Why Your Online Lawyer Bio Matters.

Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference in growing a law practice. Often, lawyers will avoid marketing because it will take too much time or it is an activity outside of their comfort zone. 

Today I consulted with a lawyer who has avoided marketing for the past couple of years because he did not think he should have to market his practice. He is an established lawyer, has an excellent reputation and has been practicing law for 25 years. I challenged him to reframe his concept of marketing from "pushing" his service onto people to "attracting" clients who could benefit from what he does best.  
 
I also showed him how we could leverage his excellent reputation to create a marketing plan.
 
The first thing we did was type his name into Google and review the search results. We discovered that his LinkedIn profile had the wrong title, two of his bios from lawyer lists were outdated with old addresses, and his Avvo profile was incomplete. On his web site profile page, there was no information on how to contact the lawyer. Most important, none of his bios or profiles answered the question, "why should I hire you?". There was no mention on the value he provided clients or the client problems he excelled in solving.
 
The first marketing strategy was not to schedule 5 lunches or send out letters asking for referrals, rather it was to research how clients were finding him online and update and revise all online bios to communicate a consistent, relevant, and compelling message targeted to his ideal client.
 
Revising and updating your bio is a simple, effective marketing strategy every lawyer can take to increase their on-line presence and reinforce their reputation. Last week, I received 3 calls from lawyers who attracted clients as a result of updating and promoting their bios.
 
The following is one example:
 
"Interesting - I just got a call from a new client who, when asked how she got my name, said she found me on line and that she really liked my profile and how I relate to clients as people."
 
Updating your bio and profile may seem like a small thing, but it can deliver significant results.
 

Attracting Profitable Clients In A Post Recession Market

The recession might be over but the recovery has been challenging for some law firms and lawyers. How do you move ahead of the competition and position yourself for continued success in a post recession market?
 
There are many approaches to building a successful law practice, however, for lawyers who want to leverage their core competency and attract profitable and desirable clients, it is essential to build a marketing plan that is based on clarifying who is your ideal client.
 
Knowing the answer to this question will help you to create:
 
Positive word of mouth marketing about your reputation. This comes from satisfied clients who trust you and believe that you understand and know how to solve their problems. Different clients require different solutions.  For example, in divorce, the over 50 client who has been in a long term marriage will require different resources than the young professional who has been married for  a few years.  If your target client is the over 50 audience, how are you exceeding their expectations in the services you deliver and the resources you provide?
 
Content that attracts the right client. Clients will respond to articles, web sites and blog posts that are relevant to them and their situation. Different clients will resonate with different messages.For example, if you are a Family Lawyer whose target audience is professional woman, write about the problems and challenges professional woman face in divorce. Include your articles and published papers on your LinkedIn profile, write a press release demonstrating your expertise.Writing relevant content that emphasizes your expertise and placing it in front of targeted clients(Web site, LInkedIn profile, blog, etc.) is one the best ways for attracting the right clients and referral sources.

Consistent and relevant top of mind awareness.  Many people are experiencing information overload, too much information and too many choices can distract prospective clients and referral sources from paying attention to your law practice. Clients and referral sources will respond to what is relevant and visible to them at the time they have a problem.  Think about when most people start paying attention to which Universities their children will attend, usually it is when their children are in their 11th or 12th year of high school. The same is true with clients who have legal needs.  For example, one of my clients is a criminal defense lawyer who experienced an increase in calls for theft  cases after he posted a blog on the consequences for retail  theft after black Friday. His message was visible and relevant to the clients he wanted to attract to his practice. Since you don’t know when your prospective clients or referral sources will have a problem you can solve, it is important to maintain consistent and targeted visibility. 
 
 
You can create a successful marketing plan that attracts desirable and profitable clients by clarifying who your ideal client is and then building a plan that positions you as an expert at solving their most critical problems. 
 
What is working for you? Are you attracting the "right" clients to your practice? If not, what is one thing you can do today to start building a thriving practice that attracts desirable and profitable clients?
 
Many times it is difficult to create a marketing plan on your own, contact me if you have questions or would like guidance on how to create your client-centered marketing plan. 
 

 

Lawyer Marketing Strategies- How do lawyers meet financial and origination goals?

