A Q&A Featuring Adrian Lurssen
Reader data, when harnessed properly, has the power to open law firms up to new opportunities and spur innovation for long-established clients. Strategies+ recently talked with Adrian Lurssen — vice president and co-founder of JD Supra, a content distribution and data platform — about how he sees law firms use their reader data to support marketing and business development (BD). Here are his insights, including a few real-life examples and advice for the best ways to use such data.
How are law firms successfully using their reader data and analytics today?
I frequently tell the story of a marketing and BD director at a small firm who was approached by one of her attorneys, who announced: “We should produce content about Opportunity Zones!”
This was years ago, before Opportunity Zones emerged as a hot topic in tax law. The director’s first response was to ask us for a report on the topic. We generated a report covering reader data across our entire site, which enables clients not only to look at engagement with their own content, but also to get a measure of reader interests across all thought leadership on our platform. With such a wide view, marketers can spot broader trends and opportunities in companies, industries, practice areas and strategically important subjects.
The conclusion from the report was that this was indeed an important topic, and that interest about it was growing. The data supported a full-court press on Opportunity Zones for the firm: they created blog posts, a dedicated Twitter channel and videos.
Once the content was developed and we began distributing it, the director asked us for a report on who was consuming it. The answer in her analytics revealed a segment of readers from a seemingly unrelated industry (telcom) in which the firm already had several clients.
Armed with that information, her team employed a mix of direct email campaigns and attorney outreach to let clients within that industry know that they could also help with questions about Opportunity Zones. The end result: new client matters.
Within this example of a small but brilliant pivot, you can see two ways reader data can be successfully leveraged within a law firm. These lessons can be applied to any line of business in which your firm operates, regardless of size or focus.
First, use reader data to build an internal consensus on what to prioritize in the firm’s overall content marketing strategy. In a professional environment where work is often siloed and teams field varied requests from diverse stakeholders every day, this consensus creates focus and enables everyone to know where, how, and why to prioritize time and resources. There is no guesswork involved when your team is acting on something based on proven, data-driven interest.
Second, use reader data to refine content strategy (and, relatedly, to refine the thrust of your marketing campaigns in general). In the previous story, the data supported the investment of time and money to produce content on a specific topic, which was widely disseminated. Based on new data, the firm switched from an initial investment in content on a subject with proven interest to targeting existing clients in a specific industry.
The big picture is that reader data represents an interesting intersection of insights that can be useful for marketers and BD professionals in a variety of ways. For example, readers come to us from specific companies and organizations. The analytics tracked are evidence of engagement with a specific person at a specific company and can provide early insights about sentiment within that company as a whole.
Aggregated reader data covering all readers within a specific company demonstrates what clients and prospects actually care about, versus what we hope or assume they care about. A BD manager once told me that she noticed that a large number of readers of the firm's cybersecurity articles came from one company, an existing client that they represented on other matters. She reached out and offered the client team their own private webinar on the latest cybersecurity issues — a perfect touch in a valued relationship.
Those pulling together research packages on clients or prospects in advance of a pitch meeting should also consider reviewing the company’s reading habits. Reader data provides a clear window into what executives in that company care about at any given moment.
Of course, all these companies operate within specific industries and sectors, so marketers can draw insights about industry trends as well.
For example, most people know that financial services readers are interested in blockchain. That's an observation anyone can make without data to prove it. But how many people know that the online publishing world is also greatly interested in blockchain? That industry is investigating this new technology as a way to protect against digital piracy. That's an insight available to any marketer or BD professional in a law firm, based on readership of blockchain content within this industry.
When we at JDSupra first started looking at ways to make broad, aggregated data valuable to our clients, I remember being struck by how many readers within the energy sector were focused on cybersecurity content. It was by far the most well-read topic in the industry, garnering more views that content related to cleantech, renewables, fracking and other subjects with obvious relevance. But no law firm was actually writing about the issue for energy companies; they were writing about retail organizations — data breaches at Walmart and so on. That need in the energy sector was going unmet, and all one had to do was look at the data to find the opportunity.
What are marketing and BD teams not doing with their data that they should be doing?
One question every marketing and BD manager should be asking is: For whom in this firm is this data valuable? I have found that it is likely that that person is not seeing the intel.
For example, we showed a senior BD director his firm’s data dashboards. It was a mix of rich intel that many people at his firm had seen already, for whom return on investment held different meanings. He saw the reading interests of a hospital group where his team had been trying to secure a meeting. His instant response: “We’ve been approaching them with the wrong practice group. They’re not interested in what we thought they’d be interested in. They care about other issues.”
The successful use of data doesn’t require a big marketing or BD team: By creating intentional processes to ensure the right people see reader data, firms of any size can harness these data’s power.
For example, we work with a mid-sized, regional firm in which, monthly, two people curate their reader data into a 10-slide presentation for the entire marketing and BD team. After the report, the individuals who work directly with attorneys are empowered with fresh insights and lines of inquiry. Attorneys then receive talking points to structure meaningful conversations with clients, ask probing questions and generally do what every client wants: show that they know their business and the sector in which they operate.
Reader data has the power to tell you not just about individuals reading your work, but also clients and prospects within specific companies and the industries you serve. How you act upon that intel is as limitless as your imagination.
Adrian Lurssen is the co-founder and VP of strategic development at content distribution and data platform JD Supra. He speaks frequently on content marketing, analytics, marketing and business development matters.