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The Future of Law Firm Marketing with Deloitte CMO Diana O’Brien [PODCAST]

In this podcast interview, John McDougall of McDougall Interactive and legalmarketingreview.com and Nicole Minnis of The National Law Review speak with LMA keynote speaker Diana O’Brien about her role as CMO of Deloitte, the future of law firm marketing, marketing technology, and the challenges that law firms face with traditional and digital marketing.

John McDougall: Hi, I'm John McDougall, CEO of McDougall Interactive, and I'm here today with Nicole Minnis, Lead Publications Manager at the National Law Review. And our guest is Diana O'Brien, the Chief Marketing Officer of Deloitte. Diana will be the Keynote Speaker at the upcoming Legal Marketing Association annual conference on April 11th - 13th, in Austin, Texas. Welcome, Nicole and Diana.

Nicole Minnis: Thanks John, hi, and hello to you, Diana, as well.

Diana O'Brien: Thanks John and Nicole, it's great to be here today.

John: Absolutely, and Diana, thanks for taking the time. You are a fairly new CMO, and I know that you came to this role from a non-marketing background -- given that, what inspired you to take this new role as CMO of Deloitte?

Diana: Well "inspired" is the right word. First, my passion was really clients. I've spent 30 years in client service. That's really where I learned to listen to clients, and respond, and react to what it is that they needed, and that was really the impetus to me appreciating and becoming, I think, a champion for clients within our firm. So today being the Deloitte CMO, I'm really the champion for all of our clients, and I'm responsible for helping out stake-holders within the firm whether they be our newest associates to our partners, be responsible for listening and understanding the collective needs of all of our clients and creating an environment where our clients get every day, in every interaction, a world-class experience in every touchpoint. So the client experience is something that I'm just deeply passionate about.

The second thing I sort of married up with that is I had the chance, after having that career, to take on a responsibility of being the Managing Director of Deloitte University - which is our learning center in Texas - and that's where I came to appreciate and recognize that the world has changed. What worked yesterday doesn't work tomorrow. We need to create environments where people can thrive, and grow, and continue to evolve, and I had the chance to do that for all of the learning. But, really, the same is so true for marketing today. We're moving from this world where you could just push out this sort of one-way message where you were communicating what you wanted to communicate and push it out there and hope people heard it, to this more interactive, 24/7, broader business connection, and creating an environment where your clients thrive and you're part of that active engagement. So it's not really a back office anymore, it's right front and center with the clients, and it's a new capability that you need in order to do that.

So when you marry those two things up, it was a perfect choice for me and I was excited to take it on.

John: Yes, it sounds like empathy and inspiration.

Diana: Yes.

John: And what's your mandate as CMO?

Diana: It's really simple. It's really to drive growth for the firm; it really couldn't be any more simple than that. What I would say that maybe would resonate, I think, for a lot of marketers is that it does still start with the Deloitte purpose, and I do think that you don't grow unless you're grounded in your purpose. So, a good CMO is always going to know what that is and be able to inspire all their professionals to link back to that. So, the Deloitte purpose is to make an impact that matters with our clients, our people, our communities. So, when I think about what my job is and I think about the 70,000 professionals that work at Deloitte, I need all of them every day to go out and strengthen our brand to grow the firm by showing up to our clients in a consistent but personalized way that creates strong relationships, that builds powerful experiences, delivers unique insights that helps our professionals and our clients establish the kind of connection that is sustainable over time so we can really help as problems and issues go over time.

Changes to the Marketing Organization at Deloitte

John: And what changes have you made to the marketing organization in order to execute on that mandate?

Diana: Gosh, I've been busy with that.

John:  Quite a few.

Diana: We've streamlined a lot. We have really focused on optimizing the resources but we've been driving towards a new model. What's interesting about Deloitte in this regard - and I don't know that everyone's appraised this quite yet but - we encompass, obviously, the most traditional elements, which is the communications and marketing capabilities, but all of the go-to market assets, if you will, sit under me as well. So, our go-to market channels [including our managing partners in key markets, our client leaders and our industry practice leaders] and thought leadership, public policy, corporate citizenship, they have been put under me as well and so that's unique and actually I'm hearing some of that. I've met with a few other CMOs that are doing some of the same things and have had some of the same responsibilities, and so what I like about it is that it's really this combined essence of, really, how does the market -- How do you drive growth? How do you really develop a marketplace?

The other thing we think is really important is digital. Obviously we have a strong digital practice and that serves our clients, but it also serves our in-house marketing team and that's key to us being able to deliver our brand every day and create those kinds of experiences that we were talking about and deliver those insights. So I work very closely with the consultative arm of our Deloitte digital practice.

John: That's a lot of stuff going on. That's fantastic. Go ahead, Nicole.

The Future of Law Firm Marketing

Nicole: Shifting gears slightly and thinking about our legal marketing listeners more specifically, what do you see on the horizon in terms of transformation or potential paradigm shifts for law firm marketing?

