By Jacqueline Madarang, Cyndy McCollough & Deb Dobson
There is no doubt that the digital age has changed not only our daily lives but also the way we conduct business. Think back to when you had to look something up 10 years ago and how you do it now. Digital tools such as email, social media, mobile apps and the Web have become extremely effective communication channels. Driven by the rapid change of technology, many law firms are seeing the need for a special kind of role, one that can bridge the gap between marketing and IT — a hybrid — part strategist, part creative and part technologist: a marketing technologist.
So, What Is a Marketing Technologist?
At last year’s LMA Tech Conference West in San Francisco, Allen Matkins’ Chief Marketing & Client Services Officer Adam Stock gave a keynote speech on essential technologies for law firm marketers, during which he touched on the role of a chief marketing technologist. A Gartner survey in 2014 reported 81 percent of big firms have reported to have someone in this role (titles may vary, but functions are essentially the same).
According to Stock, “Marketing success will more tightly be coupled with mastering technology.” This is where we come in as marketing technologists. We understand and take full advantage of the latest technology, while still also possessing the requisite marketing acumen. We are familiar with both marketing techniques and technical applications, including website design and development, marketing software and applications, email marketing and automation tools, CRM, social and mobile platforms, data and analytics, digital branding, content marketing, and of course, big data.
We are seen as strategists, architects, technologists, innovators and creatives. We develop marketing technology strategies that align with the firm’s business development goals, work directly as liaisons with IT, and evaluate and choose marketing technology providers that align with the firm’s business development objectives.
In many ways, we have helped marketing teams gain independence from IT and external resources or vendors, making marketing departments more tech-savvy and independent.
Playing Nice in the Sandbox with IT
Bridging the divide between IT and marketing has not always been easy. Cross-functional integration between these two groups increases efficiencies, and by breaking down barriers between these two groups, we are able to communicate seamlessly and work collaboratively.
As marketers, we know that technology is the key to effective marketing programs. For example, when we implement a CRM in our firm, we look to our internal IT partners to draw upon their knowledge and expertise.
According to another Gartner survey, “The CMO will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIO by 2017.” What does that mean? That with digital marketing and various marketing technology tools used to support business development, marketing will continue to become increasingly technology-based. Harnessing and mastering big data is the key to gaining a competitive advantage, and firms have responded by increasing marketing budgets, which have become larger than they were five or 10 years ago.
Don’t get left behind. Technology is dynamic and fast-moving, and you need to continually understand it to be able to leverage its benefits. As marketing technologists, we need to not only keep up with the latest technology, but embrace it.
Here are some tips on how to stay ahead:
- Create a marketing technology roadmap and align it with your firm’s IT strategy.
- Develop your processes early.
- Identify and map out trends, including digital, social networking, email and marketing automation tools, niche marketing, content marketing and branding, application tools, intelligence tools and industry trends.
The marketing technologist is a relatively new position, and as technology continues to evolve, expect the marketing technologist to evolve with it.
Putting the Strategy in Social
Often, marketing technologists can be seen as IT people who have managed to jump the fence and now exist in the marketing department — doing an IT job, but for the marketing people. Yet the role embodies much more than that. Here’s an example.
In many firms, the establishment of a social media presence falls to the marketing technologist. But social media platforms are only as good as the content shared on them, so a marketing technologist who understands how to craft a content strategy that will differentiate their firm/practices/lawyers in the marketplace is incredibly valuable. When it comes to social media, the marketing technologist morphs into a digital strategist. Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, SlideShare, Issuu, Medium, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Periscope, Vine…and whatever else is about to become hot tomorrow. These all have a technology component, no doubt. But determining which platforms to focus on — and how best to use them — is a strategic effort. The marketing technologist/digital strategist provides value by bringing their marketing savvy to the table when recommending a social media approach. They know that the core marketing process still applies when it comes to:
When creating your firm’s social media strategy, start by identifying your firm’s objectives on social media. If a primary objective is, “Tweet such a fabulous 140-character message that a Fortune 500 GC calls me up and gives me new business,” then you are off to a rocky start. That isn’t how social media works. Typical objectives for law firms include promoting the brand, highlighting attorney experience, broadcasting information. By understanding the different tools and the ideal uses for them, you can advise your firm to, for example, use Facebook for diversity culture, pro bono needs; Twitter for helping position your attorneys as thought leaders on specific areas of law; and LinkedIn for sharing byline articles and invitations to webcasts and other events.
Targeting Your Audience
The marketing technologist has access to massive amounts of data that can help them as they advise on how the marketing team can reach their target markets. What is the make up of your client base? Where are your most profitable matters coming from? Predictive modeling can help refine the marketing strategy and help the content team prioritize what is being written.
Using your Google Analytics dashboard and other tracking tools, you can identify what content is working and what is not. Give the department actionable information — ongoing, timely updates that will help them refine their messages and adjust their platform selection.
The marketing technologist is so much more than a technology person who works on marketing applications. By helping to define content strategy, you’ll continue to add value to the department and the firm.
The Marketing Technologist Future
What does the future look like for a law firm marketing technologist? The challenge of keeping up with the rapidly changing and new digital technologies will only become more difficult. Emerging technologies such as drones, wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) will increase the amount of data exponentially, which will produce more data than we can even imagine. Because of this, it will become more critical than ever for a law firm to have someone in the marketing technologist role. Without this role, the law firm will be unable to leverage the power of big data. Some of the required skills include:
- Ability to discover data patterns and trends: Data analysis is and will continue to be an important skill to have. While being able to produce Google Analytics and other marketing reports is a good skill, the ability to analyze vast amounts of data to discover patterns and trends will become critical. The marketing technologist will need the ability to analyze and present the data in non-technical terms, helping the firm base decisions on actionable data leading to better, more fundamentally sound decision-making.
- Experimental curiosity: New marketing technologies are being introduced at an ever-increasing rate. These emerging technologies are developed in an agile environment which means that they are being released early to the public and use user feedback to develop features. Being an early adopter requires the courage and willingness to experiment. Not every experiment will be a success, but the ability to learn and identify how the technology may be able to help the firm or not is and will be an invaluable skill.
- Ability to see the whole technology ecosystem: The digital marketing technologist needs to see how all of the different technologies fit in the broad ecosystem and be able to make recommendations quickly.
- Agile project management: Gone are the days where you could roll out marketing campaigns slowly. Micro-opportunities pop up at any time and need to be quickly taken advantage of before they are lost to competitors. Agile methodologies, originally invented for rapid software development, are now being used by some marketing departments. The ability to run an agile project well, particularly in a culture that does not embrace technology change well, will be a highly valued skill.
Every aspect of marketing — from branding, experience design and demand generation, to content marketing, analytics and measurement — is affected by technology. In order for law firms to compete in today’s competitive environment, it is critical to have someone in this quickly evolving role to help leverage digital marketing technologies to help the firm reach its business goals. As more money is, and must be, invested in marketing technologies, there will be an ever-increasing demand for more marketing technologists and other new roles within a law firm.
Jacqueline Madarang is marketing technology manager at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jhmadarang.
Cyndy McCollough is director of marketing technology at Dickstein Shapiro and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lawmktggeek.
Deb Dobson is marketing technology manager at Fisher & Phillips and can be reached at email@example.com or Twitter @debdobson.