A relatively new client who hired me to work on business development asked me this week about using Twitter and mobile marketing to push blog and newsletter content. Interesting idea, except that this client doesn’t yet have a blog or a newsletter! When I pointed that out, she pushed back at first, telling me that she wants to make the best use possible of technology. Fine, I said, but once you know what that is, what will you be able to do with it? She was quiet for a few seconds, then she chuckled and said yes, but it’s much easier to think about how to distribute articles than to write them. So true, isn’t it?
That reminded me of one of the keys to any kind of development: build the foundation first. As any of you who have heard me talk about business development (or who have read The Reluctant Rainmaker) know, I’m in favor of repurposing your work in as many ways as possible and getting it out to the widest effective audience possible. With today’s technology, that can mean using so many different avenues.
A slight diversion — but stay with me, because it does relate. This weekend, I decided to look for a fairly simple white bookcase. I checked the Ikea website, and I found 16 pages of white bookcases. Tall, short, with glass doors and without, with narrow shelves or deep shelves, and on and on and on. I had so many options that I felt paralyzed. How could I possibly decide among that many white bookcases? All told, I probably spent 20 or 30 minutes browsing bookcases and comparing them, and that time was basically wasted because the choices were too numerous for me to get anywhere. Without more context, the various styles meant nothing to me.
That’s what happens to some lawyers as they think about business development: the options are so numerous that it’s easy to get paralyzed. Should you focus on writing or speaking or networking? If it’s writing, should it be in traditional journals or on a blog? If networking, should it be with lawyers or in an industry group, or should you focus on social online? Creating a business development plan is the first step I recommend, because it will help you to cut through all of those options without getting overwhelmed.
As you plan, though, I recommend simplifying and doing first things first. Do you want to focus on building interpersonal relationships, which will lead to new business if built strategically and mined appropriately? Or should you focus first on building your substantive knowledge, skills, and credibility? Whichever you answered, what’s the most important thing for you to do right now to reach that goal? Do that.
In other words, before you spend hours on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, meet face-to-face with a group of people who are your ideal clients or who can refer you to your ideal clients. As fabulous as online networking can be, it rarely if ever will replace face-to-face conversation. Before you explore how to use video to get your presentations online for the world to see, make some presentations in real-time in front of the right audience. Build your foundation, and then expand it.
Am I encouraging you to forego technology? Absolutely not. But you must have a firm foundation built before you begin to exploit the wonders of technology. Simplify, and master the simplest step before you expand to more complicated steps.