I have been privileged to work with many professionals to discuss, strategize and implement their business development plans, and I’ve learned that, oftentimes, the first hurdle is to overcome false perceptions about marketing. For most, just the mention of the word “networking” triggers a vision of the cheesy, extra-extroverted salesperson working the room with his never-ending charm. Actually, let’s back up … when we talk about marketing, most of us immediately think of the dreaded networking event — that’s where the cheesy guy enters the room.
While growing your network is just one component of your plan (and it is important), the way you do it doesn’t have to be difficult, or painful. You shouldn’t force yourself into situations that make you uncomfortable, and you don’t have to become someone you’re not to be successful at networking and marketing. The truth is anyone can be successful at business development and client acquisition, and everyone within the firm can and should contribute to the overall plan.
There are many “types” of marketing styles or approaches, and these are just a few. Which one do you identify with?
If Ian took a personality test, the results would indicate introvert. Ian is reserved and works best, and at his most productive, if left alone to “mind and grind” the matters that others bring into the firm. He enjoys research and writing, and loves to dig three or four layers deep into a subject when only two layers are needed. He has created a strong and trusting relationship with clients because his work product and timeliness are on point. He enjoys communicating with clients via phone and email. He’s is a critical thinker.
Ian’s role: In today’s world, where information abounds and is expected to be immediate, Ian will do extremely well to establish himself as a thought leader. Since research and writing are his strong points, he will be able to create the content needed to push out via social media and his firm’s website, as well as have his publicist pitch his articles and blogs to reporters and other media. A goal for Ian would be to establish relationships with reporters to become a reliable and frequent source. He can connect via Linkedin with his current clients and contacts, as well as others who follow the same groups, interests and industries, while showcasing his knowledge and insightful views. All of his marketing efforts can be accomplished “behind the screen,” and he doesn’t have to step foot into an awkward networking event with strong personalities jockeying for attention. Ian’s role is imperative to the firm’s overall marketing plan because he will provide its much-needed and frequent content for client alerts. Ian will also play a key role in the firm’s client retention plan, because he will be the trusted advisor whom clients have come to rely on.
Ian proves that you do not have to be an extrovert to be successful in building a network, gaining referrals and acquiring clients.
Pierce is, of course, the opposite of the introvert. He unintentionally and genuinely draws people to him. You’re not sure why you like him immediately; you just do. He is an extrovert, but not in an obnoxious or overbearing way, and he doesn’t come across as slick or fast-talking. He’s a dynamic speaker and always walks away from a presentation with at least one new client. His ability to develop connections and relationships is extremely natural and second nature to him. He enjoys meeting people as well as being a connecter and making introductions; in fact, he enjoys the social aspect of all situations and “closing the deal” so much that he would rather be out finding opportunities than doing the work. In the perfect world, this is OK because Ian is there to do the work that Pierce brings in.
Pierce’s role: In some instances, the firm could consider making Pierce (and others like him) the “face” of the firm. Pierce should be a member of high-profile referral networking groups. He enjoys the spotlight and does a superb job of making connections, so he should explore speaking opportunities that put him in front of target-rich audiences. Pierce needs strong admin support to keep him on schedule and on task, and organize the follow-up resulting from his marketing activities. He should perfect the “transition” piece of his role — he has to know when and how to bring Ian into the client relationship. Pierce also should be a mentor to others in the firm who want to learn how to network and create meaningful referral relationships. He can do that by bringing them along when he attends networking events, works the booth at an industry conference and conducts a pitch meeting for a prospective client.
