The Challenge of Developing Marketing Initiatives in Law Firms
In many ways, law firms can be tough environments to begin marketing initiatives. The National Law Review had the opportunity to follow-up with the panelists at the Designing a Wholly Integrated Marketing and Business Development Model Panel at this year’s Marketing Partner Forum conference. Ian Turvill, Chief Marketing Officer at Freeborn & Peters LLP, Beth Cuzzone, Director of Business Development at Goulston & Storrs and David Burkhardt, Client Service Director at Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP were gracious enough to share their thoughts on how to integrate marketing strategies into law firm life.
First of all, in many ways, marketing in law firms is tough because firms are naturally critical of new initiatives and leadership tends to be filled with “professional skeptics” who are quick to point out why something won’t work. So to be successful, one must be strategic. Turvill says, “It is difficult to get leadership on board with a strategy, and it will take time for strategies to show results. So the answer is to take these facts explicitly into account. I am a big believer in starting small, demonstrating that a particular approach is likely to bear fruit.” Burkhardt says, “It’s important to monitor and improve client satisfaction and to ensure that our clients are aware of all the services available to them.” Cuzzone offers two golden rules: “the marketing initiatives [should] align with the firm’s strategic direction, culture and values. The burden is on the marketing professionals to marry the implementation of the strategy with their firm’s people, personalities and budget.”
That means playing to people’s strengths. Many marketing professionals at law firms have the same complaint: getting attorneys to work on marketing goals can be a difficult ask. One example of this is content generation for content marketing: getting attorneys to write can be a challenge. Turvill reminds us that “Recognize first that writing or generating content may not be the right approach for all attorneys. As someone said to me, ‘you shouldn’t try and teach a pig how to sing opera; the pig will get angry and you’ll simply get muddy.’” Turvill points out that there are many ways to create content, and “it is not necessary for attorneys to be the laboring oar on content generation.” External consultants can be helpful, and finding ways for attorneys to have public obligations for writing give them a greater sense of commitment. Turvill says, “once the content is generated, then we repurpose that in as many ways possible.” Cuzzone agrees, saying, “Once an attorney produces one piece of content – members of our department are good at repurposing it in several mediums. We turn a litigation win into a case study . . . We turn a simple blog post into an executive briefing powerpoint to be given to clients or an article into a checklist, and so on.” Cuzzone adds that it is very important to have strong writers on your team.
Once you have content, a social media strategy is crucial for getting it out and seen. However, a good social media strategy is a bit more in-depth. Cuzzone says it’s all about creating a “unique social media personality by posting items that reflect our culture, people and clients ... we don’t just post links to our newsletters and press releases. We also started interacting with clients on social media.” Turvill agrees that social media should be thought-out and deliberate, involving the basic principles of marketing. Social media channels should be segmented, so various practice groups have their own channels and the content should be tailored with client needs in mind. Turvill also suggests that content should be differentiated--so there is information available through your social media feeds that is unique to you. All of social media should be targeted, so that you know who your audience is broken down in terms of their position, industry and interest.
Turvill and Cuzzone agree that in terms of success, it’s important for law firms to know who they are and where they’ve been. Turvill says, “The single most important technology is a database of a firm’s experience that can be easily searched and then used to generate a listing of representative matters in response to a request from a client.” Being able to quickly reference previous work done, and its subject matter is an important tool to have, as Turvill points out, “Outside of references, a client will judge a firm’s appropriateness for a matter based largely on whether they’ve done something like this previously.” Cuzzone agrees, saying, “much consideration needs to be given internally before developing an external strategy.”
In his role as Client Services Director at Wyrick Robbins, David Burkhardt sees the importance of “listening opportunities.” Burkhardt sees his job to provide, “intentional and sustained client advocacy. Client service reviews, interviews and satisfaction surveys are a natural way to engage our clients in conversation.” These are the opportunities for firms to learn about their performance and how their client’s perceive their service, perhaps using different metrics than law firms are familiar with. Burkhardt says, “Law firms still have a ways to go to truly make their clients’ voices heard. Yes, you won the case or closed the deal, but that is not always the ultimate sign of client success.” Burkhardt points out that things like how your firm communicates with clients can have a big impact on how the client views the transaction. Similarly,something as minor as asking clients if they prefer an email to a phone call--can make a big difference.
As these steps are put in place, in order to demonstrate the success that might otherwise be difficult to measure, it’s important to create a measurement system that can show the growth or change. Cuzzone says, “Since implementation has a high failure rate in law firm marketing, benchmarks are essential to show progress along the process.” Being able to demonstrate success, with numbers and data, can go a long way to convincing skeptical law firm leadership that marketing initiatives contributed to the bottom line.
Successful marketing within law firms requires strategy, self-awareness, and a solid understanding of what your clients, and potential clients, want. Strategically playing to the strengths of your firm for marketing purposes, re-purposing content, having a social media plan, and making sure yardsticks are in place to monitor progress are all important steps in being successful.