It is no longer enough to be a good lawyer that everyone likes. The quality of your team and the process you offer continues to matter more to clients.
As we observe industry and market trends reshaping how law firms generate new business, PerformLaw is focusing our efforts on educating clients on adapting to this changing environment. The pandemic has only sharpened this focus. Since we believe business development stability will continue to require a more collaborative effort, we are encouraging firms of all sizes to build and maintain a law firm marketing system.
"Freeing law firms from overreliance on rainmakers" has been a key message throughout our recently published resources (Marketing Articles). In this particular post, we combine the arguments for that approach with our recommended action steps to show you how to build a valuable marketing system for your firm.
Legal industry and market trends
With the various social and economic priority shifts that have affected both attorneys and clients, the rapid technology evolution has been the most consequential contributor to changing the way law firms operate,
Changes in client buying criteria
Selecting a lawyer and buying legal services are now decisions that are more data-driven. The availability of online information, public ratings, and decision support tools (algorithms and metrics) injects significant objectivity into buying decisions. Personal relationship factors that have always dominated legal counsel selection become less potent.
As objective performance measurements continue to supplant personal relationships in the purchase of legal services, traditional marketing approaches will become even less effective. Law firms must create organizational brand-based approaches to marketing and build data-driven service delivery systems.
Changes in work/ personal life priorities
Many law firms still rely on the rainmaker approach. A few lawyers bring in the majority of new business from a client base they developed from working long hours and making many sacrifices.
Career and personal priorities for younger generations have evolved. They value a more balanced work/personal life schedule and flexibility. Attorneys make less time available to entertain clients, attend events, and join social and professional organizations. They prefer a more collaborative business development strategy that is more in tune with their priorities.
Benefits of a system-oriented approach to marketing
The most important benefits of a system-oriented approach are:
- It serves everyone;
- It creates tangible firm value; and
- It establishes economic benefits that will strengthen connections to the firm.
Imagine not having to rely on a lateral hiring approach for growth and long-term success. With new business coming to the firm based on brand strengths, the need for traditional in-person approaches diminishes. A more balanced origination approach reduces the risk of having a few rainmakers generate most of the business. It improves the firm’s long-term revenue stability and growth prospects.
This type of marketing system is not location dependent and can provide benefits on a much broader spectrum that includes a strategy map, brand strengths, a useful website, SEO credibility, automated marketing systems, and superior service delivery.
Sure, the benefits sound great, and most law firms would appreciate the relief of stress and pressure from traditional business development. However, it requires a considerable investment of time and effort to build and maintain a productive marketing system. If done poorly, it will not produce the desired results and end up a failure.
To facilitate change management and increase the likelihood of success, consider the following components for building a team-oriented marketing system:
We have found this approach to be most effective in guiding law firms through the development of a marketing system. It includes practical steps to help them develop a strategy, clarify their message, create interest with quality content, and build reliable content distribution channels.
Here is a more in-depth review of the process:
- Strategy Mapping (Blue Ocean Process) : A thorough consideration of how firms in your industry compete and ways for you to find uncontested market space. Under consideration of competitive factors, strengths and challenges, as well as market and industry trends, law firms should determine their goals over a 5-10 year period and the strategies to realize them.
- Brandscript Development: This is a description of your clients’ buyer journey from the moment they realize they have a problem all the way through to the solution you offer that ends in success.
- Website Wireframing: Next, we suggest creating a wire-frame for your website with a strategic layout that includes sections to clearly communicate your message, explain what is at stake, make a value proposition, introduce your firm as the guide, and outline your service offerings.
- Web Development: Law firms should revise/rebuild websites with the new wire-frame copy and design with the help of in-house resources, web developers, and marketing agency partners.
- Marketing Automation Software Selection and Buildout: We recommend implementing a platform like Hubspot to automate the firm’s marketing efforts. These software systems can manage all digital marketing and client relationship management efforts virtually.
Article: Can automation software act as your firm's next Marketing Director?
- Activity Plans: Attorneys must develop plans that complement the firm’s action plan, focus their individual marketing activities, create time and cost budgets, and commit to activity goals.
- Team Development (Internal and External Support): The marketing system's team includes the administrative and legal team, and potentially outside agencies. We suggest creating an attorney oversight committee for firms who are too small to hire a marketing manager. To ensure the software system is utilized to the fullest extent, it is important to assign a current staff member or hire an administrator. An agency can also handle this job, which includes web development and day-to-day digital marketing output.
- In addition to these firm activities, we suggest attorneys participate with individual activities like content writing and contact management.
- Roles and Responsibilities: To make sure the whole structure is well-maintained and producing results, marketing system management and administration duties need to be assigned. This includes overseeing all firm marketing efforts, administering the automation software, making marketing investment decisions and coordinating the relationships with outside agencies. Team cohesion also includes expectations for attorney contributions via activity plans and the service scope for agency support.
Changes in client buying behavior and attorney career priorities significantly impact what type of marketing will lead to long-term success. Many senior partners wonder how they can successfully transition their practices to a younger generation with a different approach. Ensuring business development stability in the future will require a more collaborative and balanced effort. To remain competitive over time we suggest that firms consider building out a marketing system.
Building a quality marketing system requires a sustained effort and a knowledgeable team. PerformLaw can help you transform your firm into a quality brand that uplifts its people and maximizes collaboration.