The best strategy for meeting your financial and origination goals is to increase referrals for desirable clients. For most lawyers the top three sources for referrals include:

- Web site/internet
- Professionals
- Past clients

A successful business development plan incorporates strategies for all three categories. This post will focus on one of the most important sources for referrals,  building your professional network.

Building your professional referral network begins with clarity on who is in your network and who you want in your network.

One of your best marketing tools is to have an organized and updated spreadsheet of existing and prospective referral sources.  While creating and maintaining this list may seem like a logical and worthwhile marketing strategy, I have found that most lawyers find it difficult to find the time to develop and actively use this important list.

The following are three strategies for building your professional network to get you started:
 

1. Create your list of referral sources: 

  •  Review your cases for the last 12-24 months and include current professionals who have referred to you.
     
  •  Include professionals who serve your target clientele, i.e. lawyers, mental health professionals, financial specialists and wealth managers, etc.
     
  •  Organize your referral into  “A”, “B’ and “C” categories. “A” referral sources are those who have referred multiple clients, referred desirable clients and/or  who serve your target market.

2. Initiate contact with the professionals on your list.  Aim for 1-3 contacts a week  with “A” referral sources. The following is a list of ways you can stay top of mind with important referral sources:

 
Post a company update on LinkedIn
* Send a hand written note
* Invite them for coffee or lunch
* Send a LinkedIn invitation
* Comment on their blog
* Comment on their LinkedIn post 
* Include their name in your press release, article or blog post
* Retweet  their tweet
* Send a referral
* Invite them to an event
* Set up a Google Alert for their name and company
* "Like" their post on Facebook or other social media resources
* Send an email acknowledging a promotion or award
* Send a Thank you note for a referral ( include a Starbucks card or other simple token of appreciation)
* Email a relevant article or blog post
* Put them in touch with someone who they would benefit meeting
* Offer an introduction to a colleague at your firm or someone in your professional network
* Send an unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation

3. Once you create your referral list, keep the list visible and review it once a week. Keep referral sources in the forefront of your mind so if you see something relevant to your referral sources you can make contact with them.

In summary, if you want to increase referrals from your professional network, schedule the time to review your list and do something each week that brings value or connects you to your network.  To be effective, your actions must be authentic and consistent. 

What is your plan?

Who are your best referral sources? Do you spend time cultivating your referral sources from all three categories? Are  you scheduling  the time in your weekly calendar for staying "top of mind" with key referral sources?

 

Reinvention Is The Key to Survival For Law Firms

This morning CBS news featured a story on the demise of iconic American companies including Hostess and Kodak.

What are the factors contributing to this defeat and how do businesses and law firms protect themselves from becoming obsolete? 

Factors that contribute to the downfall of business include, not staying in touch with rising costs, changing tastes or new technologies, not evolving and maintaining the status quo. 

Kodak originated the technology for photography and in the 1970's held 90% of the photography market, yet has lost market share by not leveraging this technology in a digital world. Hostess, the creator of Twinkies, was slow to adapt to the changing tastes of a new market.

Scott Galloway, marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, said reinvention is the key for the struggle of survival.

Businesses and law firms that find ways to reinvent themselves are the most successful. Apple is an example of a company who understands the power of reinvention.

What is your law firm doing to reinvent your law practice?  The following are a few questions to consider;

* Do you use LinkedIn to build your network, make a contribution and stay connected or do you think LinkedIn is a waste of time?

* Does your web site provide updated content and value to your target client or do you have pages on your site that have been unchanged for 5-10 years?

* Do you stay informed on what is happening in your market by reading  high value blogs, following thought leaders on social media sites including Twitter, and participating in targeted LinkedIn group discussions, or are you too busy?

* Is your bio updated and informative about the value you provide clients and what distinguishes you or is it chronological description of your educational background and dates of employment?

* Does your service to clients include collaboration with other professionals or are you going it solo?

* Does your search engine strategy include writing relevant blog posts, informative web site content, useful YouTube videos and on-line press releases or are you relying on “key word stuffing” and outsourced “link building” and content writing to increase your on-line visibility?

* Are you listening to your clients, conducting client evaluations, and providing remarkable service or are you doing what you have always done?

* Does your firm hold law firm retreats to review its strategic vision and target market annually to align marketing activities with your most important goals or are you winging it and hoping you will meet financial and billable hour targets?

