Question: We’re moving to new offices in a couple of months. Some say this is a “marketing opportunity.” I say it’s just important to let people know our new address and contact information, but we don’t need to spend a lot of money on an open house and a fancy printed announcement. What do you think?
Paul Bonner: Your first thought—that you need to make sure friends of your firm do not “lose you”—is a good one. However, I suggest you look past the undoubtedly long list of move-related tasks and consider an open house. An open house can be a valuable relationship-building opportunity if, like any other event, there is enough lawyer buy-in. All the firm’s lawyers need to understand that their involvement can make or break the event. They are the primary draw, not the new offices. Plan your open house as you would any other business development event.
- Meet with the lawyers who are championing the event and set forth what is needed to make it successful.
- Confirm that there is a critical mass of lawyers in the office who will work on it.
- Identify invitees.
- Reach out to the non-responders.
- Set up lunches, dinners, drinks, or coffee with key invitees who decline or who are no-shows.
- Follow up afterward on conversations that might yield new business.
If you have lawyer participation, your open house will be a well-attended, productive marketing event that will deepen relationships and lead to new business.
Paul Bonner, JD/MBA, has more than 10 years of experience at AmLaw 100 firms developing the strategic sales support function critical to assisting lawyers in becoming more effective in their business development efforts.
James Jarrell: I think the move absolutely is a marketing opportunity, and you need only look at the reasons for your move to see why. Did you move to bigger office space, giving you capacity for growth? Was it to be more centrally located to your clients or the courts? Do your new offices have better facilities (conference, technology, etc.)? These are all things that add value to your service, and your clients and prospects should be told about it. Don’t overlook the fact that many of them want to know about your move.
An open house may seem like too much, but it really should not be out of the question. You can minimize the cost if you think outside the box about how to plan and host the event. Perhaps you can co-host it with your building’s property management company. (Surely, they’d like an audience with your clients to tout the features of their building.) You might also look into forming an alliance with a local business partner (an accounting firm or other service provider with whom you share clients or a common industry target), or one of your new neighbors. They may see hosting the event as an excellent co-marketing opportunity. Better yet, find a charity that needs a low-cost locale to host its next event and offer your shiny new space as an option. (They won’t turn down “free.”)
The key point to remember is that moving to a new space can be just as important to your clients and prospects as it is to you. Celebrate it with them. If they see you making a big deal about it, they will believe it’s a big deal.
Jim Jarrell is a Business & Corporate Development Representative for Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., LPA, in Cleveland, where he is responsible for firm-wide strategy for responding to client requests for proposals and information, developing pitch presentations, and coordinating marketing plans for several of the firm’s practice groups.
Sarah Reeves: Open houses provide a great opportunity to build business. By showcasing the hard work your firm has invested in the location, you also highlight your firm’s personality and provide a chance to relax with clients out from behind the desk. Open houses also give you the opportunity to cross-promote practice areas. While clients may currently use your firm for L&E issues, they may not realize that you also have top-notch IP attorneys.
These events don’t have to break the bank. Consider a casual event after work where clients and potential clients can drop by, have a drink and be on their way.
Increase your ROI by reacquainting local dignitaries and organizational leaders with your firm. Expand your reach by placing ads in the local newspaper’s business section two to three weeks before the event, and have all the lawyers in the office email clients encouraging them to attend with family and friends. You can save money on invitations by using postcards, or use online invitations as a way to cut costs and promote environmental conservation.
Don’t forget to announce the move and open house on your firm’s website and social media outlets, too.
Once you have the formula down, you’ll see that moving isn’t the only reason to host an open house!
Sarah Reeves, MPP, is the President and owner of Lambent Interactive Group.
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