Hosting events has long been a staple of a good law firm marketing program. And why not? Events are great opportunities to nurture client relationships, as long as your attorneys understand that they are to act as hosts and talk with clients, not to each other. However, law firms that do not apply a business development strategy to their events are missing another level of opportunity.

We’ve all experienced the fervor that surrounds the open house event for a new office. The task requires developing the invitation list and then distributing invitations far enough out to allow clients to add the event to their busy schedules. For many firms, it also entails someone walking door to door the day of the event to remind the attorneys that their clients are in the office.

Open houses are a lot of work, but they can be successful, especially if you can tie the event to generating new revenue. With just a little additional effort, that is possible.

Here are five tips for making your next new office open house more than just a meet-and-greet with good food and drinks.

Be Deliberate in Developing a Strategy for the Event

During the due diligence process the firm undertook when deciding to open the office, there probably was an in-depth review of many factors, including clients the new laterals will bring to the firm, additions to or expansion of practice area offerings, whether the new location expands the firm’s position in certain industries, and which existing clients have operations in the new geographic market. Mine this data as you create your event mailing list.

Do Not Leave Introductions to Chance

With your RSVP list in hand, develop a plan to connect certain attorneys with certain event attendees. If an existing client with operations in the geographic area is on the list, ask the relationship attorney to also attend and to make introductions to the attorneys in the new office, particularly to those attorneys who either will be joining the firm’s team for that client or who work in a practice area that is ripe for cross-selling to the client.

Pair Up the Right Teams

For many of us, marketing with a colleague brings a greater level of comfort to the process. It’s easier to say wonderful things about someone else than about ourselves. When deciding which attorneys will make client introductions, consider not only the practices you wish to cross-sell but which attorneys work together well. That same chemistry will serve them in marketing.

Give a Welcome Speech

At some point early in the event, have an attorney make a few comments to welcome your guests. This might be the chairman of the firm and/or the managing partner of the new office. The remarks should be brief and introduce the firm to new clients or prospects in the room, hit the highlights of what the new office means to the firm, and mention the benefits for the firm’s clients. You might also consider having printed information about the firm and the new office on hand in the reception area.

Follow Up

As with every encounter with a prospective client, turning the contact into a client will happen only through follow up and building a relationship. Send an email or a note, or make a phone call to everyone with whom you spoke at the event. Send any materials you promised, subscribe them to firm newsletters and set a reminder to follow up at an appropriate time in the future.

Has your firm used a new office open house for successful business development? Share your ideas with us! Feel free to call or email me, Joi D. Neike, at jneike@jaffepr.com, to chat about your next open house.