Gary Mitchell's Biz/Dev Coaching Blog
Shotgun approach or strategic approach? That’s easy. Strategic. Don’t do what everyone else does (‘show up and throw up’). Look at building your profile from the client’s perspective first, then your own. Here’s how you can avoid the lacklustre results you get from a self-centred shotgun approach by being strategic about how you build your profile: First, be where your target market is; second, be relevant. How do you do that? Ask your current clients what events they attend and why. Ask them what they read and why. Ask them what content would be of value to them and why. Find out what’s missing. Then contact the associations and publications your target market attends and reads and ask them the same questions. This is a highly effective and strategic way of ensuring you are where your target market is and you’re relevant to them and their needs.
Going beyond business development and your ability to generate work, there are a couple of considerations you should think about if you’re looking to get on or speed up the ‘Partner Track’. The first consideration is to learn how to play well with others. Here I am referring to everyone with whom you come into contact on a daily basis; your assistant, paralegals, IT professionals, receptionists, firm management, marketing, library services, etc. Go out of your way to treat these people with the utmost respect and watch how in turn they will over perform and deliver for you. You will not become successful in your career without their support. So when they go out of their way for you, acknowledge their efforts. Take them out to lunch from time to time. Ask them how they would like to contribute. Find out how you can help them achieve their career goals by first understanding what they are. Treat them as you do your clients. In other words get to know them as much as possible.
Giving back to the firm
By this I am referring to what can you do outside your practice to provide value to your firm. Consider answering these questions as a place to start:
- What committees can you be on and contribute to?
- Are their opportunities for you to mentor a summer or articling student, or even an associate more junior then you?
- What can you do outside the walls of your firm in the community to better position your firm?
Follow this advice and you are more likely to become a partner at your firm.
Situation: A 4th year associate already engaged in business development wants to take it to the next level and begin attracting the ‘bigger fish’. She has the attention of one of the senior named partners and decides to invest in coaching to help her build her practice. I was not surprised to learn that she was going to pay me directly and not ask her firm to cover the investment. She did this for many reasons, not the least of which being that she didn’t want anything hanging over her head. She didn’t want the firm to hold expectations over her. The only person who knew about my work with her was the senior partner that she did work for. And he was very supportive.
Approach: We created a business plan for her practice. We identified key events to attend and network. We identified key contacts to help her build her network of referrals. Her confidence in herself and her ability to attract new clients is increasing. She created her own networking/mastermind group and meets monthly. I helped her build her LinkedIn profile and network.
Results: By taking this initiative and hiring me directly, and gaining business development skills, this makes her more valuable as a Lawyer. Whether she ends up staying where she is or looks to move to another firm, her ability to build her own book of business makes her more valuable and attractive to partnership. She invested in herself, in her career and her success. Based on my experience, she will see that investment pay off in dividends for years to come.
Once you’ve addressed the first three considerations, and before you go out there in all directions with your newly found focus on marketing; the final consideration in becoming more targeted in your approach to business development is to understand where you can get in front of your target audience. The easiest and most effective way of determining this, is simply to ask your current ‘ideal’ clients, the ones you want more of:
What associations do they belong to? What events do they attend and why? What publications do they read and why? What are some of the most pressing challenges they are facing right now? I refer to this approach as ‘soft market research’. Asking your current clients these questions will tell you everything you need to know in how to get in front of people just like them-more potential ideal clients.
Having followed this TST™ methodology has led my clients to produce amazing results. See the thing is when you are pointed in the right direction, given the tools to succeed, because of your training, you learn very quickly. You are able to create new habits which help you excel in business development. Working with lawyers has made me a better coach.
Another important consideration in becoming more targeted is whether ‘to niche or not to niche’. I mean becoming highly specialized in a certain area. There are certainly pro’s and con’s to creating a niche practice. If you do carve out a niche practice area it will allow you to target your audience more effectively. In becoming an expert in your field you will fully understand the needs of your audience. That’s a plus. The downside sometimes to having a niche practice is your audience will be smaller. There won’t be as many potential clients for you. So if you are going to niche, you’d better do a very good job of building your profile and becoming known at the ‘go-to-lawyer’ in this field.
