The Firm: Maximize your firm's event strategy

By Katie Rutter
The Daily Record Newswire

A well-thought-out event strategy is a key part of any firm’s marketing and business development planning. Hosting and sponsoring events can achieve several objectives, such as raising the visibility of your firm, providing lawyers with the opportunity to network and build-relationships with existing and prospective clients, and demonstrating to clients that you appreciate them.

Events selected for sponsorship or planned by your firm should be aligned with its growth goals, industry/practice groups and market location for multi-office firms. Types of events can range from conference sponsorships, educational programs and CLE credit seminars to smaller forms of client entertainment and dinner/reception events.

Larger events in which your firm may participate as a sponsor are typically useful if your goal is to raise visibility of your firm in a market or industry, while smaller events enable lawyers to network and bond with clients and prospects in a more intimate environment. Some things to consider when planning an event are:

•Strategically plan the guest list. Your invitee list should primarily consist of existing clients whose business you would like to expand and prospective clients whom you would like to represent. With a carefully thought-out mix, you can let your clients do the selling for you — there is nothing better than a happy client singing your praises to a prospect. Also, vet the final invitee list to remove competitive lawyers and other individuals who do not serve as referral sources or business influencers.

•Host networking receptions and dinners in connection with larger trade conferences taking place in your market and industry (whether or not your firm is sponsoring the trade show). Leverage having your target audience in one physical location by hosting a smaller gathering that provides your lawyers with “face time” to network with targeted clients and prospects as well as with each other.

•Build relationships and create alliances with your marketing and business development counterparts at trade associations and professional services organizations that serve the same client base and client companies. Having these relationships in place reinforces your firm as top-of-mind for co-sponsorships and/or speaking opportunities as other marketers develop events and programs for their businesses and organizations.

•Develop strategic plans around events you sponsor and host. This involves securing attendee lists prior to events and running the names through your CRM system to generate a report that identifies who at the firm knows attendees from targeted prospect companies and can facilitate an introduction. For events that you are hosting, send out the RSVP list to lawyers a few times prior to the event. That will enable lawyers to strategize on approaching attendees that translate into new business leads. If dealing with a prospect, lawyers can perform due diligence on the company prior to the event; if the target is an existing client, plan to have lawyers from the appropriate practices in attendance for introductions should there be a need to cross-sell services.

•Hold a post-mortem debriefing after the event with the attendees. You can gather feedback on the overall quality of the event and discuss a plan for follow-up with contacts made at the event and any other notable information that would be helpful for future business development efforts. Consider whether the majority of attendees were the actual decision makers when it comes to purchasing legal services.

Katie Rutter runs a consulting company that provides strategic planning and marketing services to law firms and other organizations.