Anyone building a professional service practice appreciates the value of relationships. A portfolio of dynamic connections is what fills a pipeline with new leads, referral sources and recurring engagements.
But staying in touch — creating and maintaining the kind of visibility that places you in the right place at the right time — can be a challenge.
How do we maintain visibility, seed conversations and build relationships with a portfolio of contacts in a strategic way…without adopting a communication approach rooted in a numbers-game?
A Framework For A Communication Calendar
If “regular” communication consists of an occasion-driven outreach like a holiday greeting or an annual event, it is doubtful you’re building any relational equity. Meanwhile, the competitive landscape is conspiring to supplant any ground you might be gaining.
This is why an essential piece of your marketing and business development plan should be a proactive communication calendar. And because relationships are built through a series of meaningful encounters, think in terms of a minimum of six to nine outreaches over a twelve month period.
Because we know this can feel like a lot, here are 7 tips designed to jumpstart your calendar.
1. Make the most of the content you create.
If you’re a blogger, a podcaster or even create content on an every-once-in-a-while basis, personally share this content with your relationship portfolio. Don’t rely on a platform to create awareness and visibility. Take one more step: use your content to create personalized, individual contact. Extra work? Sure. But if you’re creating valuable content and then just hoping your best connections catch wind of it, you are losing leverage. Add outreach via the content you create to your calendar. (And if you don’t regularly create valuable content, this might be a reason to consider the idea.)
2. Personally share content created by your firm.
Only sharing your stuff? Why? If you are part of a firm, here’s hoping you believe your partners and colleagues bring value to the table. Cherry-pick content created by others with an eye on what your connections will find helpful. This does more than just maintain visibility; it compounds the value you offer.
I am always amazed when there are discussions on cross selling or hunting in packs, but no focus on cross-sharing valuable content on a regular basis. And if you’re a solo practitioner, consider sharing perspectives and research produced by respected sources and allies. This increases the value of a connection with you.
3. Ask for input.
Asking for someone’s opinion or advice is an easy way to instigate dialogue. Consider building around this idea once or twice a year and you’ll change the conversation with key relationships. Seek input around desired service offerings. “What do you wish someone was providing?” “Is there a specific topic you’d like to see us address?” Go one step further and invite top prospects to collaborate in creating content or conducting marketing research.Or ask for input around causes worthy of support. With a select few, craft a request for thoughts on how best to connect with an organization, group or industry. Asking in the right way is potent.
4. Provide unique access.
Where you or someone in your firm has (or can facilitate) unusual access to information, personality or an event, share this access with your relationship portfolio. Are you able to interview a local author about their latest book (yes…even when it has nothing to do with your practice)? Create and share a video or audio “closed circuit program” with your relationship portfolio. Have early access to market research? Diatribe an early edition to your connections. Deliver something of unquestioned value, and deepen the relationship.
Sidebar: firms often spend big bucks on speakers for partner retreats; plan to videotape a 15-minute conversation with your expert on topics like unconscious bias, and share this content with your connections.
5. Don’t forget the easy stuff. Remember personal occasions.
This is low-hanging fruit…and it might cover two or three outreaches over a year…including birthday and/or anniversary wishes, promotions or career moves and any consequential event. Consider bypassing the easy email (and inbox clutter), and send a personal hand-written note for added impact.
6. Industry news. If you want to communicate sincere interest in someone’s fortunes, let them know you’re aware of and alert to things that impact their industry. Regulatory moves or early indicators, national trends, and major shake-ups at competitors provide a natural bridge to an “I thought of you when this popped up in my inbox” note.
7. For clients, plan a twice-a-year “how are we doing” outreach.
If you’re not regularly opening the door to constructive dialogue with existing or recent clients, you’re missing opportunities. Schedule a twice yearly outreach. To maximize this outreach, ask your clients to provide candid feedback to a third party. Done right, this effort will inevitably reveal specific ways to deepen your relationship.
This is far from an exhaustive list. It is offered primarily as an idea starter. The point is straightforward.
- Business development is about building and nurturing relationships.
- Communication is the fabric of relationship.
- If you are not proactively communicating in a strategic way, you are not deepening relationships.
A Final Note On Marketing Automation
The quest for leverage and the fact that communication is not easy have combined to result in turning to systems and technology to maximize outreach. And make no mistake…marketing technology plays an important role in creating visibility, deepening brand equity and lead generation.
But if you’re looking for ways to build the kind of personal relationships that result in trusted advisor status, be prepared to be personally involved. Tend to your relationship portfolio by building a strategic communication calendar.