Monday, September 29, 2014

The Managing Partner’s Nightmare: Leaving Money on the Table

In our over 20 years of marketing law firms, one of the most often expressed concerns by managing partners is a fear that they are leaving money on the table.  By this, they are usually referring to the fact that clients are associating the firm and/or individual attorneys with specific areas of focus, rather than as a resource for resolving any of a number of legal matters.  This is typically seen in the client who contracts with a law practice for one legal matter and then walks down the street to contract with another regarding a different legal concern.

Part of this may stem from compensation arrangements that do not reward internal cross-promotion and part may simply be a function of internal politics and territoriality.

So how does the growth-inclined law practice avoid the dreaded “’shoulda’s’ ‘woulda’s’ and coulda’s?’”

The answer lies first in creating a culture in which the firm moves from a practice area orientation to a problem-solving one. Such an orientation often requires re-educating personnel that the firm’s major focus really is on just helping people. Administrative and human resource matters should be approached with that mindset and compensation should, in large part, be based on each attorney’s capacity to do just that. That means rewarding individuals not just for the work they bring in or the work that they do, but also for the work, internal or external, that they can bring to another member of the firm’s staff. Further, in some cases, an interdisciplinary team approach to client problem-solving should be considered. And processes should be put into place that allow firm attorneys to regularly be made aware of the legal matters in which their brethren are involved. 

Second, law firms must do a better job of educating both prospects and clients as to the full range of their legal services. This means developing the kinds of materials – both online and off, which easily convey the many ways in which the firm can be of service. Specific areas of the firm’s legal expertise that are buried deep inside a firm brochure or web site do little in communicating how the firm can help an individual or business in more ways than they might have otherwise thought. Instead, law practices – particularly those with disparate areas of focus, should consider development of collateral materials that highlight its portfolio of services upfront. Ditto for the firm web site.  Often, it is not enough for such content to be place under some “Practice Area” button. That’s because the individual looking for assistance on a family law matter may never even bother to see whether the firm can also help him on his pending bankruptcy. Ditto for the corporation seeking help with transactional matters, but not knowing (or bothering finding out) that the firm can also handle matters of litigation as well.

One way in which we have seen law firms address such issues is through the development and dissemination of e-newsletters. Here, what matters most is not the actual content (though it should still be well thought-out and well-written), but rather the subject line on the address and the title of the main article. Recipients may never actually even read the content, but even in rejecting it, will nonetheless still be exposed to other services the firm provides. The goal here is not to drum up business immediately (though its been known to happen), but to plant the seeds among the firm’s database for that day when the need for a particular service does arise.

Finally, in an age where everyone is (or should be) self-publishing, it is easy to communicate the individual skill sets of specific attorneys. What is mandated however, is ensuring that the ways in which such messages are disseminated, show a consistent regard for the firm at large. This means incorporating the firm’s logo, tag line, contact information (and possibly even practice areas) into individual  online communications. Ultimately, it is the sum of all communications that serves as the face (and even the essence) of the organization.

This is the first in a 5-part series on the concerns most often expressed by managing partners and legal marketers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Marrying IT with the Legal Marketing Function

Businesses of all kinds have historically had a difficult time reconciling the respective roles of those in the marketing and in the accounting/financial departments. It has always been understood that marketing should “pay out,” yet those who performed that function had difficulty articulating how each element of their program contributed (for better or for worse) to the company’s bottom line.

Now however, that “fuzziness” of respective roles has carried over into the IT department as well. Marketers of all kinds (and legal marketers in particular) might well ask where marketing begins and ends.   More often than not, in today’s information driven society, it begins and ends at the desk of the firm’s technical guru. 

For proof, one need look no further than the importance CRM software plays in the business development process.  If attorneys (particularly at larger firms) had to procure, understand, implement, train and then utilize such applications on their own, it is doubtful this technological advance would be as widespread as it is today. Same holds true for the marketing guys who may well understand how to develop a message, place an ad, disseminate a press release or even create a pay-per-click campaign, but who at the same time, would have difficulty recognizing the compatibility of one legal application with another.

So much of legal marketing today revolves around online activities. Yet it is the IT folks who understand the benefits (and limitations) of the various social media outlets, the changing algorithms involved in search engine optimization, the capabilities of online dissemination services, and the potential of the firm’s web site to convey everything the firm wishes to convey.

The law firm that places too great a distinction between marketing and information technologies runs the very real risk of inefficiency, but even more important, is almost certain to miss out on opportunity.  A much wiser approach is to promote the full integration of the IT folks into the marketing decision making process.

By doing so, law firms are almost certain to discover ways in which to efficiently stand out from competitors through both substance and style. And even in the information age, “standing out” is still what marketing is all about.

Don’t agree? Or maybe you do. Either way, I’d like to hear from you. Very interested to hear how your firm has or hasn’t integrated the IT and marketing functions.