Saturday, March 15, 2008

Strategic Networking: 5 Steps to Snag Hard-to-Reach Prospects

Strategic networking is the process of focusing your time and attention on reaching the big fish.

You can go out every night of the week and meet dozens of people at Chamber meetings, professional association dinners, or fund raising events. If you are a member of the plaintiff's bar, this is probably not a bad approach (although it is time consuming). However, you have little control over who you meet.

But what if your time is limited and you need to see a better return on your networking activities?

Let's say as an example that you are a partner in a defense law firm offering some type of healthcare legal service to hospitals, clinics, HMOs, or other health care related firms. In order to maximize your referral networking time, you want to connect with the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Risk Officer, in-house General Counsel, or Chief Executive Officer. Unfortunately, these people can be hard to reach.

Here is a way to reach the person with purchasing authority through your networking efforts.

1. First, identify the top 5 to 10 local firms in the health care industry that you want to reach. (D&B's Zapdata - - is a great way to compile your list)

2. Write down the names of the 3-5 executives within each firm who would be good contacts for you.

3. Do some research to find out where these prospects and/or their employers get involved in the community, like the local Chamber or Economic Development Organization.

4. Start to attend meetings of the organizations where your prospects are involved.

5. Once you meet someone within a target firm, ask for referrals and introductions that will eventually get you in front of your intended prospect.

This is likely to take some time, and you may need to volunteer for a committee or project, but it will be time well spent. The bottom line, if done properly, is your success in opening a new account with one of your top prospects.

Remember the secret to business development: never stop marketing!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Helping Law Firm Associates Build a Referral Network

Law firms that rely only on their referral network may not be tapping into other productive marketing channels, as reported in my previous post.

Visits with several law firms this week remind me that there is another underutilized resource in regard to the power referral network. What I'm referring to is the fact that many law firm associates, still early in their legal career, are not trained on how to build their own referral network. Happy to rely on work brought in by other partners, these associates may not be developing the skills they need to bring their own business in the door.

Whether you develop an in-house mentoring program, or bring in outside trainers, teaching your associates how to build their own referral networks can be one of the best investments that a law firm can make.

Showing your associates how to think strategically about the business they want to develop, then showing them how to go out and network their way into these accounts, can start paying off in weeks or months.

Our next post will focus on how to map out your networking activities to get an introduction to the decision maker at a hot prospect. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Beyond the Referral Network

"How do you get most of your legal business?" is a question I frequently ask attorneys and other law firm professionals. In the past three weeks I've asked this question to dozens of as part of our participation at Association of Legal Administrators ( events in Orlando, Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida.

"Referral from other attorneys," is the most common response to the question. It's true that many attorneys and law firms make a very nice living by waiting for leads to come in from other attorneys. As the law becomes more specialized, this practice will undoubtedly become more pronounced.

It can take quite a bit of time to build a referral network to the point of robustness. When properly maintained, an attorney should have an extensive list of prioritized (A/B/C) referral sources. "A" referrals are current producers you should be communicating with monthly. "B" referrals are less mature sources that you are grooming and/or periodic producers that warrant coffee or lunch every 90 days or so. "C" referral sources should be on your newsletter mailing list.

But wait! There's another question to be asked. If a law firm is doing well with referrals, that means you may be leaving money on the table. This is particularly true if you don't pursue any or many other business development campaigns.

The question is, "What else can I do to get more business?" Business development takes time, and you need to plant a lot of seeds. Try adding at least one more marketing program, whether it is a newsletter, educational seminar, or publishing an article. Keep trying to stretch for more. Only then will you be able to create a truly integrated legal marketing program that can get you through the good and bad times.

As we always say, legal marketing is a process and not an event. Never stop marketing!