If you find yourself wondering where work will come from in 2017, two things may be true about your marketing and business development efforts.

Your professional network needs some attention; and you have a shortage of strategic targets.

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

But left to build a practice in today’s marketplace, it doesn’t take long to realize that 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 hoping the market will somehow find them.

Too bad we’re not marketing a mousetrap.

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 state-of-the-art SEO, write a blog and take to Twitter . . . and then sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

Even if one assumes that is a workable strategy, the professional service we offer doesn’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 contested or a case won.

Stop Waiting For The Market To Find You

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 proactive 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 biz dev 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 service your provide.

A robust network — one you faithfully nurture — is key to minimizing 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 are two ideas to consider.

1. Begin with a focus on groups you’re already plugged into — alumni associations, civic clubs, servicei groups, professional affiliations, and churches are a few of the most common. Get involved. Volunteer. Be visible. Contribute.

2. Become strategic. Begin to identify specific targets. Listen and learn — about concerns, needs and critical business drivers. Seek ways to deliver value in response to what you learn. (If you’re not clear how to contribute value, chances are you still have some listening to do.)

These two ideas encompass the nuts and bolts of a strategic business development pursuit. And they are the alternative to sitting back and hoping the next phone call or email brings an opportunity that will make your new year.