BEAT the Competition Through Network Marketing

By Chris Vaughan

The easiest, least expensive and most effective way to grow your practice and BEAT your competition is through networking. Outside of the legal industry, 77 percent of people state they are more likely to invest in a service or product because it is recommended to them by a family member or friend. Within the legal industry, 45 percent of people who find an attorney to represent them on their legal matter utilize the recommendations of family and friends. In order to network effectively, you must think about not just where you should network, but how to network.

The first step is to determine what types of events you should attend in order to grow your network. If you want to network with other attorneys, attend bar events, in-person CLEs, association events such as the NCAJ or NCAWA, and serve on the state bar and local bar committees. Remember to network with more than attorneys. A financial adviser at Morgan Stanley once told me that he attends the local theater, symphonies and serves on the art board because people with money are into the arts. It allows him to network with his target market. This same concept should be applied to your individual practice. Great non-attorney networking opportunities include serving on a board of directors, attending local chamber of commerce events, networking groups, clubs, church activities, and nonprofit boards and service opportunities.

Once you have chosen what events to attend and organizations to join, the next step is to work on your elevator speech. This is your 30-60 second pitch of who you are and the type of client you are seeking to assist. Center your elevator speech around three brief points:

  1. Your name and law firm
  2. Practice areas on which you focus
  3. Example of your target client

While it is important to promote what differentiates your practice from other firms, people need to feel they can trust and be connected to their attorney on some level. Even in-house counsel are putting more of an emphasis on hiring attorneys, not law firms, when needing outside assistance on legal matters. Therefore, your elevator speech is just designed to spark an interest. The real value of networking comes when you schedule one-on-ones with people you meet.

For those of you who are competitive, I like to think of the acronym I created, BEAT, when utilizing networking groups as part of our marketing strategy.

  1. Be active: One mistake people make at a networking event is taking a passive role where they mingle only with those they are close to or have met before. You do not need to be in sales mode, but work the room. Everyone at an event is interested in making new connections to build their network. Accordingly, a simple “Hi, my name is ______” serves as a great introduction. Remember to also be more interested in what they do than peddling your services.
  2. Extend the event: If an event is scheduled from 12-1 p.m., you should make sure it is scheduled on your calendar from 11:45-1:15 p.m. Plan for time before the event to network with other early arrivals and after the event to network with those that lag behind.
  3. Attend regularly: One question at a number of groups I attend is, “Do you know any attorneys who would be a good fit for our group?” When I ask whether attorneys have ever been a part of the group, the most common answer is, “No. But we have some come by for a visit or two.” The reason people do not generate a lot of leads when they just visit is that relationships are key ensuring the group survives.
  4. Target your market: Network within groups that reflect your personality bus also allow access to individuals within your target market. When a lead is provided to you, make sure you follow up with that person and thank whoever sent you the lead with a handwritten note.

If networking has not been part of your practice development strategy, I encourage you to give it another look. The key to building your practice and BEATing your competition may be as simple as walking out your front door.

Chris Vaughan is the managing member of Firm Transitions, a full-service solution center for law firms. For more information, visit www.firmtransitions.com, call (336) 415-3476 or email chris@firmtransitions.com.