Courtney Bowie, founder of HerLawyer, a successful and award-winning sole practice, uses the power of online and offline networking to grow her business. While many lawyers cling to traditional methods of marketing to attract business, Courtney uses the technologies available today, such as Facebook, to market to her specific ideal clients. In this guest blog, Courtney shares her top tips for networking success.
When I told my friends and family I was going to launch my own law firm catering solely to female entrepreneurs using the power of online networks, most of them thought I’d gone mad. They could’ve been right: all the research indicated that personal and professional referrals were the only way to get clients, and social media was useless as far as professional services went.
Despite the odds, within six months I’d built a thriving sole practice in a well-defined niche using only the power of online and offline networking. Here’s how I did it:
TIP #1 IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
The first and most important step I took was to identify my ideal client and get to know her intimately.
I’d heard of many a start up sole practitioner taking on whatever work walked through the door, for fear that if they narrowed their aim they’d be turning away much needed cash.
Instead, I decided to focus my energies on a very specific customer. I went way beyond simple demographics to study interests, behaviours and beliefs and put together a single customer profile. It was incredibly detailed – where she lived, how many kids she had and their ages, who she admired, what magazines she read, what her aspirations for her life were and so on. This woman became my single focus. Let’s call her Katie.
TIP #2 FIND YOUR TRIBE ONLINE
After doing a deep dive into Katie’s psyche, I had a pretty good idea about where she might like to hang out online, so I set about tracking her down.
My first stop was a popular female business networking group on Facebook. Luckily for me, that’s where I found her. Instead of going off in a heap of different directions, I fixed my efforts on that group, building and nurturing online connections with its members. As I got more involved in the group, it led me to podcasts, Live videos, events and complementary groups and my online network started to expand almost effortlessly.
The key to my success in the group so far has been that it’s a community I genuinely enjoy and where I feel like I fit in. Any kind of networking becomes a chore if you’re not enjoying it or feigning interest. So I found a comfortable spot and settled in. As with any other marketing or business growth strategy, it takes effort and perseverance – nothing happens overnight.
TIP #3 CONNECT
The key is to connect, not to sell, so I had to take the time to understand the group and the women in it: What are they here for? What posts do they like? What don’t they appreciate? I can say with confidence that no matter what the group, everyone hates a person who jumps in and out only to advertise their goods and services. People form groups to connect with one another, not to make themselves an easy sales target.
With that in mind, try to get your Katie to know, like and trust you, preferably before she even knows she needs you. There’s a saying in sales that people buy from the person they’ve had the most recent and frequent contact with. Use the power of the group to be that person, without being spammy, sales-y or just plain annoying.
TIP #4 TAKE IT OFFLINE
I’ll admit it: it was tempting to hide behind the screen in my PJs forever, but sooner rather than later I realized that the real key to utilising the power of online networks was going to be to bring them in to my real life.
I started to look for opportunities to meet members of my online communities face to face. I created profiles and alerts on apps like Eventbrite and MeetUp, which pinged me when interesting events came up in my area. When I found an event that might be popular in one of my groups, I’d share it.
Rather than turn up to every single event I thought Katie might go to, I looked for the ones that would teach me a business lesson as well. There’d be no point going otherwise – not only would I be putting a tonne of pressure on myself to network like a madwoman, but Katie would wonder what the hell I was doing there (and it’s only a small jump from there to “sales red alert”).
A lot of lawyers dread networking events and I used to count myself among them, but I find now that if I lower my expectations of myself, be polite, interested and friendly and focus on making just one real connection, I usually walk away with a lead, referral partner or both. At the very least, I always end up with valuable takeaway that I can implement in my business.
TIP #5 CONVERT
All the networking efforts in the world are for nought if they don’t convert into sales. My biggest tips here are to make contact early and often, give something away for free and make it as easy as possible for your lead to say yes.
You don’t necessarily need to get someone’s business card to contact them. Most people you’ll meet will be easy enough to find online. Instead, gear your conversation towards discovering a problem they’re having, then contact them in the next couple of days to help them solve it. Don’t bother making contact any later- they will have forgotten you and your conversation and your warm lead will have already gone cold. It might seem sneaky, but the fact is if you give something – it could be an online group they might like to join, a resource you’ve prepared or the details of a service provider they need – they’re more likely to feel obliged to use your services in return.
When it comes to the final hurdles to signing a new client, I like to put myself in her shoes and adjust my language and processes to head off potential objections (like price, timing or inconvenience). Not only does this make her more likely to say yes, but it saves me time overcoming objections down the track. Ease and efficiency is the name of the game here.
TIP #6 KEEP LEARNING
I always make sure to track my progress. I keep a pipeline of prospects to see where my leads are coming from and how well they’re converting so I can identify patterns and trends to help me keep up with the rapid change of the digital world.
I’ve invested a lot of time (though not a lot of money) into my online and offline networking efforts, and they’ve paid off many times over. If I’d been afraid to challenge the status quo and try a different approach, I would’ve missed out on so many opportunities, and my firm probably wouldn’t be where it is right now.
So if you’re thinking about trying a new tactic, go for it – as the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained.