What Are Your New Year's Resolutions?
The LMA Northeast Region held its first regional conference in November, bringing more than 500 legal marketing and business development professionals to Philadelphia. Throughout the conference, industry experts and chief marketing officers shared their thoughts on the strategic opportunities for legal marketing and business development in 2018.
Here are the top 10 strategic opportunities raised at the regional conference that you may want to consider for in planning for next year:
- Capitalize on increased demand for outside counsel. Michael Rynowecer from BTI Consulting presented the 2018 U.S. legal industry outlook. For the first time in several years, demand from in-house legal teams for outside counsel is forecasted to increase. Competitive pressures for legal services remains high, but an opportunity exists for law firms to gain market share.
- Make client service a priority. Rynowecer also shared that corporate consolidation of outside law firms is likely to continue. According to a BTI survey, 60 percent of corporate clients replaced one of their primary law firms in the last 18 months. Why? Better client service. BTI data also showed that firms rated highly on client service enjoyed higher profit margins and client retention rates.
- Seek client feedback to extend relationships. Law firms do not typically ask for feedback from clients but obtaining client insights over time is a business imperative. Law firms can implement feedback mechanisms, such as surveys and client interviews, and consider using third-party resources. Additionally, an executive feedback program can help extend client relationships with the firm, as can introducing CMOs or COOs to participate and champion the process.
- Shift marketing from firm-focused to client-focused: According to BTI, complex client matters remain at peak levels. During new business pitches, many attorneys discuss more narrow topics like specific capabilities. For more complex clients, it is important to take a strategic approach to discuss big exposures or gaps. Additionally, look at your firm’s website content: Shift from focusing just on the firm to showcasing client issues or case studies. Convey that your firm understands complex client problems, and share how you’ve resolved issues for similar clients.
- Streamline marketing processes. Attorneys are demanding a more proactive degree of marketing and business development support, so it is important for CMOs to streamline routine internal services. Take stock of repeatable requests that can be automated or distributed to legal assistants. Is your team leveraging digital platforms to help improve team coordination and communications?
- Introduce marketing outsiders. Marketing leaders with experience outside the legal industry can introduce new perspectives and push the envelope on new ideas. Not hiring from the outside? Legal marketing veterans can think like an industry newbie to take a fresh look at integrated approaches and more sophisticated ways to deliver value.
- Create a sales funnel. Increasingly, attorneys often want their marketing and business development team to find client leads or prospects for them. To address this need, some have adopted lead generation and sales funnel approaches. This includes generating contacts through content distribution, tracking activities with key prospects, measuring sales funnel stages and analyzing data to identify potential clients.
- Differentiate, don’t commodify. What is your firm known for? Do you have a sustainable advantage? Does your current positioning align with your firm’s long-term view? Davis Wright Tremaine, which was spotlighted for focusing on innovation, developed new approaches for project management, budget management and staffing models. Their focus on innovation gained the firm new clients as well as industry recognition.
- Leverage attorneys as a communications channel. Marketers spend a significant amount of time communicating externally. Many law firms face internal communication challenges as well. Some legal marketing teams have assumed responsibility for updating attorneys on new clients, issues and resolutions. Business development-focused communications can also help drive cross-selling and internal referrals.
- Look for new revenue opportunities. One firm conducted labor and employment training for clients to rave reviews. Afterward, the event manager sent an email asking attendees if they were interested in further training. The firm had developed an internal system for web-based training, and the marketing team externalized the tool for clients. The service now generates $500,000 per year – effectively turning a cost center into a profit center.
Momentum in the legal market is building. How will you position your firm to gain market share?
Laurie Barkman is the chief marketing and business development officer for Burns White, a Mid-Atlantic law firm with 140 attorneys. New to the legal industry, Laurie brings more than 20 years of experience in executive marketing across various industries, including retail, transportation and technology. Connect with Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org, LinkedIn or @LaurieBarkman to discuss growth and innovation.