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It’s that time of year… you can’t move for the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and back to school signs.  For some of us, it signals one of the more exciting business times of the year… for others the count-down to Christmas (but we’re not going to think about that for now…)

It’s also the time of year when Partners and Fee-earners return to the office recharged and ready to get stuck into new initiatives… many of which are looking towards 2011 and beyond! So, when you come back to the office raring to go, but stuck for ideas, what can you do next?

Naturally, the first job is to talk to your marketing team, confess your unbridled enthusiasm for business development and spend the next ten minutes breaking through their cynicism… But once you’ve convinced them, here are a few things you could consider starting with:

  1. Writing: There is a fair chance that one of the jobs for this year is to develop the firm’s online presence.  Writing articles is a great way to increase your profile. Working with your marketing team you could look to publish your articles in industry and association publications, business journals, on your blog or newsletter, and on industry websites. It takes time for this tactic to see results, though, so don’t get excited. You can’t write one article, publish it on a website, and expect the leads to start flowing in. You need to write and publish on a regular basis.
  2. Speaking: Public speaking goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. If you’ve got something to say in writing, there may be opportunities to build on this. Speaking engagements are an incredibly powerful way to share your expertise, boost your credibility, and meet new prospects.
  3. Networking: An oldie but a goodie… Networking groups might seem somewhat retro but they are almost recession-proof. However hard I try to find reasons to cut budgets in this area, the returns speak for themselves.  Try and find 3 events to try this term and give them a whirl.  Don’t feel you have to jump straight in to every week. Try them, review and then decide on their value to you. If you can’t make a regular commitment then stick to ad-hoc events. Whatever you do there are three golden rules: 1) Do your research. Research the group and any attendees that you are aware of (ask for a delegate list in advance). Flag up any priority ‘meets’; 2) What do you do? Think about your elevator pitch and how you’ll introduce yourself to people. Think about what you do, rather than your job title; 3) Follow up. If you take a business card (or give one) think about how you’ll get in touch. Aim to contact them all in some way (and don’t just spam… why not send one of your articles that you wrote…) within 48 hours.
  4. Referrals: It might seem somewhat un-British to actually ask for referrals but sometimes we all need a prompt… and that includes clients too. There is a fair chance that the majority of your work comes from referrals… so go out and find it. Make it known, as you close matters, that you are happy to help them again… or anyone else they know. Remind friends and family that you’re happy to help them too.  Identify some of your key clients and consider putting in a call to see whether they can think of any clients or colleague that might need your help… with a little prompt they might even be able to use you to add some value to their own client relationships.
  5. Cross selling: Yet another eternally banged drum… why not start the new term with a fresh slate. Take a look at your existing client list and identify 5 that you can introduce to other services within your firm.  Perhaps you could ask that service manager to return the favour?  If they aren’t feeling the ‘new term love’ then why not take a look at some wider client lists and make suggestions for introductions (or ask whether they’d mind if you contacted their clients… you could send one of your articles by way of introduction).
  6. What things say about you: In today’s world, the first thing people do when they read an article, hear a speaker, meet someone at an event or get a referral of some kind is to go on Google… Take a look at what things say about you make sure you’re totally happy with it. Whilst you might not be able to do anything about some of the less scrupulous websites listing lawyers at the moment, you can do something about your website and Linkedin profiles… Check that they contain only up to date information, written in plain English, and with the client in mind. Who cares about a big list of cases? What we need to know about is areas of expertise and what you can do for us? If you’re writing about key subjects then link them to each profile… make it easy for people to really see what you’re about.
  7. Do your research: There is a wealth of information out there, not just on legal topics but also (like this blog) suggesting ways to build your profile and practice.  Why not consider setting up an RSS reader and adding in links to blogs that take your fancy. Every day, first job as you drink your cuppa, you can get up to date on what’s hot (and what’s not) in your sector. You’ll be amazed at the ideas it’ll give you.
  8. Pick one target client: It’s all too easy to focus on the less confrontational stuff and forget about pure business development.  Now is the time to target potential new clients.  As a place to start, pick one company (or if you work in the private client sector, how about one referrer), do your research and make an approach. If you are offering something based around what they value then you might be pleasantly surprised.

Needless to say, this only just scratches the surface.  Your marketing team may well have 101 other ideas for things you can get started with… in short, they’re more likely just to be thrilled you’re interested! So, good on you and let’s get going…