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Should Your Law Firm Buy a Table at a Charitable or Bar Function?
Sometimes the smallest effort pays back the biggest rewards. Bob Weiss makes the case for maximizing your marketing dollars the next time a charitable or bar function is in your area.
Should your legal firm buy a table at a charitable or bar function? Should you put an ad in the dinner program? If your firm does this what can be done to maximize the value of your investment?
Over the years, our law firm marketing effectiveness surveys have shown that nearly 70 percent of firms use tables at charitable and bar events for marketing purposes. Nearly 40 percent report they receive cases, directly or by referral, as a result of contacts made at such events.
Of course, existing and potential clients and sources of referral need to be in attendance for the event to make marketing sense. Obviously, there is no way to determine exactly who is going to be at the event in advance. But a quick review of the members of the governing and advisory boards of the sponsoring organization will give you an idea of who is likely to attend. If the directors, advisors and obvious supporters and suppliers to the sponsoring organizationand those they will attract and invite to the eventare the kinds of contacts that will help your firms marketing you should attend.
(And, after the event, the people you and other lawyers meet should be added to your firms mailing list to ensure ongoing contact.)
Its bad form to buy a table (often with your firm name prominently displayed on a sign above the centerpiece) and have empty seats for everyone to see. So, only buy a table, or half table, if you can fill the seats with lawyers from your firm who WANT to be there. Charity dinners are not for everyone, so if only one or two of your lawyers want to attend, scale back the number of seats you buy. If you know other lawyers in other firms who are referral sources (or clients) who like these types of events, you can buy seats and invite them as your guests at your table. Or, if you know a non-competing firm might like to split the cost of a table, consider buying an entire table, obtaining the right to a dinner journal ad in the process, and sell off several seats to the other firm. This is not tacky. Many firms do it. (I buy seats at a law firms table every year at a leading bar event. They get the ad rights, with my help, and my wife and I get a seat at a good table in the middle of the room rather than by the back wall, which is where I would sit if I bought individual tickets.)
An ad in the dinner journal is a nice touch. Try to make it entraining or memorable. Use professionals to create it. For example, at a recent ACLU dinner we created a simple ad with headline: One legal bill is more important than any other we have ever seen. Beneath it appeared the Bill of Rights and underneath that was our clients logo. Our client reported several people came up to them during the event and remarked about the ad. It served as a conversation icebreaker. 
- Bob Weiss is president of Alyn-Weiss and Associates, Inc., a Denver-based marketing consulting group which has worked with both corporate, transactional and defense firms and contingent fee practices nationwide for more than 20 years.
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