Relationship Development

Content marketing can feel like the opportunity to be the author or podcaster or speaker that you’ve always wanted to be.

But when done strategically, it’s about building relationships with clients and potential clients, and providing additional value to them that will make you top of mind when they have a matter that requires your expertise. When you bear that in mind as an end goal, it’s a reminder that you can’t simply put out content – you need to build an audience. 
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We are already facing down the last three months of 2019, and for many of us, that leaves us wondering where the year has gone, and how we can possibly meet the goals we’ve set.

But rather than throwing out these last three months and deciding to start “fresh” in 2020, let’s kickstart our business development efforts over the next four weeks with some goals and deadlines, and see what progress we can make. 
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Content marketing is a tool in your arsenal for building effective business relationships.

But like any tool, it’s not going to be useful to you if you don’t use it efficiently. In the past, you could get away with producing *something* and getting the attention of a client or potential client, because you were the only one writing or talking about it. But today, content is so ubiquitous, that if you’re not standing out, you risk being relegates to background noise. 
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We know and are comfortable with the idea that the legal industry is a business of relationships. Lawyers do good work, their clients talk about it (hopefully) and that brings them other clients. That’s the basic principle behind the standard “word of mouth” reputation.

But with the introduction of technology, and in particular, social media, the way that we form first impressions of people and build the relationships that lead to referrals has changed. It’s not simply about doing good work anymore – it’s about whether your online reputation matches your offline reputation, and meeting people where they are. Let’s look at two pieces of this, referrals and first impressions.

Referrals

As someone who espouses social media, something that I hear fairly often is “But am I really going to get BUSINESS from using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc?”
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I recently had the opportunity to participate in a podcast with Deirdre Breakenridge for her Women Worldwide series, discussing how to build unbreakable bonds. One of the questions she asked me to think about in advance of the session was “What is relationship marketing, and where do you start when you want to build your business?”

Since we’re in a relationship business, I’d hope that most lawyers reading this would be comfortable with the idea of engaging in relationship marketing, and how to translate that into business for your practice. But in case you’re not (or in case you want to put a more formal name to something you’re already doing in your practice), let’s talk about what it is, and how to use it. 
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While being interviewed for a podcast yesterday morning, the host asked me what I saw as the primary trend for the future of law firms. Although my answer is simple, the work behind it is not – collaboration.

We’ve talked about Heidi Gardner’s book, Smart Collaboration, before (and I again highly recommend reading it). One of the things Gardner addresses in the book is the barriers to collaboration. I’m sure many of these will be familiar to you, and that she’s so adept at identifying them should give you comfort that she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to why collaboration is so essential and useful to law firms and lawyers. Let’s examine a few of these, and how you may overcome them within your own firms or law firm networks to achieve better collaborative results.
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In most of the world, it’s been pretty hot, and many of you are either on holiday, or getting ready to leave for holiday. I know that the LAST thing you want to think about is building relationships for business development. But I’ve got an easy challenge for you that will set you up nicely to return to the office in September with some stronger connections and potential for added business, while your colleagues are working to catch up.

Every day, for the next month, reach out to three of your connections on LinkedIn by email.


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Today, I’m bringing you a guest post on a topic near and dear to my heart – collaboration. Gareth Stephenson, of Top3Legal has a different take on it, from his experience, which may be useful as you engage further in your own collaborative efforts.

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In-house counsel are increasingly recognising the benefits of collaboration – this occurs within their teams, with counsel at other companies and also with their law firms.
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One of the questions I am asked most often is about how to manage relationships when we’re all so busy – and we are ALL so busy these days!

LinkedIn is a great tool for professionals (even lawyers!) to employ to efficiently and effectively develop relationships without a huge time investment. Yes, like with any social media, you have to be somewhat diligent about not getting sucked in to it and losing time, but with some time management safeguards in place, it’s possible to maximize your use of it without wasting your efforts.
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Remember the good old days when we just did a bunch of things and didn’t have specialized terms for them? Yep, these aren’t them.

Social media marketing” came about when social media platforms were introduced and we learned how to use online technology to build relationships that we’d previously been building offline (that’s tremendously simplified, but you get the idea). Then “content marketing” came along to describe what many law firms had been doing for years – writing about the law and its impact on their clients, and then sharing it with them. As a term, content marketing is broader than that, but in terms of the legal industry, that’s pretty much the short version.

As we worked through the introduction of the terms, we separated people into two camps: the “broadcasters” and the “engagers.” The “broadcasters” treated social media and content marketing as a means to spread their message around, but without the end goal of developing community with anyone. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different valuation – some of the goals that firms/lawyers who embrace this philosophy might be pursuing are reputation enhancement, being considered a thought leader on a particular subject, etc. Many firms/lawyers have been successful, and even built a large following this way, and spend little or no time engaging with their audience.
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