JDSupra, InterAction, In-House Marketers & others share their insights
Before we all took a break for the holidays, I reached out to some friends and colleagues from around the globe who are well-known experts in various areas of legal marketing. I asked them each a simple question; what trends do you foresee for 2014?
The answers I received were thoughtful and thorough – no less than I would expect from such a knowledgeable group of people.Their predictions include an increased emphasis on business development and reputation management, a focus on clients needs from both a service and content creation standpoint, the move from the “marketing” to the “client development” department, social media going mainstream and being brought under the firm PR wing, and technologies such as video and mobile moving into a more prominent position in the law firm digital landscape.To see the full text from each of them (in no particular order), and a couple of trends from us here at fSquared Marketing, keep reading.
“In today’s ever-evolving business environment, being an “excellent lawyer” encompasses more than one’s legal prowess. In fact, education and experience are now the price of admission. What more can attorneys and law firms provide to stand out from the crowd?
Client service, accessibility, responsiveness, access to resources and fostering friendship-like relationships with clients, contacts and referral sources are the elements that build strong brands. We have a choice: do nothing and slowly become irrelevant, or proactively manage your brand and generate the kind of reputation that will drive new business.”
Client Relationship Management (CRM)
“Business Development becomes increasingly important to law firms in 2014. There is a noticeable shift in the market perception and distinction around Marketing versus Business Development and related functions, but marketing is often closely tied with functions and activities in the firm and most certainly with customer relationship management (CRM). Business development is more closely aligned with the role of equipping partners to manage client relationships as well as to find new business relationships – through pitches, client meetings, coaching.This business shift is driving a culture where the CRM is well positioned to help inform and drive in ways that may not have been considered in the past. I think one of our jobs is to help elevate the value for business development.”
Client and Business Development
“With the continued emphasis by clients on receiving value and efficiency from their outside counsel, I believe we’re going to see an uptick in firms implementing formal client feedback and client account programs this year. We’re not only seeing tighter legal budgets but an increase in the hiring of in-house counsel leading to less external work available in the market. The squeeze on law firm revenue and profitability continues. To earn new work, and keep the work they have, firms will need to demonstrate they are actively listening to the needs of their clients, are taking the time to understand their underlying business issues, and are making changes in the way they are working with them to reflect their needs. And not just for their ‘key’ clients either.
With an excess of experienced lawyers in most markets, even clients previously deemed to be ‘bread and butter’ will need to feel heard since another firm is already at their door waiting for their turn to prove themselves. Programs will need to be well thought out and concise, with follow-ups built in, since a badly implemented client feedback or client account program can be worse than no program at all.”
Marketing Team Operations
“With the ability of law firms to differentiate themselves being diminished by over-supply in many markets, the value of the Marketing department helping to maintain current relationships and support cross-selling is now paramount. The effectiveness of the operational performance of BD & Marketing is crucial, whether it be dedicated client account teams, ensuring your pitch building capability is cutting edge and finally, putting in place a robust CRM tool to track your BD activities to allow effective campaign management.”
“I think we’ll see three trends in content marketing in 2014: more focus on niche topics, more experimentation with new formats, and more interest in actionable intelligence.The first is actually a shift from simply writing to highlight law firm expertise to paying razor sharp attention to client need. At this point, I think most firms understand the role of substantive content online in terms of professional visibility and relationship building, etc. The questions now are: how do we want to stand out, and who are we trying to reach?
Instead of trying to be a little bit of something to everyone, content strategies will be built around “going deep” on specific topics, specific issues, specific audiences (ex: no longer tech, but nanotechnology; no longer financial services, but crowdfunding; no longer energy matters, but fracking; and so on.) I tell people: don’t write about the law, write about how the law affects the people you serve. The end result of such approach is to specialize, develop a niche in writing for which you are known. If you address audience need first, you have no choice but to “go niche.