The above questions are not inclusive and are meant to stimulate your thinking about how you are reinventing your law practice to maximize your success for prosperous and continued existence.

What additional questions would you include in the list above? What strategies have you implemented to reinvent your law practice?
 
 

How Lawyers, Mental Health Professionals and Financial Specialists Can Thrive in a Down Economy

Last week I attended the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals forum in San Francisco and listened to an inspiring and well presented workshop on Collaborative Law. Today, I received a call from two colleagues who were going through divorce and wanted a recommendation for a lawyer, a divorce coach and a business valuation expert. The first names that came to mind were the professionals I heard speaking at the seminar.

Why did I recommend these professionals? There were two reasons:

1. They established credibility by speaking on a topic that conveyed their level of experience and competence.

2. I was reminded about who they were and the kinds of clients they helped by seeing them speak at the conference.

In a similar top of mind awareness situation, one of my clients told me they experience an increase in client calls every time they send the firm newsletter to their professional network. Another client has seen an increase in referrals from two law firms after setting up luncheon meetings. Last week, a lawyer told me his web site referrals have doubled since he has started his blog and updated his web site with client- focused articles.

Even though we are in a difficult economy, the demand for quality legal, financial and mental health professionals has not diminished. You can accelerate the growth of your practice and attract desirable clients by increasing your visibility and credibility with your target referral sources and the public.

The following are ten suggestions for staying top of mind with referral sources and prospective clients:

1. Learn and use LinkedIn to build your network and stay visible. Go to learn.linkedIn for in-depth tutorials on how to use LinkedIn

2. Read and comment on relevant blogs in your industry.

3. Commit to meeting with someone in your professional network at least once a week.

4. Start a firm newsletter and write about topics that are relevant to your target audience.

5. Write consistent press releases.

6. Speak on topics you are passionate about at conferences and events.

7. Start a blog and write about topics that reinforce your brand and are relevant to your ideal client.

8. Write one new article every month and update your web site. Recycle the article for a local magazine advertorial.

9. Join a committee, group or association and make a contribution.

10. Tweet about interesting, relevant and useful information for your target audience.

The above list is not inclusive and should be customized to your unique skills, interests and goals. The critical success factor is to select at least one strategy and implement it consistently.

Let me know what strategies you have found useful to stay top of mind with prospective clients and referral sources.
 

Five Strategies for Building Your Collaborative Law Practice

In the last post I discussed the three essential principles for creating a thriving practice that brings value to your clients and fulfillment to your work.

The following are five strategies for building your Law or Collaborative Practice.

1. Be remarkable at what you do: Excelling at handling client matters requires continuous personal and professional growth. What skills do you want to develop that will increase your value to the clients you want to serve? What additional knowledge and information do you want to acquire that will position you as the best in your field?

2. Stay connected: The foundation for building your practice is based on relationships. The number one way to build relationships and trust is to spend time making a contribution to your community and showing an interest in others.

Who are the most important people, organizations and groups in your professional life? What is your plan to develop higher quality relationships with them? Be selective about the organizations you chose to be involved in. It is better to spend more time on fewer organizations that are in alignment with your interests and target market verses less time on a larger number of generic organizations.

3. Invest in your professional network: People will do business with those they know, like and trust. Professional outreach requires building a successful network of referral sources and staying “top of mind” with key professionals in your network. It also requires making connections with targeted professionals who are not in your network. The outreach you do today will affect the quality of your referrals tomorrow.

Are there professional relationships that might need a little more investment from you? Can you make a contribution to their business or practice? Are there additional influencers you what to include in your professional network?

4. Create exceptional Client Value: Satisfied clients are your best source of referrals. Higher client satisfaction requires a focus on providing superior service, consistently communicating with clients and delivering exceptional value to clients. How can you create an exceptional client experience- one that inspires your clients to tell others about you?

5. Make it easy for your ideal clients to find you: Once you identify your target client, your next step is to be easily found by clients looking for your services. How can you increase your visibility among clients who need what you do best? How can you demonstrate your understanding of “your ideal clients” problem and your capability to solve their problem?

Give consideration to each of the above strategies. What is the one strategy that will make the biggest difference in your practice? In other words, what one thing can you begin doing today that will help you to change your practice and attract more collaborative law cases?