Diana: It's so interesting, Nicole, I think in many ways. Professional services, accounting, and consultancies like our firm and law firms, have some real similarities in this regard. I think digital marketing is going to continue to grow and that's really for all of us, it's not just legal markers. But we need to face it in a way that maybe some others don't have the same issues, partly because we come from professionals where we're highly skeptical. That's just our profession, so we have to maybe be a bit more willing to get into the data around the success of digital and how that may in fact change us and work to be a better adopter of it. With some of the increased competition that's there, I think if we don't do that, the professional services environment has some challenges to stay ahead of the game, and that's particularly going to be the case, I think, with talent. That's going to be one of the big challenges if we don't address that.

Certainly social media, obviously law firms are doing things in social media, but I think it will continue to be a big focus. It certainly has been for us. We have worked to become more engaged and use more outside platforms - and my own micro-site is an example - to sort of meet people where they are. We use LinkedIn more than we've ever used before to help us connect into the marketplace.  We've all got to figure out how to have our sites optimized for mobile so content can be more easily consumed. And again, when you come from a place where maybe adaptability is a little lower and skepticism is a bit higher, the mindset of professional services firms where we do have some of that, we have to work harder I think to embrace some of those things.

Marketing Technology

Nicole: It sounds to me like Deloitte is way ahead of the curve in terms of digital technology so I commend you and your firm on those efforts. What marketing technology do you see is getting the most buzz right now besides some of the things that you're already working on?

Diana: It's a good question. I have two things I want to say on this, one social listening is obviously incredibly important in content management systems or continuing to evolve publishing platforms, and it's important that we stay thoughtful of that, but the number of channels that you now have to participate in is exhaustive, and it's just growing, and I think it's important that we not become sort of overwhelmed with the technology, but really solve specific business problems. One of the things I think that law firms can do is I think it's important that they continue to differentiate themselves with eminence, and thought leadership, and specific things that you can differentiate yourself on. And one of the things I think that are particularly useful are - maybe not as technology-buzzing, if you will - but blogs and podcasts. I think they're low-cost communication tools that really are a more direct engagement, and can connect more easily sometimes with the targeted audience that you want with the specialized information that you have.

Sometimes I think we can become sort of enamored with the technology. When I first took on I felt like, maybe the first four months, I was a bit enamored with the technology, but I kept coming back to, "Well, what problem am I really trying to solve for that’s going to drive my business?" While I think there are some interesting things out there that we all need to be aware of, I think it’s important to keep coming back to, "What problem am I solving?"

Marketing and Thought Leadership

John: As a follow-up to that, I love hearing you talk about thought leadership. I own a site, authoritymarketing.com, and we do a lot of work around the idea that your experts and your thought leaders, especially in professional services, will help propel your blogging, and podcasting, and marketing, and SEO, and social media. Would you say that those blogs and podcasts can also then be used by your sales people in business development, and is it kind of streamlining your efforts or killing two birds with one stone by doing both of those things at once? Not just doing the blogs and podcasts for their own right for their search in social benefits and all of that, but to also potentially use for biz dev?

Diana: Yes, there's no question, and actually we did something interesting this last year. We actually did an active online course on a couple key topics that we felt we were expert in, and what I feel happened as a result of that is the level of engagement that we were able to achieve. It's actually really a form of marketing in today's world which is more interactive. It isn't this push of a message. It's this engagement where, let's say you put a blog out there, someone comments back. In [this case], people are commenting on the course. People are exchanging ideas over the content. So you're evolving it and working it together. That's the new world. That's the new model. It isn't something that is just, "Here's my ideas and here they are." It's a dialogue and exchange that ultimately is more productive for everyone.

The Biggest Challenges for Law Firm Marketers

John: Absolutely, and what about specifically for law firms, what are the biggest challenges for law firm marketers?

Diana: I think, similarly, something similar that we have is how do you keep differentiating yourself in a saturated market? How do you promote your brand? How do you continually evolve, and innovate, and show that you're uniquely qualified over someone else? Obviously eminence is one way to do that. Engaging is certainly a way. Thinking beyond law firms and professional services firms like Deloitte have, in the past, always charged - for example - by the hour, and that's just been a mindset that's gone in. Starting to think more about, "What's the real value we're bringing in?" Thinking of ways in which you can differentiate yourself. I think the marketer has a role now to play in helping to shape the thinking around that.

It isn't just the message. It's really the mindset of the organization. It's the type of strategies and tactics that you will use, such as what we were just talking about in thought leadership. It's how you create the client experience end-to-end, how you think about all the customer decision-making, how the customer feels at all those points that the marketer plays a role in. I think they have a really unique place to influence the many stake-holders, the many lawyers that are in the organization and how they show up at their clients.

But I think even more importantly than that is the future of where their talent is going to come from. I mentioned it before, but we did a study that was a digital study, we did it with MIT Sloan Management, and what we found was across all these age groups that, primarily, talent is really looking for organizations that are technically capable and receptive to employees being able to be digitally sophisticated. And we found that in many cases companies are not nearly as mature as the upcoming workforce and current workforce wants to be, and so that's a challenge so we have to deal with that.

