In this final post in our series that reviews the various elements that make up a law firm’s marketing mix, we discuss the following marketing channels:
- Organizational Membership
- Event Attendance
- Contact Management System
*Since this article was written before the COVID pandemic, some of these techniques (ex. Event Attendance and Entertainment) will obviously not be able to be utilized in the current conditions.
Becoming a member of an organization is a great way for a lawyer to build a network, strengthen relationships, raise awareness and build a reputation. A good organization will promote comradery and referral source development.
What to consider
For business purposes, choosing an organization require a strategic evaluation of the various ways a lawyer can spend their precious little available non-billable time. Joining organizations and not participating is mostly useless, so carefully considering time commitments that accompany membership is important.
Bar association memberships, for example, can help with referrals from other lawyers but require time and energy to develop relationships.. Client industry organizations and other groups that include a significant share of the attorney’s target audience can present a large opportunity to connect with prospective clients. Strategically considering the reach of an organization helps maximize time invested.
At times, a competitor or group of competitors may already dominate an organization. Depending on age and career level, another organization may provide better opportunities.
How to do it
When researching organizations to join, an attorney should consider interest level and potential impact on business generation. It is beneficial if an attorney has a strong professional interest in an organization and it can potentially lead to key new business relationships. Sometimes, the right organization is not fun or professionally interesting. When this occurs, it may not be worth it since it will be a challenge to participate.
While requiring a significant time investment, attorneys receive the most benefits when they can ascent to a leadership position. It has been our experience that two or three organizational commitments are about all a typical lawyer can effectively handle. It is better to reduce the number of memberships in favor of a concentrated effort on the most valuable organizations.
Trade shows, client industry conferences, and meetings or legal conventions can expand referral networks, afford potential client contact opportunities, and support reputation development through in-person contact.
What to consider
When researching event attendance, attorneys should evaluate several key factors including:
- Which industries and professions are the ideal clients according to the attorney’s client definition (link to 5 Steps for Marketing Planning blog post)?
- What geographic areas can the attorney serve?
- Who are the decision-makers and do they attend the events under consideration?
- Is it probable that valuable connections will occur at the event?
- Are there speaking opportunities available?
- Are there organized networking events planned?
- Feedback from previous attendees (information from other attorneys on the quality of the event and ability to make connections)?
How to do it
Once events are selected, the next step is to prepare a budget expressed regarding money and time. The budget will necessitate a process that considers all planned activities associated with the event and a contingent budget for spontaneous activities. Events can offer good opportunities to see many contacts at once, so group dinners and other events may work, but remember to get invitations out early.
If the firm decides to do an exhibit in addition to attending the event, external event planning support is needed to supply the necessary materials and logistics. Firms who send groups of lawyers to the same events can improve effectiveness by coordinating attendee activities.
During and after the event, attorneys should follow up with their contacts with a brief email or handwritten note soon after the event. Equally important is for attorneys to feed the information of those contacts in a contact management system (described below). This will increase the likelihood of getting new business since a systematic follow-up procedure has been established.
When attorneys begin with a strategy, planned tactics and goals, the benefits they derive from event attendance will multiply.
Entertaining contacts is primarily used to build and maintain relationships on a more advanced level than networking, organizational or industry events. Entertainment is typically focused on prospects, clients, referral sources and influencers.
What to consider
Entertainment should focus on relationship building, not on making a sale. While attorneys should be able to competently describe their important services, along with the value they can bring, this type of sales conversation should only happen when the situation feels right.
Since entertainment also requires a time and cost commitment, attorneys should carefully consider the real or potential value of connection. With a strategic schedule and invitation process, entertainment becomes more effective and efficient.
Entertainment is often evaluated based on the dollar cost of an activity. The dollar cost is important, but the allocation of time is more important. Time is either invested or spent. Time invested has a future return. Time spent on ineffective activities has no value.
How to do it
A well-managed contact management system will help identify the most valuable contacts (referral sources and prospects) for business development and their contact history. A contact management system, which is discussed in more detail later, can provide detail of the sphere of influence a contact may have.
Based on this information, attorneys can determine who to entertain and how frequently. Establishing a system saves time and money, and makes it easier to maintain and grow important business relationships.
Contact Management System
A contact management system is a tool used to nurture and support the productive value of relationships. The connections made through relationship building or content development activities can be further capitalized on with contact management. When attorneys strategically categorize their contacts (clients, prospects, referral sources, influencers, etc.), they can be more efficient in their efforts. The consistency and relevance that a contact management system offers can result in healthier and more productive relationships.
What to consider
A system for contact management ultimately helps to increase the return on all other marketing activities and is a critical factor for marketing success. Our blog post “3 Phases of Marketing System Automation” explains the role of contact management in legal marketing in detail.
Managing contacts can occur at a basic level using a simple spreadsheet with notes on contact points and history. A more advanced and better solution is to onboard a cloud-based contact management or CRM software, with a browser and app-based access.
These programs allow for an automated schedule to build and maintain relationships with the most important contacts including referral sources, prospects, former clients, etc. The organized contact overview is also a great tool to determine and evaluate valuable relationships for business development purposes. E.g. it makes it easier to determine how to best engage contacts whether through entertainment or some other activity.
Ultimately, the system helps to more effectively spend time allocated to relationship building marketing activities and to increase the return on networking.
How to do it
The first step is to aggregate current contact databases including Email contact lists, LinkedIn networks, phone contacts, organizational membership lists, and even business card collections and to feed these contacts into the database.
With a relatively small network of fewer than 100 contacts, a spreadsheet table for contact organization is enough to manage contacts. Even with a large network, it is okay to get started with a table to build an overview of all contacts, however, at this point, we recommend reviewing contact management software applications.
Digital contacts can be easily imported, organized and categorized. Once the initial contact database, whether in a spreadsheet or in a software system, has been created and cleaned, constant maintenance is required. Database maintenance includes adding new contacts and adding notes for contact points to build a contact history like entertainment, phone calls, emails or meetings at events.
The benefit of a cloud-based system is that this process of contact history management is streamlined, and automated includes automated reminders that help to manage contact frequency. Quality apps can minimize the time spent on the administrative side of relationship building and management while allowing for a scale up the network.
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