Chambers, Lexology, ContactEase & in-house experts share their insights.
Once again, we are thrilled to present a group of wonderful legal marketing experts who are willing to share their wisdom related to the legal marketing trends they foresee in 2017.
Their predictions this year include mobilization of content, utilizing existing CRM systems to leverage and grow relationships, the evolution of client service delivery, storytelling as the PR tool of the moment, digital marketing (websites & social media) opening opportunities for legal directory exposure for smaller firms, and firms building marketing teams of the future.
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.
Legal marketing, business development and communications hiring
“In 2016, we saw the beginning of a new trend for law firms where they are starting to consider updating their go-to market strategy from being a one stop shop for all practice areas, to having an intentional focus on select industries. Of course, this shift will not happen overnight and involves a complex change management strategy that will take years to implement. We have seen the first truly dedicated industry experts joining existing marketing/BD teams; prior to this year, we saw one person covering business development, client teams and industry groups and now, for the first time in US law firm history, firms are adding headcount that break these functions down into individual roles. In 2017 we fully expect to see this trend catch on in many firms.
We also believe firms will continue to hire people who have an analytical mindset that have proven experience in helping firms move the needle to capture market share. Operationalizing (not outsourcing!) marketing functions will continue to be a priority so that firms can set their professionals up to work higher and better and to focus on true business development, revenue enabling activities. In common with all of these roles is the ability of the professionals to build a business case for change and to exhibit a high level of emotional intelligence to push agendas through the fray.”
Directories & Rankings
Canada’s increasing significance
“In November 2016, The Legal 500 launched The Legal 500 Canada 2017, the latest edition of a series that is now in its fourth year. By our own admission, we have not been covering the Canada market for as long as we might have been, but over the last few years our coverage has expanded considerably. This increased focus on Canada by The Legal 500 stems largely from the changes that the legal market has undergone over the last seven or eight years. I wrote about this in a blog a while back, but since the financial crisis, market pressures have encouraged a more outward looking business and legal environment – of which an obvious sign is the continuing trend of Canadian firms to merge into international platforms.
The more firms seek to attract work from overseas clients – or indeed represent domestic clients abroad – the more useful ranking publications. Indeed, in a readership study we conducted in 2013 (in which we spoke to 2,536 GCs from around the world), nearly half the respondents said they had used The Legal 500 to find and retain a law firm outside of their home jurisdiction. As Canada becomes increasingly important to our core readership (in-house counsel), so it becomes necessary for us to highlight and engage with the market.
New categories for Canada 2017 demonstrated the increasing emphasis on certain practices. These included business immigration and three transport sections: aviation, shipping and ‘other’ (i.e. anything that’s not aviation or shipping), and we already have plans for changes and additions to the 2018 edition – Aboriginal law is high on the list!
Interesting times for the US and the world
A jurisdiction we’ve been covering for a while longer is the US, which is a market I know very well. Indeed, my primary role at The Legal 500 is US editor, and before here I was at a well-known competitor (I think you can guess) where, for the majority of my tenure, I was a US deputy editor. I preface things in this way only because, in all the years I’ve been covering the US, this is certainly the most unusual and uncertain of times.
The ‘post-factual’ nature of the president-elect’s campaign makes it hard to know which policy pledges (such as they are) we should regard are serious, and which we can perhaps ignore, but we should probably expect, at the very least, some significant changes to tax law, Obamacare and bank regulation, and a dramatic shift in approach regarding international trade.
Given the US’s lead role in the world generally – and in several of these areas specifically – the implications of some these changes will be felt far and wide. Lawyers specializing in international tax, cross-border trade and financial services regulation from London to Sydney will be looking on with interest.”
Marketing Automation in Law Firms
“Over the last couple of years, there has been a huge push within marketing departments to implement marketing automation platforms. Executing a marketing automation plan within a law firm, however, is a difficult and strategic endeavor as you cannot treat a lawyer like a sales person and “give them a lead”. The complex dynamic of a professional services firm requires a specialized approach – an approach that is likely very different from that of our non-legal B2B or B2C peers. Why should the legal sector expend time, effort, and dollars to get an automation strategy up and running?
The answer is simple. It can automate repetitive tasks, nurture client relationships, and generate quantifiable business development opportunities.
