By Jason Kennedy, CRM Consultant, Wilson Allen
2020 is (thankfully?) over. But looking ahead into 2021, there will be a lot that has changed in legal marketing due to everything brought to bear in the previous year.
But what does that look like in real-world terms? Now that law firms are beginning to scale back their pandemic-related austerity measures, some emerging trends in legal marketing are beginning to reveal themselves. Depending on the firm, these trends could accelerate existing plans or inform the first step into a new marketing and business development frontier.
Trend #1: An Increased Focus on Marketing Strategy
An immediate business effect of the pandemic was a pause in ongoing and incoming work at many law firms. The resulting slowdown forced lawyers to look to their marketing and business development teams more than ever to continue bringing business through the door. To make matters more difficult, most law firm marketing departments had an immediate freeze and/or reduction of marketing spend.
Now that the marketing budget has been unlocked again, firm leadership has a spotlight on marketing spend – both at the practice level and department level. The increased demand, coupled with the intense fiscal scrutiny and focus on return on marketing investment, means marketing teams will need to be very deliberate and strategic with their 2021 efforts.
One positive here is that a lot of firms are increasing their focus on cross-selling initiatives, which is breaking down the traditional practice silos. This presents a prime opportunity for marketing and business development teams to work on a more unified go-to-market strategy that, in the past, might have stumbled across several practice-specific roadblocks.
Will the ad-hoc, “fire drill” requests from high-touch practices or rainmaker lawyers go away as your team implements a larger marketing strategy? Of course not. But for most legal marketers, you will see a shift in how work is done and what projects move forward (and why).
Trend #2: The Move to Data-Driven Marketing
This one is not a surprise to many of you. Legal marketing as a discipline has recognized data as a critical piece of the marketing puzzle, but many teams have struggled to shift to a fully data-driven approach. There is a MASSIVE amount of data within any law firm. Building a strategy around that data requires a commitment to building platforms, processes, and people to derive insights from the data.
On the technology front, there are several new and existing technologies that allow marketers to aggregate and/or analyze firm data to make actionable decisions. But before you start researching vendors, step back and ask, “What are we trying to do, and why?” Are you trying to get a better idea of client satisfaction and churn? Then you may want to pull in client feedback, annual billings, A/R, and relationship data. Or are you wanting to draw a line from the first email to a prospect all the way to a buying decision? Then you’d want marketing engagement (email, events) data, CRM activity, relationship data, and opportunity records. Those are just a couple of examples, but knowing the problems you are trying to solve will inform what data you need and what systems provide that data.
Attorneys are increasingly coming to marketing to say, “Tell me something about this client/prospect that I don’t know.” There are many data points in the firm systems (particularly in the marketing tech stack) that can be aggregated to build a dossier for lawyers and their practices. A great example is the Hot Prospect report, which pulls in marketing engagement data around a particular topic. It presents this data to a lawyer or practice leader and shows which people are most interested in the blogs/emails/events around a specific topic.
Trend #3: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Automate Everything
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The marketing demand from lawyers and their practices is continually increasing, but the marketing resources – whether it’s personnel or dollars – aren’t growing to keep up.
If the workload is increasing, but the number of hands to contribute hasn’t, automation can help alleviate the burden. Automation introduces efficiencies to your workflow with little maintenance and oversight.
But where to start? There are many areas of opportunity, depending on the platforms and processes your team has in place. Here are a few ideas that may help make some of your work more efficient.
- Email Campaigns: Build a series of emails to be sent at predetermined times to encourage downloads of a white paper.
- Events: Create your save-the-dates, invitations, reminders, and thank you emails all at once and schedule them to send at the appropriate times.
- Experience Management: Enable a trigger that emails an attorney (or business development team member) to add experience data to a matter that has passed a particular hours threshold.
- CRM: Automatically accept any contact edits that don’t change key fields like Name, Email, Title, or Company
- Workflow: Set up notifications in your marketing workflow system to automatically assign work to the right marketing resource when marketing requests come in from lawyers and staff.
Introducing automation into your day-to-day work doesn’t mean trying to find anything and everything that can be automated. Rather, start with one or two small, repeated functions that can be automated for a person or team and grow from there. When done correctly, you’ll see the benefits almost immediately.
Now that you have an idea of what’s waiting for you and your team in 2021, it’s time to get started. There are many resources available on topics as broad as marketing strategy and as focused as building your first marketing dashboard, including this collection of stories on how firms like Bevan Brittan, Mintz, McMillan, and Wedlake Bell are using technology to keep pace with changing market dynamics. As always, the most important thing to remember is to be prepared for anything. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact us.