Over the years, many of my coaching clients have delayed implementing their marketing plans because it just wasn’t the “right time.” Clients are too busy right before the holidays. People aren’t focused on business in January because they are just getting back from the holidays. In an El Nino year, February and March are too rainy for attending networking events (perhaps snow prevents people in other parts of the country from attending events; if not, we Californians look particularly wimpy about weather). The end of the school year translates to parents attending endless performances. The beginning of the school year means that everyone is adjusting to new schedules. And, of course, everyone is on vacation during the summer. That doesn’t leave many months available for sustained business development efforts, does it?

Perhaps it’s time to question our assumptions about the right timing. Certainly, every one of us has busy times in our lives, but we manage to find time to complete the tasks that are important to us. We have an even better chance of completing the tasks we schedule. As a friend of mine used to say, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

What Can You Commit to Now?

The fourth quarter is an ideal time to reach out to your clients and referral sources. They will be evaluating the results of this year’s plans and will be creating goals and budgets for next year. If you want to be involved in their planning discussions, the following suggestions should provide you with ideas for immediate action.

Attend the CMCP Annual Conference. If you are a CMCP member, you know that the annual conference is in San Francisco on October 9 and 10. That is an ideal place to get inspired about business development, meet new contacts, reconnect with other CMCP members and renew your commitment to diversifying the legal profession. Yes, it’s a big agenda, but where else can you accomplish this much in two days?

Join an association that is meaningful to you. A year ago, I wrote a column about the benefits of actively participating in a professional association or non-profit organization. It is a worthwhile topic to review. If CMCP is part of your marketing plan, you already know that your involvement can benefit your business development efforts. Any association can provide you with practice in many biz dev skills: expanding your network, delivering your marketing messages, learning leadership and communication skills by being involved on a committee, making presentations to other members.

As I think about my past coaching clients, there is one critical factor that separates the wildly successful and the moderately successful business developers. The former clients are actively engaged in one association. The type of association doesn’t matter, but the frequency and depth of participation does.

Focus on client retention. Don’t wait until December to take a client to lunch. Start planning now for a date in October or early November. Offer to have a nonbillable discussion about your clients’ biggest concerns for next year.

Follow up with referral sources or new contacts. If you have a fairly well established relationship, staying in touch by email or phone may be enough most of the time. If you haven’t done so already, send a LinkedIn invitation to your new contacts and offer to introduce them to members of your professional or personal networks. Whenever possible, find time for an occasional face to face meeting.

What About That Marketing Plan?

Yes, you need to have one, and you are far more likely to implement a written plan that includes specific tasks and dates. If your firm doesn’t have a template, contact me and I’ll send you the one I’ve developed for my coaching clients. If you are currently an associate, the marketing plan will help you focus your efforts on generating assignments from your firm’s partners. You can practice your biz dev skills internally for now, while you develop your own external network of contacts. Even if you are a partner with a busy practice, your long-term success will depend on retaining your current clients and acquiring new ones, and staying focused on biz dev throughout the year.