The Legal Marketing Association’s National Conference was held in Atlanta recently; over 1,500 professionals gathered to learn from industry experts, take pointers from key outside consultants and, most importantly, hear from clients.
Several key themes continued to arise in conversations and presentations:
- Client service and experience is more critical than it’s ever been.
- Law firms need to take a cue from the Big 4 by focusing more on operating like a business through a new approach to sales and client service.
- Firms and attorneys need to focus on differentiation in the marketplace through expertise, branding, and thought leadership.
Below is a list of some of the key takeaways that legal marketers and consultants should be implementing ASAP at their firms.
These are key strategies and tactics to be aware of as we approach the halfway point of 2019.
1. Clients Are Talking, Are You Listening?
As the voice of the client should always be the priority, there were several key takeaways from the in-house counsel panel discussion, which included Mark Smolik of DHL, Alexia Mass of Volvo Financial Services and Will Barnette of The Home Depot.
- Mark Smolik, general counsel and chief compliance officer at DHL Supply Chain Americas, says the average cost of a senior member of his in-house legal team is $174 an hour. He had a very direct message for the packed room of legal marketing professionals to take back to their firms: “I can’t afford to pay you $800 an hour.”
- “With the incredible amount of innovation and change we’re seeing in our industry, this is resulting in fundamental business model changes for us, which should be impacting you,” said Alexia Maas, senior vice president and GC at Volvo Financial Services. When referring to compliance, “it is no longer good enough for us and thus for you to be just a support function. We are changing so you have to find ways to change with us.”
- “We will continue to look for [alternatives] in discrete areas like technology or document review, but the real threat for firms are other firms that become better partners with their clients than your firms,” said Will Barnette, associate general counsel at The Home Depot.
- “You’re failing to recognize that the company behind us is run by entrepreneurs, and they’re expecting us to act that way, and we’re expecting you to act that way,” Smolik said. “The law firm that speaks as a businessperson first and lawyer second is going to get more and more of our business.”
2. Create a Dedicated Client Service Culture
- A 2% increase in customer retention through a dedicated client experience and elevated client service provides the same profits as cutting costs by 10%.
- Raising the satisfaction of happy clients vs. putting out the fires of negative clients provides up to 9x more revenue.
(Rich Bracken & Heather McCullough, Society 54)
Client service leaders:
- 37% higher revenue growth
- 48% higher profits
- 33.1% higher client retention
(Deborah McMurray, Content Pilot, LLC)
How to enhance client service:
- Put a business professional at the table with clients. Numerous client conversations yielded the same sentiment that a business focused professional needs to be present in conversations who has a larger view of the client, and firm’s, business alignment.
- Create client teams to interact with, and serve the needs of, the various members of your client’s team.
(Doug Tumminello, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP)
3. Focus Your Expertise to Align with Your Clients
Industry/sector marketing is key to differentiation moving forward for firms. By identifying your top client industry trends and dissecting the services provided, you can identify gap opportunities for additional services.
(Elizabeth Duffy, Acritas & Gillian Ward, Baker Botts)
4. Be Open to Change
The industry is changing whether you like it or not. By adapting to change and creating efficiencies on delivery, you can differentiate yourself in the market. However, “69% of partners in law firms resist most change efforts.” – Altman Weil Flash Survey
(Brenda Plowman, Fasken & Deborah McMurray, Content Pilot)
5. Let Technology Help You Make Revenue
Partner with technology to create products and services that can work while you sleep. “69% of people would use online legal services over attorneys.” – Harris Poll, Legal Tech News Dec. 2018
(Liz Patrick, Patrick Law Group/Kevin Miller, Legal Sifter)
6. Outsourcing Is A Great Resource
The largest firms outsource 11.6% more non-lawyer functions (e.g. marketing, CRM, presentations, etc.) There was an increase of around 10% of survey respondents who felt that outsourcing legal work and non-lawyer functions have made positive impacts on their firm.
(Panel presentation; Altman Weil Flash Survey Statistics)
7. Be Ready For Your Closeup
Video & podcasts are becoming the main tactics in thought leadership/brand creation. Instead of stressing over posting on all channels, meet the clients where they view content (LinkedIn, Twitter, JD Supra, YouTube).
Types of videos to create:
- Breaking news
8. Fine Tune Your Sales Skills From the Big 4
- Training is most effective when done early and often.
- Coaching can change work habits that stick!
- 3rd party coaches/trainers can add scalability and validation to internal programs. Leveraging client-facing sales professionals can have a huge impact on growth!
- Cultural pushback to sales professionals is common, yet can be overcome.