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Think of it as a little help from your friends. In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, few people can build and sustain a client base without colleagues to help spread the word of their capabilities. Internal marketing — that is, taking actions to become known throughout your firm for your capabilities, contributions, and personal strengths — is a crucial skill for newly promoted partners, as well as senior associates and individuals and groups entering the firm laterally. It is a key strategy for making new contacts, collaborating with other lawyers, building your reputation, and cross-selling. However, internal marketing is often neglected because of erroneous assumptions, discomfort with blowing one’s own horn, or lack of tactical know-how. Lawyers tend to underestimate the value of internal marketing to their own success and the overall success of their firm. Why invest time in internal marketing? It is naive to think that everyone who could be helpful in referring business and making introductions already knows enough to do so effectively. Speaking up, tactfully, is a virtue. The quiet ones can miss out. Internal marketing, if done right, is not puffery, narcissism, or idle boasting. Rather, it is a way of expanding the possibilities for the practice group and firm as well as the individual. It is a positive contribution to the institution and a way you can get better and more challenging work. Your colleagues at the firm should be your collaborators in making known to clients the best capabilities and talents the firm has to offer. We hear continually that it costs five times more to bring in a new client than to expand business with an existing one. Capitalizing on internal contacts offers a significant advantage in time and success rate, as your colleagues’ introductions and referrals are built on an already established foundation of trust and credibility. And referring clients to someone who can skillfully solve their problems helps make the referrer look good as well. Here are some proven ways to pursue internal marketing and be regarded as a team player. • Cross-selling briefings. In most firms of 30 or more lawyers, individuals tend to be unaware or lose track of the capabilities and accomplishments of their colleagues. A good way to share this information and seek ways to work together for mutual benefit is for the firm to hold monthly breakfast practice briefings. Be sure to attend and participate if your firm has these briefings. If it does not, express interest in getting them under way and actively solicit partners to attend. At each briefing, one practice group (usually from one to five individuals) can present updated information on services and products provided, typical clients, war stories on accomplishments, current client targets, and help wanted. The presenters can also explain how they can help colleagues in the firm with their business development and client service. • Have informal one-on-one conversations. While a few attorneys in every firm will make and take every opportunity to spread the news of their professional achievements, speaking engagements, and writings, the majority neglect to do it because they are focused on getting their work out. It is important for everyone, but particularly for junior partners, to find a way to tactfully toot their own horn. How colleagues in the firm view you will influence the work they refer to you, the people to whom they introduce you, and your chances for promotions and bonuses. One easy way to raise your internal visibility is to seek out influential people in the firm, including those with whom you don’t usually work but whose practices or contacts offer good cross-selling possibilities. Have a lunch, breakfast, or cup of coffee to find out what they are up to, what they have accomplished recently, and to tell them what you have done and want to do. Remember to ask about the other person’s interests and accomplishments first. Anticipate that everyone you meet with will want to know, “What’s in it for me?” Offer them whatever help you can, and volunteer to provide details and materials on anything in which they have shown an interest. By doing this, you build relationships — confidence, trust, knowledge — which will make you a more important player. • Focus on relationships and personal style. Letting people know what you know is very useful. However, no matter how smart you are, your colleagues won’t refer you much work or give you leadership opportunities unless they have come to know you personally and you have developed good chemistry with them. In-person relationship building is the key, with regular follow-up and inquiries about their progress, situation, and needs. Keep the focus on them if you want them to care about you. Don’t rely on written memos and e-mail alone to build a relationship. All service business is personal. Also, keep in mind that style matters. Observe and identify other people’s personal (behavioral) styles and learn to address them in a way that will get their attention. Through use of assessments and analysis of personal styles in our coaching, we have seen professionals increase their interpersonal skills and influence. For example, when taking with a fast-paced, get-to-the-point person, a reserved, analytical person succeeds by coming across as self-assured, energetic, bottom-line, and results-oriented. But that same reserved person, meeting with a very organized, slower-paced person who has a strong desire for security, does best