If you are in a professional service industry, like law or accounting, it can sometimes be hard to separate yourself from your business. Your clients hire you, refer you, and trust you, not your company. So why do you spend so much time marketing your business instead of yourself?
This week’s blog continues a review of the book, Reinventing Professional Services; Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace, by Ari Kaplan. Chapter 7 talks about how important it is to develop relationships within your own industry, and with complementary professionals. Kaplan says:
“Professional communities are small, whether your business is on Wall Street or on Main Street. To grow a practice and a reputation, one needs to befriend and interact with colleagues in the area.”
Kaplan goes on to note that young professionals are more likely than ever to change jobs within their given career. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of January 2016, nearly half of all younger workers (ages 25-34) have been with their current employers for 2 years or less. A full 28.9% are in their first year on the job.
Are Your Clients Hiring You or Your Company?
That level of mobility brings with it a certain amount of risk. When you leave a company, will your clients come with you? Some lawyers are less concerned about repeat business than others. If you are a criminal or family lawyer, you may hope your client never needs to hire you again. But what about their friends and family? Whether you build your business off of providing for clients over and over again, or from referrals by clients you satisfied once years ago, you need to know they are loyal to you and not your business. Kaplan says:
“[T]he portability of a client is a paramount concern. If a client will not leave, a professional will not either. If, however, a client chooses the lawyer, doctor, or accountant, rather than the practice with which he or she is associated, then movement no longer poses any barrier.”
How then, do you get your clients to trust you over your company brand?
Building a Reputation in Your Own Name
New attorneys often rely on their senior partners to bring business to their door, and their desks. They are content to be delegated tasks, cases, and clients connected to the partner’s name. But if you aren’t working to develop a reputation yourself you will find it hard to leave when the time comes.
“Markets ebb and flow in every industry,” Kaplan says. When your industry contracts you may find yourself without a position. You need to make sure your clients are ready to move with you.
Writing is an excellent way to build a personal reputation and maintain contact with past clients independent of any job. You may write a blog that clients can subscribe to, or a professional publication that establishes your expertise among colleagues. Kaplan says:
“The publishing and pursuit of industry recognition leads to panel presentations and wide-ranging lectures to developers and institutional clients.”
But to take advantage of your developed expertise, you need to make sure it is in your name, instead of the firm’s. “Marketing in professional services is about content and character.” Kaplan says. Your past work is the biggest testament to your future reputation. If you give that away to a firm where you have no equity, it could leave you starting from scratch when the next move happens.
Consider launching an independent blog in your own name. Then you can negotiate with your partners to use that content on their website or link to it on your profile page.
Writing is a great way to market you, not just your firm. Keep your long-term industry goals in mind and your writing in your own name. It could help you build your next business, even while you are working on your current job.