Brighton is both an introvert and extrovert (and the “type” that most people identify with). Brighton is on top of her game and always ahead of most colleagues by keeping up to date on the issues and challenges her clients face. She proactively issue-spots, quietly and sincerely apprising her clients of trends and events they should be aware of. To accomplish this, she usually arrives at the office early to review the latest news, regulations and overnight happenings. Brighton finds realistic reasons (i.e., touchpoints) for reaching out to clients beyond her current work. She doesn’t mind writing or speaking, and allots some time to do so, but would rather be working hand in hand with the client on solving their issues. Brighton understands the importance of nurturing relationships and has a strong following of clients who trust her. Although she is a little uneasy about doing so, she knows that there will come a point when she has to remind her clients that her business relies on client referrals and that she would appreciate introductions. The introvert in Brighton will quietly “size people up” at a social event and be somewhat distant at first, but, once she settles in, she is able to converse freely and be social, so much so that she’ll appear to be an extrovert. Because she’s a balance of both introvert and extrovert, Brighton comes across as genuine and approachable. Her book of business is a result of steady and consistent focus. (Think marathon, not sprint.)
Brighton’s role: It would make sense for Brighton’s marketing strategy to be a mixture of Ian’s and Pierce’s plan — some speaking, some writing, some networking, etc. Brighton’s relationship skills will also play a key role in the firm’s client-retention plan. Brighton should be the “calming force” of the group that goes on pitches. She could have just one defined tactic in her business development plan, which is to nurture current client relationships so expanding their work becomes organic and automatic. At this point, it’s just a matter of completing an inventory of her clients and contacts, and creating a schedule of meetings and outreach to stay top of mind and remain a trusted advisor. Brighton should perfect her “ask” when it comes to requesting her clients to refer business to her, because they will be happy to do so.
Yep, you guessed it … when you meet Gail, you don’t know what hit you. Gail is the dynamic speaker who is often sought out for keynote opportunities. She is the one who will walk away with a new client after speaking at a conference … Every.Single.Time. She has a niche of a well-defined reputation in an industry or practice and is the go-to for all media. She can be borderline over the top and will rub some people the wrong way but, at the same time, earn respect because she is a leader in her field. In fact, she can charge a premium. She is also the player on your pitch team who is the closer. Marketing and business development come easily to her.
Gail’s role: Gail could also be the “face of the firm,” but only where her niche is needed. Since she is a trusted advisor to her clients, Gail has to make certain that she has a group of go-to professionals in her firm to whom she can cross-sell services. She should be assertive in identifying issues to her clients they didn’t even know they had. If Gail’s business development plan were only to involve booking a speaking tour, so be it. Like Pierce, she would need strong administrative support to help her keep track of the follow-up opportunities generated after each speaking gig.
We need Anne. Anne’s practice is one of wisdom; tried-and-true tactics; and strong, loyal relationships. Clients will tell stories of when Anne was in the trenches with them. She will support the firm’s business development efforts and projects, whatever they may be, but don’t ask her to be active on Linkedin or other social media. In fact, just have someone create her Linkedin profile for informative purposes and appearances, and let it be. Anne has extremely valuable institutional knowledge of the firm, the firm’s clients and why the firm is successful. There’s a good chance that the firm’s current culture and reputation is largely a reflection of Anne’s work and ideals. She quite possibly “planted the flag” for the firm in the city where her office resides. Younger attorneys at the firm gravitate to Anne because she provides helpful, practical, no-nonsense advice. Anne won’t retire because she loves her work and doesn’t consider it a job. (She’s “never worked a day in her life.”) She’s very well-known in her industry and continues to speak often at conferences, but, now more than ever, she is sought out for leadership presentations as opposed to topics related to her practice.
Anne’s role: Anne’s contribution to the firm’s marketing and business development plan should be as a mentor. Her perspectives and opinions are priceless. She should be taking the next generation of firm leaders and introducing them to her network, industry groups and clients. She should also have a plan in place to pass the baton, which should include relaying her institutional knowledge.
Identifying Your Business Development Style
Do you identify with any of these personality and marketing types? Chances are you are a combination of two or more of them. Also consider that there are many more that I didn’t include. The point is that everyone can play a vital role in the overall marketing and business development plan of the firm. You do not have to be the proverbial rainmaker to be successful at client acquisition and business growth. That’s a myth and common misconception. Since there are many “walks of life” of professionals out there, there are many ways to approach business development and marketing. The key is finding what’s right for you.