relationship development

It’s easy to think that the hard part of networking is the event itself, and if we can navigate that successfully, we’ve done our jobs well and the work will come in. But a big part of successful relationship development is continuity, and that means following up AFTER an event to ensure that you don’t drop off the other person’s radar. Particularly at this time of year, it’s easy to become very busy and distracted (both you and your prospects!) and no longer be top of mind with someone that you really may want to be better connected to.

So what should you do after a networking event? FOLLOW UP!
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A few years ago, I remember a woman I know posting on Twitter that her daughter had said “this is the best day of my life. We went to the park, we’re going to mcdonalds, I found a penny. The best day of my life.”

She was 5 at the time, but she had already been through a lot, dealing with a very scary brain tumor that year.  And that, plus a few big things going on in my own life and friends’ lives, have me thinking – the best days of my life really have been about the little things.

Sure, graduating from college was exciting, buying my first house was exciting (well, more nerve-wracking and expensive than exciting), but were they the “best” days of my life?

Nah.

Those have been about the little things – the first time each of my nieces said my name for the first time (or any time they say it, frankly).  Every time one of my dogs comes racing over to see me like I’m his favorite person in the world (I am). Slipping my hand into the hand of the person I love for the first time. Crossing the line of my first marathon (okay, that was kind of a big one). Really focusing to help a friend going through a tough time, and knowing that being there makes a difference. Laughing until I cry with women who really get me. Those are some of my best days.


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As I was scrolling through Instagram the other night, I came across a post from a former ILN lawyer (shoutout to Craig Levey) who announced that he’ll be running the Boston Marathon in 20 weeks. What’s more, he’s using those 20 weeks as an opportunity to spend a training session each week with “a local executive, entrepreneur, or Boston personality,” and sharing that on social media. This is something I just love, and it’s also something you can emulate, without having to run the Boston Marathon (though, if that’s your goal, more power to you!).

Let’s talk about why this works, and how you can do what Craig is doing. 
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Over the last few years, data has become more and more popular a subject, as we try to quantify everything to do with our businesses. “Please don’t make me try to quantify my relationships TOO!” I can hear you opining. But I promise, the goal is a worthwhile one.

What is always our goal when it comes to any business development or relationship development tactic? Maximizing the benefit and maximizing efficiency, right?
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Daily, we interact with lots of people – this happens in person, at our offices, in the coffee shop, at our kids’ sporting events or art classes. It happens online, through our group chats, text messages with friends, Facebook shares, LinkedIn comments, etc. We interact so much and so frequently, that we’ve reached a real saturation point with these interactions, and even with our professional messages, we can see a lack of care that a lot of us are giving to the details over the tools and the shiny new thing. Instead, we’re just blindly producing more and more and more and more, adding more noise (as Adrian Lurssen would say). 

If you’re sure that YOU are producing things of value, and not just more noise, ask someone in your circle if they can remember the last thing you shared on LinkedIn, or the last article you wrote. If they can’t, chances are, you’re not producing anything memorable. You’re not creating connection in your relationships. 
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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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