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Start by building your visibility inside the network

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m a big fan of international law and accounting firm networks. I’ve seen first-hand the value global networks and affiliations offer to their members, including generating both in-bound and out-bound referrals. But it doesn’t happen automatically; it takes work to maximize the number of valuable intra-network referrals.

I was recently speaking to the Legus International Fall meeting on this topic — how to use your membership in the network increase firm revenue.

There are actually four different ways to create more referral opportunities, and increase the chance that you’ll receive them once available.Ross Fishman - Using Legus International Law Firm Network to Increase Revenue

These are, marketing:

(a) Yourself within the network

(b) Your firm within the network

(c) The network within your firm

(d) The network to your clients

I’ll take them one at a time, in three total posts.

(a)  Marketing yourself within the network.

This encompasses basic Networking 101 and relationship-development skills, to build your personal visibility with the network so that more of the network’s active members (i.e. the ones who attend the conferences) know you, think you’re great, and can be trusted with their valuable referrals.

They include holding leadership positions, speaking at the conferences, exchanging business cards and contact information, and following up consistently throughout the year. Also, spending time meeting new members and reinforcing newer relationships rather than simply hanging out with your old friends. Keeping the conversations meaningful but still brief enough that you can speak to more people in the limited time available during the conferences. Most active rainmakers are relatively good at these behaviors.

The biggest mistake good networkers make in this area is in failing to connect themselves to a specific geography.

Within a network, we don’t want your fellow members to simply think, “Rutger is a nice guy and a good lawyer who can be trusted.” Instead, we want them to ALSO think, “… and he’s from The Netherlands.”viking hat

Without that critical geographic connection, there are many fewer referral opportunities. We must regularly connect ourselves to our geographic location, so that when members see the word “Holland,” they think “tulips, windmills, Rutger.”

It seemed a little silly, but at a recent international conference where I was speaking, the popular Norwegian member donned a plastic Viking hat during his introduction. Everyone laughed along. But he’d strategically and permanently implanted his association to his country into everyone’s minds. Smart.

 (b)  Marketing your firm within the network

Similar to the first category, your firm must become associated with a particular city, state, or country (depending upon the configuration of your network). No international network has 100% coverage, so we must inform and remind everyone that the network in fact HAS a firm in X country.MSI Lehman Dragon China © 2014 Fishman Marketing

One good example of this was from MSI Global, a terrific multi-disciplinary law and accounting firm network, where the Chinese member accounting firm brought stuffed toys that reflected that particular year’s Chinese Zodiac animal.  In 2012, The Year of the Dragon, LehmanBrown CPAs partner Dickson Leung brought these fun orange logo’d dragons. Every year he brought a new version, and MSI members were clearly looking forward to them when they returned from lunch and found them on their chairs.

Dickson was an MSI favorite, and many members joked that they had the entire 12-year LehmanBrown collection of stuffed animals. Many people brought the dragons home for their kids, while others claimed that they kept them in their offices. The point is, every single MSI attendee knew that they had a Chinese member accounting firm.

Similarly, I spoke to Meritas the year they acquired a firm from Angola, and they brought these small African masks with their contact information on a sticker on the back, which was a very nice start.Meritas Angola member

There are many ways to connect yourself to a specific geography. At the bottom is an advertisement we designed for an Iceland law firm named Lex, designed to reinforce the law firm’s name and location for targets outside of the jurisdiction.  What can you do?  How can you associate yourself and your jurisdiction within the network?

Your association’s Fall conference just ended.  It’s time to start planning for the Spring program.  Call me if you want to strategize for it. No charge. 

That’s all for Part One.  Please SUBSCRIBE to our blog to ensure you receive Parts Two and Three.

Next, in Post Two (of Three): 
(c)   Marketing the network within your firm

 (d)   Marketing the network to your clients

Ross’s “Marketing an International Network” Speech Testimonials:

“Ross’s presentation was first-rate.  It was thorough and entertaining, and I walked away with specific, concrete steps.  A perfect ’10.’(Mark Carta, Managing Partner, Carta, McAlister & Moore.  Darien, CT)

“Very engaging; well-prepared, relevant and professional.  9/10.  (Campbell Clark, Partner, Blackadders LLP. Scotland)

“Ross’s speeches are always fresh, informative, entertaining, and enjoyable!  9.5/10.” (William R. Watkins, Partner and COO, Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper. Westfield, NJ)

“A great way to start the conference. Encouraged the audience to participate without being overbearing. 9/10″  (B. Scott Tschudy, Partner, Martin Pringle. Overland Park, KS)

“Interesting presentation; very thought provoking! 10/10″ (Paula Yu, Partner, Grandall Law Firm. Shanghai, China)

Ross Fishman, CLE Ethics presentation

Ross Fishman, speaking to Legus International law firm network

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