Spending Your Law Firm Marketing Budget Wisely
Firms spend thousands of dollars ever year on trade and community group memberships budgeted under marketing. Some of that money is well spent, but in many cases the lawyers don’t participate consistently or meaningfully – and the money is simply wasted.
That’s a shame since our national marketing effectiveness surveys indicate that active membership in trade and community groups is one of the most effective ways to build and maintain a business, defense or plaintiff practice.
We often audit marketing budgets and discover that firms have been paying dues and meeting costs year-after-year, absent any evaluation of the return on investment. To ensure your firm is spending its limited marketing dollars efficiently, we recommend the following membership renewal procedure and standards be established. These should be explained to all of your firm’s lawyers when they first ask to join a group.
Community or trade group memberships will be renewed only after a memo from the participating attorney(s) explaining how many meetings were attended, if a committee was joined and/or a leadership role taken. What new referral or prospective client relationships were established, or what existing relationships are being supported, should also be noted. The number and nature of contacts added to the firm’s marketing database should be explained, as well.
Your marketing director or partner or marketing committee should review these memos and give the authority to approve or deny renewals.
The person(s) reviewing each request for dues and meeting costs should be wary of requests to groups that do not meet frequently. Monthly is best; quarterly is questionable because strong relationships cannot be maintained absent frequency contact. The group must be filled with decision-makers who can refer or directly hire your lawyers. The group should accept that members are actively networking to support their business goals. There should be working committees, as well. Ideally, the group should have a publication to which articles are contributed.
There will be times when membership in certain groups should be approved as a matter of general community support. Those memberships, however, are memberships in name only. The expense should be shifted to the firm’s charitable budget. 
1. 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.