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Law Practice Magazine

The Marketing Issue

So Many Possibilities, So Little Time

Carol Schiro Greenwald


  • Personal networking is an effective business development technique that lets lawyers create authentic connections that lead to productive relationships.
  • Networking through groups focuses efforts on people who may become clients, colleagues, friends, resources or referrers.
  • Evaluate for effectiveness and likeability. Repeat those activities that are rewarding. 
So Many Possibilities, So Little Time

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Personal networking is the most consistently effective technique for turning prospects into clients, collaborators into colleagues and strangers into friends. It’s a truism that people hire people they know, like and trust. Personal networking offers a myriad of opportunities in which trust relationships can grow. The personal networking process allows others to learn about you through your actions, conversations and body language.

At the same time, sporadic, impulsive, unplanned personal networking is often an unproductive waste of time and resources. Successful networking uses planning to use your time effectively. This article focuses on five steps that can maximize the impact of your personal networking initiatives.

First, Plan

All successful marketing strategies begin with a written plan. The act of committing ideas to paper increases the cohesiveness of the plan and the likelihood that you will put it into action. Effective plans have four sections:

  1. Goals: only one or two defined, detailed goals per plan.
  2. Strategies: one or two broad approaches to each goal, and research to support the efficacy of each strategy.
  3. Tactics: one or two activities to implement each strategy.
  4. Measurements: to track and evaluate the usefulness of each strategy and tactic. Be sure to include a definition of the results you will characterize as successful.

Second, Research and Select

Research is shorthand for the need to understand the who, what and why of your target audience(s). Who are they? What do they need from you? Why would they buy your services to meet those needs?

As Sally Schmidt says in her article in this issue of the magazine, niche marketing is essential. You want to select discrete subcategories of larger target groups. For example, instead of all realtors, you may wish to focus on realtors in your geographic area who specialize in high end personal real estate. Or, instead of any company, think about homing in on privately held, small companies in a specific industry.

Once you have defined a niche, you need to dig deeper to understand the world of your target audience.

  • What do they do all day?
  • What do they belong to?
  • What media do they trust?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • How and why do they select the professionals they work with?
  • What is their attitude toward spending money?

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera until you know enough to move comfortably in their world. Don’t be afraid to be granular as you decide how to focus in and target your desired audience.

Selection involves important decisions related to the choice of networking locations. Your choice of networking venues should move you toward your networking goals. One of the most time-saving ways to network in person is in a group setting because you can get to know people plural, all members of or important to your target niche.

As I discuss in my book, Strategic Networking for Introverts, Extroverts, and Everyone in Between, there are eight kinds of networking groups.

  1. General mixed membership groups. Typically, locally based groups whose members represent various professions and businesses. Often, they focus on the process of giving and getting referrals.
  2. Single profession groups. These include groups such as women realtors, all-lawyer or accountant groups, etc. that meet monthly to share industry news and personal initiatives. These groups are useful when you are looking for referrals and collaborators.
  3. Industry/trade associations. Go where they go. These groups typically focus on education, and often lobbying, initiatives in support of the interests and growth of their members. They usually have affiliate memberships available for entities that service their members.
  4. Professional associations such as the ABA and AICPA, are composed of a national organization with state and local chapters, focused on members’ education and interests.
  5.  Peer advisor groups. These groups include member training and education as a key part of their activities. Often groups such as Vistage have membership criteria related to firm size, gross revenue and length of time in business.
  6. Personal, invitation-only groups. These groups are formed by an individual, typically a rainmaker, and include their most important advisors, key clients and sometimes, targeted prospects.
  7. Honorary societies refer to groups whose members are invited to join because of their accomplishments, as opposed to those groups that offer membership to those who buy their wall plaques. These are excellent resource groups offering opportunities to learn from and become friends with a variety of experts.
  8. Civic, cultural, educational, philanthropic, religious, sport and social organizations that you join based on your private interests, hobbies and beliefs often lead to work-related opportunities.

After researching the options available to you, choose one or two groups to participate in actively. For example, if you are a matrimonial attorney you might want to join a local general membership group as a source of clients, as well as a lawyers-only local or affinity group, or your local or state bar association, not only for shared knowledge, but also, as a place to meet potential referrers who practice in complementary areas. A merger and acquisitions attorney, for example, might join a financial professionals association preferred by his prospects, as well as a peer advisor group useful as a resource for both education and referral sources.

Your goal is to become an active member of each group, which means you will have to dedicate a significant amount of time to attend group meetings, follow up with group members and volunteer to help with group programs and projects. Be sure you practice time management so that you will have the ability to get involved. Everyone knows a “résumé member” when they see one.

Third, Implement

Implementation includes the tactics you choose to advantageously present yourself —everything from personal participation choices to financial support for key organizations. It also includes decisions related to your choice of words and phrases.

Actions are the tactics you select to implement strategies. Choices range along two continua:

  1. The action/money continuum moving from total time-only involvement such as committee work or program participation to only financial support such as sponsorships.
  2. The online/in-person continuum includes social media initiatives such as participation in virtual meetings, online conversations or a content marketing strategy that directs relevant materials to networking contacts. At the other end of the continuum, in-person activities typically revolve around meeting attendance and in-person, follow-up activities.

You need to design a set of integrated tactics that will move you toward your goals. Consider your work schedule and calendar in time for each activity. A successful networking program should take from 5 to 15 percent of your time.

Personal behavior in the marketing context is your brand─ the impression of you accepted by others––and their acknowledgment of it as authentic, true and compatible with their own views and values. To create the best possible impression, consider two aspects of behavior––body language and what you say.

People naturally absorb intangible messages from body language and find the assumptions they make based on body language to be more authentic and truer than any words you speak. Make your body language an asset. In networking situations, stand tall, project energy and interest, smile often and look others in the eye.

Any audience processes your words through the context of their own experience, needs and concerns. Rely on your research to help you frame your message in terms of benefits to which your audience can relate.

Fourth, Evaluate

Create measurements for each tactic and strategy. Track the cumulative impact of your activities. For example, keep event attendance records, ask audiences to evaluate your speeches, assess the return on investment of each activity in terms of the time and effort involved.

No plan works forever. Use your data as the basis for a quarterly assessment of the results from your networking activities. Enhance those that are working and revise or drop the laggards.

Fifth, Repeat

As you find activities you like to do and people you like to be with, focus more on them. Rev up your involvement in those initiatives that lead to clients, colleagues and resources. Repeat what works best. And, have fun.