Despite the proliferation of digital communication tools, in-person events remain a crucial component of law firm business development best practices. In 2015 alone, companies poured $572 billion into experiential marketing or engagement marketing initiatives – this type of marketing directly engages consumers and gets them to participate hands-on with a brand (e.g. SWSW, sporting events, and large product launches). Live events have even been called a “critical component” of every outbound marketing strategy by some of the biggest players in the digital marketing business. In-person events continue to top various lists as one of the most effective tactics for B2B content marketers.
WHY EVENTS DO IT BETTER
People are People. Events can make a huge impression very quickly. Emails and phone calls don’t generally inspire immediate action. Events tap into real-time, face-to-face communication with potential clients and potential referral sources. They also help you cultivate and maintain existing relationships with those who have helped grow your law firm so far.
Event Marketing. Events are newsworthy, and can be incorporated into a law firm’s public relations and media efforts. Events can even boost a law firm’s local SEO via online calendar entries and other digital citations to the event. Firms can also leverage social media to increase attendance, awareness, and brand recognition. Emails lead up to and serve as a follow up to the main event.
Below are five types of events that your law firm can throw.
FIVE EVENTS YOUR LAW FIRM CAN HOST
An educational event provides actual value to your target demographic through your expertise and through the acquisition of continuing legal education hours. Be sure to use outside experts and not solely rely on your own firm’s lawyers to serve as event speakers. Formats for an educational event are not all in-person, and can include:
- Google Hangouts
- Video online
Plan a social event to take place alongside a heavily attended continuing legal education seminar, court hearing, or other industry function. Make it social, not educational, because your potential attendees will be looking for a break from classes and seminars. Good ideas can include a golf tournament, champagne brunch, or family bike ride. It’s important to be considerate and make sure that your social event doesn’t conflict with the original event you are planning around.
Joining forces with another law firm with uncompetitive practice areas or in a noncompetitive geographic region can often double or triple your event invitation list. There is power in a strategic partnership – which doesn’t have to be with a law firm. Some of the best partnerships can be with popular legal industry vendors that often have large marketing budgets to spend. Think about what collaborations will be the most lucrative both for the event and in the future. If you share your event with others, be sure that your law firm stands out with the coolest branded swag and that you have an excellent automated follow-up sequence to maximize your return on investment, especially with the additional contacts you gain through list-sharing with your co-sponsors.
As I have mentioned before, “Helping others is an important part of every law firm’s mission. Being involved in your community is a way to further that mission.” Law firms need to be careful what organizations they get involved with for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is financial. As noted by the American Bar Association, in today’s law firm environment, sponsorships and charitable giving have taken on greater roles than ever before. Firms spend a disproportionate amount of marketing dollars on sponsorships – and once a charity has been sponsored, it’s hard to turn down future requests.
Cultivate an ongoing relationship with a charitable cause or organization that your lawyers and staff believe in and/or are personally affected by and use that alliance to do good in your community. Volunteer hours are also great passive public relations and not a hard cost to the firm if conducted outside of business hours, such as on a Saturday.
Client Appreciation Events
When you are planning an event to thank those who have helped your business succeed, plan it selflessly. Think about the message you want your attendees to take away and plan your event around instilling it in them. Since you really want people to attend and to enjoy themselves, consider making these events “plus one.” Not only will you get to meet more people and develop more potential business, but you will also allow each attendee to use your event to their own advantage, giving them more reason to attend. While events like these are an opportunity to tap into the collective conscious of your most lucrative client base with beta testing, surveys, and more, be careful to stay focused on them and their happiness. Fun ideas for client appreciation include getting custom cowboy boots made, racing luxury sports cars on a private racetrack, and a nice dinner in a private dining room with appropriate entertainment.
EVENTS ARE FUN, BUT EVENTS ARE WORK
All event planners have heard their job functions reduced to being a fun party planner. While certain aspects of event planning can be “fun,” professional legal industry event planners work to help further the business development efforts of individual attorneys, practice groups, legal departments, and law firms as a whole. Most law firms do not have a budget large enough to employ a truly qualified in-house event planner and try to make do with a one-size-fits-all marketing employee. If your law firm is going to invest the time and money into planning and hosting an event, you should strive for flawless execution and not just use an available receptionist or paralegal without true event planning experience.
SAVE MONEY BY OUTSOURCING LAW FIRM EVENT PLANNING
Outsourcing or revamping traditional marketing and business development methods can save law firms money. Selective outsourcing is a desirable option for most small to medium sized firms, as recent studies have shown that qualified, external business development consultants can help generate measurable new business.
Since few law firms employ truly top-notch event planning talent internally, this is a key area in which most law firms can and do outsource. For example, substantive CLE programs and other professional development programs require a skillset that not every law firm marketing or business development employee will have.
Our team of event enthusiasts have helped lawyers and legal industry vendors across the country plan measurably successful events in cities including Chicago, Austin, New Orleans, and more.