Tip: The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) web site is an excellent resource for achieving all of the above strategies. Attending Bridging the Globe, the upcoming IACP 12th annual networking and educational forum in San Francisco, is an action step you can take today to “stay connected” and improve your collaborative practice skills.

Have you attended a previous IACP networking forum? If so,  how did it help you to build your Collaborative Practice?

For additional resources on growing your collaborative practice visit Collaborative Law Resources at www.ferrisconsult.com 
 

Simplify Your Legal Marketing Plan

 Legal marketing can seem overwhelming. In the last week, LinkedIn topics for legal marketing ranged from, “using Google to market your practice for free” to “mobile marketing to build your brand.”

A busy and successful lawyer whose primary focus is to provide quality legal services could experience information overload when it comes to legal marketing.

So what is the solution? In today’s competitive market, a successful legal practice requires attorneys to provide exceptional client service AND execute effective marketing strategies.

My recommendation is to keep your plan simple, over deliver to your best clients and maintain relationships with current and targeted referral sources.

In my practice, I work with lawyers whose primary target market are sophisticated clients who value expert legal service.  Their number one referral source for top clients is through other professionals.

Maintaining relationships with current and prospective referrals sources can sound like “old news” in comparison to “mobile marketing” or “using Google to market your practice for Free.” However, in the last few months, I have seen lawyers increase revenue and attract desirable clients by consistently staying top of mind with current and targeted referral sources.

You can implement a simple referral marketing plan by doing three things today:

1.    Develop your list of current and prospective referral sources

2.    Put your list in a visible place on your desk and review the list once a week.

3.    When you see something beneficial to your referral sources make contact with them 

The following are few suggestions:

  • Put them in touch with someone who they would benefit meeting
  • Invite them to an event
  • Invite them to speak at a educational event for mutual referral sources and clients
  • Tell them about a valuable webinar
  • Refer a client
  • Add them to your LinkedIn network- recommend a group they would benefit from joining
  • Send a blog post you wrote or tell them about a useful blog
  • Ask them to be a guest blogger on your blog
  • Co-write an article
  • Subscribe to their blog- tweet one of their posts to your network
  • Write a LinkedIn recommendation describing their accomplishments 
  • Use LinkedIn to stay connected to your network
  • Stay current on awards, promotions or activities they are involved in by creating a Google alert for their firm name. Send a short email congratulating their achievement or recognition.

An important component to building a successful legal marketing plan is knowing who your current and desired referral sources are, acknowledging their importance in your practice and staying top of mind by consistently communicating with them in a meaningful way.

Let me know if you have additional suggestions for nurturing and growing important relationships with your referral network.

Maximize Your Law Firm Marketing ROI

144Many lawyers are frustrated with law firm marketing activities. Often I hear lawyers complain about the time and cost of marketing and the uncertainty on the return on investment (ROI) for these activities. So where do you start AND what activities will afford you the highest return on the time and money you invest in law firm marketing?

The following are four strategies designed to give you direction when deciding “where to start” and how to maximize your marketing ROI.

1.       Before embarking on any marketing activities, define your goal- what do you want to achieve? Clarify how the activity is in alignment with advancing your firm in the right direction (firm’s vision). This will require time, however, the effort you put into this step will be repaid later.

2.       Whenever possible, never do a marketing activity in isolation, i.e. a onetime advertisement in a publication or magazine. Instead focus on an integrated plan that leverages your effort, i.e. article and repeat advertisements in a publication intended to target your ideal market.

3.       Always maximize the effort you invest in marketing activities. Consistently repurpose your marketing activities, including the article you wrote or the speech you gave. Your article can be repurposed into a blog post or an article for your firm newsletter or local community magazine. Your speech or seminar can be given to multiple markets. Reinforce your brand by writing quality content describing your firm’s unique differentiator on your web site home page. Repeat this message on all your press releases, announcements and social media biographies.

4.       Effectively utilize social media to create a viral buzz about your area of expertise. Listen to the conversation going on in your LinkedIn groups, twitter followers and industry blogs. Make a contribution to the conversation by commenting on a topic and adding a link to your blog post or article. Write about the solutions for the most relevant problems your social media groups talk about.

In summary, to maximize the effort you put towards marketing, always start with a plan that answers the question… what is our goal and how will this activity advance our firm in the direction we want to go?

