If you studied marketing in college, you know that “Product” is one of the four Ps, the four building blocks of marketing. Yet, in legal marketing, we don’t often think about how we can productize services. After all, the “product” we are marketing is generally thought of as the lawyers themselves, what they have to offer and the sum of their experience. But, as the legal world continues to evolve, there’s a real opportunity for us as marketers to consider how the services a firm offers can be marketed as products — and even identify and execute on defined products that can help differentiate our firms.
In the largest consumer goods companies, like Proctor & Gamble, the product managers have one of the most important roles in the company. They use market data, consumer surveys and their own intuition to anticipate where there will be a demand for a new product or an extension of a existing one. Vanilla Coke, microwavable popcorn, Virgin Air and Oreo Double Stufs are all examples.
Legal marketers have the opportunity to innovate, too, but need to pull off product creation within organizations and structures that are not structured to do so. This opportunity falls largely within
the marketing department, even if there is not a designated position, or, for that matter, an expectation that the group will productize services.
So how does a legal marketer begin to think like a product manager? The following tips should provide a good starting point.
1. Understand your target market.
Most legal marketers have a good sense of what their lawyers can offer in terms of services within their
practice or industry knowledge. What can make it difficult is that we are often one step removed from
direct client feedback. If you have a formalized client feedback program (and you should), make sure the client feedback questions include a few on future needs and interest in packaged or project-based services. Then use the feedback to trigger ideas for products. You can also look at your firm’s website metrics and readership stats to identify what hotbutton issues are resonating. Epstein Becker found regular client demand for its harassment training. After repeated inquiries, the firm decided to develop a training product solution it could provide to clients, and then market and sell it publicly and on its website. This type of client-led demand is the most obvious signal for the need for a product.
2. Use a product for lead generation, cross-selling or branding.
Sometimes, productized tools can be developed to position the firm for more work in a particular area.
Orrick has a large start-up clientele, but is not as well known for its work taking those clients public. As
part of the firm’s effort to position for more IPO work, it developed an “IPO Ready Tool.” This online questionnaire takes users through a series of questions in a number of areas, like management structure, compliance and funding, to score them on how close they are to being ready to operate as a
public company — and automatically provides recommendations for areas in which to improve. It also acts as a lead generation tool for the firm, as users can request follow-on consultations.
Since launching earlier in the year, hundreds of entrepreneurs have used the tool and it comes up first in IPO ready search results. A firm that is known for its IPO and deal work, Latham Watkins, wanted to reinforce its brand by providing a useful resource and glossary on deal terms. It launched a Book of Jargon™ app in 2012 that explains corporate and deal terminology that was so well received that the firm now has 15 apps or other products under its Book of Jargon suite. In a similar brand-affirming way, Finnegan developed an app that allows users to search U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decisions with Finnegan summaries on the most important patent decisions.
3. Take cues from your client.
Sometimes this may be as simple as “tagging on” to a trend or product your client has already created. For example, at Morrison Foerster, we wanted to impress Apple with our knowledge of apps at a time when they were just taking off so we developed one of the first iPhone law firm apps. The design incorporated four functions, including a firm directory, and made it easy to for clients to reach the lawyers from any Apple device with two clicks on their iPhone. The Apple legal team was impressed, and this ability to demonstrate that the firm “got it” helped to deepen a growing relationship.
4. Look for triggers.
Big changes in the law, like the Patent Reform Act and GDPR, offer opportunities to consider products as part of larger marketing campaigns. This offers the chance to think about what would be useful to the client, often times as a free product that helps position the firm as a leader in the area, and
provides a lead generation tool for larger engagements. As an example, Orrick launched a GDPR Assessment Tool a few months before the May 2018 deadline for GDPR compliance.
The tool allows company officers to “stress test” their efforts to comply with the new law and provides a complimentary, personalized report.
5. Find a tech partner.
For most already overworked marketing departments, the thought of taking on a product launch is daunting. It doesn’t have to be, though. What’s needed is proper planning and the right team to make it happen.
"For most already overworked marketing departments, the thought of taking on a product launch is daunting. It doesn’t have to be, though. What’s needed is proper planning and the right team to make it happen."
You will likely need to start with assessing whether or not your in-house IT department can take on a new product. Given that it is typically stretched with ongoing institutional needs and software upgrades, it may make sense to outsource the development itself to a vendor. Since a lot of innovation starts on the consumer side, when I looked for a vendor to develop an app, I sought out those who had already developed consumer apps. With the vendor’s expertise, we were able to quickly agree on a feature set, have them scrape the website for relevant content and be ready to launch the app — all within a four-month period.
If you have tech clients, you may also be able to partner with them to create a product. For the IPO Ready Tool mentioned earlier, client LTSE had extensive experience with developing tools for entrepreneurs.
That allowed us to piggyback off their development expertise while we provided important
content around legal and disclosure issues. This sped up the development timetable considerably over using in-house IT resources.
While most products are offered free to help bring in eyeballs and generate interest, there are instances where it may make sense to charge. Many services include an executive summary, or product teaser, offered free that then requires paying for a more fulsome version. For example, Morrison &
Foerster provides a privacy library that summarizes privacy laws from around the world, but charges for access to the fuller version that includes advice and templates for those jurisdictions covered. This type of pricing model is also often the case with technical books or extensive white papers.
What is your Double Stuff Oreo? Like product managers in the consumer goods field, we can identify niches for our client base and look for products that serve their needs. This may take experimentation, support from an experienced vendor or consultant, and a need to operate outside of the usual comfort zone of the firm. But, taking these types of risks can pay off — with new clients, new revenue, and better branding and recognition for your firm.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Strategies Magazine. For more great thought leadership, LMA members can access the Strategies Magazine digital archive.
J. David Harvey is a Senior Consultant at LawVision LLC. He has 15 years of experience in the legal marketing field, leading large teams of marketing and BD professionals globally.