The Forward Button is a Tool

by Seth Apple on July 18, 2012

Apple, Seth 2014The forward button is a tool.  In fact, it’s one of the most effective business development tools you can use.  Even better, it’s one of the easiest since the content being forwarded has already been written, edited, and published in the established newspapers, magazines, and books your attorneys are reading – or should be reading.  I call these “third party forwards” because attorneys can simply forward them along and watch their relationships and practices grow.

I recognize your firm has its own assortment of articles, client alerts and related thought leadership pieces that the attorneys create and distribute to their clients.  That is obviously an important component of your firm’s (and individual attorney’s) business development plan, and should be encouraged as much as possible.  Authoring articles and alerts demonstrates expertise, increases visibility, and enhances overall brand.

However, there are numerous advantages to sending third party forwards as well.  Here are just a few you can emphasize with the attorneys at your firm:

  • Simple.  Sending a third party forward is simple.  No need to develop a topic, create a draft, or format-to-final.  Just drop a personal note in an email, attach the article, and click forward.  That’s it.  In fact, if you read the article online, the platform you are using likely has a forward button already built in.
  • Powerful.  By forwarding the article you are simultaneously sending the client another powerful message – I understand and follow (i) your business, (ii) your industry, and (iii) the current economic climate you are operating under.  The client will be appreciative and impressed to see they are on your radar even when the clock is not running.
  • Effective.  The use of third party forwards may actually be a more effective business and relationship development tool because it demonstrates a comprehensive commitment to the client and their business without being as self-serving.

So what should you read and forward?  Everyone has their own way of managing the volume of information we are inundated with on a regular basis, but I have found the following “1-2-3” approach to be an easy way of distilling my basic business reading.

  • 1 newspaper a day – Every person on my morning train is reading either The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.  Are you?  There are always a handful of articles worthy of forwarding along each day.  Never assume your client saw the article about their competitor’s contemplated product line extension, or the news about a market trend that impacts, directly or indirectly, their business.  Even if they did, they will begin (continue) to view you as a strategic partner rather than a vendor – one of the keys to long term client retention.
  • 2 magazines a month – I have read Inc., Fast Company and Entrepreneur every month for years.  Each issue provides inspirational stories and thought provoking ideas from established business executives and hungry up-in-comers you can forward along.  It’s a great way to provide “outside the box” business advice and insight to clients and contacts.
  • 3 books a year – I think Jim Rohn put it best when he said “If you want the things on the high shelf, you must stand on the books you read.”  Better yourself and your client by reading a few business books a year on leadership, marketing/sales, and management, and sending clients a few takeaways you think are noteworthy.*

*Bonus Tip: The ReadingList by Amazon application for LinkedIn is an excellent way to accomplish this on the network level, and a great business development tool in its own right.  Adding this application to your LinkedIn profile allows you to list the books you want to read, are reading, or have read – a useful client intelligence marker and conversation/relationship trigger.

The best way to generate business for the firm is to generate business for the client.  This is an approach to business development which requires an understanding of the client’s business as well as the overall climate in which they operate.  The use of online filters, readers, applications, and alerts can help narrow the focus, however, the 1-2-3 approach is an excellent way to ensure exposure to the general business information and commentary clients will likely find beneficial.

Seth Apple is a Practice Development Manager at Epstein, Becker & Green in New York. You can reach him at sapple@ebglaw.com and follow him at @sethmapple.

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