Some publications are no longer (or never have) allowing vendors to contribute articles focused on industry trends, subject matter expertise or technology direction. The question is should you deprive readers from useful content based on an author’s company affiliation? As one recent ILTA media panelist mentioned, “We give our readers credit in assuming they can differentiate between quality content and advertorials.” There are of course two sides to every issue, so several summit participants argued that the publication and its staff ultimately are able to dictate editorial guidelines. And, overall, the industry provides many outlets for content - print, online, blogs, whitepapers, case studies, editorials, etc. so vendors can find opportunities to contribute elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this trend has come about due to the misuse of these opportunities in the past – i.e., vendors providing submissions that are more sales than informational even when warned not to. It is a shame that our vendor community – the very people that are integral in the determining the direction of our industry – aren’t able to contribute as experts in some of its publications, but it seems that this is definitely due to a case of a few bad apples ruining it for everyone.
Food-for-thought: What if contributions were evaluated solely based on content and substance instead of who submitted them? Again, it would go a long way for vendors to realize that when given an opportunity to provide editorial content (or speak for that matter), not to ruin those chances and turn in sales pieces. Besides, you will get a lot more out of an impartial educational piece than one that the readers can smell as an advertorial. If vendors can change that perception through quality submissions, this rule might change as well.
What are the major differences between the two and how are companies adapting in their efforts to do business overseas were some of the topics raised. One thing is clear, the UK market is a definite “mini-me” version of the States with the UK legal population (95,000 or so) just a bit larger than the state of Texas. London is the epicenter of the UK’s legal community and allows US companies to reach a lot of influential decision makers in a very concentrated manner. However, with the advantage of location comes the disadvantage of only having one shot at making a respectable first impression. And, if you ask summit participants such as Karen Jones, a reputable London-based legal editor and publisher, many US shops don’t do their research when making the move into the UK and underestimate the vast differences in business styles/cultures. Others learn the hard way, but have the smarts to make adjustments and get it right.
Food-for-thought: What if somebody got into the business of US and UK technology company matchmaking? Who should work with whom? Who can resell what to what market best? Who should you know when it comes to law firm technology leaders, industry consultants, etc.? Also, it would be a great idea to have classes in multi-cultural business ethics/culture. Wouldn’t it be great for your sales staff to know where England is before you stake your claim to “own” the market?
With all this activity and no sight of a slowdown, the discussion focused on why these acquisitions are taking place and what effect they have on the industry. The acquisitions serve to either grow market share, acquire unique technology, expand a presence in an untapped or under serviced market (i.e., Lexis’ acquisition of Axxia) or all of the above. How can this be done while fulfilling the “we are doing this in the best interest of our client base” promise? This is a tricky one since the success stories of successful company acquisitions and subsequent assimilations seem to be few and far between.
Many of the M&A scenarios discussed focused on companies in the same space, but what about organizations outside of the legal vertical looking to gain market entry by acquiring legal technology assets? To a certain degree, global professional services software giant SAP has tried this several times in the US, but with limited success. In the case of SAP, the issue seemed to be the limited market potential for their enterprise software versus the failed acquisition of an established player. The question of such M&As having success in the future depends greatly on the strategy behind the merger … an attempt to buy into the market or the goal of transitioning a proven technology from a different vertical into a lucrative legal technology market. Both strategies include their challenges, but the latter has historically proven to be the bigger uphill battle.
Food-for-thought: What if there was more accountability for companies to fulfill their M&A client promises? How can law firm and corporate clients - the software and service end users - express their dissatisfaction with constant corporate merger moves when and if they are disappointed with the new changes/direction?
Pay-to-speak but at what cost? This topic is definitely one getting a lot of attention, obviously from a vendor cash position standpoint, but also from a speaker, content provider, and attendee stance. In the past couple of years, we have seen many shows, particularly small conferences, open a new revenue stream by offering track “sponsorships” and allowing vendors to pay to be on the conference agenda. This raises some questions: Who should pay? How should it be disclosed that these sessions/tracks are sponsored? How do the shows let the attendees know that what is being presented has been paid for and could be promotional in nature as well as educational? Who controls the content if anyone with enough cash can buy their way onto the agenda?
