Confused Businessman Looking At Arrows Pointing In Different DirectionsIf you are wondering what it takes to fill the pipeline with work for the last quarter of the year — nevermind 2017 and beyond — two things may be true about your marketing and business development efforts: your professional network is anemic; and, as a result, you have a shortage of strategic targets.

Many have been led to believe that a quality work product combined with excellent client service will automatically result in a successful, practice. Capable and willing on both counts, optimistic professionals shop for the best spot to plant a practice and hang a shingle.

For many it doesn’t take long to realize that, contrary to the old saying, the possession of the greatest mousetrap in the world is no guarantee the market will beat a path to your door.

Combine competition and volatility with a market that presumes expertise and quality, and an increasing number of professional service providers are left to wonder what it takes to differentiate, and become relevant.

Too bad it is not a mousetrap we’re marketing.

We could shoot a video, create a slick brochure, and add some copy that focuses on effectiveness and efficiency. We could build a cool website, add some SEO, and just sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

But even if one assumes that is a workable strategy, professional services don’t come in a box. It can be difficult to quantify, and much of the time there’s not much tangible until a matter closes, a contract is signed or a case won.

Stop Waiting For The Market To Find You, And Take Business Development Into Your Own Hands

For everyone tired of waiting for the phone to ring, there is a much more productive and proven approach to business and practice development.

It begins with a focus on your network. Before you tune out, consider this.

The care and feeding of a strategic network is the key to developing a pipeline of opportunities.

How large does your network need to be? Ideally, large enough so that there will always be someone in your network in need of the services you provide.

A robust network — one you faithfully nurture — is key to eliminating those periods where the silence of the market can be deafening.

If this seems like a reach to you, think about the rainmakers you know. That thing you think of as an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time is, more likely than not, reflective of a robust network.

Where to begin if you don’t have this kind of pipeline? What to do next if you haven’t been working on your network?

There are no cookie-cutters; and specifics will depend in part on the stage of your career. But here is an idea to consider.

Begin with groups you’re already plugged into — alumni associations, civic clubs, service groups, professional affiliations, and churches are a few of the most common. You likely already have many connections able to fortify your network with referrals, recommendations and even business intelligence.

Focus on creating strategic visibility and delivering value. There is no cookie-cutter; but this might include providing volunteer leadership, offering subject matter expertise (via blogging, speaking, and serving on those volunteer committees for example), and a network will begin to emerge.

Consistently productive business developers have a way of being preoccupied with the things that are important to their network…providing a glimpse of what it might be like to work with them. This is the ultimate in strategic  marketing and business development.