Marketing with a purpose will help you to focus your marketing activities and maximize your marketing investment.

For more information on how to maximize your marketing efforts, email me at eferris@ferrisconsult.com

 

Effective Strategies for Writing Law Firm Web Site Content

An effective web site starts with compelling, updated and meaningful content. Research demonstrates we have 10 seconds to grab a prospective client’s attention with web site content and 55 seconds to develop an understanding of what services we are offering.

The following are 10 strategies for writing effective web site content.

1.     Write relevant content. Use the inverted pyramid concept. Put the most important information at the top. Start with your conclusion in the first paragraph.

2.     Write in a conversational tone. Avoid industry jargon and use clear and simple language. Use examples to help the reader understand. Let your personality come through.

3.     Chunk your ideas. People scan web pages instead of reading them. This means write one idea per paragraph. Create a sub heading for each paragraph to make it easier to read at a glance.

4.     Know who you are talking to. Write your web site content with the client you want to attract in mind. What are their problems, interests and goals? What is most relevant to them?

5.     Format your content with bullets, numbers or sub headers. Keep the bullets short

6.     Provide tips and strategies people can remember. Offer a list of 5-10 tips for avoiding a problem or achieving a goal. Summarize your tips at the end of the article.

7.     Use effective titles. Help your reader to know what your content is about (and why it matters to them) with a descriptive title. For example, “Ten Strategies for a Smart Divorce.”

8.     Keep your sentences short. Use words that are most important for conveying your message.

9.     Write approximately 500 words per page to optimize your site. Include key words in your content.

10.   Check spelling and punctuation. Edit and proof read everything you write.

Your web site content is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have for growing your practice. You can attract desirable clients by conveying a message through your web site that is relevant, compelling and meaningful.  

What are your greatest challenges in writing effective web site content?

Blogging for Lawyers- Your Best or Worst Marketing Tool?

 Blogging among lawyers is on an increase. Lawyers who want to attract desirable clients to their practice are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of blogging, including:

  • Boost search engine rankings
  • Establish credibility with prospective clients
  • Stay top of mind with influencers and referral sources
  • Build relationships with thought leaders in your area of expertise
  • Become more aware of what is going on in your field
  • Attract desirable clients
  • Build an on-line reputation
  • Reinforce your law firm’s brand

Without a doubt, blogging is an excellent opportunity for you to build your practice by increasing your visibility and credibility with prospective clients and referral sources.

Why then does blogging seem like such a chore and the thought of writing a blog post compare to a visit to the dentist for some lawyers?

Blogging is a new tool for communication and requires some basic understanding before it can be enjoyed. Think about your blackberry or iphone. The first time you used the device, it seemed cumbersome and for a few of us, slightly frustrating, especially when we would repeatedly hit the wrong key in typing a message. But after using it for a while, the mobile device became an essential business and communication tool.

What changed a previously frustrating experience into an essential communication resource?

Two things changed, including familiarity with the device and knowledge on how to use the mobile phone properly.

You can become an effective blogger and leverage this on-line marketing tool to attract desirable clients by learning blogging basics and becoming more familiar with the process. Your familiarity will increase by following Nike’s advice …“Just do it.”

Effective blogging requires awareness, engagement and conversation.  The basics of blogging include:

1.    Reading

2.    Commenting

3.    Writing

A word of warning, if you do enter the world of blogging, maintain your blog. Lee Rosen, a family law blogging super guru, wrote an excellent post titled, A Dead Family Law Blog is Bad For Your Family Law Practice - don't let your family law blog go dormant. In the post Rosen highlights what prospective clients and referral sources may think when they see an outdated blog or website
My next post will include strategies on how to save time reading what is going on in the blogosphere to help you become a more effective blogger.

Tips for Talking to the Media About Your Law Practice

 You provide a high standard of service to your clients and produce positive results. Clients and referral sources benefit from your experience and expertise and often times tell you how much value and peace of mind you have provided them during a difficult or challenging time. You want to educate the public on your legal services and attract more clients who want what you do best. Unfortunately, in your community not enough people know about you and your law practice and the value it can provide.

