5 strategies for business development without networking

Douglas McPherson suggests five business development strategies that don’t involve networking, but do work remotely.
Dog watches woman using laptop
Way back before coronavirus (COVID-19), I wrote an article suggesting five business development activities for those who don’t like networking events.

Without stating the obvious, a lot has changed since then. 

Networking, client meetings, and hospitality-based events (at least in the way we’ve always done them) have largely been impossible to run or attend for the last 24 months.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the need to do business development.

In fact, it could be argued that it's now even more vital for lawyers to do business development, as clients have become more cost and value-conscious, and our newfound ability to meet via Zoom and Teams has made location (and even time) largely irrelevant.

The good news is that business development is still not all about formal networking.

I’d like to share another five business development strategies that will position you to win new work and boost your profile, within the new hybrid working environment we now find ourselves in.

1. Develop the relationships you already have

The fastest, easiest, and most direct route to new work will always be the people you already know.

However, it’s easy to sit back and think that because you know them and they know you, they’ll come to you when they need legal advice without you having to do anything.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Your competitors are coveting your clients, so you need to make sure you are doing everything you can to stay as close to them as possible.

This simple model will help get you started:

  • make a list of the clients and contacts you need to stay visible to
  • find a relevant reason to get in touch. This could be an article that reminded you of them, an offer of an introduction to someone of mutual interest, something you have published that should be of interest, or a piece of industry gossip they may be interested in
  • invite them for a catch up on the phone or video call, or, depending on restrictions, in person over a coffee or a bite to eat
  • at the end of the call agree what you’re going to do next (and do it!)
  • repeat next quarter. And the quarter after that

While you’re talking, take an interest in their world. Ask what’s happening, what they have planned, what they want to do next.

You'll be amazed at how many of these conversations will lead to an opportunity. 

This opportunity could be a new instruction. However, just as often it will be an offer of an introduction to someone they know, or an invitation to an event with potential clients, or a bit of industry insight you can use in your business development.

2. Write (for the right reasons)

One of the most effective marketing channels we’ve had since the start of the pandemic is content; writing blogs and articles to promote your specialisms and provide practical advice.

It’s easy, it’s free and it can be done at home, so it’s quite rightfully something most firms jumped on as they’ve sought to find ways to stay visible while working remotely.

However, are you writing with purpose?

The reason for writing isn’t to win the Pulitzer Prize or satisfy your lust for creative writing. It’s to generate results.

This means you have to look closely at the current search trends relating to the topics that are currently affecting your practice area.

If you can match the titles of your blogs to the most frequently asked questions, and provide the answers in your blogs, you will immediately increase the likelihood of being found, and generating brand new enquiries.

In terms of how to do this, there are a whole host of online tools that will do this for you, but I find the ‘people also asked’ results that Google provides when searching for a question is a good starting point. 

3. Run more participatory online events

Everyone got bored of webinars very quickly after we were forced to take our business development online.

Since then, we have learned a crucial lesson.

If we're running educational sessions for our clients and contacts, they must be valuable, interactive, and engaging.

This means you need to look at how you structure your online events.

Instead of churning out the same seminars and workshops, look at hosting round table events and facilitated discussions for a smaller group of clients, targets, and contacts.

This format, which works both virtually and in-person, provides your guests with the opportunity to discuss the issues affecting them, to pick up best practice, to share gripes and, most importantly, to network more effectively with their peers, especially while alternatives are thin on the ground. 

And as the host, it provides you with the perfect opportunity to not only spend time with your guests (which, of course, will have its own BD benefit), but also underline your credentials as someone central to your market, rather than just another professional trying to win billable work from it.

4. Find new audiences 

Once you have published a few blogs on your firm’s website or on your own social media channels, why not contact the editors of the trade publications and websites your clients read, to offer them an article covering similar topics.

As their readers will be similar to your clients, you can reasonably expect they will be interested in the advice, suggestions, and solutions you offer.

Alternatively, you can send your articles to conference producers, and ask if they might be interested in meeting to discuss your suitability as a speaker for a future event.

Both speaking at conferences and editorial spots in the relevant publications will put you in front of a new audience you’d otherwise never reach. Better still, this can position you as a ‘go-to’ expert because you’ve been asked to write or speak.

5. Devote more time to internal marketing 

Because new client acquisition is seen as the sexy part of business development, many lawyers mistakenly see it as the only type of business development.

As I’ve said already, the easiest route to new work is the people you already know. This is as much about your colleagues as it is your clients and contacts.

Talk to people in your firm’s other departments. Take an interest in their work, explain what you’ve been working on and move the conversation on to exploring possible ways to work and market together. 

Another very potent method of internal marketing is to offer to speak at the other departmental meetings, so you can explain what you do, who your clients are and how your services could dovetail with the group you’re speaking to.

This does not need to be a time-consuming task. 

If you ask for 5 minutes under AOB, all you need to do is turn up at the allotted time and speak. You don’t need to waste valuable time sitting through the rest of the meeting.

This will keep you front of mind for future opportunities and enable you to facilitate introductions to the firm’s other clients, all of whom could very well need assistance related to your practice area in the future.

Both will also finally achieve that most coveted of a law firm’s marketing objectives, cross-selling!


Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.

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