Written by Ben Paul
Many very successful lawyers and partners within law firms, have built very successful practices using traditional networking lessons. Like a great many traditional business practices in the last few months, this has been given a shake-up by the effects of COVID-19.
It is questionable whether face to face networking events will take place in the same volume, in the near future. What is also up for debate is whether people will have the same appetite to attend such events.
It means many in the business of law, who need to develop and build client relationships, will need to change their approach. Borrowing the latest buzz word of the moment, this means partners and lawyers will need to pivot what they do.
In many ways this is an acceleration of what has been happening in the wider world of sales and business development. For the last few years there has been an increased trend in the development and deployment of social selling.
While the term ‘social selling’ may sound unappealing to many, it is better to think of it more as social networking. The approach is very similar to traditional networking, the only real difference is the medium. It is done online, primarily using social media, rather than face to face. Like anything new, there are new skills and techniques that lawyers will need to learn. Below are seven simple steps to help you get started with social networking.
1. It all starts with your LinkedIn Profile
This needs to be current and up to date. At a bare minimum you need a good professional looking photo, and a good description, in the first person, of what you do and how you help clients. LinkedIn is a social networking tool, so your bio should be more conversational in tone and be in line with how you introduce yourself to people. I’m pretty sure you don’t introduce yourself in the third person. If you’re struggling with this, here’s a short guide on how to fire up your LinkedIn profile. Invest some time in this, it is likely that many of your clients will look at your LinkedIn profile over the one you have on your website.
A recent trend worth noting: Recent RFPs have asked for people to include links to LinkedIn profiles to be included. This means that the tender evaluators will
be checking your submitted bios against your LinkedIn profile. No doubt they’ll also be checking to see what references you have on LinkedIn.
2. Build your connections
It is important to start connecting with your clients and colleagues. Make sure you are connected to those influential in your industry, assuming that you know them. If not, you can ask them to connect with you, but it is important you include a message in that invite. The message should articulate why you want to be connected with them, and you should compliment them as an industry leader. Although don’t go overboard on this.
You will also get invites from others to connect. If they seem sensible and professional, it is probably worth accepting their invites. There is an advantage to having some volume in your connections when it comes to sharing your content, however, if an invite seems to be ‘iffy’ then decline it. You’re aiming for both quantity and quality.
3. Start to share interesting articles (not just your own ones)
LinkedIn is a gamification platform. Which is basically a fancy way of saying that the more you put into LinkedIn, the more you will get out of it. A simple and practical way to start this is by sharing articles that you find interesting or useful. This is easy enough, as most articles published on websites have social media share buttons on them that you can use.
It is important to try and share external stories or articles that are relevant to the area of law you practice in, and articles that are relevant to your client base. If you work within the retail sector, then share articles that are interesting to those in retail, not just ones with a legal angle, but ones that help them with their day to day operations. You can also share the content that your firm produces as part of your content marketing strategies.
4. Get the balance in what you share, correct
It may be tempting to use LinkedIn to solely promote your own content and that of your firm. However, this will not produce the best results on two fronts. Firstly, the LinkedIn platform picks up on continual promotional content, and, after a while it starts to appear in less feeds. This means less people will see it. Secondly, it is likely your LinkedIn contacts will switch off if they only see you talking about you and your company. As a rule, employ the 4:1 rule. Four
pieces of non-promotional content, and one more promotional, firm focused piece.
It is also worth noting that posts which are text only, with no links to external articles or pages, tend to reach a wider audience. This is partly because if the first few lines capture attention, then people are more likely to click the ‘…see more’ button on the post. It is also due to the fact that an absence of a link to an external site, which will take the reader off of the LinkedIn platform, is not aligned to LinkedIn’s goal – which is to keep you on their platform. Therefore, their algorithms tend to not favour this content as highly.
5. Comment on posts in a meaningful way
It is a great idea to comment meaningfully on other peoples’ articles and posts. These comments will start to create a conversation on that topic, and will create the opportunity for a sensible business dialogue to start to take place. Be constructive and offer useful insights. Aim to invite others to respond, you’re not looking to shut the conversation down. If, without giving too much away, you can provide a short answer to someone’s online query, they will appreciate it. Of course, I’m not suggesting you give away free legal advice. Others will see the answer you posted, and the person who posted it will appreciate it. When they have the need for more complex legal advice, it is likely you will be top of mind as someone knowledgeable and approachable for them to contact.
6. Put aside sensible time to do this
Like all BD activities, you will need to allocate time to do this effectively. Once you’re up and running, you can achieve a lot in 12 to 24 minutes a day. At the low end, that’s only 2 billable units, which, assuming you’re not billing 100% of your day, is very achievable. It also pays to cap this time, LinkedIn, like all social platforms can be addictive, so it pays not to spend all day on it. Perhaps have time set aside at both ends of the day to review it, and post new things.
7. Book meetings or virtual meetings
As you start to build rapport with people on LinkedIn, you can then ask them to connect with you. When you send the invite, you can suggest that you would be keen to have a phone call/coffee/or virtual meeting to learn more about them, and understand a bit more about their business. This last stage is
important as person to person (if not face to face) is still a very important part in building rapport, and attracting new clients.
Social networking isn’t a passing fad, brought on by COVID-19. More and more it has become an essential part of many firms’ networking strategies. If you aren’t already using it, then I would urge that you get started straight away. The steps above are enough to get you started on this journey.
Ben Paul is the Director of The BD Ladder, a a consultancy specialising in growing professional services and law firms. He is very active on LinkedIn and you can connect with him on the platform here.