Social media is great, but it’s no excuse to sit at your desk and think you have completed your networking outreach. Meeting people in person is still the best way to connect. Real-time conversations allow you to gently probe for information about any potential need for your services, and your charm will come through in a way you just can’t achieve online.
Get Out There and Connect with Your Next Client
- Identify where to do your networking. It might be at a professional event. Personally, I prefer to spend my networking time with potential clients at their industry’s events rather than with lawyers who are potential referral sources. But this should be an individual choice based on your practice area and where your business traditionally comes from. On the other hand, breaking with tradition might get you where you want to be. Maybe participating in a charity will have you hobnobbing with the right folks while working for a greater good. What about an alumni event—at various education levels right down to grade school? If no one else is getting the old gang together, maybe you should. The point is to get with people and let them know who you are and what you do.
- Joining is not enough. Getting your name on a membership list isn’t marketing. Sitting in the back of a meeting or quietly eating your chicken breast dinner won’t get you there, either. Once you choose an organization, make the commitment to be active. Go to meetings regularly and get on the board.
- Maximize the opportunity to mingle. While some events are specifically labeled as mixers, walk around before and after all the events you attend to meet people. After dessert is served (but not during any speeches), feel free to table-hop.
- Put your nametag to work. Wear your nametag on your right side so it is easily visible as you shake hands. If the type is small, write your first name in large letters. If you prefer a nickname to the name on the badge, write it on there. One networker makes a point to carry markers just for this purpose. Add your company name or perhaps your city if that would be helpful to the particular setting.
- Introduce yourself. If people are standing in clusters, look for a group of three. It’s easier to join an odd-numbered group of people than an even-numbered one. Start with “Hi.” Introduce yourself and stick out your hand for a handshake.
- Exchange business cards. After you’ve chatted for a while, if it seems appropriate, suggest swapping business cards, or ask if you may offer yours. When you are given a business card, be sure to write the date and event where you met on the back, and jot down any issues that came up during your conversation. If you offered to send something, say a copy of an article on a topic important to them, write that down as well—and make sure you fulfill your promise.
- Keep the conversation going. Ideally, you will have a system to save and follow up on those promising business cards. Invite the person to join your LinkedIn network. Add their email address to your electronic newsletter distribution list. Diary a follow-up date to call the contact to get together.
Every networking contact you make is the first step toward another attorney-client relationship. So put down the mouse, step away from your computer and get out there!
Theda C. Snyder is an attorney and structured settlement broker with Ringler Associates. Teddy is a frequent speaker and has written four books on law practice management. More tips on networking can be found in her book, Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition (ABA, 2010).