What Does Hybrid Marketing and Business Development Look Like for Law Firms, Anyway?

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A hybrid approach lets your firm ‘personalize’ your guidance even more for clients and prospects...

In this post-pandemic reality, legal marketers and business development professionals find themselves wondering if law firm events are moving into a digital-first world, or do in-person activities still rule the day?

Based on what I am seeing at the most proactive, forward-thinking firms, I think the question might not actually matter. Instead, what really matters is seeing firms blend both worlds – in-person and digital – into a hybrid approach that leverages the best of each and grows business effectively.

Here are five ways marketing/BD teams can leverage the best of digital and in-person in a single approach:

1. Stay Focused on Building Relationships

Historically, law firms have spent a significant portion of their marketing and business development budget toward establishing and nurturing in-person relationships with clients and prospects by sending attorneys to industry events, hosting seminars in cities around the world, sponsoring golf outings and sports team loges, and more.

...digital conferencing tools allow you to replicate the in-person experience without traveling.

But, as we have seen over the past couple of years, digital also allows lawyers to engage in valuable relationship-building activities. Through digital, lawyers can provide situation-specific business and legal advice – via webinars or short videos, for example – without the logistical complications of in-person meetings. Digital events also allow greater scheduling flexibility for audiences, who can consume the content when it’s convenient for them. And when relationships develop into one-on-one conversations, digital conferencing tools allow you to replicate the in-person experience without traveling.

Action Item: Incorporate digital activities into your in-person events, like real-time streaming of key sessions, breakout meetings featuring subject matter experts that bring together on-site attendees and participants from around the world, and virtual networking rooms where remote and in-person attendees can mingle and get to know each other.

2. Use Data to Understand Your Clients and Prospects

When it comes to analytics, digital events shine: not only does data tell you, for example, who attended your webinar, it shows how long they watched the program, whether they asked questions, which calls-to-action they clicked, what content they shared with their colleagues, and more.

Use the data you gather from digital events to build briefing reports on specific clients...

That data helps you to deepen your understanding of the relationships you are developing and should be used to plan for future events, develop new content for specific client targets, and identify hot button issues for prospects among other things.

Action Item: Use the data you gather from digital events to build briefing reports on specific clients and potential client targets: what interests them, what they share, their level of engagement, questions they raise, etc. Then ask the lawyers who have relationships with those prospects to supplement the reports with their observations based on in-person conversations. That will allow you to capture the urgency of the prospect's interest in a specific topic, the likelihood of their engaging your firm, the history of the prospect’s relationships with your lawyers, or even the politics at work within the prospect’s legal department.

3. Whether In-Person or Virtual, Always Look for the Digital Takeaway(s)

If you’re trying to reach an audience that doesn’t already know you, digital offers significant advantages. It’s a lot easier to sign up and attend a webinar, for example, than to travel across town – or across the country – to attend an hour-long presentation. The same holds for people who DO know you, of course, but if you're trying to grow your network of contacts, digital events have a low cost of entry for people interested in the topic who don't know your firm.

...a low cost of entry for people interested in the topic who don't know your firm.

Action Item: Develop ways to turn all of your programs – in-person and digital – into digital content that can be used to reach a broader audience. Record in-person events to post to your content portal. Share the videos wherever you would share webinar announcements. Get in the habit of including links to related digital resources at the end of client alerts and other firm publications. In short: create more digital content that can help more potential prospects discover you.

4. Put Your Content to Work for You

Your primary goals for both your in-person and digital events should be: 1) to establish the expertise of lawyers within your firm and, as I’ve mentioned, 2) to deepen relationships with clients and prospects who need that expertise and your service.

There’s no debate that both digital and in-person activities are powerful tools for achieving both of these goals. So how to combine the best of both worlds to make your hybrid events stand out? By providing more and more relevant content.

...if one of your lawyers is speaking to the local bar about new IRS rules for corporations, beef up your taxation portal with content

That means also drawing on the digital data you've gathered to identify the issues relevant to your audience and then creating additional content outlining solutions to those challenges to showcase the deep skills and experience your lawyers bring to the table.

Action Item: Build digital content into your in-person programs by sharing your vast libraries of content on related issues and also by creating new content that addresses the issues you've identified through data. For example, if one of your lawyers is speaking to the local bar about new IRS rules for corporations, beef up your taxation portal with content, videos, and webinar recordings that explain the questions identified in the data you’ve gathered on tax issues, then provide all attendees with a link to the portal.

5. Make Your High-Value Clients Happy

Client-specific events, like in-house training for the HR department and webinars that reach engineers in Chicago and Shanghai, allow you to educate top clients on specific issues they’re facing while introducing them to skills and expertise they might not know your firm has.

A hybrid approach lets your firm ‘personalize’ your guidance even more for key clients, particularly those spread across the globe. By combining digital and in-person activities and content, you can create client-specific solutions that make sense to a broad audience within the company.

Action Item: Create company-specific content portals for your key clients. Include videos, webinars, and other materials that focus on issues unique to their industries or geographies. Refer to the client by name in the content. Propose creating training videos that the client can use in its employee onboarding process.

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Julie Glazer is Sales Director at ON24. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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