If your law firm is like any business, you need to conduct at least some form of marketing or business development to keep in touch with your customer base and to stay relevant in your industry. If you are a small firm lawyer or solo with a limited budget, you might wonder if your business is large enough to host a worthwhile event or if you have the financial means to budget for one.
Events, when done right, are a successful technique for marketing, engagement, and networking. Bigger isn’t always better, even when you have the budget. Spend your budget on what will make the strongest impact on your most important audience.
We have planned hundreds of events ranging from small dinners to huge galas. We have learned a lot from our combined experiences, from how to work with a non-existent or very small budget to how to manage referral lawyers who don’t all get along. As you would expect, aside from my charitable involvements, the majority of my event planning and execution has been done in the legal industry. Below, I will share some of my favorite tips and tricks to help your law firm make the most of its events.
Top Six Event Marketing Tips for Lawyers and Law Firms:
Plan your event, don’t wing it.
Time and again I have seen law firms, legal vendors, and legal industry professional associations plan events without an actual plan or budget. So, my first tip is to have an actual pre-planned event budget. Don’t forget to include all additional fees in the budget, including but not limited to chef fees, bartender fees, service fees, and entertainment, in addition to charges for power, loading docks, security, etc. A good event planner can negotiate some of these fees for you. My second tip is to have an event schedule for both the months preceding the event (pre-event deadlines) and the day of the event, hour-by-hour. This will help you meet crucial milestones like invitation sends, signage printing, venue booking, and more.
Simple Event Budget Basics:
- Make a spreadsheet
- Add four categories along the top
- Projected Cost
- Actual Expense
- Costs categories you should track
- Site rental costs, including projected rental fees for the space and related expenses.
- Food and beverage costs, including tips and gratuities, which can be a very large percentage.
- Transportation charges, including airfare, shuttles, coaches, event transfers, valet, taxis, and more.
- Décor such as centerpieces, florals, tent rentals, etc.
- Entertainment & equipment including audiovisual equipment, speaker honorariums, and hired entertainer costs.
- Printing charges such as invitations, name badges, programs, signage, and banners.
- Event swag and speaker gifts.
- Miscellaneous expenses.
Give yourself a contingency fund category. Depending on the size or complexity of an event, you may want to give yourself as much as up to 20% of the event budget here. Despite the best planning, charges are going to exceed projected plans with expenses that you never consider. This will keep you from going over budget.
Cheers: Alcohol – think it through.
Don’t assume that a hosted bar, in which you pay a set amount per guest, is the best deal. In most cases, a consumption bar, in which you pay for what people actually drink, is a more cost effective option. On a hosted bar you are paying the same charge regardless of if your guests drink alcoholic beverages or not.
The type of invitation you use will vary by the type of event you are hosting. Some more formal events, especially with an older and more established audience, will respond well to a paper or other hard copy invitation sent snail mail or even hand delivered.
More informal events like happy hours, young professionals get-togethers, and firm-only festivities can be casual in nature, and you can communicate that casual vibe and save money by inviting your guests over email.
Live bands used to be the prestigious way to provide entertainment, but DJs are hot again. A great DJ is more fun than an average band at half the price. Design a cool stage set for the DJ so they can make a great visual, as well as keep the energy high.
Publicize Your Event Digitally
Calendar listings, such as local news websites are a great and easy way to get the word out about your event. Advertise on social media, including creating an event page just for the occasion. You can target a particular audience on your social networks as well, for more open events. Email marketing can specifically target your client base and ensure that interested parties hear about what’s coming up.
To swag or not to swag? Events are not always the time for swagger.
How many mugs, pens, beer glasses, notepads, and t-shirts do we really need? Instead of handing out party favors and swag at your corporate event, add an experiential aspect where people can get involved like a fun photo booth or a make your own taco station with firm-branded disposable taco holders.
Less talking, more chatting.
Don’t have a guest speaker/talking head address the crowd from the front of the room. Instead, take those dollars and invest in creating a creative two-minute video or use your follow-up sequence after the event to thank attendees for coming, and provide them with access to the information you would like to relay.
Legal Industry Event Planning
If your law firm has questions, feel free to comment below. If you are a business that caters to lawyers and law firms and are interested in stepping up your marketing game beyond trade shows and exhibit halls, feel free to contact us, as we have had great success in this area as well as with event planning and marketing for lawyers.