Conveying the Value of Marketing to Management

John: Yes, absolutely, especially younger people, and not just very young people, certainly into the 30s, and 40s, and above, but a lot of people are just so attuned to social media these days and searching on their mobile phones so if your organization is lagging in that it doesn't inspire them. I often hear legal marketers complain how hard it is to convey the value of what they do to the management of their firms; do you have any advice for them?

Diana: I think this is something relatively new for CMOs, personally. I don't, in my consultative time with clients, I think CMOs often didn’t really find their way into the C-suite, and I think that has changed. This is now a real opportunity to affect the C-suite.

I think the CMO had a chance to connect with the CFO about the metrics that drive sales. I think they are instrumental with working with the Chief Talent Officer about how to empower their employees to be better brand ambassadors, to reflect the culture in their business. I think they need to work with the CIO on any new technologies that might be touching the customer or extracting customer insight within the organization. So now they are really up here and I don’t think that was the case before. So they have a chance to change the perception of marketing and that’s new and it’s really a great kind to build new relationships and I think the advice I would have is not to underestimate the power that you have right now to influence and build key relationships with their peers, to have a sit at the table, to take your seat at the table and translate the customer experience, and bringing the customer championship into business results.

John: Yeah and as you said that earlier, really tying that up into your core mandate, your core value proposition and mission statement and making sure that marketing especially things like in the past, SEO or certain things were easy to kind of push a button and they would happen over on the side. Now they need to be much more integrated, right?

Diana: Yes and I think people consider those tactics. They thought, “Oh, well, just go do that.” Now it is an embedded part of the strategy and you can’t really have an organizational strategy without understanding how the marketing message is linking to that and how you are making them come to life in every element of the customer experience.

Content Marketing

John: Do you think content marketing has really driven a lot of that because if you could do digital marketing in the past, it was a little bit of a fairy dust, you know. You could kind of just sprinkle it on. Now you can’t just do that. You have to really develop content that has to reflect the brand or fail, right?

Diana: Yes. I said one time in a talk, and I thought I’d share it even at the conference, but I used to think of marketing as sort of a little m where it was about this message that you pushed out. And now it’s so much more. It’s really about the big M. It’s about the meaning.

John: Right.

Diana: And you are exactly right. That comes from the content that’s really there and it has to be rich.

John: Yes. And the CEO, the CFO, they should take an interest, and I think they are, more so than ever.

Diana: I do too. I do too.

John: What are you up to these days and how can listeners connect with you online?

Diana: Well, I have been pretty busy with the new role but what I have done most recently, I just left Deloitte University, which is a home to me every time I am there but we just had about a thousand of our folks there that sit in our market development organization that had spent two days thinking about, with a number of guest speakers, thinking about how are we going to continue to create the right connections and gain the right knowledge and to think about the right technologies to keep moving our organization forward.

We don’t have, you know -- we’re big and it’s hard always to get people together and I’m glad we made that investment. It’s not always easy to do but it’s important when we do to make the most of it, and I think we did. So I was thrilled to be able to have our people together and I encourage, even when you know, with all the options to do things socially and online and virtually, sometimes being in person is the best way to really further that bond. So I was glad to do that.

So connecting with me, obviously please check out our website, first cmo.deloitte.com where you will get lots of relevant content that’s perfectly relevant to the CMO and I hope everybody goes there. My twitter handle is @DianaMOBrien and I welcome anyone and I’d like to have an exchange with anybody, and then certainly deloitte.com. We welcome anybody to visit us there for our eminence.

John: Absolutely, well thanks for talking to us today and thanks for listening everyone to the National Law Review podcast. Visit the National Law Review website at natlawreview.com and for more information about the Legal Marketing Association’s annual conference, visit legalmarketing.org/annual_conference. I’m John McDougall and thanks for listening.

© 2016 The National Law Review

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About this Author

John McDougall, president of interactive strategy, at McDougall Interactive
President

John McDougall is the president of interactive strategy at McDougall Interactive. He's worked in advertising and the creative fields since 1992. Having provided Internet services full time since 1995, John was on the cutting edge of search engine optimization. Originally a media planner at McDougall Advertising, he was asked to head the Interactive Division during the dot-com boom. With local speaking engagements, successful websites, and a book on search engine marketing titled Web Marketing on All Cylinders under his belt, John is committed to the Internet...

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Nicole Cudiamat Minnis attorney Legal Publication Specialist at the National Law Review
Lead Publications Manager

Nicole Cudiamat Minnis, Esq. is the lead web manager of the National Law Review website, which publishes the latest legal news around the clock. Her experience includes managing various editorial, social media and marketing functions, as well as maintaining client analytics accounts and performing SEO maintenance on the website. She is also a Certified Hootsuite Professional.

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Nicole is admitted to practice in the State of Illinois and graduated from Valparaiso University School of Law, has earned a Master of Arts in Psychology from Valparaiso University with highest distinction and earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

She is also dedicated to serving the community and has worked with numerous organizations including the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services and World Relief in DuPage and Aurora.  While in law school, Nicole received a Pro Bono Service Distinction, and in April 2013, was awarded a Distinguished Service Award from the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

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