Archive for the ‘legal’ Tag

Five Tips on Building Your Personal Contact List

A recent LMA webinar discussed tips on how to develop business development skills in new associates. One of the tips was to collect contacts to build a business development list. This is excellent advice. As the webinar slide advanced to the next screen, it occurred to me that there’s more behind the process than simply collecting contacts. I’ve been collecting contacts for many years and it’s become second nature to me. But that may not be the case with a new associate fresh out of law school or any new professional.

Why Collect Contacts?

From a practical point of view, your contact list provides you basic information to connect with the people you know. You can quickly look up their email address or phone number when you need to connect with them. But good contact collecting and maintenance habits can convert a convenience tool into the foundation for your business development efforts. So here are my five quick tips to help you build that foundation.

  1. Enter Complete Information
    This may seem obvious but with the advent of smart phones it’s so easy to add someone to your contacts by saving only their email address of mobile phone number. Take the time to circle back to that contact and complete the rest of the contact fields including job title, company name and address. It may not be apparent right away but these data points become very helpful down the road. In a few years, you might be scratching your head when you look at a lonely phone number in your contacts and the only clue you left yourself was that his name was “Bob.” If Bob is someone you have frequent contact with, then there is no problem, you know who he is. But if he’s an infrequent contact having all his contact information quickly answers the question.

  2. Enter Notes
    Take the time to add useful notes to the record that will aid you in establishing a relationship, which is the whole reason to collect contacts. Some of the obvious notes will be spouse and children’s names, favorite activities or sports teams or other interests, and when and where you met. This last bit took me a few years to figure out on my own. It’s especially helpful if you are connecting with someone you have infrequent contact with. It will trigger your memory of the context in which you began your relationship. Perhaps it was a conference, a reception or a party. Or maybe you were introduced by another colleague. All of this information is helpful in establishing rapport quickly at a later date.
  3. Categorize Your Contacts
    Most contact apps allow you to make use of a user defined field, a data field where you decide what information you want to track. This is a perfect way to separate your contacts into tiers or groups. One simple categorization is business vs. personal. At some point in your career you will be asked to share your business contacts with the firm’s CRM tool. Having this category makes that process much easier. Other categories you might want to consider would be industry, role or even school.

  4. Rank Your Contacts
    Another, more useful categorization, is to rank the importance of the contact. For example, you might adopt a system where you label each contact as either an “A,” “B,” or “C” level contact. The “A” level contacts are the ones you talk to all the time. “B” might be someone you’d like to connect with every couple of weeks. And “C” might be someone you’d want to reach out to at least once a year. You can decide how to rank and define your ranks to match your own style. This is most useful in making sure you maintain connection with your less frequent contacts. For example, you can search for all of your “B” contacts and scan the list for those you haven’t talked to yet this month. Or look at your “C” contacts and decide which ones you might want to call, or send an email too, or set up a lunch date to reconnect.

  5. Purge Old Contacts
    F
    inally, every year you should scan through your contacts to see if there are any you need to remove. Every contact is an asset and provides you with value. Some are extremely valuable while others have no worth at all. And if a contact has no value it should be removed. Personally, I am very cautious about deleting contacts because you never know when your paths might cross again. But there are those that you can remove with confidence. For example, last year I finally deleted a software sales rep I met one time 20 years ago at a product pitch. I didn’t buy the product and the company she worked for is no longer in business. Clearly there is no value in this contact to me so I purged it. (Notice that I was able to determine this because I wrote good comments in my notes field.) Other examples could be people that have left the, retirees, and, unfortunately, deceased individuals.

Collecting contacts is valuable advice to anyone entering the work force.  But to build a solid foundation you need to enter clear and complete information, and make pertinent notes for future reference. Then you expand by categorizing and ranking your contacts, leveraging your list for your personal business development strategy. Finally, remember to keep your list clean by periodically purging obsolete contacts with no value.

A Beginning

I’ve always been a fan of the opportunities of incorporating computer technologies into marketing strategies. There is an elegance to the resulting system that produces a sense of beauty and satisfaction much as an artist achieves when he or she creates a strong image or haunting melody. Most cannot see the beauty in a computer system, in fact, most are intimidated or afraid of technology. So to them I may seem odd when I get excited when software and functions support marketing business processes “like a glove.” And the more simple the solution, the more elegant the system, the more satisfying I find the process.

 

The legal marketplace presents several challenges to implementing a 1-to-1 methodology.

 

First, the attorneys are both the product and sales force. Tradition legal business development practice places the focus on the attorney as being ultimately responsible for qualifying leads, developing the pitch and closing the deal. Marketing’s role in the process varies from firm to firm, from one end of the extreme of simply producing and mailing brochures to the more advance role of authoring RFPs, developing presentations and even coaching or role playing preparation for the attorneys.  Still, the ultimate sales responsibility lies with the attorney. The challenge is that attorneys do not have a formal marketing or sales background. Their preparation in school and in practice is centered on being the product; excellence in being practitioners of the law.

 

Second, attorneys are possessive of the book of business. To the attorney, their contacts are THEIR contacts. It’s the life blood of their value to the firm, and leverage to future positions if they chose to move to another firm at some point in their carrier. So anyone’s attempt to secure a copy of their book is tantamount to a threat to their livelihood. Of course what most do not recognize is that their book of business is just a list. And lists can be built from many public sources these day.  However, what brings true value to their list is their relationship, the bond that they develop and nurture with their contacts.  The irony is that it is in this task that the technology can be leveraged in terms or CRM applications (Client or Customer Relationship Management).

 

There are many more issues that I and others can identify and discuss, such as how some attorneys view marketing as an unnecessary expense that’s simply sucking the profits right out of their own wallet. All of these issues are obstacles we must face as we work towards bringing modern direct marketing techniques to the legal industry.

 

And now the world, and more importantly the next generation of Associates, are embracing the Internet 2.0 social networking paradigm on the web. Applications embracing the net such as blogs, social networks, RSS and more are commonplace among a large portion of the population. These technologies have the potential of taking relationship building to the next level of 1-to-1 marketing. Law firms and attorneys have the ability to target specific groups of clients and prospects with their message, and the targets are raising their hands to receive this message.  And a targeted message of value transmitted to a receive who requests and desires the content brings true value to the transaction. That transaction has real value and creates the foundation to build a long-lasting relationship.

 

Oh, what fun we can have!

 

If only we can overcome the issues that block acceptance and use.  That will be the subject for future posts on this site; how to leverage the internal and external technologies and build a law firm business development methodology that works and can be accepted by the attorney.

 

I welcome and ideas, comments and suggestions as we embark on this discussion. I will incorporate them into our future conversations.