A key strategy for increasing awareness about your law practice is media relations. Clients listen to and are influenced by what they read in the newspapers and Internet, see on the television or hear on the radio. A notable story about you or your legal service in a reputable publication can significantly increase the visibility and credibility of your law practice in your community.

How do you attract the media to notice your law practice?

You have two opportunities to attract the press. One is through initiating the story though a press release that you create or pitching a specific story concept to a reporter. The second is responding to a call from a reporter for a comment.  

The following tips will assist you in talking to the media for both opportunities.

1.    Speak to the interests of your audience. Focus on what your audience wants to hear verses what you want to say. Avoid talking about the features of your law practice.  You will increase your opportunity for success if your story is on the benefits (verses the features) of your law practice, is newsworthy and has a hook. Example

 2.    Provide a real life example of how your expertise has benefited clients. Reporters want to know, “how has it helped people?” What is working? Example

 3.    Know the media source- Research the reporter’s web site, publication or radio station. Who is the audience for the publication? What is important to this audience? Pay attention to the tone and view point of the media source. Is the view point consistent with your message?Example

 4.    Research the reporter- What is the reporter’s style of writing? A simple Google search will provide relevant information on the type of stories they have written before. Be careful when talking to a “gotcha” reporter. This type of reporter may be looking for a story that conveys a completely different message than you intended. 

 5.    Ask about the reporter’s deadline and agenda.  Clarify the reporter’s deadline and the focus for the interview. Call the reporter back before the deadline and take a few moments to organize your thoughts and write down talking points. Try to avoid “spur of the moment” interviews without advanced preparation. Remember everything you say can be quoted.

 6.     Avoid legal jargon. Try to stay away from too many academic terms and industry jargon. Journalists like to hear human interest stories that tell a story verses an institutionalized description about process. Example

 7.    Control the interview. Make a list of the points you want to make.  Try not to have more than three key talking points. Find every opportunity to deliver your key messages. Think in headlines and respond in quotes. Don’t just answer the reporter’s questions

Almost every one of my clients has a story to tell that is worth listening too and provides valuable information. Take the first step by telling your story through on-line press releases, calling your local media or writing articles for local and national publications.

By being media savvy you can maximize the opportunity to increase awareness of your law practice and position yourself as a leader in the industry.

 

How to Build Your ADR Practice?

This weekend I spoke at the17th Annual Northwest Dispute Resolution Conference in Seattle on how to create an ADR marketing plan.

I observed highly passionate professionals who wanted to build their practice and attract more clients so they can use their skills and expertise to help clients.  I also observed frustrations about marketing and building an ADR practice, including:

    • Not enough time
    • Lack of clarity on what to do first
    • Not sure how to identify their best clients or how to attract them.

Do these sound familiar?

The following are six tips for getting started on an effective marketing plan for your ADR practice:

1. Ask yourself, “What is my vision for my practice; what kind of work do I want to do? Why is this important to me? Write down the answer and then commit yourself to doing something every day to meet your vision. Commit yourself to excellence in your ADR practice, involvement in your community and confidence in how you communicate your brand.

2. Be selective about the work you accept. If you are constantly busy with work that is not consistent with your vision for your practice, it will be difficult to find the time or energy to grow the kind of work that will allow you to achieve your goals. Decide who your ideal client is and proactively attract this type of client to your practice.

3. Nurture and grow business from your top referral sources. Referrals come from people who know, like and trust you. The best way to gain trust is to develop a relationship with those who already know about you. This will require scheduling the time to get to know your referral sources and learning about their businesses and interests.

4. Provide remarkable service to your clients. Word-of-mouth marketing is by far the best marketing strategy for any service. The only way to get people talking about your service is to make the experience for clients remarkable -- then they will want to tell other people.

5. Have a web site that educates people about your law or ADR practice. Offer information that is of value to your prospective clients. Your message should connect at an emotional level with your target markets’ desired outcomes.

6. Share your success- help others learn and grow. The more you share your success and knowledge with other ADR professionals, the more they will learn and spread the ADR message.

I am interested in your success stories and challenges. I will blog about them and help you spread the word about your practice.

How to Increase Your Networking Success

An effective strategy for growing your law practice is to build relationships with professionals and referral sources who work with your target market.

One strategy for building relationships is through networking.

Unfortunately, when most lawyers hear the word “networking” they do not respond with enthusiasm. Images of forced conversation, wasted time, phoniness, and collecting business cards tend come to mind. 

