The best way to grow a valuable network

Share

Every lawyer in private practice wants to develop a network of business contacts, referral sources, and influential business connections. People who can lead them to others and lead others to them.

Ready for some good news? 

You don’t have to have a massive network to accomplish that. If they are the right people, you only need 5 or 10.

The right people are those who know have influence with people in your target market and are willing to work with you.

That means they like and trust you and want you to prosper, or believe you can be of value to their clients and contacts.

These people are worth their weight in gold, which is why you only need a few. 

Where do you find these folks? Generally, not at formal networking events. The kinds of people you want to meet rarely attend these. 

The best way to find influential people and connect with them is to deliberately target them. 

That means identifying high quality prospective clients in your target market, or people who sell to or advise them, and creating a plan to meet them. 

Sometimes, that can be as simple as contacting them and introducing yourself. But the most effective way to meet them is to talk to your existing network and find out who knows them and will introduce you, or let you use their name. 

Where do you start? By identifying twenty or thirty key people in your target market. Make a list, study them, and create a plan to meet them. 

What then? What do you do after you meet them? You find out what they need or want and help them get it. 

That’s where the work begins. 

It may sound daunting, but this is a lot easier than trying to build a network of hundreds of people who aren’t influential or won’t work with you.

Find out the top twenty or thirty people in your target market and focus on them. Because you only need a few.

How to find and meet lawyers and other referral sources in your target market

Share

Come with me if you want to live

Share

You want your clients and contacts to see you as someone they can count on when they are in trouble, need help or information. Legal advice or anything else—business advice, referrals or introductions. Whatever they need, you want them to contact you first, so you can help them or help them find someone who can.

Why would you want to do something that seems so time consuming and may not lead to legal work? 

Because it might indeed lead to legal work, but you won’t know that if they don’t contact you. 

And while it might not lead directly to legal work, it might provide give you someone you can refer to another lawyer and that lawyer might then reciprocate and send you a referral. 

Helping your clients and contacts this way might also lead to goodwill, which eventually leads to legal work, e.g., traffic to your site, growing your list, filling seats at your event, or other things that bring you more leads or business contacts. 

And hey, what’s the alternative? People ask for something and you turn them away? 

Bad karma. And bad business. 

For starters, make sure you tell your clients, prospects, and business contacts to call you about any legal matter, because “I know a lot of lawyers in other practice areas.” (If you don’t, this is your chance to go meet some.)

If you have the ability to refer 5 or 10 clients a month to other attorneys, even if it’s just to get some questions answered, do you think that might bring you some referrals from those attorneys?

If it takes up too much of your time (it won’t), you can stop doing it. But you won’t want to. Because the more you help people, the more people will help you. 

Prove me wrong. Try it for 60 days and see what happens.

Once you see good things happening, teach your clients and contacts to call you if they need anything else—an accountant, a real estate or insurance broker, a financial advisor, a vendor or business, or. . . anything.

You want people to call you first because it’s good karma and good for business.   

Share

A strange way to make people like you

Share

This is going to sound weird. It’s a psychological concept named after Ben Franklin, who used it to get a rival legislator and powerful political enemy to put aside his ill will towards Franklin.  

His foe didn’t like Ben and had been making negative speeches about him. Ben was determined to win him over. But instead of offering to give something to his rival, or do something for him to show him he was a good guy, Ben did the opposite. He asked the man to do something for him. 

Yep, he asked his enemy for a favor. 

He knew the man owned a rare book, and Ben asked if he would loan it to him. When he returned the book, Ben thanked him profusely and found that his old enemy became his friend. 

Ben had triggered what we now know as cognitive dissonance. 

Our brains find it difficult to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time. To resolve this conflict, we tend to alter one of our beliefs. 

His rival didn’t like Franklin, which contrasted with his belief that you don’t do favors for people you don’t like, something he had just done. To resolve this conflict, he was forced to back away from his negative feelings towards Franklin, and that’s how these enemies became friends. 

Today, it’s called The Ben Franklin Effect and you can use it to win friends and influence people.

If you want someone to like you, get them to do you a favor. 

Share

Give it time

Share

I’ve heard it takes 3 to 4 years to fully get to know someone. If that’s true, it means that a lot of people you “know” you’re really just starting to get to know. 

And you should give it time. 

As you get to know them (better), and they get to know you, your relationship can grow from new acquaintances to solid business connections, referral partners, and friends. And that might take awhile.

True, sometimes you hit it off immediately. The circumstances are right, the chemistry is right, and while it will probably take time to fully know each other, you can tell there’s something there and it’s worth it.

But that doesn’t happen often. 

Which means we shouldn’t be so quick to judge someone, or make up our minds as to where they might fit into our life.

What do you do while you’re giving things time to develop? Asking about their business or family. Sending them information about things they might need or want. Asking if they need help with anything. Inviting them to meet for coffee. Or just staying in touch.

And not expecting them to do the same for you. 