On the flip side, can you blame the sponsor who has paid a lot for expecting something (a speaking slot) in return for a big check? Another issue that could come about in the future is the availability of CLE credits for these sessions. If the CLE accreditors knew that the sessions were purchased by vendors, would they approve them for credit? If not, what does that mean for attendees who rely on these CLE credits as a major pull for them to attend these conferences?
The summit discussion talked about the various pay-to-speak scenarios and issues and the overall conclusion was that shows need to be upfront about the status of each session. Basically, if the track has been purchased by a vendor, it definitely needs to be noted as such. Also, this discussion provided one absurd example. We were quiet shocked when notable consultant Michael Arkfeld mentioned an event organizer had asked him to pay to deliver the keynote address for a particular conference. Say what? We are sure this is an off-base example, but it sure is troubling…
Food-for-thought: What if the vendor community collectively rallied around this topic and took an authoritative, but solution-focused approach to pay-to-play opportunities? Why not work with the event organizers on developing guidelines that pinpoint how speaking opportunities are to be conducted and what sort of content is permitted? The event’s board or an oversight committee should be integral in monitoring this on a case-by-case basis. If nothing else, encouraging both show leadership and vendors to be forthright about what is being presenting would be refreshing.
A solution that seems to be working at many shows such as ALA and ABA is to offer “vendor workshops” where companies can purchase their way onto the agenda, but in a way that is transparent that it is sponsored. Then again, those sponsorships are sold for a fraction of the cost of sponsoring tracks…
Jobst and I would like to thank all of the attendees at our first InsideLegal Summit. We appreciate everyone accepting an invitation for this "experimental format" to discuss the business side of the legal technology industry – what it is like to market to and do business in this space - what works and what can we improve upon. We'd also like to thank Microsoft and Norm Thomas for hosting the event at their New York location. Here is role call of our inaugural group...
Creative Approaches to Familiar Challenges Our goal for this first event was to unlock the creativity that is forever present within our industry. Specifically, we were looking to initiate a casual conversation among those that help shape our space - the companies, consultants, media and technologists that all have a stake in where legal technology is headed. Obviously, this conversation could have many flavors …technology, legislation, trends, firm insights, etc. While we aimed to provide a comprehensive collection of topics, our first summit focused on an eclectic mix of largely unrelated topics, not biased toward any particular attendee or constituency. We approached this event as an executive board meeting of the legal technology industry – if the industry was a company, what issues would be discussed.
The initial summit focused on open discussions facilitated by me and based on four central topics. Our next posts will review the actual discussions.
What’s Next We are very pleased with the participation and outcome of this first in what is bound to be a successful series of summits throughout the year – each with different topics and formats. We are already working on the next Summit, so if you are interested in attending, hosting or sponsoring a future InsideLegal Summit, please email me your contact information. Also, if you would like to suggest a topic for a future Summit, please email me as well.
The Annual ABA TECHSHOW is coming up March 13-15 in Chicago. We recently teamed with Larry Smith, Executive Director of ABA's Law Practice Management Section, to put on a webinar to shed some light on the audience of the show, as well as the many improvements and changes to the show for 2008. Some notable changes for 2008...
One major change is the location - for years the show has been held at the Sheraton Chicago, but this year it has been moved to the Hilton's Flagship hotel, the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue.
Friday's lunch will be a plated event and will host the winners of the James I. Keane Memorial Awards. The awards will give recognition to law offices or legal organizations that have developed legal service innovations delivered over the Internet.