By the second point (new formats), what I really mean is that we’ll see more law firms experimenting with video. Firms are realizing that there aren’t that many technological barriers to producing quality videos — and they are seeing the value in it (videos showcase the people behind the ideas). We’ve also seen first-hand that video does extraordinarily well on sites such as mine, and people are waking up to that. And finally, by actionable intelligence, I mean that the law firms that have been at it for a while will now start paying attention to the follow up. Who is reading my work and what can I do about it? The terrific thing about the social landscape: when someone engages with your content, it’s a public affair. We get to see who liked, shared, recommended, commented on your post. In 2014, we’ll see law firms developing systematic approaches to the follow up this allows. “Thanks for reading me, let’s connect on LinkedIn!””
“The reliance on client feedback will continue but along with that actual meaningful engagement from clients will, I think, continue to decrease as there are a number of directories all contacting clients in the same way. Firms will need to continue to think carefully about how they use client contact details. Many do not even ask the client’s permission to give their name and contact details.In a longer timeframe, I think over the next few years directories may need to look at their research models, as many are very reliant on information from law firms rather than independent research. As law firms look to rationalize costs (in line with their own clients’ concerns) the vast resources many place into legal directory submissions may begin to be questioned.”
“For the last five years tools like LinkedIn and blogs have been for the innovators and the early adopters. 2014 is the year where positioning yourself online hits the mainstream. In 2014, social media isn’t just for geeks and techies anymore.”
“In evaluating a firm, 2013 saw clients begin to look at the level of sophistication and depth a firms website portrayed as part of their decision making process. This will be come more prevalent in 2014.The new norms for a robust law firm website and digital strategy were firmly established in 2013. They included adaptive design, ‘flat’ user interfaces, SEO, Email Marketing integration, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, and the emergence of Video.
While many Law Firms are doing “catch-up”, in 2014 agile firms will put emphasis on content with lawyers transforming their Bio’s from static resume like pages to a hub showcasing their experience, content and social media conversations. Individual lawyers will have to dedicate more time to actively manage their digital presence while leveraging both their marketing department’s best practices along with the tools and infrastructure supporting the firm website. Using social media, blogs and video to engage clients and prospects, lawyers will increase their creation and integration of engaging content, leveraging its’ viral nature to drive clients back to their Bio/Hub increasing awareness of an individuals brand and putting them ahead of their competitors.
2014 will also see “Google Authorship” becoming more critical in helping clients connect with “topically-rich content” by lawyers who are subject matter experts. At some point in the near future, “Google Authorship” will begin to impact SEO results and, if implemented correctly, could have a transformational impact on a lawyer’s online brand leaving those without the right credentials in the dust from a Google search results perspective.The net effect of these trends will be to further assist lawyers in converting online conversations into offline business relationships.”
“The mobilization of audiences and content is probably the most significant trend that B2B marketers must rapidly adjust to. Clients can now consume and share content from any mobile device, meaning marketers must bake mobile into their strategy early on, not leave it as an after-thought. All your digital assets now need to be mobilized so that you can engage with your audience whose habits have changed overnight. Smartphones, tablets are now their preferred devices for consuming and sharing content on the go. Also, the customization and personalization of content to deliver relevance for the individual client or prospect will significantly impact your ability to connect and retain your audiences.
Forward-thinking professional marketers are deploying strategies and next generation marketing technology to deliver an ultra-personalized content experience that adds more value to the client relationship. This approach may solve the ongoing battle between fee earners and relationship owners wanting to control what is best for their clients and marketing teams wanting to control the brand and review what is sent. The result is highly relevant content delivered on a perceived one-to-one basis, directly from the individual owning or managing the relationship and not the just the firm.”
Media and Public Relations
“PR remains the most cost-effective way to reach both current and prospective clients while elevating a firm’s exposure in the marketplace. Law firms will expand their media relations programs to include the full-gamut of PR offerings, including social media and video. Most top law firms already do have one or more blog, but the most marketing-friendly firms will start to use other social media such as LinkedIn and news aggregate sites like Lexology to build on their thought-leadership capabilities.You will also see law firms cutting back on the number of awards & rankings they submit to, but spend more time on improving the quality of their submissions and publicizing these achievements.”
So there you have it folks! Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on what we’ll see in Legal Marketing in 2014 for this piece.