Legal marketing transformation – data, people and process

Fierce competition is everywhere in today’s economy, and the legal industry is no exception. Law firms are fighting for a piece of a dwindling pie.

According to the “2018 State of the Legal Market” report from Georgetown University Law Center, the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and Peer Monitor, in 2017, U.S. law firms “continued to see very sluggish growth in demand, decline in productivity, modest rate increases, downward pressure on realization and upward pressure on expenses.” Demand for services was “essentially flat” in 2017, and general litigation, some 30 percent of all practice activity, declined.

Against this backdrop, innovative firms are transforming their marketing to leverage data and pursue strategic endeavors that drive new business. Technology-driven efforts are helping firms to better understand existing and potential clients, differentiate themselves and deliver proposals that get results.

This transformation is built on three key factors: data, people and process. Financial data, third-party data and other data collected from marketing programs helps firms develop a deeper understanding of client needs. This leads to identification of potential opportunities, particularly around lawyer expertise.

In terms of business development (BD) and responding to a request for proposal (RFP), effective use of data can save time, effort and firm resources. Data often live in various locations across a firm, including personal files and sticky notes, company data stores and “inside the head” of various lawyers who have specific and relevant experience for a given pitch. Many law firms are simply not equipped to leverage all their existing data resources and capture useful insights for development of a particular pitch or proposal. This is exacerbated by IT systems that silo information, as well as a lack of broad buy-in for data investments and cultural mores (such as compensation and billing structure) that hamper collaboration. This is why firms must create both the capacity and technical infrastructure to use and process data effectively.

People are the second key factor in marketing transformation through creation of a culture that embraces technology-driven marketing. Often, marketing department accountabilities, programs and budgets are poorly aligned to strategy, and marketing teams are regularly mired in the details of one-to-many initiatives like website bios, content and mass mailings. The process is frequently too tactical, and manual execution of campaigns is arduous and must be accomplished alongside traditional new business efforts driven by the responsible partner and meetings. (According to the 2018 Emerging Growth study by Intapp and Calibrate Legal, the responsible partner handles leads management at a majority of firms.) As a result, marketing professionals are overtaxed.

Firms can also look to solutions that drive efficiencies around revenue, like the automation of content approvals and data capture around client sentiment and feedback. The combination of technology with an adaptable firm culture — where key stakeholders are engaged in the process — means that marketing and BD professionals can be freed up to focus on higher-value activities, including sophisticated client targeting through data analysis and differentiating to enable growth. According to the  2018 Law Firm Growth Enablement Survey sponsored by Intapp and Calibrate Legal, less than 5 percent of firms with more than 1,000 attorneys are seeking to differentiate themselves. In contrast, smaller and more agile firms seem to “get it” and embrace technology for growth, with nearly 30 percent of 100- to 500-lawyer firms investing in technology solutions for business development and greater differentiation.

In addition to technology and people, process plays an important part. A consistent and repeatable BD effort drives results, and combining technology, culture and process empowers firms to reimagine how they pursue revenue. Firms that are successful with marketing transformation and data-driven business development typically start small and build gradual momentum, creating playbooks that further streamline and automate efforts.

Consistent application of sales methodologies and tracking marketing ROI are helpful, and with a technical foundation that captures and integrates data, such as client health for analysis and visualization, collaboration can go beyond traditional cross-selling. Data and process can also help quickly pinpoint client needs and identify project management and pricing approaches that enhance the customer experience and maximize revenue.

Law firms are similar to other industries, and they can and must leverage client data to drive service excellence, differentiation and profitability.

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