to take the time to go into detail and give assurances in the analysis of a situation and the validity of the proposed approach. • Use internal communications media. Most firms, even small ones, have a variety of channels for communicating accomplishments and asking for help with business development contacts and ideas. Writing up case studies for a print or electronic newsletter is one effective way to get the word around. If written to emphasize the client or team’s efforts or victories rather than your own, it will not sound like boasting, but will get the point across and make a favorable impression. Send e-mail throughout the firm when you can use input on an interesting matter that you have brought in. Make sure all legal, marketing, and recruiting personnel receive copies of your published articles and notices of your speaking engagements. Encourage selected people to attend so you can make introductions for them. Of course, these are opportunities for them to see you in action and gain additional respect for your capabilities. • Cultivate relationships and support from marketing staff. Marketing directors and staff can be very helpful for internal marketing. Individual attorneys should get to know them. Make sure the marketing people know what you are up to. Solicit their help. They are there to help any marketing efforts that fit with the firm’s objectives and overall marketing plan. The more they know, and the more appreciation you show for their help, the more assistance you will get with your internal marketing. The marketing staff will know who you should get to know, and possibly, how best to approach them. They can help build your reputation without making you feel like you are boasting. They will have or know the resources you can use. Cultivate the marketing staff, treat them with the respect due professionals, and you will get the attention you want. Even relatively junior people can get help if they build respectful relationships with the marketers. • Initiate internal leadership/management roles and activities. Taking responsibility for some aspect of professional development in the firm is an excellent way to get visibility and have people learn about your capabilities and leadership skills. For example, you could develop a continuing legal education or other seminar or series for firm personnel. If appropriate in topic and nature, the firm might also offer it to clients and prospects. Involve firm colleagues as presenters outside the firm to promote their expertise as well as your own. Another option is to initiate or volunteer for mentoring. Unfortunately, firm-sponsored mentoring programs often fail because of the unavailability of the more senior people who are chosen to be mentors. If you follow-through as a mentor, you not only will be providing a much-needed service to nurture emerging stars in the firm, but also you will be recognized for your own expertise and willingness to help other people. It’s also useful to take on significant management-supported projects that put you in touch with many people in the firm. This will give the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and work ethic and your dedication to the good of the firm. Projects or committees could, for example, be related to hiring, pro bono activities, billing, marketing, training, or community service. These activities will involve other people in the firm, allowing them to develop confidence in you and you to prime them to support your other initiatives and your practice. • Getting support from management. If you want to get management support, you have to ask for it. Whether seeking approval for developing new practice niches, for a marketing budget, or for support for specific reputation-building activities, request a meeting with management and present “a business case.” To help you do that effectively, prepare a written, mini-business plan, laying out: the need it fulfills (objectives); benefits to the firm; how the objectives will be accomplished; resources needed; who will be involved; and expected results. Submit the written document after you discuss it at an in-person meeting. Be prepared to address all questions you may get. Then ask when you may expect a decision if you don’t get one on the spot. To maintain management support over time, be sure to submit brief progress reports, even if just a memo on the results of attending an industry conference or education seminar. It is amazing how pleased and impressed firm leaders will be, since very few people bother to do this. Just keep in mind that internal communication is a two-way street. If you show interest in your colleagues and speak up about your efforts and achievements, you will gain respect, visibility, and support where it counts — and often from unexpected places. Your mission is to find ways to start and nurture relationships that offer help to others, demonstrate team playing, and build trust. In the end, there are many viable ways to market internally, but they only work if a perception of trust is created. © Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2003. This article contains excerpts from Chapter 51 of the 2004 supplement to The Rainmaking Machine by Phyllis Weiss Haserot (West Group, 2004). Phyllis Weiss Haserot is the president of Practice Development Counsel, a business development consulting and coaching firm working with law firms, and its organizational effectiveness division, AuthenticWorksSM. She can be reached at (212) 593-1549 or at [email protected].

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