It’s the beginning of a new year, and the client “road shows” are starting. Nothing like popping into town, meeting with your client, and having nothing meaningful or new to say.

What??? I’ve been doing this for a little while now and I cannot tell you the countless times I have received a call from a partner (or better yet, their assistant) saying “Hi Heather, I’m leaving later this afternoon to meet with some clients on the East Coast. Do you have any brochures I can take to leave behind?” Ugh!!!! Talk about wasting a perfect opportunity to add VALUE to your relationship with your client. Please, my lawyer friends, take this simple piece of advice: Leave the brochures at home and prepare a custom report for your clients. With a little advanced warning, this should not be a problem for any marketing professional to prepare, with your input and assistance. First Step: Take out a legal pad and ask yourself these two questions:

  1. You’re going to visit your client because …
  2. Your client cares that you’re coming to visit because …

(Question #2 is the more important one, by the way.) For some of you, these visits will be a prime opportunity for a client service review, and you can check with companies such as Wicker Park Group, Kohn Communication, and The WJF Institute for standard questions to ask. However, if your goal is to remind your client who you are, meet the new general counsel, garner more work, here are a few action items for you to take: Pre-step: If your firm has an in-house marketing professional, book a meeting several weeks prior to your trip so that they can prepare a comprehensive packet for you. If you do not have a marketing professional, you can still take these steps on your own.

  1. Prepare a short memo on all open matters for the client. If there are no open matters, prepare a review of recent matters handled for the client.
  2. If you are meeting with a new general counsel, make certain to include a review of all matters, and include bios and DIRECT contact information for the attorneys working on their matters.
  3. Prepare a short memo on litigation trends in your state, especially against the client and the client’s key competitors. Show them what “might” be on the horizon. You can use either West’s Monitor Suite or LexisNexis’ Total Litigator to quickly prepare a report. You can identify your client’s competitors via a product like Hoovers. Yahoo Finance will list competitors for public companies as well.
  4. Prepare a short memo on new laws, newly introduced bills, pending regulatory issues, etc. which might affect the client’s business and business interests.
  5. Include a list of CLE courses that your firm can teach – at no cost – to the client’s legal team.
  6. Prepare a list of “other” companies to visit while on your road trip who are similar to your current client. Hoovers is a great tool to identify these companies. If you cannot find an introduction to the legal counsel via your firm’s partners, or LinkedIn, you can ask your clients for an introduction while there. PLEASE NOTE: There are “competitors” and then there are “competitors.” Don’t ask your PepsiCo client for a reference over at Coca-Cola. However, your PepsiCo client will happily introduce you to their bottling company, a subsidiary, etc. Similarly, Carl’s Jr. won’t introduce you to McDonald’s, but they might happily introduce you to their contacts at Taco Bell.
  7. Download and READ the client’s annual report, recent financial filings, etc.
  8. Conduct a Google search of your client – review all Web, News and Blog entries. Make certain to do this one more time the morning of your meeting.
  9. Review your client’s Web site, taking special note of the Press Release section. Once again, make certain to review this the day of your meeting.
  10. Google everyone who will be in the meeting with you (ask in advance who will be joining you). Look for points of commonality.
  11. If you have not done so already, connect with your client via LinkedIn. Review their connections and take note of any introductions you would like made.
  12. Understand and appreciate your client’s BUSINESS as a whole, not just the legal work they send your way. Read industry journals to understand the current business, economic, political and legal trends facing your client.

Producing your materials

  1. Now, it is important to present this information in a clean, clear and professionally produced fashion that DOES NOT look like a deposition, and is written, for the most part, in English (as opposed to legalese). Dump those 1-2-3 and A-B-C tabs.
  2. You can create your documents just fine in Word. Just take the tutorial on how to use Styles. The trick here is the consistency of your fonts, headers, etc.
  3. Print out your materials onto a good quality paper, and off a good quality printer, preferably color.
  4. Utilize a wire or coil binding system. This will help you avoid that “deposition” look and feel.
  5. If you cannot do this in-house, I have two words for you: FedEx Office. You can upload and print directly from your computer, and pick up at the most convenient FedEx Office.

IF you didn’t notice the themes in this post, they are PREPARATION and CLIENT FOCUS. Add VALUE to your client relationships, and you will achieve your goals. Part 2: Client Road Show … What to Do When You Get to the Meeting?