Conferences are expensive in terms of money and time spent by lawyers, and many firms often question their value believing most industry events are simply vacations in disguise.
Conferences are an incredibly efficient way to start and deepen existing relationships. They key is to eliminate an event’s success being left to random contact in meeting rooms, hallways and at receptions by creating a personal sales plan executed before, during and after the event. The effective marketing with which we are familiar from the experiences of our clients includes:
1. Obtain an advance registration list. Identify several of the highest-value or most likely prospects (and any current or past clients and possible referral sources) who are coming. You may not be able to get this year’s list. Not all sponsoring organizations provide it. However, most will give you last year’s list, and that can suffice. Sometimes you just can’t get a list; it’s not made available. What you’re stuck with in these situations is grabbing the registration list at the outset of the event and a identifying a handful of people you want to meet and seeking them out. “I was hoping I might bump into you, Bob, I thought you find of interest our firm’s recent white paper on…”
2. Contact a manageable number of people from the list you can get in advance— by letter, email, voicemail—and let them know you will be in attendance. Give them your cell number. Suggest meeting for a quick conversation over coffee, or at lunch or a cocktail event. If you have a client you are taking to dinner at the conference, consider inviting the prospect along. It’s critical to have a nugget of information, an updated report/document or others news to share that’s relevant to the person’s operations as the reason for your conversation. The reason to meet has to be about them, not about you. “I’ll be at the conference and thought you might want to meets to discuss our firm’s recent report on… The data suggests companies like your may benefit/be harmed due to…” Some firms organize side meetings on specific issues. “We’ll be having a 30-minute briefing on ‘How to…’ on time, date, place and thought you might want to attend.” These side meetings are commonly held before, during or after the main meeting.
3. Look over the event’s vendor or exhibitor list. Which of these organizations share your target market? Can you strike a strategic promotional alliances with any of them? You might offer articles or reports for their site/newsletter or speak at one of the vendor’s future events. Can you give them information which they might pass along to their clients, they being your prospects, for your benefit? As an example, franchise lawyers we represented teamed up with a company that does geographic site analysis. They co-market franchisors by organizing dinners, presentations and making mutual introductions.
4. While at the event, explain to every prospect or referral source you meet that your firm has regular updates and reports on issues they’d likely find of interest. Ask if they, or a colleague, would like to receive them, obtaining their business card in the process so they can be added to the firm marketing database.
5. Finally, if you know lawyers in the host city it’s probably worth paying them a personal visit to explain trends in your jurisdiction.
6. Finally, if you attend any presentation and you should report information of interest to them via in a memo or email afterward. Don’t forget to copy in your partners and associates, too.
Taking these steps will ensure your next convention or industry meeting is well worth the time and expenses.
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