If you stay broad in your focus, the upside will be that you will have a larger pool of clients to draw from. But I see several downsides. First, it is virtually impossible to market yourself and your services effectively over several markets. You won’t have the time to be everywhere at once. Depending on your practice area, by staying broadly focused it’s harder to become known as the go-to for every area you are practicing in. Consider what you really enjoy and what you’re good at. If there are complementary practice areas that go hand-in-hand and you enjoy all of them, maybe it makes sense for you to stay broadly focused.
This has become a hot topic of late. As a busy lawyer when do you have time to get on social media and make an impact? Here are a few suggestions to maximize your time, and produce better results. Starting with your blog, instead of having to rely on time becoming available in your busy schedule, block off a couple of hours and write your posts for the month. You can schedule them ahead of time. Make sure your blog gets posted to your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts expanding your reach. A good habit to get into is before checking your email in the morning, take about ten minutes and visit LinkedIn. See what’s going on, if there is something that might be of interest to your clients or audience that you can post yourself, or re-post someone else’s content.
Then throughout your day when you need to take a break from your work, or find yourself losing concentration, pop back on and again see what’s happening. It’s all about making it work for you, having the discipline to keep on it every day. And it really only takes a few minutes. The important thing is repetition and keeping top of mind with your clients and audience.
In addition to speaking at conferences and events, putting on educational workshops is another excellent business-building tactic. There are many applications for this. You can offer workshops to current clients as a value-add, and it’s a great way to strengthen your relationship. It’s also and excellent way of building more relationships in your prospects company or organization. One of the reasons I like this tactic so much, is that you’re not asking your contacts for anything. You are providing them with valuable content and knowledge.
Speaking is another way for you to get in front of potential clients or referral sources. The more you can do to make it easier for them to find you, the more successful you will be with your business development efforts. Here’s a few tips to follow:
1. Do your research with your best clients and referral sources to find topics of interest. You can also do this when networking and meeting new people in your target audience.
2. Approach organizers of appropriate events (again, you’ve done your homework and asked you clients and referral sources what do they attend?)
3. Even if you have to go through an RFP process to be chosen to speak, following this advice will increase the likelihood of being chosen.
4. Make sure the organizers sign off on your content. As you work to build a solid reputation as a speaker, they will appreciate this. They don’t like surprises. An added benefit of doing this is that you can walk into the room fully confident that your content will hit the mark.
5. Arrive early and great people as they arrive. Ask them what they would like to take away from your presentation. Get their business card. Now you have a reason to follow-up with them.
6. Do the same thing following your presentation. Some people don’t like to ask questions in front of their peers. Make yourself available to them. Get their business card.
7. Follow-up with the people you’ve met.
Welcome to 2014. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the New Year than by providing you with some key strategies to take your business development to a whole new level. Most of you are engaged in some form of business development. But are you approaching it strategically? There are so many opportunities out there for you to get out and ahead of your competition. The strategies that will follow in future posts are not rocket science. Many of you are already doing some of them. But are you getting the results you want? Are you leveraging your approaches with each other? Are you repurposing your content across your strategies to increase their impact?
Over the years we’ve come up with a proprietary four-step process to business development. Find, Build, Discover, Offer. Find more people who need your services, and find more referral sources, and at the same time, make it easier for them to find you. Build relationships with them and earn their trust. Go deeper (Discovering) specific needs. And then offer your services to address their needs. This month I am dedicating my posts purely on the options you have to FIND. Stay tuned, lots of good stuff coming your way.
If you enjoy writing, one of the ways you can share your knowledge is to use Facebook and/or LinkedIn as your very own blog. There’s no need to go to all the trouble of creating your own site. Once you have your profile up, you can use your social media sites to post your own content, and share other content that you deem appropriate for your target audience. And you can set it up to automatically post on Twitter if you have an account. You can include published articles, partial presentations and links to information valuable to your contacts. It’s a great way of raising your profile and demonstrating your expertise. On LinkedIn you can share it with your network, post to groups or send it to individuals.