Imagine you’re an estate planning lawyer in Des Moines looking to grow your practice.

The marketing folks at Principal Park, home of the Triple A Des Moines Cubs, call to tell you that you’ll have free use of a luxury box for five of next year’s ball games. Better yet, they tell you they’ll arrange for the food and drink and invite a who’s who in networking for a Des Moines estate lawyer.

Twenty attendees for each game will include wealthy people in the Des Moines area who are looking for an estate planning lawyer, some of your best estate planning clients, leading financial planners from Des Moines, the reporter from the Des Moines Register who does stories on financial planning and business matters, editors and reporters from the Des Moines Business Record, financial reporters from the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal.

Des Moines business leaders such as the president of the local Chamber of Commerce, influential Des Moines bloggers who have a wide and diverse audience, influential estate planning lawyers who are blogging from other areas of the country, leading lawyers from Des Moines who don’t do estate planning work and don’t have partners who do so either, influential business and financial bloggers from around Iowa.

Would you go? Darn right you’d go.

Would you wear ear plugs so you couldn’t hear anyone? Heck no.

But that’s exactly what most lawyers do when they blog. Rather than listening to their target audience, lawyers shout information, updates, and news without listening to a word being said by the folks they ought to be networking with. All in an effort to showcase their intellect and build their personal brand.

Engaging people so as to network and build relationships requires listening. In your Principal Park luxury box, discussion is more likely to be about financial planning and related matters than the weather.

All you need to do is stand next to people, listen to what’s being discussed, and add value to the conversation. That’s easy, just offer insight and commentary on things you’re passionate about—financial planning and preserving family wealth. Introduce yourself to people as you do so.

By discussing matters of common interest, you’ll meet people and build relationships. In a room of twenty people with like interests, you’re bound to walk away with upcoming one-on-one meetings, coffees, or lunches with two or three folks.

Listening on the Internet means using a RSS newsreader. Sure, you can listen to questions and concerns of clients and prospective clients directly. But how are you going to hear what influencers are saying without getting RSS feeds from news websites (newspapers, journals, and trade publications), blogs, and keyword/key phrase searches from Google News?

What feeds would I subscribe to as a Des Moines estate planning lawyer?

Select RSS feeds from the Des Moines Register—especially the feed to the Register’s Finance Blog.

Select RSS feeds from the Des Moines Business Record—especially the Finance and Insurance story feeds.

RSS feeds from leading estate planning blogs from around the country, whether published by lawyers or financial advisors.

Des Moines blogs reporting on local issues which have a good number of subscribers. They abound in cities today and serve as beat reporters on local news, and, in many cases, have more loyal readership than the major newspaper.

RSS feeds of searches of relevant keyword and keyword phrases in Google News. (Financial/estate planning terms of art, types of trusts, code sections, etc.) I’d also subscribe to my name and the URL of my blog so I could hear when people had cited me or something I wrote on my blog.

RSS feeds from leading Iowa law and business blogs.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, but you get the idea. Listen to what’s being discussed by leaders and influencers. Offer your insight and commentary by referencing in your blog what you’re reading elsewhere.

Blogging will then take on the feel of conversation for you. That’s what true blogging is—a conversation.

A conversation which leads to relationships. Relationships which lead to referrals and a word-of-mouth reputation.

But just as conversations in the Principal Park luxury box require listening, conversations online (blogging) require listening first.