Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holiday Parties Offer the Gift of New Business

The holiday season is upon us, which means lots of opportunities for social networking with other attorneys and prospective new clients. Think of this as the perfect time to skillfully launch your 2008 legal marketing efforts.

You don’t have to be the life of the party to attract serious business development opportunities on the social circuit; you just need to have a plan. Here is a simple five-step program you can easily implement.

Step 1: Build your referral network. You should always maintain an active list at least 3-5 key contacts who have the ability to send you qualified leads on a regular basis. Non-competitive attorneys, bankers, accountants, financial planners, and consultants are among those well suited to helping you generate business. The holidays are a great time to reinforce or expand this referral network.

Step 2: Strengthen your connection to current and past clients. Your best source of new business comes from your existing client base. Make a list of 10-15 clients you want to connect with over the holidays. Try to schedule a lunch to thank them for their business, or get a commitment to meet in the New Year.

Step 3: Make connections on the networking circuit. Attend as many events as you can, and make a point of working the room to talk to those you know while also introducing yourself to new contacts. Go prepared with a well-rehearsed “elevator speech” and lots of business cards. While you may not be able to have substantive conversations at a crowded cocktail reception, you can ask for a post-holiday meeting with your most promising leads.

Step 4: Listen for new business. The key word here is “listen.” Ask about business challenges and opportunities faced by those you meet. Discover what they will be focusing on in the New Year, then figure out how you, your firm, or one of your referral partners, may be able to help.

Step 5: Prepare to follow up. Don’t drop the ball after the party; your plan is just starting! Make notes for yourself after you leave a party as a reminder of new leads to pursue. Send a handwritten note to those you met to reinforce the on-going conversation. Ask for a meeting with key clients and prospects to further develop the relationship.

Here’s a bonus item for your business development efforts. Talk to the officers, directors, sponsors and program chairperson at parties hosted by Bar associations, trade associations, and media organizations to learn about their 2008 priorities and calendar of events. You just might be able to set the stage for an important speaking or publishing opportunity.

Happy holidays and happy prospecting!

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