Guest blog:

size 10 and a half boots guest blog We invited Douglas McPherson from Tenandahalf, a business development agency that specialises in providing marketing and business development services for lawyers and accountants, to write a guest blog for us about business development – how will it evolve during 2022?

 

While none of us have a crystal ball, the short answer is 2022 will see us continue to develop a hybrid BD approach that complements our new hybrid working life.

But what do I mean by a ‘hybrid BD approach’? You don’t need me to tell you traditional business development (BD) has been almost impossible over the last two years. Not being able to meet in person for large chunks of time and the suspension of networking events and conferences hit us hard. However, being the resourceful types we are, most BD professionals adapted.

Video calls, virtual networking, and webinars become a firm fixture in our daily lives, and a drive to make better use of social media and the search engines saw us adopt a much more creative approach to content creation. We started to experiment more with video, with animations and motion graphics and podcasts rather than just producing blogs and articles.

Now things are settling down, it looks as though most organisations will be operating 2 days in/3 days out policy (or something similar). This way of working will allow us to get back to meeting people in person, but it may still be some time before large-scale events come back.

My feeling is this will mean we’re going to have to keep adapting our business development to come up with a hybrid that combines the best of what we’ve always done (small-sided client/contact meetings and 1on1 coffees/lunches/breakfasts/drinks) with the best of what we learned during the restrictions (better/more varied content, more productive use of social media, more video calls, and online events).

However, as our working lives are going to look a little different, so will our clients’ and contacts’ working lives.

This means that more than ever, it’s going to be important to make sure our personal BD plans have a little bit of everything in them, so we continue to build, maintain and sustain our visibility because we won’t always know who’s working in the office (or even happy to come back to the office at all), who’s working at home or who’s working online from even further afield.

 

3 things to include in your new hybrid BD plan

 

Face time with clients and contacts

Spending time with clients and contacts is the most productive business development we can do. Catching up, finding out what’s going on and spotting gaps you can help with is the quickest and easiest route to new work. These conversations are also the best way to position yourself for new introductions to your client/contact’s network or to get an invitation to an event at which you’ll meet new prospective clients and contacts.

The good news is most people are as fed up with not having been able to meet up over coffee, lunch, or drinks as we are! In our experience, 4 out of 5 people invited to a 1on1 meetings will say yes. However, given everyone is different and has had different experiences over the last 2 years, we need to be considerate.

While face-to-face meetings need to come back and there’s no reason to put them off, we need to continue to be careful to ask if the client/contact is happy to meet in person or would prefer a video call. As 2022 unfolds, we must continue to be fully flexible in making sure we are meeting our clients/contacts’ preferences in terms of how, where and when we meet.

Events

As the year progresses, I fully expect traditional networking events and conferences to come back, even to the same extent as in early 2020 by the end of the year. In the meantime, we will need to continue to take advantage of the online alternatives.

Over the last 2 years, virtual networking, and virtual hospitality (wine tasting, cookery classes, cocktail making) have become hugely popular. This isn’t going to change. People like the time, cost, and operational efficiency of online events so even once physical events are back, I fully expect virtual events to continue to be the first choice of their fans.

Similarly, it may be a while until we can run seminars or workshops internally. Webinars were extremely popular at the beginning of lockdown but because there were so many, they quickly lost their luster. Instead, people began to play with their format and delivery, making their sessions more interactive, more engaging, more practical, and useful for their audiences. Panel discussions and Q&As have vastly improved online educational events and I think these will continue to be a cornerstone of our BD.

People have also become more creative in the way they use the output from these sessions.

Running them online means they can easily be recorded. You can then send recordings to those who couldn’t attend so they can watch them when convenient. You can also edit them down to use as teasers on social media. Or you can take the points discussed and turn them into ‘top tips’ fact sheets, white papers, FAQs, blogs, podcasts of ‘talking head’ videos.

For me, the best way to reintroduce events will be to start small and build up as restrictions reduce and confidence increases. Instead of thinking about a full-scale in-house workshop, bring together 3 or 4 clients/contacts from the same sectors and host a working lunch to discuss the current issues.

Better content

Content is crucial to BD success while we’re working between office and home. Relevant content will reach your clients and contacts wherever and however they are working, and it’ll have a positive impact on your search engine findability.  Just because we’re starting the return to the office shouldn’t mean content production drops.

Again, content was negatively impacted by the shift to working from home. There was suddenly far too much of it both in terms of the volume and frequency of publication and the length of the pieces being published. We have learned some valuable lessons since then:

  • Shorter is better. Make one key point per piece and make that point in 350-500 words (or, to use a highly technical unit of measurement, one page on a smartphone).
  • Serialise. If you have a range of points to make, don’t write one lengthy article. Serialise your points across several short pieces then post once a week – this will keep you visible for a month rather than a couple of days with no extra effort!
  • Write for the search engines. Matching your headings to current search terms will immediately improve your SEO.
  • Reskin. Once you have a blog, repackage it for different sectors by changing the header and points of reference or turn it into a top tip ‘listicle,’ an FAQ for your website or a series of social media posts.
  • Reformat. With so much new content coming out, people are much more inclined to watch or listen to your content.  Try to turn it into a video (we use Lumen5 which allows you to make short films out of blogs for free) or a motion graphic for social media or you can discuss the key points in a podcast or on a recorded video call.

Top tips for 2022

While these 3 components will help you start to put together a genuinely hybrid BD approach, things will change during the year so my two final tips would be:

TIP 1 – Always stay flexible

New things will come up and people’s attitudes towards meeting in person and meeting in numbers will change. Be ready to take full advantage!

TIP 2 – Always stay critical

Over the year you’ll see what works and what doesn’t so have the courage to drop what isn’t working and do more of what is, so your BD delivers the best return for the time and effort you’re investing.

Listed under:
Business DevelopmentMarketing for AccountantsMarketing for Insolvency PractitionersMarketing for Law FirmsMarketing for small businesses