Law Firm Marketing Operations: 4 Trends to Watch in 2018

It’s prediction season – time to look ahead at the trends and issues facing our clients in the coming year.  Where law firm marketing is concerned, we predict unrelenting pressure for marketers to streamline operations, reduce costs and deliver tangible results for their firms.  Fortunately, solutions are available — here are four areas that bear watching:

  1. Key Client Marketing

Calibrate Legal’s 2017 Marketing Operations Index found that less than 40% of responding law firms aligned their marketing activities by Key Client.  For 2018 we predict an increase in major firms’ adoption of Key Account best practices, including marketing.

The drive for this adoption will come from multinational clients, who increasingly look for a single point of accountability and service strategy from their vendors.  As law firms extend their geographic reach and scope of services, managing the experience for these large clients becomes more difficult – driving the need for a planned and intentional approach.   Moreover, studies across multiple industries (including law) have correlated increased profitability with the use of Key Client best practices.

Initially, the adoption of Key Client programs will create the need to report on marketing activities by client – answering questions like “what have the senior executives at Company X downloaded from our website in the last quarter?”  Over time, law firms will likely evolve formal Key Client marketing strategies, whereby streams of digital content are “tuned” to the interests and concerns of decision makers at the firms’ most important accounts.  The practice of aligning sales teams by Account – common in other industries – will become mainstream in law firms.

Our UK affiliate Totum Partners has published an analysis of how different firms from across the professional services sector are managing their most valuable clients.  Read it here.

  1. Dashboards, Scorecards, and Integrated Measurement

Faced with constrained budgets and ever-expanding demands for their services, law firm marketers often struggle to allocate resources where they will do the most good.  Too many are trapped in a cycle of opinion-based decision making – whereby investments, programs and campaigns are started or renewed based on the partners’ and attorneys’ opinions about what will succeed.  In future we believe that the most successful law firm CMOs will base their decisions on data, rather than opinion, and will strive to build data-driven marketing cultures within their firms.

Most law firm marketers have access to lots of data – their challenge is knowing how to gather insights from it.  Firms’ marketing data is often siloed in different formats across multiple systems and repositories – which makes it difficult, for example, to evaluate how a campaign is performing for multiple audiences across email, social, web and events channels.

Modern business intelligence tools offer a solution to this problem.  Platforms like Tableau and Microsoft Power BI allow non-technical users to connect multiple data sources in a common framework, identify correlations between data points, and build integrated easy-to-read visualizations that reveal trends and insights.

For 2018, we predict that more law firm CMOs will adopt these tools, using them to create real-time dashboards and periodic scorecards that demonstrate marketing’s effectiveness.  They will require team members with skills in data management and analysis to maintain these platforms.  Marketers who possess these skills will find that they can command a premium in the recruiting market.

  1. CRM Data Enrichment

Let’s face it – law firm CRM systems contain much data that is obsolete and/or incomplete. In fact, studies have shown that CRM data decays at the rate of 20-30% per year.

For law firms the problem is especially acute, because the typical law firm CRM model relies on attorneys and their assistants to enter contact, account, opportunity and activity data, and keep it up to date.  For a busy attorney focused on billable hours, updating CRM data is never a top priority – nor should it be.

So here lies the law firm marketer’s dilemma – you won’t succeed without good CRM data, but you can’t seem to improve it without burdening attorneys with administrative tasks.

For 2018, we predict that law firms will increase their investment in processes and products that help minimize the manual work involved in keeping CRM data current.  Examples include:

  • Corporate data solutions that match company records against trusted sources, such as Dun & Bradstreet and Crunchbase – either manually or via a technical integration. These solutions can range from simple (validation of company name address information), to complex (adding data on investors, corporate transactions, M&A, funding rounds, etc.)
  • Data vendors specializing in C-level executive and Board contacts – examples include BoardEx, ZoomInfo, and Relationship Science. These vendors do the arduous work of tracking the movements of these contacts, and maintaining them in a reliable database that can be synchronized with a firm’s CRM.
  • “Enterprise Relationship Management” solutions that harvest contacts from email, web and telephone traffic between a law firm and external organizations, and synchronize this up-to date information to the firm’s CRM. Solutions used by law firms include IntroHive, 3E Business Development (Thomson Reuters), and
  • Social CRM solutions that track contacts’ social media profiles and activities, and record them to the contact’s CRM record. Some CRM vendors, such as Salesforce and Nimble, incorporate social functions into their core products. Standalone solutions that can integrate with existing CRMs are available from vendors like Hootsuite and Sprout Social.
  1. Workflow and Process Management

For most law firm CMOs, making a successful business case for expanded marketing resources can be a struggle.  That’s why we predict that many CMOs will strive for greater productivity and efficiency from their existing teams.

This doesn’t mean driving people harder – rather, it’s about improving management of the work their teams take on, by reducing “random acts of marketing” and focusing on highest priority projects.

To achieve this, we expect that man law firm marketers will start to formalize their workflows in 2018.  Some have already realized the benefits of workflow systems like ServiceNow and Workfront, which create a single window for all marketing service requests, with no “side-loads” allowed.

An important benefit of these systems is that they require the marketing team to formalize its deliverables – creating a “catalog” of services with specified quality levels and delivery times for each. For the marketing team, the result is increased predictability and reduced stress.   Attorneys – the marketing team’s customers – gain improved visibility on where their projects stand in the marketing team’s queue.