Simple Intelligence Tools To Get Your Firm Ahead
Competitive intelligence (CI) involves researching, gathering and distributing information related to a client, prospect, product or competitor in order to aid decision-makers in strategic planning. In a law firm setting, this often translates to client intelligence, or analyzing information about prospective or current clients for business development and cross-selling purposes.
Today, many larger firms have a CI professional as part of their legal marketing or law library team. However, hiring a dedicated CI professional may exceed the budget for small and mid-size firms. Small firm marketers can get the value of a CI program without major costs through DIY CI, using free- and low-cost tools to provide business development research to their firm.
In this four-part series, we will discuss the ways in which marketers can incorporate CI practices into their business development workflow without incurring major costs.
Research Tools Needed for DIY CI
The variety of research and CI tools available can be overwhelming to legal marketers starting a CI program from scratch. Let’s explore some of the essential low or no-cost CI research tools for those legal marketers who want to incorporate CI into their workflow, or for firms looking to create a CI position within their marketing department.
When attorneys request CI on a company, they tend to be most interested in: a company description, key financial data, a corporate tree, key executives and general counsel, recent litigation and recent news. While proprietary company intelligence databases like Capital IQ, Hoover's or Bloomberg provide easy access to public company, and to a lesser extent private company, information, these resources are often too expensive for solo marketers.
Instead, those looking for low-budget options should start with the company's website, which often posts annual reports, financial information and corporate statistics on the company's about, investors, or corporate page. LinkedIn can also be a helpful resource in researching company executives and general counsel.
Using the firm's Lexis or Westlaw account is another helpful way to obtain corporate information using a tool that most firms already have. Both Lexis and Westlaw have stripped-down corporate information available. This information is often included in the firm's subscription.
Recent litigation, in a format easily digestible for attorneys wanting a quick overview of a target company, can be more difficult to obtain. While dockets are available through PACER, LexisNexis Courtlink, Westlaw Dockets, Courthouse News and other sources, Westlaw Monitor Suite leads the way in the data analysis of company litigation. Monitor Suite generates pie charts for target company litigation that can be filtered, sorted and otherwise manipulated to tease out trends in litigation. This information can help requesting attorneys assess gaps in a company's legal representation, match an attorney's strengths to that of a company and identify law firms competing for a company's business. For solo and small marketing departments looking to invest in one great research tool, Monitor Suite often provides measurable return on investment.
Requesting attorneys also need to be apprised of current legal and non-legal news regarding a target company. Law360 is a top source for legal news, but can be expensive for small marketing departments. Law firms' Lexis and Westlaw accounts both have excellent news searching features, however, and can be utilized to pull recent company news, including mergers and acquisitions, executive changes, location or product expansions, and litigation, among other relevant topics.
Finally, never underestimate the power of Google. Google news searches on a company often bring to light major company changes that attorneys trying to win new business should be aware.
By investing in one "showpiece" research tool, like Monitor Suite, and using free and already available resources like company websites, Lexis or Westlaw, LinkedIn and Google, legal marketers on smaller budgets can provide requesting attorneys with the information needed to gain knowledge on a prospect's strengths and weaknesses. Identifying these strengths and weaknesses can help attorneys assess needs within a prospect company and develop a plan of action in assisting that target. At a minimum, prospective and current clients will always appreciate a firm’s preparation in knowing the background and potential needs of their company.
Part two of this four-part series, DIY Competitive Intelligence: Company Research by Ben Brighoff, will be available on Strategies+ next month.
Virginia Ryan is the competitive intelligence senior analyst for Butler Snow LLP and is serving as a co-chair of the 2017 Competitive/Market Intelligence Shared Interest Group. Virginia is a licensed attorney and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.