client-Focused Professional Bio” “Show vs. Tell - How to Create A Strong Lawyer Bio” and “LinkedIn 101: How to Master Profile Basics & Build Your Professional Brand.”
- Make a list of clients/referrals/former contacts who you have not seen in person in some time and make plans to visit them. Offer to tour the facilities of certain clients to better understand the operations of their business. There is nothing more powerful than in-person interactions and showing that you want to know more about their business.
- Get to know your top clients better. Make a list of 5-10 top clients/new clients. Conduct due diligence and 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 make them look good. Show how much you really care.
- The summer is the perfect midway point to reevaluate your business’ goals for the year. Reflect on what went really well this year and what did not. Make a plan to change what needs to be adjusted and refined now so you end the year on a positive note.
- 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. They also dedicate some of their posts to be gracious to others. In addition, they post content on social media at the right time of day – during am and pm commuting hours when you have a captive audience.
- 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 again. Reach out to them to ask them for lunch or send them an article you think they might find of value. Staying top of mind is key here.
- Plan your personal public relations strategy. Do you want to be quoted in the press more? Work with your PR/communications team to develop a plan to raise your profile in third-party publications, which can greatly help with brand building and referrals down the line. Make a list of the top publications read by your clients and provide the PR team or your agency with a list of topics you want to speak on along with insights/updates in that area. And once they secure media interest, make sure you’re available for the resulting press interviews!
- Speaking engagements are a great way to demonstrate mastery of subject matter and connect in person with key people in your industry. They can also open many doors, such as leading to additional speaking opportunities, article writing, media placements, committee appointments, referrals and the very best case of all – a new client matter. Work with your marketing team to identify future conferences at which you are interested in speaking and attending. For more on how to get selected as a speaker, read my JD Supra article, Want to Be Selected as a Conference Speaker? Here's How to Increase Your Chances.
- 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, you must take the appropriate steps to protect your brand after all this work that 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.”
- Learn about the companies, businesses and industries of important clients inside and out at the expense of the firm and on your 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.
- One of the smartest things you can do when you have downtime is to look at the brand-building activities of your top competitors. Information is power, especially when it comes to how your peers are marketing themselves, so make a list of your top 5-10 competitors and conduct due diligence on their marketing and business development activities. Pay special attention to the events, publications and news section of their web bios as well as their recent updates and activities on their LinkedIn profile (just remember to mark yourself as “anonymous” before you conduct any major reconnaissance on LinkedIn so your research is done on the DL). You’ll be able to incorporate a few new ideas into your branding efforts from this competitor research.
- 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 productive – go for drinks/lunch and dinner with clients, prospects and referral sources. Everyone has to eat – make that time strategic about with whom you spend it. While I am a big believer in the power of online networking, it is still incredibly important to cement relationships with in-person contact. Use the slower time to take at least five contacts or clients out and spend some quality time together. Also, many people are more receptive to invitations during the summer when they may be a bit less busy and stressed, so you may have better luck scoring an in-person meeting with someone on your target list during this time.
- Make a connections plan for LinkedIn and connect with the people you meet in person who you consider worthwhile to extend the relationship online. Ensure their contact info is in your CRM database so they receive your client alerts and evites.
- Write a client alert, a blog post, an article or all of these! Creating value-added content is a great way to provide value to your network and stay top of mind with them. It also greatly helps with your positive SEO results.
- For every five social media posts you create about yourself, dedicate one to someone else who is important to you, such as a client, prospect or referral source. Congratulate them on a success, promote an article they wrote or an upcoming speaking engagement they have – you get the idea (you can easily find out this information from their LinkedIn profile). By shining a spotlight on VIPs in your network, you will build stronger relationships with them and they will often in turn, do the same for you.
- This is a great time to offer to collaborate on a project with a client or referral source. Co-author an article with them, invite them to speak on a panel, or offer them a free pass to a conference your firm is sponsoring. Invest in your clients in a way that provides something of value to them.
- One of the best ways to build relationships is by linking people to each other. Think about who you can introduce to important contacts and clients - and then make the connection for them. People enjoy making new connections, especially when they have commonalities. They will appreciate you for introducing them, and you will strengthen your relationship to all of them in the process, which is a win-win for everyone, most importantly, you.
- Plan for the fall now. Once September rolls around you will have a lot of events and travel. Think about what you want to accomplish from now until the fall and into Q1 – this is a very busy time that is full of social and business networking opportunities. Work with your marketing team to create a concrete plan with goals and action items.
- Don’t wait for opportunities to find you, instead proactively seek them out yourself. Perhaps there’s a conference in which you are interested in speaking, or a publication for which you would like to write – don’t be shy about asking how you can get involved in it. Several of the lawyers with whom I work as well as yours truly have gotten lucrative speaking engagements and byline article opportunities simply by asking for them. You never know if you don’t ask! What’s the worst that can happen? Someone says no. Trust me, you’ll live, and it’s statistically impossible for you to hear no 100% of the time.
For all firms and lawyers, the goal of marketing is lead generation and business development. How you get there is by building targeted relationships, staying top of mind, providing helpful content and consistently adding value. Summer is a great time for business development but it takes focus and commitment – think of it as an investment in yourself. Try out these tips and let me know how they go!
[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.]