The New Business Trap Is Doing Nothing
It is a common mistake for professional service providers, such as lawyers, to stop their routine business-building activities in times of economic uncertainty to save time and money. This is especially true with the disappearance of the in-person habits you may have formed to build your business.
Perhaps you are a proficient networker, work within vital centres of influence – among accountants and financial advisors, for example, or were accustomed to building business relationships and making connections based on the power of the in-person meeting. That scenario, of course, has been displaced by our Zoom world of virtual meetings and a slew of closed restaurants, clubs, theatres and gyms.
But new business – and marketing yourself and your unique talents – can’t outwait the pandemic. Not only do we not have a crystal ball to tell us how and when it will end, but it will have lasting impacts on events and business that no one can predict.
The trap for lawyers today is to do nothing to adjust to life without the in-person business-building toolkit. The saying in business that those who stand still will perish is still true. One must keep making new connections.
But how do you make business connections without in-person events? Lots of options are available to you, depending on your interests and social and digital savvy. Even for the most old-school among us, it is not good enough to say, “I’m not digital.” If you do say that, take it as a sign that you are not interested in acquiring new client relationships.
Steps You Must Take
- Build your online profile through basic social media with LinkedIn and Twitter, at a minimum. Host a web page on your company’s website or build one just for you. Just as you would iron your shirt, polish your shoes and look your best for a networking event, it’s important to look your best online – like you are of this digital generation, and not wearing an outfit from the 1980s. You buy a new wardrobe regularly; why not invest in looking current and appropriate for digital? This involves investing in graphics that are current and sized for mobile-phone viewing and that act as your digital calling card when someone looks you up. At a minimum, your webpage, your LinkedIn page and your Twitter account – even if you’re not very active – must look current and tell a complete story about you.
- Have something to say. Translate your watercooler conversations into short commentaries online. You would be doing this informally over lunches and coffee networking in the in-person world. It’s time to write it down and post it on your social accounts.
- Listen to what others, especially current clients, are saying online and respond. Again, you would do this in conversation at the club and with your clients. It’s time to learn to do it online. Listen and respond. It’s how you build trust in person – get used to doing the same digitally.
- Nurture your centres of influence online. Just as you did offline before March 2020, invest time in those relationships by supporting their efforts online. Repost, share and comment on what your centres of influence are doing. It will be a win-win situation, as any strong COI is.
- Don’t forget to be yourself. Lawyers can be cautious about what they put in writing, but it’s important that people get a picture of who you really are and what it would be like to work with you. We all know that this eye-to-eye connection is at the heart of building a trusted relationship with your client. It starts with your credibility and finishes with what you are like as a person. Find a way to tell them what you’re like without crossing the line into TMI.
- Attend virtual events and turn your camera on! Organizations have been converting more and more events – conferences, networking events and webinars – to digital formats, and these events should not be dismissed. Just like at a middle school dance, you never get to dance with anyone if you’re standing against the wall – now’s the time to make the extra effort to show up and put yourself out there. Making a few positive chat comments to start a discussion, supporting a speaker, asking an insightful question or commenting on a prospective client’s question will go a long way to helping you get noticed.
Resources You’ll Need
Like anything else, business-building during the covid-19 pandemic is an investment. Just as you’d invest in entertainment or other membership costs, put in the work to attain new clients with these investments:
- Time. Be purposeful in making time for your digital presence. Just as you would have pencilled in time in your calendar for in-person business development, luncheons and networking, make time to learn, adjust and be online.
- Openness. Be receptive to new skills you will learn and new ways of expressing yourself – yes, in writing – for the world to see. Take small steps and learn.
- Expertise. Marketing and strategic communications providers can help you make a plan and strike the right balance to express who you are uniquely as a professional. You may need a combination of graphic design (think of your tailor or hairdresser), technology (think of your car) and copy-writing for digital (being a master of legal argument or document-drafting doesn’t necessarily make you a great social communicator!)
- Money. Hire experts to support you. Don’t expect to do this on your own. It is different than in-person business-building, and getting the communications, technical and graphic design help you need to look and be your best requires an investment. Try shifting your previous entertainment budget to these efforts.
If you already feel you have digital savvy, both the good and bad news is there is always a way to be better. Investing in the expertise (i.e., a professional) to help with search engine optimization and analytics will give you surprising insights into who’s looking at you online, what’s interesting them and what’s not. The feedback you’ll get is a vital #ProTip to make your digital presence not just look good but work for you in targeted business development.
Now is not the time to stand still. Even without in-person events, you can use many tactics to pivot your business-building strategy to work in a virtual world. Use these six solutions to get yourself out there and adjust to the lasting shifts of the pandemic and post-pandemic world.
About the author
Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.