Networking is a critical piece of the business development puzzle for just about every lawyer. Referrals are arguably the very best source of new business – and an active, engaged network is critical to generating those referrals. In addition, for lawyers still in the “I have more time than money” phase of growing their firm, networking is even more crucial.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to waste your time. You need a networking strategy to ensure that you’re investing your time wisely and that you’re getting the best possible results from your effort. Here are four ways to make that happen.
1 – Prioritize Quality over Quantity. Repeat after me: “Just because there’s a ‘networking’ event near me doesn’t mean I need to be there.” There are endless opportunities to get out, meet people, and exchange business cards. But the odds of developing even one profitable relationship out of a randomly selected networker aren’t good. Instead, you need to identify your ideal clients and referral sources and focus your efforts on events and organizations where they congregate. And then, even within those carefully targeted spaces, don’t try to meet everyone in the room. Superficial, 30-second conversations and handing out a business card doesn’t lead to meaningful relationships. Instead look to have real conversations with a smaller number of people. Get to know them, let them get to know you, and now you’ve laid the groundwork for a mutually beneficial relationship.
2 – Educate. One of your goals, as you’re conversing with people early in your relationship, must be to educate them about what you do, who you help, what makes you different, and what a good referral looks like. It doesn’t matter how well you connected with them – if they don’t have this information, they’re not equipped to send you business. A sharp “elevator pitch” is invaluable in this process. Now, understand that you need to perform a balancing act here, because if you make the main focus of the conversation how THEY can help YOU… they’re not going to appreciate it. Your goal should be to listen more than you speak and to look for ways to provide value to them… but in the process, make sure you’ve educated them on what you do and what you’re trying to do. This leads to the next point…
3 – Give Before You Get. Don’t expect overnight results from your networking efforts. In fact, you should proactively look for opportunities to make the “first move.” This might mean sending them a referral. It might mean a strategic introduction to someone else in your network that opens doors. It could even mean sending them a gift, a handwritten note, or simply emailing them an article that you think they’ll appreciate.
4 – Don’t Let Yourself Become a Distant Memory. Follow-up! This is where most lawyers go wrong, and it’s the single biggest opportunity to significantly improve the results of your networking strategy. Repeat after me: “It does not matter how well I connected with an individual… if I give him enough time to do so, he’s going to forget about me.” We’re all busy people, bombarded with distractions, challenges, opportunities, ideas. Meeting a potential referral source and having a great conversation with him/her is the beginning of this process, not the end. You should follow-up personally, as discussed in point #3 above. But it’s not feasible to personally touch base with everyone in your network multiple times each month. That’s where a systematized, scalable strategy is critical. Two simple ways to do this are with your email newsletter and on social media. Everyone you meet should be added to your email list – ensuring they hear from you on a regular basis, and are constantly reminded and re-educated about your practice. And you should encourage them to connect with you on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or wherever you’re most active on social media. This strategy creates regular touch-points and creates top-of-mind awareness… in a scalable, sustainable way.
If networking is an important part of your business development funnel, you owe it to yourself to maximize the return on your investment.
If you’d like more information on how to increase the return you’ll receive on your networking efforts, click here to download our Special Report which explains how your internet presence can actually make ALL of your other marketing, including your networking, work better.