What’s Your Answer to “What’s New?”

Did you know that the question, “What’s new?” is actually a marketing opportunity in disguise?

Think about how many times you’ve probably answered that question this week alone with one of two stock responses:

  • “Nothing much.”
  • “I’m swamped.”

Where do these answers go wrong? By not taking advantage of the opportunity to highlight a recent success or educate the listener about the specifics of your practice. After all, when people ask you, “What’s new?” they’re giving you an easy way to market your business –without being pushy.

Instead of answering “What’s new?” with “Nothing much,” consider instead something like:

  • “I’m working on some really interesting litigation involving new regulations affecting nursing homes.”
  • “I’m looking forward to taking a long lunch today with a client to celebrate the closing of the Shelter Island real estate deal. You may have read about it in today’s Times.”
  • “I’m off to a workshop this week on how to generate more referrals from an existing network. I’m really focusing on building my business through referrals this year.”

Answers like these are likely to lead to a relationship and business-building conversation about your practice, your successes, and your client base. The listener is likely to hold you in higher regard and understand what you do a little better.

What if nothing particularly interesting has happened at work this week? Consider mining your personal life for answers such as:

  • “I’m recovering from helping my daughter finish off her college applications.”

A personal response like this one is likely to lead to getting to know the questioner a little better. You may discover that he has a child applying to college or that he attended the college your child is applying to –both topics you can use in the future to continue building a personal relationship.

And think of the possible consequences of answering the “What’s new?” question with “I’m swamped.” Not the type of response that is likely to encourage someone to send you more business!

Presumably, the person asking is at least mildly interested in your well-being and probably doesn’t want to contribute to your misery by sending you a new case or referring you to a colleague to handle a new deal.

Recently, one of my clients shared an experience she had with one of her clients.

Instead of saying she was underwater with work, she made a conscious decision to tell her client that she was busy, but that she always welcomed the opportunity to work with him on new matters because she really enjoyed working with him and his matters were always interesting.

Her client’s response:

“I’m glad to hear that! I actually have a small matter I would like to send you, but I hesitated because I know how busy you are. Sometimes I feel like it’s a burden when I send you a new matter; like I’m asking for a favor.”

Just think how differently that would have turned out had my client replied with the typical, “I’m swamped!”

Here’s a suggestion for effective marketing that even the busiest of lawyers can do consistently. At the start of each week, spend three minutes deciding how to answer the inevitable “What’s new?” question. Select a response that will further your marketing efforts by highlighting a success or deepening the listener’s understanding of your expertise.

The question “What’s new?” is an opening to do a little self-promotion without feeling uncomfortable. Make sure that you make the most of the opportunity!

© 2006 – 2014, Sara Holtz. All rights reserved.

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