- Automate repetitive tasks – Automating repetitive tasks increases the quality of day-to-day work amongst your team. By auditing each role, you are guaranteed to find time consuming, repetitive, and manual tasks that can take advantage of automation. These tasks might include reusing content across multiple channels, sending marketing communications and automating event processes.
- Nurture client relationships – This is an opportunity to make the lawyer, your “product”, more powerful. Automation can help provide the lawyers with up/cross sell opportunities based on clients’ recent interactions with the firm (website, email communications, event attendance etc.). It can also track an opportunity’s path in your CRM so that the marketing team can most efficiently assist the lawyer in his/her business development efforts.
- Generate quantifiable business development opportunities – In the legal sector, distinguishing between the impacts of marketing vs client relationships is extremely difficult. Therefore, finding a quantifiable way to attribute opportunities to marketing will help prove that marketing is working. A simple, automated feedback exchange between lawyers and the marketing team can solve this problem.
With constantly improving technology, the legal sector has the potential to optimize its marketing activities through the tools of automation. Freeing up resources of time and money will lead to a happier, more productive team. It will also allow marketers to quantify their impact on the firm by demonstrating that they are an essential piece of the business opportunity life cycle.”
“In today’s fast-paced world, smart legal professionals understand the benefit of being recognized as subject matter experts and influencers in our trusted publications. In that context, savvy lawyers in both private practice and in-house are making themselves readily available to the journalists who write for our magazines and websites. Sources who speak to us aid us in getting timely content to market fast but it also helps those lawyers and firms in achieving much desired profile.
Our writers and editors are always looking for a good story. We are also always writing to deadline, often reacting to a breaking news event. Don’t worry about complicated pitches — send us an email with a line or two suggesting you have someone interested in speaking on the record.
Business development comes in many shapes and sizes these days and we can assist by providing a multitude of ways to interact with our Canadian Lawyer, Canadian Lawyer InHouse, Law Times, FindLaw and Lexpert audiences. We offer opportunities for lawyers and firms to put forward thought leadership in the form of sponsored content. There is also the opportunity to consider avenues such as custom content services in the form of sponsored or co-produced webinars, videos, research, events and roundtables.”
Structured Data, Schema and Rich Snippets. The new frontier for Law Firm Website SEO.
“A law firm marketing strategy powered by a search engine friendly website and consistent content marketing can achieve at some level decent search engine results without getting too deep into the technical aspects of SEO.
However, in more competitive local markets or niches, and certainly at the national level, lawyers and law firms find it more difficult to standout. Let’s face it there are typically thousands of other lawyers and firms competing for the same eyeballs. All this in the context of 10 spots on page one of a Google search result. These lawyers and law firms need a more complex and technical approach to their SEO that needs to be addressed in order for a website to have a fighting chance.
You might have heard of terms like Structured Data, Schema and Rich Snippets. These are a big deal in the world of SEO in past few years but there has been little attention given to them in the legal space and most legal marketing professionals have either no idea what these are or they (incorrectly) use them interchangeably:
- Structured Data: is a way for content publishers to highlight or “tag” content on their web pages which assists search engines to determine what content relates to. It gives search engines another dimension of context for web page content.
- Schema: Schema the code and building blocks of Structured Data (nerds can read more at Schema.org) that is recognized by search engines to help with your structured data efforts.
- Rich Snippets: If your Schema is implemented correctly, search engines will use the Structured Data on your website to display key information right into the search results page. This bonus search engine “bling” is often referred to as rich snippets.
If implemented correctly Schema can have a big impact on your rankings. However this is primarily an indirect effect at the moment. Rich snippets in SERPs can have a big impact on organic click through rates (CTR’s), and it’s well known that CTR’s is an organic ranking factor. When you see event data or review data within a search result, aren’t you more compelled to click those results?
So why should law firms care that much. Well firstly, like the mobile friendly ranking update that was launched in 2014, Google is now starting to give some pretty strong hint that schema will become a direct ranking factor in 2017. Also, with little or no competition from other law firms implementing Schema and Structured data correctly, or at all, it is easy right now to leverage its abilities to standout from your competition and get on page one of a Google SERP.
At fSquared Marketing we have been working hard to integrate Schema and Structured data into the websites we build for our law firm clients so that they can stand out from the competition in 2017.”
