The New Year is still in its infancy, and there is no better time to craft a list of professional resolutions. Hopefully, you’ve finally digested that fruitcake and are now knee-deep in thoughts on how to have a more dynamic and successful year. To ease into the process, the following are easy steps for super-charging your marketing and communications efforts in 2013.
1) Spend 15 Minutes Updating Your Bio
Shut the door, close Outlook and really consider whether or not your firm bio says what you want it to say about you and your practice. Study it to ensure it contains all your salient achievements (significant matters, articles written, speaking engagements). If you are stuck, and as your door is already closed, go through the exercise of introducing yourself to a potential client out loud. If your bio isn’t conveying that message, then change it so it does.
2) Spend More Than 15 Minutes on Your Self-Evaluation
Riding the bus home the other day, I noticed a man awkwardly contorted over a laptop and scanning through a Word document. I peeked a little closer and realized he was a lawyer working on a self-evaluation. Having read dozens of these, I’ve seen that the effort put in is, at times, minimal. Your self-evaluation can serve as a central source from which you operate, provided you put real effort into it. Like the bio, this is an exercise that requires your attention and some serious self-reflection — not exactly in abundance in today’s harried workplace. Consider purposely coming in a half-hour to an hour before you normally do, closing the door and focusing.
3) Spend 15 Minutes a Day Reading the News
My line of work goes part-and-parcel with the news, so I read multiple newspapers every day. By doing so, it is possible to identify issues to pair with attorney clients who may be in a position to serve as an expert source — or at least to add their educated perspective on the emerging issue at a cocktail party. This practice affords great fluency in the issues of the day (both banal and weighty). By taking just a few minutes to go through the news, online or in print, you will find more to talk about with others, as well as trends and issues that connect naturally to your business. Your commute is a great time to do this — Angry Birds can wait.
4) Take Your Marketing and Communications Team Members to Lunch
Sure, I love a good meal, but I also really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the lawyers with whom I work. A meal is an opportunity to mutually learn about each other professionally and to connect on a personal level. The more knowledge the marcom team has about who you are and your practice, the more these individuals can help you achieve the goals you have laid out in your self-evaluation — whether through securing byline article opportunities, scouting for speaking engagements or finding the right words to encapsulate your expertise when writing proposals.
5) Attend One Industry Group Event
Beyond CLE requirements, identify and go to a presentation by either a local bar association group or an industry trade group. Take your business card with you and try and make at least three connections. (One trick, for those who tend to be a little shy, is to take five business cards and allow yourself to leave only after they’ve been given out.) Industry group events are great from both an educational standpoint and for networking.
6) Write a Byline Article
There are publications for every industry and robust legal trade publications locally and nationally. Find a niche topic in your area of law that you would like to address from an educational perspective, contact your marcom team and have them find an opportunity and then write — it’s typically only 1,200 words we’re talking about here.
Publishing a byline article will bolster your bio, provide a quality collateral item to send to clients and may ignite the writer within. You may also find yourself getting calls from reporters as you have demonstrated expertise and can serve as a valuable source when they are drafting articles or from peers looking to round out a speaking panel or, better yet, from potential clients. (Psst! It also is a nice accomplishment to highlight come review time.)
7) Engage Beyond Work with Clients
It is often said, but rarely really considered, that relationships are crucial in building and maintaining business. Even a silly sitcom like The Office provides examples of this principle in action. In season two, when paper company executive Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) gets the business of Lackawanna County (home county of Scott’s fictional Dunder Mifflin), the sale wasn’t closed based purely on price. Scott, much to the chagrin of his boss, spent a long evening at Chili’s building rapport with the county executive while making convincing points about why Dunder Mifflin, although more expensive than big box retailers, was a better choice. The scene is hyperbole, but the core message is true — people like doing business with people they personally understand and enjoy.
Look everywhere for opportunities to connect with your clients and build relationships. For instance, every year I like to see what schools are in the NCAA basketball tournaments and then I’ll reach out to lawyers with whom I work when their alma mater has a great game. It’s enjoyable to connect with my clients beyond the issues, and it provides an opening to deepen both our professional and personal relationships. Use all of the data you get — schools attended, birthdays (something perhaps to add to a client intake sheet), publicly available social media and tidbits dropped in conversations — to really engage and connect.
By taking the time and being disciplined, you can craft and implement an effective marketing and communications plan for 2013. The goal of all of these exercises is simple — maintain and develop more business in the New Year. That is a resolution I think we can all agree on.
This article originally appeared on Law360 on Feb. 13, 2013.