Today's technology has changed the landscape as to how commerce happens in all industries. People communicate differently and have access to more information. Employees telecommute, and it is easier to do business globally. Customers choose their products and services differently.
Amazingly, one industry segment that seems to offer the most advice and appears to be the slowest to make changes is professional services. While making suggestions to their clients about embracing technology, trying new things, working on their business and not in it, working smarter and not harder, and so on, most professional service firms are themselves doing business the way they always have. They violate most of the very advice they give their clients. Their typical excuse for maintaining the status quo is that the advice they give cannot possibly work for their business. Ironically, this is the same excuse their clients use for not implementing their recommended changes.
How does this new commercial landscape impact the methods you use to build your customer base? The traditional manner of joining a board, organizing meetings with other professional service firms from which you can share leads, and going to a lot of networking meetings is proving to be very inefficient in today's environment. While I am not suggesting you quit all boards, stop seeking centers of influence, or quit networking, I do suggest that you need to increase your use of some of the more modern ways to build business and reduce some of the more traditional activities because you are probably wasting a lot of time.
Every person in professional services needs to create a personal brand and must separate that brand from their firm. They must ask themselves what they want that brand to represent, the reason that someone should call you instead of someone else? What are you the expert at? How can you stand out? The key to building your personal brand is to make it clear, unique, and specific. It is all about "slight edge." If you build a slight edge over the competition, you will get more phone calls and more people will take yours.
Once you have identified your personal brand, you are ready to use modern-day tools to get it out there. There are many, and they are easy to use. Even better, most are cheap or free. Use a blog, LinkedIn, newsletter, article syndication, websites, Facebook, and Twitter to help you build your brand and create a loyal fan base. It sounds scary, but there are many books or resources ready to help you use these tools, and it is much easier than you think.
Failure to use these tools in a world that expects that you have these things will give your competition a slight edge over you. Just as people expect experts to have a college degree, they now expect them to be using social media, and these expectations will only grow with the new "connected" generation. This is their way of learning about you, deciding if they can work with you, and how they determine whether they will respect you. This is the new world. You are either going to get on the bus, or it will pass you by.