Not everyone will reciprocate. You might reach out often, promote their business or cause, offer to introduce them to someone they should know, or send them a boatload of goodies, and they might do none of that for you. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship. 

Keep the fires burning, or at least keep them from going out. One day, they might need your help with something, or reflect on how much you’ve done for them already, and realize how much you mean to them. 

And this could be the start of your “romance”. 

But don’t expect (or demand) more from them. Let the relationship develop naturally. 

If the day comes when you realize that things aren’t going anywhere—they don’t return your calls or respond to your email, they don’t show appreciation for anything you’ve done, back off. Give them less time and attention.

But don’t shut the door. 

Keep them on your list of people you stay in touch with (via email, predominately), and reserve personal time for other folks who have shown you they want you in their life. 

You might hear from them eventually. The time might finally be right for them, which means it’s also right for you

If not, that’s okay. There are plenty of other fish in the sea. 

The Attorney Marketing Formula

Share

It just takes one

Share

Public speaking at industry events and conferences has long been an effective way for lawyers to build their authority and reputation.

But there are some challenges.

  1. You can’t just waltz in and expect to be selected to speak. You have to build your authority and reputation outside of those events before you are recognized and invited (or accepted) to speak.
  2. Being a good lawyer doesn’t mean you’re a good speaker.
  3. You can build your reputation and authority, and an email list, through less demanding forms of content creation. Articles, a blog, a newsletter, interviews, podcasts, and the like, provide much greater exposure and many more leads. And your content will live online forever, continuing to do so.

On the other hand, speaking at a convention or industry event offers a big benefit. It allows you to put on your bio that you spoke at said event.

They invited you to speak, so you must be good at your job.

So, do it once or twice. Get yourself invited to a panel discussion or to the center stage. You’ll forever be able to say that you did this, as I shamelessly do when I mention speaking at an ABA convention.

But there is one additional benefit for speaking at these events. You get to meet influential people, which can lead to referrals, introductions, and other marketing and business opportunities.

And this should be your primary goal when you attend any event, even if you’re not one of the speakers.

It just takes one. Because if they are the right one, it can lead to massive growth in your practice and career.

How to take a quantum leap in your practice

Share

Speaking of books. . .

Share

If you read a lot of books, or want to, but are busy and can’t always justify the time to do it, as I recently struggled with, I’m going to make things a little easier for you by pointing out some additional benefits.

Specifically, some ways you can use what you read to get more clients and increase your income.

Not just by learning new or better marketing or management ideas, but also by improving your productivity, speaking, writing, and negotiating skills, developing new habits (or getting rid of old ones), becoming more creative, reducing your stress, and so much more.

Good things that can make you better at what you do and who you are.

You can also use the information you learn to generate content for your blog or newsletter, videos or podcasts. And you should because many of your subscribers, prospective clients, and professional contacts want to learn many of the same things you want to learn.

Developing more content this way could be as simple as writing book reviews or blog posts that summarize key ideas in these books.

You could add these books to an ongoing “recommended reading” list and post it on your blog. You could compile your favorite quotes and stories and use them in your writing or presentations.

You could write guest posts about the books for blogs in your clients’ niche, interview other people who are following these ideas, or interview the authors themselves. You might even create workshops and teach others about the principles you’ve learned, or show people how you use them.

You could also use these books in your networking. If you’re at a function attended by physicians you’d like to meet, for example, asking them if they’ve read the latest book by one of their colleagues can be a great way to start a conversation.

If nothing else, you can give away copies of your favorite books to clients and professional contacts, as a way to add value to your relationships or to thank them when they do something nice for you.

In short, you can feed your reading habit and build your practice at the same time.

Share

Help! I don’t know anyone!

Share

You may be a new lawyer or moving to a new city or state. Or you might be at a point in your career where you realize you need to meet some new people.

There are a lot of things you can do; here are 3 of the best:

(1) Ask for introductions. Contact people you know and ask them to introduce you to a professional or business contact in your target market. Be specific about the type of people you’d like to meet, but not so specific they can’t think of anyone who fits that description.

Even better, ask them to introduce you to someone you know they (probably) know, someone influential you’d like to meet. If they hesitate to do that, ask them if you can use their name, and contact them yourself.

(2) Join something. Networking can be a drag, but it’s a good way to quickly meet some new people. Find organizations and groups in your target market, attend their meetings, introduce yourself to the leadership, and volunteer on a committee or two. You might meet someone who knows someone who needs your services or knows people who do.

You’ll also learn more about your target market and the people in it, and be able to use that in your marketing.

(3) Write something. A report, guide, or checklist that people in your target market might find helpful, and offer it to everyone you know and everyone you meet. It’s a great way to give people a “sample” of your expertise, and interest them in learning more.

One of the best things you can write is a book. Being an author, by definition, makes you an authority, and people want to hire and refer authorities. They also want to talk to them when they meet them, and interview them for their blog or podcast.

If you have a collection of articles or blog posts, cobble them together and self-publish your first book. If not, start typing. Or dictating.

