Business development plans come in all shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of strategies to develop and nurture long term relationships leading to business opportunities. Networking is an important part of that plan. You take time to select an event to meet the people in your target market, identify who is likely to be there, practiced your quick pitch and dressed smartly. But you find yourself dreading it. Why? Because walking into a networking event forces you out of your comfort zone. How do you make the most of the next 2 hours? Here are some tips:
- Don’t go in cold. Since you have taken the time to identify who may be in attendance, start planning your conversation starters. Think about timely topics, industry related questions and other relevant talking points so that you may spark a conversation at a moment’s notice.
- Dress for success. Identify the personality of the event, the business position of the attendees and the environment of the venue. Dress one step above what you think the group will be donning. Don’t wear high maintenance clothes that require your attention (read: no shirts that don’t stay tucked, plunging necklines or wraps that keep slipping off your shoulder) Make sure you have pockets to keep business cards– keep yours in one pocket and the cards you collect in the the other pocket.
- Hold your head high. Look confident, even if you are incredibly uncomfortable in the networking environment. The old saying, “fake it ’til you make it” has some truth here.
- Go to the furthest food station or bar. When you walk into a room, scan it. Then cross the room to the further bar or food station. This gives you time to assess the group and see who you may know. See someone along the way, stop and say hello. Don’t see anyone you know, simply get something to drink or eat and strike up a conversation with the folks next to you.
- Prioritize your activities at the event. If you know who you want to see while you are there, find that person and connect with them early on. That way you won’t miss them if they decide to leave early or get engrossed in a deep conversation with someone else.
- Find groups of 1s and 3s. If you don’t know anyone in the room, look for people who are either alone, or in a small group with an odd number (like 3 or 5 people). The single people will be thrilled to have someone to talk to and the groups of odd numbers allows for gentler interruption of conversation.
- Ask questions. People love to talk about familiar topics. Ask them questions about themselves, their careers, how they know the host, etc… If you get them talking, listen to what they say for clues for conversation segues.
- Take your turn. The conversation will eventually turn to you– so be ready to give your quick pitch. Adapt your language for any newfound commonalities amongst you and the listeners.
If networking makes you feel anxious, take a look at it through a new lens. Try to think of networking as making new friends. Take the opportunity to meet people who have a common interest as you. With thoughtful follow-up, some of these new people will blossom into long-term relationships while others may take an other path. Either way, be open to new experiences with new people. Suddenly it won’t feel like work, but rather time well spent.
Creating a marketing plan is an important step towards bringing in new business. Before you draft a plan, there is some considerations to think through. Do you know what you want to accomplish with your plan? Do you understand what your contacts may be looking for? Do you know how visible you are at this starting point? It is important to understand the lifecycle of a client from discovery to referral. Here are the stages of developing your business relationships.
- Discovery. Discovery marks the very beginning of a business relationship. At this point, your contacts (aka future consumers) have identified their needs and they will begin to educate themselves on the various options to fill that need. The trick to getting discovered is being there before they have realized the need.
- Education. Your goal is to provide ongoing education about who you are, what problems you solve and how you handle matters. By building relationships before your services are needed, you establish visibility for yourself over a long period of time, increasing your credibility.
- Engagement. While you are educating your networks on what you do, it is important to engage them with the content you provide. Be available to answer questions, help others in their network and establish your relationship.
- Activate. When a potential hiring scenario is established, you can now talk to the prospect about a business relationship. Make a proposal to help them resolve a problem and ask them for the work.
- Get hired. If the chemistry is right, and you have done all of your homework along the way, you will get hired. Now it is crucial to translate this client into a regular, loyal and satisfied customer.
- Referrals. When your customer is at their happiest with your service, now is the time to ask them to refer you to others prospects who may need your services. If they are satisfied, there shouldn’t be any barriers to sharing their good experiences and send you referrals.
Now that you understand the lifecycle of developing your clients from scratch, it is time to build a marketing plan that wraps in all of these stages. Nurturing relationships is the only way to build long-term, satisfied clients who will refer you to others.
Websites are an expected part of any lawyer or law firm marketing plan. Gone are the days of having a website that looks like the firm’s brochure. Legal websites are dynamic tools that play a crucial role in creating conversations. Websites come in all shapes and sizes, with varying levels of sophistication. The cost of the site isn’t the indicator of its success. Rather, websites must be compelling. They also must be easy to find on search engines, and simple to use and navigate. Here are just a few components that even the most modest website should have:
- Responsive design. People go to the internet as a first stop when looking for information. And, they are increasingly using their phones and tablets to conduct research and business. Today’s websites need to provide a solid user experience across all mobile devices in addition to desktops and laptops. Responsive design is an automated feature that scales the website for easy use on mobile and tablet devices. It should include simple functionalities, such as tapping a phone number to make a call. Remember, that mobile devices are typically fairly small. So, make sure your responsive design elements scale to the most important info on the full site. Finally, make sure it is fast and compatible with the most frequently used systems.
- Relevant and content rich. Search engines are driven by content relevancy and freshness. In our ‘instant gratification’ driven world, it is important that trending information is at the most forefront of your site. The most successful websites provide frequent, relevant and useful information. It also should be engaging for the visitor. Consider content such as blog posts, brief articles, video and graphics. Adding visitor-relevant content as often as possible will help your site be found by search engines more easily.
- Scannable content. While we are on the topic of content… remember that you have just a few seconds to grab someone’s attention. Use white space, bullet points, ‘regular’ words and brevity. People scan website content, it’s a fact!
- Use social media. Social media outlets are phenomenal tools for driving traffic to your website. Use social media to amplify your content, draw visitors to your site and build your reputation in the marketplace. Make sure your website integrates with all the social media tools you are using so that folks may easily share your content.
- Easy navigation through a clear brand. This is by no means news, but it bears repeating. It is absolutely crucial that it is easy for visitors to find what they want and quickly. A consistent, branded design that clearly speaks to a targeted audience is the cost of admission.
Websites are incredible tools for law firms and lawyers. They provide a repository of knowledge that tells a story and invites a conversation. There are many components to creating a website that works towards achieving your goals. Using the above tips will help get you started on any website redesign or enhancement project.