Relationship Development

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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These days, it seems that everyone is looking for a quick fix to everything. How do I get clients fast? How can I do business development without being directly involved myself? How can I skip ahead to the final steps?

Unfortunately, as with anything worthwhile, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

If you want to have successful client relationships, and professional relationships in general, it’s necessary to start with the basics. The good news is that there are two easy fixes you can implement today that will improve your image, raise the caliber of your relationships, and aid in your business development efforts. I know that sounds too good to be true, and as if I’m some sort of snake oil salesman, but I promise, it’s true. 
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Of all the social media platforms out there, I’d venture to say that LinkedIn is the one that lawyers are most comfortable using. It has a reputation for being the most professional, and as a result, it’s had the widest adoption within the industry. In recent years, LinkedIn has really expanded their offerings, and provided a robust, deep platform that allows us to engage in new ways, all which make it an even more valuable platform than it was at the beginning.

Like any social platform (or any tool, really), LinkedIn is what you make of it – you can treat it as a place to broadcast from, and as long as you have something valuable to say, you may find that many people are listening to you. But if you want to use it as a business development tool, then you need to get serious about the steps that you take to leverage its features. I read a great article recently on Inc. which talked about three ways to use LinkedIn to attract your ideal customer. Since “sales” is a dirty word for lawyers, we’re instead going to talk about using LinkedIn for business/relationship development (which, by the way, is really the same thing, but said in a more palatable way).
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Depending on your business/relationship development goals and strengths, one of your strategies may be to write and share content. When you’re considering augmenting your reputation and building your practice, it might seem counterintuitive to share the spotlight with someone else by quoting or referencing them in your articles and posts, but I’m here to tell you that it’s both essential, and a good business development practice. How so? 
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Networking is not an easy task, which is one of the reasons that we discuss it so frequently here on Zen.

Since I’m spending this week with my lawyers in Milan, facilitating their networking efforts at our Annual Conference, I have networking on the brain, and wanted to share with you a couple of the worst networking mistakes you can make, and how to recover from them. 
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Lawyers know better than most people that words matter – after all, who knows better than a contract lawyer that a nuanced clause can make or break a deal?

But who knows better than your marketing team that “marketing” is a four-letter word?

It shouldn’t be – and I’ll explain why in a moment.

But how many of you (raise your hands) think of marketing as something that some group in your office does once in a while?

How many of you think of marketing as brochures and advertisements?

How many of you think marketers are just people who ask you for money and then put pretty logos together or make sure you have enough business cards?

Okay, put your  hands down. I’ve got news for you – marketing is everything you do.
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Last week, we talked about channeling your inner Taylor Swift to connect with your clients – it seems silly, but no one understands her client base and instill rabid loyalty better than Taylor, and isn’t that all something we’d love to emulate with our own clients?

We may not have her reputation (see what I did there?), but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice some of her tactics in our own relationship development efforts with similar success. One of the things she’s got down pat is knowing when to engage directly. 
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