By: Dawn V. Sheiker, Marketing and Business Development Specialist, White and Williams LLP
On January 15, 2015, the Legal Marketing Association - Philadelphia Metro Chapter met to discuss, "The Marriage of Events and Business Development." The featured panelists were Mary F. Brightman, Director of Meetings and Events, Saul Ewing LLP, Amy Galie, Assistant Marketing Manager, Fox Rothschild LLP, and Andrea Malone, Marketing and Business Development Manager, White and Williams LLP. The panelists discussed the intersection of business development and event planning and provided practical tips and best practices for using events as a business development tool.
Before planning any event, the panelists suggest that you consider the overall business development goals. Does the event support the business development goals of the firm or practice group? If not, business development professionals should intervene and work with the lawyers to formulate a better strategy. If the event is aligned with firm goals, proceed with planning the event.
First, identify the lead partner who has the authority to make decisions regarding event details including expenses. Panelists agree that it is critical to meet with the lead partner before you begin planning the logistics to outline a budget, timeline and business development objectives. Use this meeting to discuss the partner’s expectations for the event including the target audience, agenda, setting and style of the event. Find out the elements of the event that are most important and the ways in which the partner defines success.
As you plan the event, keep the lawyers focused on the business development objectives instead of the logistics. For example, work with the lawyers to create a plan for client engagement before, during and after the event. Ideally, lawyers will not be involved in event planning aspects, including venues and menus; however, this is not always practical. Educate the lawyers regarding the processes involved in planning the event and stay ahead of their questions by providing status updates regarding RSVPs and logistics. This strategy will help to create an environment where the lawyers partner with you to reach event objectives.
The panelists agree that measuring return on investment (ROI) continues to be a challenge. Most felt that they do not have the full manpower to capture and analyze data. However, events can be evaluated on a micro level. Andrea Malone stresses the importance of outlining business development objectives at the start so that you can evaluate the ultimate success of the event. Amy Galie discussed using internal surveys to measure success.
Events can be a powerful tool to advance the business development goals of the firm and its practice groups and lawyers if used strategically. Event planners and business developers should work together closely to ensure success.