March/April 2021

Taking the Lead: Creating New Marketing Opportunities

Linda Klein & John Hinton IV

During a recent call with a client, our conversation turned from the business at hand to COVID’s impact on business travel and in-person meetings. Her company’s clients and projects are spread across the country, so in-person meetings had been an integral business development tool. The pandemic has greatly curtailed her ability to hold these meetings. She recognized the adverse impact of this new reality on her firm’s marketing efforts, which was a concern we shared. Near the end of the call, we mentioned that our in-person meetings with most clients had also stopped. However, because videoconferences were replacing many telephone calls, we were seeing some clients more often by video than we saw them in person pre-pandemic. Were the bonds with these clients getting stronger, not weaker?

That last comment was a footnote to the call rather than a prior revelation that we had recognized or intended to share. In time, it led to a question: Had COVID exposed a tendency that existed pre-COVID to bind ourselves to a false set of limited choices (e.g., meeting by telephone or in person) that caused us to miss other available options (e.g., meeting by video) and thereby limit marketing opportunities? Our answer was “yes.” We suspect that we are not alone. Here are some ideas that we brainstormed to create new opportunities.

Videoconferencing.

Notwithstanding the interruptions arising from the pandemic, in-person meetings are too valuable to become extinct. Nothing beats the connection gained through an in-person meeting, but they are the most expensive way (time and money) to meet a client or potential client. How many people can you meet with by video in the time that it takes to travel to another city or drive across town to meet in person? Asking for a videoconference may seem awkward, particularly with people whom you don’t know well. Just do it; ask: “I would like to meet with you to talk about your business. May I set up a brief videocall for us to meet?” Most people will appreciate such a request.

There are endless options to make a video meeting engaging and useful to the other people. You can introduce them to the team member they work with closely by phone but have never met. You can offer to provide free education for their colleagues on a topic—a virtual lunch and learn. You can host a brainstorming session to discuss those legal issues that you and your client keep saying that you will get to someday. Keep meetings brief and for a defined time period. Use proper video etiquette. But don’t hesitate to ask for the meeting.

Creative in-person meetings.

The traditional office visit or business lunch may be curtailed for some time, but that does not have to limit in-person meetings. If office visits inside are barred, you can offer to travel to their office to meet outdoors, weather permitting. Bring a couple of chairs. If you need to work while you meet, bring a card table. Plenty of restaurants offer outdoor seating that is properly socially distanced or offer to bring lunch to your outdoor office visit. If the person is working from home, then offer to meet for lunch at a nearby outdoor restaurant or park. They may welcome an excuse to get out of their house. Have you been talking with a client for months (or years) about a game of golf or tennis? Now may be the time. Get creative within the boundaries of your comfort level and those whom you seek to meet. Make certain to give them a way to gracefully decline. The idea is to engage with people, not to make them uncomfortable.

Helping your client’s marketing efforts.

COVID’s impact on marketing efforts is not limited to law firms. Your clients may be feeling the same pressures. You may be the person who can help them. Is there someone your clients should meet who would be a benefit to their success? Perhaps you can set a three-way meeting through a videoconference or an outdoor in-person meeting. You get time with your client where the engagement is about their needs and not yours. Clients appreciate thoughtfulness, particularly in times of hardship.

We hope these ideas spur you to engage in some new and creative marketing. We’d like to hear what you did and maybe share your ideas in a future column. 

Linda Klein

Senior Managing Shareholder

Linda Klein is a past president of the ABA and senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson. She is a frequent speaker on law practice, construction and higher education law. lklein@bakerdonelson.com

John Hinton IV

Shareholder

John Hinton IV is a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Atlanta office. His practice focuses on commercial litigation and construction law. jhinton@bakerdonelson.com

Entity:
Topic: