Ideas for Partnering
Legal industry business partners are great resources for education. They know the market and they know their products or services and where their products or services can help.
To reach new audiences, business partners often turn to professional associations. Many business partners continue to support associations long after their name recognition and market share goals are achieved. This good faith reinforces their place in the market.
Associations benefit from these relationships in many ways. Business partner support offsets the expense of raising the quality of education and network opportunities within a chapter. No chapter is too small to partner with business partners – even those with a national presence.
Here are examples of some successful business partner opportunities developed by ALA chapters.
- Monthly Meetings
Invite sponsors to underwrite monthly chapter meetings. Invite the business partners to arrive before the meeting begins to enable them to meet and greet attendees as they arrive. Allow sponsors a few minutes at the podium to tell the members about their company and product or service. Some chapters try to coordinate the sponsor with the topic of the meeting.
Ask the business partners to donate scholarship money – a popular theme. Some chapters award scholarships in drawings at special events or general meetings. The business partner is invited to attend the event or meeting and draw the name(s) of the winner(s). This gives the business partner an opportunity to meet the recipient in person. Ensure that the business partner receives adequate recognition from the attendees. Consider giving the recipient a prepared thank you letter to send to the business partner. Thanking the business partners is an important component to the success of such sponsorships.
- Resource Directory/Survey/Business Partner Directory
The Resource Directory is a tool that some chapters publish. This directory surveys what services and products are being used within its chapter members’ firms. Advertisements in the directory can be sold to offset the cost of production. Advertisers should be provided with a free copy of the directory. This directory can give business partners details about their competition and can elicit additional marketing ideas.
- Membership Directory
Some chapters utilize business partners to pay for all or a portion of their Membership Pictorial Directory. Printers often donate their services to produce the directory. Contributing business partners are given a copy of the directory. The member information distributed to business partners may vary depending on the comfort level of different chapters and their members. For example, business partners may receive a directory with no direct-dial numbers, but with names, addresses and main telephone numbers. Alternatively, business partners could be given a set of mailing labels of all chapter members for use in sending a direct mail piece.
- Business Partner Appreciation Events
Some chapters create events to recognize those business partners who have generously supported their chapter. Appreciation events are always popular. Consider throwing a recognition party for the chapter’s top 10-25 contributors. Seek hotel or restaurant support to offset some or all the cost. Present recognition certificates to business partners during this event. Business partners are competitive and will try to be one of the chosen for this event.
- Business Partner Sponsored Education Programs
Find one or two major sponsors for a half-day seminar or other special education session, such as a Managing Partners Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner or a Managing Partner Panel. Offer the business partners an opportunity to display their products before or after the formal part of the program, and include these sponsors in the lunch or cocktail hour. Invite them to have one representative at each table or to introduce the speaker.
Many chapters offset newsletter desktop publishing, printing and distribution costs by selling advertisements. The advertisers receive a copy of the newsletter, which helps them keep current on chapter activities and hot topics. Consider inviting specific business partners to contribute relevant and timely articles to the newsletter – they often have a wealth of knowledge to share.
- Social Events
Business partners are always looking for an opportunity to network with chapter members. Social events lend themselves to this kind of interaction. These events can include a new member party, a golf tournament, a holiday party or some other type of social event.
Over 80 percent of ALA’s chapters have their own websites. There have been different approaches to business partner participation and/or recognition on these sites. Some chapters sell links to the business partner’s webpage and others sell tombstone ads on the website itself, bundling a link with one of the other opportunities listed above.
- Joint Seminar with Bar Association
Consider organizing a one-day law office management seminar and exposition with a local bar association. Invite various business partners to set up a business partner exposition hall to showcase their products and services. Recruit business partners to give presentations at learning pavilions in the exhibit hall. This has an added benefit of raising the visibility of ALA with the local bar association.
- Business Partner Education Session/Forum
Work with your business partners to help them understand the legal industry and how best to sell to chapter members. Consider a program with a panel of administrators or table talks to discuss relevant issues business partners need to understand regarding the decision-making process in a law firm. Following the program, consider hosting a cocktail party so that business partners and administrators can network.
ALA recognizes outstanding chapter business partner relations efforts during its annual Awards Program at the ALA Annual Conference and Expo.