Branded and Promotional Items
“More Means More
Branded promotional products are a direct reflection of a Firm’s brand strength and integrity. In my experience and from what I have gathered at the Promotional Products Association International Expo, Advertising Specialty Institute exhibits and Promotional Products Professionals of Canada trade shows, companies are willing to spend more on higher-end promo products that leave people with a strong impression of their brand, rather than some inexpensive items that will be broken or thrown away within a week. Inexpensive promo products evoke a weaker brand.
In 2017, companies will continue to increase their Marketing budgets for promotional items in order to create products that are useful, high-quality, and long-lasting. Perceived value and Functionality will remain top of list when sourcing promotional products.
The World in Which We Live In
The environment will continue to be a hot topic in 2017, and people are trying harder than ever to live a greener life. Sustainable and eco-friendly products help express your company’s values and send the message that you’re environmentally conscious. According to the Advertising Specialty Institute, 42% of people had a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the promotional product they received was environmentally friendly.
In 2017, companies will be rethinking the everyday branded products they order in favor of more sustainable options. Recycled notebooks, bamboo pens, and biodegradable cotton tote bags will be more popular than ever as companies strive to make a positive impact on their customers—and on the environment. “
Law Firm Branding
“The competitiveness of the legal industry seems to intensify with each passing year and the ability to stand out from the crowd has never been more important. In the world where General Counsel are under pressure to cut external counsel fees, and more firms are formed every day, more is required to connect with your target audience and stay top of mind when the time comes to retaining counsel.
In the coming year we’ll see those law firms who are undertaking a brand refresh to rise above the crowd concentrating as much on the brand message as the brand visual. They’ll be the firms that know their target clients and are willing to let go of parts of the market in order to have an authentic, distinctive message.
There will be an emphasis on the extension of the law firm brand with a clear focus on areas not traditionally associated with the brand including client service delivery and knowledge sharing. Clients work with firms that have brands that resonate with them not just because of the messages they convey but the type of people that provide their services and the level, and style, of service they bring to bear on the relationship.
Finally, I believe there will be increasing attention paid to the role of the “personal brand” with lawyers looking to both traditional and new content marketing strategies in order to differentiate themselves from their competition and add value to their clients.“
Client Relationship Management (CRM)
“The CRM landscape is changing. Driven by increasing competition and in-house innovation, firms are looking to CRM to help them find, win and retain more business, both from clients and prospects. whilst reducing the burden on the attorney and cutting client attrition. CRM is, however, often regarded by many attorneys as a marketing focused application, of little value to them. As such, getting CRM to work for the firm, first requires a change in mindset. The key to this change is the eco system of marketing and business development applications that exist around the edge of CRM.
Throughout 2016 we have seen continued development in and adoption of ancillary solutions in the marketing and business development eco system. These have ranged from new entrants in Enterprise Resource Management, to evolution in eMarketing platforms, and the introduction of pro-active client survey platforms. Through these developments, we are seeing a significant increase in client and prospect insights. Some of the innovative intelligence now available includes the ability to see the best time to contact a client – based on their interaction with the firms eMarketing campaigns – and the ability to see personality traits alongside a contact’s relationship data. Over 2017 we will see firms aggregating this rich data in to their CRM platform to allow them to benefit from it in one place.
With a single view of client and prospect insights, the value of CRM data to Attorneys will significantly increase. Attorneys will have the information they need at their fingertips to make decisions around how they manage their clients, increasing cross-selling and reducing client attrition. From a broader business development perspective, attorneys will also be proactively presented with suitable targets for potential business, based on the intelligence and client profile available in the CRM. With attorneys now provided tools that make their business development activities more effective and time efficient, the adoption of CRM will naturally increase, as they begin to realize the benefits.
Increased adoption will not only provide benefit to the Attorneys themselves, at a higher-level, executives of the firm we have the insights they need to make strategic decisions around the direction of the firm. This will help them effectively navigate the treacherous waters of market change. In addition, they will also be able to get a better grasp of the firm’s risk both from a staffing and client perspective.
In summary, 2017 will see firms aggregating data from across their systems in to one place, where it can be manipulated and consumed to drive increased CRM adoption, intelligent opportunity identification, and increased revenue.”
So there you have it folks! Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on what we’ll see in Legal Marketing in 2017. From all of us here at fSquared Marketing, Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year.