10 Ways to Adapt to Change – as Shared at the 2019 Law Firm Marketing Partner Forum
Charles Darwin famously said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives; it is the one that is most adaptable to change.” This quote is very applicable for law firms that are trying to survive in an oversaturated marketplace. We can all agree that many of us are averse to change – and lawyers are no exception. Lawyers often become stuck in their “old ways” of bringing in business and can become resistant to trying new marketing methods.
The difficult subject of change was addressed at the 2019 Marketing Partner Forum (MPF), where the theme was “Adaption as a Key to Success.” Below are the top ten takeaways from the Forum as presented by Berbay Principal Megan Braverman in her recent webinar.
- Lawyers Need Motivation and Tools to Market Effectively
If you are a marketing or business development professional, the fact that lawyers need motivation to market will come as no surprise to you. While growth statistics revealed through the MPF Survey showed that 2018 was a strong year for law firms, lawyer engagement remains a significant challenge (62 percent reporting it as the biggest obstacle to successful marketing).
Why? It may be due to not seeing tangible results from marketing efforts quickly enough. This means marketing and business development professionals need to not only equip attorneys with the right tools to market effectively, but they also need to motivate and encourage attorneys to stick with it, even if progress is slow.
- Track ROI to Determine Where to Spend Marketing Dollars
The MPF survey revealed another surprising statistic: 41 percent of law firms do not use sales forecasting as a part of their business development strategy. Even more astounding: 22 percent of law firms do not measure ROI on marketing efforts. These statistics are troubling as it’s incredibly difficult to determine the effectiveness of any marketing campaign if results are not being tracked.
This information is the foundation of any business and it’s critical when determining where to spend your marketing dollars. Instead of asking what’s the perfect marketing mix or “magic bullet,” start tracking and measuring the results of your campaign.
- Prioritize Targeted Marketing
More than 81 percent of law firms are prioritizing and targeting their investments. Legal marketers know that trying to be everything to everyone can be a losing strategy. Too, marketing becomes more efficient the more focused it is. By creating an area of expertise, law firms are much more likely to make inroads and take advantage of the opportunities that exist.
- Use Sales Professionals for Successful Client Account Management
Approximately 15 percent of law firms are investing in client account management. More notably, the firms that are focusing on this strategy are using sales executives, rather than attorneys, to helm their client account management efforts. As an evolution from client teams, law firms that use sales professionals for client account management are finding that clients are appreciative of the results that salespeople deliver through accurate routing of questions or concerns to the proper attorney. Some firms that have implemented salesperson-led client account management report that the cultivation of this strategy can take up to a year to fully implement; however, the positive feedback from clients makes it worthwhile.
- Identify “Servants to the Greater Good” to Lead Your Firm
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes with a wide variety of desirable and undesirable traits. Finding the perfect leader is impossible, but one place to start is finding a servant leader. They are leaders who truly want to help. Servant-leader characteristics include: putting the needs of others first; helping others to develop and perform to their best ability; and above all, serving the greater good as a firm-first individual.
That said, finding a leader among lawyers brings its own challenges. Consider the following when identifying those who can take charge:
- Be sure the attorney has the time and ability to focus.
- Consider young attorneys who show interest.
- Seek out multiple leaders with different expertise and skillsets.
- Bring in non-lawyers for a different perspective.
- Be open-minded. Not all leaders are those you imagined.
- Use personality testing to determine traits.
- Select attorneys with humility.
- Understand Your Clients’ Business, Culture & Competitors
From outside counsel’s mouths to your ears: nothing makes them happier than when they know their clients’ business, culture and competitors.
How can outside counsel accomplish this?
- Tour the company (free of charge) to gain knowledge of their day-to-day operations.
- Ask to meet their clients for a better understanding of who they answer to.
- Be proactive and learn about industry disruptors (automation, AI, blockchain, data analysis, political unrest, etc.)
- Strengthen your investment in R&D and offer day-of client alerts on news that is relevant to them.
- Ask for an annual sit-down for a year-in-review.
- Diversity matters. Consider partnering with diverse firms to go after business.
- Use the phone to share something complex or controversial instead of emailing.
- Use Playbooks to Minimize Problems During a Merger
There were more than 70 mergers last year, making it paramount for firms to have a clear plan to minimize problems during this type of transition. Panelists recommended that all firms embarking on a merger need to develop both a pre-merger and during-merger playbook that address the following:
- Culture differences
- Legal and business conflicts
- No instant synergy
- Partner compensation
- Unpreparedness reporting system
- Getting ahead of collaboration for all levels of staff
- Offset Lateral Moves with Transitional Guidelines
Lateral moves are in the DNA of law firms, with nearly 80 percent of firms seeing lateral hires as a revenue generation strategy and 81 percent viewing lateral hiring as a way to build business in a new location. Surprisingly, in spite of these overwhelmingly positive impressions, many lateral moves fall short of their intended goals. To offset the negative consequences of losing a lateral, smart law firms should have the below guidelines in place:
- Create a departure team and protocol. Each member has specific tasks to complete and regular reporting to give during the leave of a key lawyer.
- Develop external messaging. Calls need to happen immediately but should be carefully tailored.
- Equally important, develop internal messaging. Determine who was close to that key partner and offer support.
- Distinguish whether the lateral leaving is desirable or undesirable. Sometimes it just wasn’t a good fit and the departure doesn’t need to cause panic; it can be a relief.
- Overcome Relationship Obstacles with Firm Management
The relationship between the law firm marketer and the law firm partnership is crucial and can ultimately make or break the success of a campaign. The fact is, some partners distrust marketing professionals. Below are five tips to overcoming these obstacles:
- Determine why the previous CMO left: It may turn out that the previous marketer left a bad taste in the firm’s mouth. If you can identify why they left, you may be able to avoid making the same mistake.
- Abide by the 80/20 rule: Make sure to listen 80 percent of the time and speak 20 percent. Accomplish this by asking what key partners want from marketing, and then letting them talk so they will feel heard, and you’ll glean valuable insight into expectations.
- Secure easy, early marketing victories: Capitalize on low-hanging fruit to secure early successes to build rapport and trust quickly.
- Avoid complaining: Lawyers don’t want to hear about more problems; they want solutions. Avoid discussing what the previous marketer or the law firm neglected to do and determine how you can add value.
- Use a conduit if you don’t mesh with the managing partner: If it becomes clear that your personality doesn’t naturally fit well with their personality, find a conduit to speak through.
- Secure Tangible Data
It would be a dream come true to have tangible data that we could use with laser-like precision to tailor every single marketing effort. Unfortunately, for law firm marketers securing that data isn’t always easy. However, there are several innovative ways to secure data without attorneys having to do any work to get it:
- Automation – There are countless tools that can help compile data. Start small and remember it will not be perfect.
- Client satisfaction surveys and business plans – Don’t let them sit as Word or PDF documents; move them into a system so you can correlate data and look at trends.
- Marketing activity reports on intranet – When a lawyer wants to be reimbursed for marketing efforts, such as attending a conference, prospect lunch, etc., they enter this electronically and you can automatically track events and their related spend.
- Crawl before you walk – Prioritize and focus on what’s most important. You can’t do everything at once.
For a more detailed recap of the 2019 Law Firm Marketing Partner Forum, please watch Berbay Principal, Megan Braverman’s recap webinar.