It’s fair to say that we’re all Zoom-fatigued — and that’s probably an understatement. Personally, I would be happy not to hear any more buzzwords about the pandemic, such as quarantine, social distancing and “you’re on mute,” again. But we have a new term that is now wearing on everyone: “the new normal,” which frankly, we’ve thought we were entering at least three different times so we really have no idea when “normal” will begin (maybe it has?).

No matter, because I’m sure that during the downtime of the pandemic, you were able to re-examine, rebuild and plan your marketing and business development strategy, right? [Tap on mic.] “Hello, is this thing on?”

We all had to make adjustments for COVID-19, but as we adjust to whatever the new normal is, it’s a perfect time to shake up a business development strategy, get reconnected in real life and give ourselves a good kick to revitalize relationships and form new ones. Here are some strategies to breathe new life into your BD plan.

Quality Time

While COVID-19 created massive disruption to business, the truth of the matter is that for most, the initial slowdown in business was short-lived and many were able to pivot quickly and find a way to carry on with business as usual, create new avenues for business or both. In fact, many of us extended our workdays by adding hours to each end. What used to be the commute/drive time to and from work has become an extra 30 to 60 minutes to get a jump on tasks for the day. “Oh, I’ll just take a quick peek at my emails” turned into being online and responding for a full two hours before 9 a.m. If we thought we were inseparable from our phones before ... YIKES! We’ve now trained our clients, co-workers and others that our workday is 12 hours (at a minimum) instead of eight. However, we need to ask ourselves, with that added four hours to our workday, whether we used that time to improve and nurture our client relationships or were drinking from a firehose and only able to react to our clients’ needs. Sure, we completed work for them, but was it thoughtful? Or was it more of checking a task off a to-do list?

And while we have a love/hate relationship with Zoom, let’s face it: Zoom or similar programs allowed us to see each other’s faces and spaces. But were our connections genuine and our conversations productive?

Whether we have really entered the “new normal” or we have no idea where we’re at, it’s time to get back to nurturing our client relationships. At the same time, business development initiatives shouldn’t take the backseat to client service and business operations. A successful business development plan always has a focus on client relationships and retention. Proven tools for a client service and retention plan include keeping clients informed, showing responsiveness, being transparent about costs and other proactive communications.

In addition, prioritizing your time and effort has always been the focus of good business development planning, and these priorities will be extraordinarily important when we have moved past the pandemic. Jaffe previously shared “5 Ways to Cut the Clutter in Your Marketing” plan, and each of those tips should be reviewed and considered now. These tips can be incorporated into your modified plan, including prioritizing your efforts and outreach, pushing any efforts that aren’t fruitful or are too-overachieving down to the bottom of your plan, and eliminating initiatives that give you dread or are redundant. The key is to be flexible about how your plan will unfold in this constantly evolving climate. Keep your plan moving forward, and good results will happen.

Tips for a Spring Kickstart

Next month will be two years since our world and the way we do marketing and business development altered dramatically. But March 2022 will also usher in spring and the promise of a much-brighter year ahead. Here are some easy things to do to dust off your marketing and business development plan, give it a good kick start, and begin spring cleaning your to-do list when it comes to building your network and book of business.

  • List and evaluate your professional development organizations. What is their current meeting format and are they providing viable networking opportunities? Do you feel that they are a good use of your time, energy and money? Do you enjoy the time spent, and do you feel like you get any support or learn anything from them? Are potential clients or referral sources in regular attendance? If you answer is “no” to two or more of these questions, eliminate that organization and your involvement (and investment) in it from your plan.
  • Put your mind share and thought leadership to work for you. Consider the speaking gigs that were canceled or rescheduled in the last two years and convert your presentations into webinars, podcasts, client alerts, articles or blog posts (really, any form of thought leadership you feel most comfortable with) that you distribute to your network. But don’t stop there! Refresh and repurpose those presentations and begin completing speaking submissions because they are very much active now. We’re all seeing associations and industry groups planning in-person events again.
  • Reconnect with people you have lost touch with. Find that list of contacts you’ve been meaning to reach out to, and work with your marketing department to come up with a strategy to reconnect. Set a goal to have at least one meeting a week — even just a 20-minute coffee chat. Your meetings should be with people that you’ve successfully cross-referred with in the past. Have a conversation about your ideal client persona. Has that changed in the last two years? Have you expanded your practice into other areas your referral sources should know about? For example, are you now handling matters involving cryptocurrency and would like to get in front of a new audience?
  • Commit to an amount of time you’re going to spend on client meetings. Be honest, realistic and determined to complete productive and meaningful meetings with your clients. Select a minimum of three clients you will meet with from now until the end of the year, and plan and prepare for each meeting at least 60 days in advance. When you meet with your client, conduct a “how” meeting:
    • How are you doing?
    • How is your business doing?
    • What challenges are you facing and how are you overcoming them?
    • How can I help you?
    • How are we doing — how is our work on your behalf?
    • How can we make your life easier?

Listen with intention; let them do all the talking; take copious notes; and when you get back to the office, take action on everything that you learned. Put each action item in your schedule for the next 30 days. Resolve any issues that you can immediately and keep your client apprised every step of the way when you are addressing each item they brought to your attention, good and bad.

In 2022, I see huge opportunities for those who intentionally pursue and truly reconnect with their clients and referral sources because honestly, others will not. While seeing each other on video has gotten us by for the last two years, it also created a disconnect and we’ve gotten complacent about our relationships. It’s time to get back to cultivating relationships. Don’t get drawn in and dragged down by the safety of your home office. Carpe that diem!