Making most of your spare time: Business development – Brand and Awareness

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As a portfolio executive, fee earning is clearly the core and the priority of everything you do, but alongside fee earning, I do believe you need to spend some time in what I would call business development or practice development.  Perhaps practice development is a better term because this is not just about going out and getting new clients, it is also about making you more valuable to clients.  Let’s just think about different aspects of business development.

Building your Presence

What is going to build value for the practice that you’re developing so it is sustainable in the long term and becomes increasingly valuable to your clients?  In the early days of a portfolio executive’s portfolio development most of your business development activity will be focussed on increasing your presence in the niche that you are seeking to address.  Elsewhere we talk about building a LinkedIn profile that is fit for purpose. We talk about developing content that will support your LinkedIn profile. We talk about going out there and building your network, both on LinkedIn and in person, to strengthen the awareness of and the opportunities for you in your marketplace.

There are several increasingly accessible, low-cost tools that will build the awareness of your offer, strengthen your credentials as an expert and increase the engagement of potential clients and I want to spend a few moments running through some of those.

Create a regular podcast 

It might be a video podcast or it might be an audio podcast.  If you look elsewhere in the blogs already published, there are thoughts about how you can start to build a podcast.  Start by choosing a relevant topic that you’re interested in, map out a series, perhaps of ten episodes, and then find choose a style: you could be speaking to camera, doing interviews, or bringing questions to a panel.  Create a regular rhythm, get a series in the can and then pause to reflect on doing another series.  Remember, it’s not just developing the content, it’s also about promoting the content and reusing it across your social media. 

Podcast material can be great for then writing articles and developing posts.  If you’re using video then create small snippets that you can put out on your different social media platforms.  Even if you’re just doing audio and not video, you can support it with slides and turn it into a video you could post on YouTube or elsewhere. 

Develop a Quiz

A quiz is designed to enable a potential client to make a self-assessment as to their own position.  Tools like Scoreapp, allow you to construct a questionnaire, create a powerful landing page and generate a customised report based on the scores from the quiz.

This can be a very powerful way to enable your clients to think about whether they need what you’ve got to offer.   It is also a way of getting people to register their interest your proposition.   With the information they provide, you can see what their needs are and qualify them as somebody you should start a dialogue with. 

Writing a book

There are different schools of thought on writing a book.  Is it something you will give away as an expensive business card?  Is it just to build your profile because you have become a published author?  Perhaps it is ‘do it yourself’ guide to what you offer which encourages people to ask for a ‘do it with you’ service?

Having decided on the purpose, you want to decide on the format: printed, eBook, audio book or PDF.  You will also want to decide on the length.  A standard business book would run to between 150-200 pages.  However, you can publish something much shorter on a single topic (40-50 pages).

Now you have multiple options for writing and publishing your book.  Do you want to engage a ghost writer who writes every word based for you based on interviews?  Or do you want to work with a book coach?  Are you going to self-publish, engage with a hybrid publishing house or seek to get published by an established imprint?

I would strongly recommend that you get advice before jumping to conclusions.  Do contact me if you want to discuss the options.

Develop a speaker offer

As a recognised speaker, you can create an intimate relationship with your audience and demonstrate command of your niche.  To get started, consider offering a talk to local groups such as the Chamber of Commerce or a local branch of your professional body.  Professional services providers such as lawyers and accountants often want speakers to support their outreach to clients or development of their staff.  When I ran an IT expert witness practice, I used to strengthen my relationships with law firms by providing lunchtime seminars to their teams and support client events as the outside speaker.  There are many opportunities to participate as an interviewee or panel member for podcast or live streaming events.  I have guested on a number 3rd party podcast or live streaming events.  It builds awareness with their audience which, in effect, I ‘borrow’ for my own promotion.  It also provides implicit endorsement.  I can also promote the content to my own audience.  Finally, it encourages me to develop more content.  For example, I’ve had a relationship with Convoy Community over the last three years and I commit to do a webinar with them every single month.  I developed a twelve-month series each year.  I write an article, do the webinar and re-use the content elsewhere.  Because these are interactive sessions, I get lots of great feedback.  The cherry on the cake is that I have converted some of the audience members into long-term clients.  If you have limited confidence in speaking then consider joining your local branch of Toast Masters, the Professional Speakers Association or an on-line programme (e.g. Ideas on Stage UK ).

So that’s the business development in terms of building your brand and awareness.  The second piece of business development is growing and strengthening your value to your clients.  Here I think there are three crucial areas that you need to think about.

1. Developing new skills to make you more effective to lead through influence and coaching and mentoring rather than just by direction

Often that involves quite a lot of personal development, increasing your emotional intelligence, developing skills around coaching, learning how to ask powerful questions and potentially working in a board environment so you understand more about that style of governance, rather than leading through direction.

2. Keeping absolutely up to date with the niche in which you are operating

How would you keep yourself educated in the industry or professional trends that are going on?  How do you make sure you’re engaged with new thinking?  There are some things which I think are relatively easy to do.  For example, subscribing to industry or professional newsletters, going to meetings of your professional group.  There are other things like making sure you’re signed up to McKinsey, or Forbes, or Fast Company or whatever it is, some other magazines that give you that forward thinking. 

I think also there is holding that intent to be available and to actively seek to have conversations with people who you see as doing something new and interesting in your field, LinkedIn is a great place to do that.  I have often intentionally engaged with people who are emerging as speakers, have conversations with them, potentially interview them, potentially put on a podcast, potentially get them to speak to an audience.  That has constantly renewed my insight and my understanding and can be access to lots of new learning.

3. Are there particular courses or tools you want to be skilled in

I got very interested in a platform called AQAI.  They have built a robust assessment tool to understand the adaptability of individuals teams and organisations and I signed up to become a certified assessor.  I found that a really powerful tool to engage with clients in a different way.  It also meant I learned something new; it gave me a whole series of insights into my own practice and out of that I have developed a series of articles, I’ve been able to engage with CEOs and clients in a completely different way.  Yes, there was an investment of time and money but I know that that investment has repaid itself in hard fees, so the return investment has paid off, but also just in terms of keeping me stimulated, keeping me thinking, learning new things. 

There are other kinds of environments that you might be interested in.  Two of my portfolio executive clients have invested in a platform called ‘The Game Changer Insights’.  There’s again an assessment tool that helps people understand where they are, helps you to engage with teams and leaders, helps people to think more clearly about what’s going on and informs your practice. 

There are slews and slews of these different tools that you could sign up to and maybe it’s not always the right answer.  Sometimes the investment required to become a master NLP practitioner, is a huge investment, will it ever pay off? Is it really necessary? – maybe it will be great for you, but don’t think of these tools as a primary route to market for your services.

Fairing nothing lies a trap. This is not going to be the way that somebody gives you lots of business but what it can be is a way of keeping you interested, developing, stretching and learning and have something new to offer existing and potential clients. 

We’ve talked about business development as growing your presence and developing your practice.  I would say for you to build successful long term portfolio executive career, you need to do both.  One of the things for you to do with your spare time when you’re not fee earning.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.