Clients, and the people who can refer them, are everywhere. These strategies can help you meet them.

Share

Lose it or use it

Share

Yesterday, I threw down about what to do to get your clients to fall in love with you. But there are also things you might need to stop doing.

Things you need to “lose,“ because if you don’t, you might use them and drive clients away instead of bringing them closer.

Periodically, we all need to do some self-reflection, to see if we have any habits or ways of conducting ourself that might be due for an overhaul.

Things like:

  • A bad temper
  • Arrogance
  • Being overly aggressive
  • Impatience
  • Bluntness
  • Negative attitude
  • Over-sharing
  • Talking about politics or religion
  • Lack of seriousness (when necessary)
  • Talking too much about yourself
  • Being a poor listener

And so much more.

For me, it’s my sense of humor. Sometimes, I come off as insensitive or just plain goofy.

Hey, not everyone appreciates genius.

But here’s the thing. A weakness can also be a strength.

Sometimes my sense of humor bombs. Sometimes it is a great ice-breaker. People love it when you make them laugh.

The other day, at the doctor’s office, I was a big hit. The nurse laughed her head off and told me I was funny.

“Looks aren’t everything,” I said.

Hey, I don’t ever want to lose my habit of “trying” to be funny. It comes in handy in writing, speaking, and networking.

But I do need to watch what I say, when, and to whom, and edit myself before I do something that gets me into trouble.

Nah, that would be no fun. There are nurses out there who need me.

Share

Some clients are trouble

Share

Some clients are sharp. Some aren’t. Some clients follow your instructions. Some don’t. Some clients make a good witness. Some don’t. Some clients will be a major pain in your ass. Some will be even worse.

You’ll find out eventually what each new client is like, but wouldn’t you like to find out right away?

Sure you would.

If you know a client doesn’t listen or will do things that hurt their case, you need to know that so you can keep an eye on them.

My advice? Give the new client a homework assignment and see what they do.

Ask them to download a form and fill it out, read something and answer a few questions, or call you with some information.

Simple stuff any client can do.

If they don’t do it, make excuses, or ask for more time, you’ll have an idea of what they’re going to be like.

If you’re not sure, give them another assignment.

Yes, they might be busy or forgetful. It doesn’t matter. You need to know if you can count on them.

Some clients need more hand holding. You might need to send written instructions instead of merely asking them to do something when you speak, or send additional reminders about upcoming appointments, deadlines, or things they need to start working on.

Part of your job is to make sure your clients help you do that job.

You could do something similar with your professional contacts. I did that with a lawyer I met at a retreat. We talked about working together on a project that could benefit both of us, decided we would talk about it the following week and scheduled a phone appointment.

The day came, I called, he didn’t answer. I left a message, reminded him about our phone appointment, and asked him to call me.

He didn’t. So I was done with him.

If I couldn’t count on him to keep a simple phone appointment, I knew I couldn’t count on him for anything.

If you want to know what someone will be like to work with, ask them to do something and see if they do it.

Because how people do one thing is often how they do everything.

Share

A better way to build your network?

Share

Networking events often prove to be a waste of time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t network.

Think about it, everyone who is currently in your network was, at one time, a stranger. So, meeting new people can be a very good thing. The question is, who do you want to meet and how can you meet them?

Events can work. But you can also do it without leaving your office and this might work even better.

The first step is to make a list of influential people in your target market. These could be business owners, professionals, or others with influence in that market. It could also include prospective business clients.

Start by identifying “categories”—tax lawyer, real estate broker, business executives at tech companies, for example; once you’ve done that, you can look for “candidates”—actual people or businesses in those categories.

You’re looking for people who can hire you, recommend you, or introduce you to others who can do the same. This might be a lawyer or accountant or other professional who represents your ideal clients, a content creator, consultant, or marketing professional with a following that resembles your ideal clients or the professionals who sell to or advise them.

You’ll have many options to choose from, but you should focus on quality, not quality. 20 or 30 people are a good number. You’re looking for influence (depth) not raw numbers (breadth).

Once you’ve identified some candidates, read their bios, learn what they do, and what they’re good at. Look for clues as to how they might be able to help you and/or your clients and contacts, and how you can help them or their contacts.

As you study them, you may learn you have some mutual contacts, or people who know people who are likely to know them. This could be your path to an introduction.

If not, put together a plan to contact them directly. Decide what you’ll say, what you’ll ask them, or what you might invite them to do.

How you will get their attention? And how will you show them a benefit for speaking with you?

It sounds more difficult than it is. Remember, everyone needs or wants something, even if that something is new professional contacts in their (your) industry or niche.

Contact the people on your list, via a mutual connection or directly, and see who is interested in speaking to you and learning more about how you might help them.

As a lawyer, you clearly have something to offer. If they don’t appreciate that, move on. If they do appreciate that, you might be one or two conversations away from having your next new client.

Here’s everything you need to know (and do)

Share