In truth, the essence of networking is none of the above. The true meaning of networking involves building relationships by giving to others and helping them succeed.

To be successful at building professional relationships, it is critical to focus on cultivating mutually beneficial, give and take, “win-win” relationships. The focus is on helping the other person to meet his or her goals. The mistake many “net workers” make is focusing on their own success and how the other person can help them meet their goals.

Here are eight steps you can take to increase your networking success:

  1. Do your homework before the networking event. Review the list of attendees and identify who you want to meet. Research the professionals on your target list before the event. (The internet and LinkedIn is an excellent resource for learning about people). Bring value to your target list by connecting them to other high influence professionals who are also attending the event. Relationships are formed when people believe you are authentically interested in them. This cannot be faked and the planning you do in advance will create a favorable impression.
     
  2. Know your core message. You will increase your confidence and ability to focus on other people if you know in advance how to respond to the following questions:
    • What differentiates you?
    • Who are your best clients?
    • What value do you provide?
       
  3. At any networking event, show an interest in the person or people with whom you are conversing. Once the awareness shifts away from you and your goals to them and their goals, a connection is made with the other person and trust begins to develop. In most situations, once you have shown an authentic interest in someone else, they will respond wanting to know about you.
     
  4. Ask questions. When you have an encounter with other individuals, you have two options -- make a statement or ask questions. By choosing to ask questions, you can learn valuable information about others and help them to open up.
  1. Listen actively. The best way to understand and meet the needs of the people with whom you are talking is through deep, genuine attention to what others are saying. Pay attention to your body language and what you are thinking as you converse with others. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is looking around the room and non-verbally communicating, “I have no interest in what you are saying.”
  1. Make a contribution. Once you learn about the other person and their goals and interests, offer to send information on resources that would be of value to their work, i.e. an article, book or web site. Show your interest in their success by introducing them to other professionals at the event.  
  1. Follow up. After meeting with a prospective referral source from a networking activity, make the follow-up calls, schedule the lunch meetings, and email the article you discussed. Invite the person to join your LinkedIn network. Without proper follow up your will not see a return on the time and energy you invested in attending the networking event.
  1. Have fun. Networking is about building relationships. The key to success is to enjoy yourself and spend time with people and attend the events that you connect with both personally and professionally.


 

Successful Lawyer Marketing Focuses on the Client

In a white paper recently published by Law 360 on lessons for law firms from the financial crisis, there is a section on business development including an article Getting Windows For Building Business In The Downturn By Shannon Henson. The article highlights a key strategy for lawyers in an economic downturn::

The best way to protect yourself is to make sure you are building up your own client base. If you do that, then no matter what happens, you will be okay.

One of the most important strategies for buidling your client base is to master how you communicate the value of your services to potential clients.

Your goal is to clearly communicate the value you provide clients. Communicate what clients want to hear, i.e. how you solve their problem, verses what you want to tell them, i.e. your credentials.

Description Based message

Many attorneys describe what they do based on a roster of their services or a list of their features. For example, the following message is a familiar description for family lawyers:

"We are a group of knowledgeable, dedicated professionals engaged in the practice of family law."

The emphasis is on the features of the group (knowledgeable, dedicated professionals) and on a description of the service (practice of family law) versus any beneficial outcome to the client. The client has to work hard to translate what this means to them.

Value based message

Compare this response to a family lawyer I consulted with on creating his core message. Through the process of creating his core message, the family lawyer internalized who his best client were, how he differentiated himself and the value of his service.

The result has been an increase in referrals from desirable clients. He is receiving web site referrals from clients who want what he does best.

A few weeks ago, he was at a networking event and when was asked what he did, he replied, “I help divorcing clients to reach solutions.”  One gentleman was listening and heard his unique way of helping divorcing clients and immediately asked for his card. The gentleman said, "I am in the process of getting a divorce and have talked to three lawyers who all said the same thing, you are the first lawyer who has talked about reaching solutions.” A few days later, the gentleman retained him as his lawyer.

Summary

The success this family lawyer experienced came from his ability to differentiate his practice and to convey the value of his services.

When the family lawyer talked about what he did, it was not about him and his credentials. He talked about the client, their problem, and his ability to help them solve their problem.