We will be producing a Legal Media Panel with the ABA LPM at TECHSHOW. This is an excellent opportunity to get in front of editors from the major legal publications. Get your booth setup early on Wednesday so you can be there at 3pm! There will be a media and faculty reception immediately following at 4pm.
ABA has added TECHSHOW After Dark Thursday night reception - In the Hilton Chicago's Grand Ballroom - food, drinks, networking, music and dancing.
Below is a copy of the presentation in case you weren't able to attend the webinar...
Many legal technology vendors are constantly looking for ways to increase their marketing involvement with ILTA and ILTA's members. If you are trying to get in front of technology contacts at medium to large size firms, ILTA is as good as it gets. Now, in addition to their Annual Conference here in the states, you can become a sponsor at their UK event, INSIGHT 2008.
If you are an ILTA member and would like to attend, you can find more information here. If you are interested in possibly sponsoring the event, here is information from ILTA's Program Director, Peggy Wechsler...
Building on the resultant success of past events and leveraging the feedback from the attendees, we are pleased to announce ILTA’s 3rd annual U.K. event, INSIGHT 2008, to be held 15 April 2008 at the Hilton London Tower Bridge Hotel. This year’s event will feature two tracks targeting CIOs, operational managers, lawyers, litigation support specialists and in-house legal staff. Sessions will focus on practice management systems (in conjunction with LITIG), digital rights management, outsourcing, e-disclosure, KM and enterprise searching, "crystal ball" technologies, e-billing and much more.
We’re excited to be offering the ILTA experience in London again this year, and this special event is evidence of our commitment to the strategic direction provided by our Board of Directors, a plan that has us becoming more international in scope. The legal profession has indeed become more global, and we’re hopeful to assist our members as they face the challenges of globalization.
As we have found in our long history in the U.S. and Canada, our vendor sponsors play a key role in ILTA, providing support, education, information and solutions to help our members make technology work in their law firms and law departments. We are offering vendors an opportunity to be involved in our expansion abroad. Vendor sponsorships are very limited.
For months you have been preparing for LegalTech New York and now the show is over. You successfully acquired a stack of leads while hopefully reinforcing your marketing message to a large audience of your prospects. With all it takes to successfully exhibit at a show of this size, it’s very easy to put the show behind you and get back to the work that has piled up since you left the office. In order to complete a successful trade show marketing plan, you first need to arrange to follow-up on all the leads you received and make sure your post-show marketing plans reinforce your image presented at the show.
It seems logical to say that the first step is to follow-up on the leads you received, but the most common mistake companies make is to promote their attendance at a show, work the show and then never follow-up on the leads they receive. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 80% of show leads are never followed up on! To avoid this, you must make lead follow-up a priority over just about everything else — including catching up on what you missed while you were out of the office. It goes without saying that your hot leads should be the first you follow up on, but make sure you have contacted all of your leads in one way or another within one week. Keep in mind that many other exhibitors will also be contacting them, so the earlier you get to them the better. It’s important to contact them while you are fresh in their mind. Also, remember to fulfill any promise you made to a prospect – sending literature, checking on a feature, etc.
There are a few different types of programs you can utilize to efficiently follow-up on your leads. What program you decide will work for your company should be based on your staff level and budget. Call campaigns are an excellent way to contact your hot leads, but this can take quite a bit of manpower. At the very least, you should absolutely make the effort to personally call the top prospects you met with. For the remainder of the leads, you can utilize either a post-show mailer program or email campaign. To ensure this is carried out in a timely manner, make sure to have the mailer designed or email written before you leave for the show. This way, when you return you have everything ready to be addressed and sent.
Maintain the Marketing Momentum
While exhibiting at the show, there are many different avenues you can take advantage of to promote your brand to your target audience. Between your booth design, collateral and sponsorships, you can make a lasting impression on your audience while making sure your message is integrated in every facet of your participation. However, the longevity of your marketing impact depends on what you do after you leave the show. After the show is a good time to re-evaluate your marketing focus and determine whether it meshes with what you achieved and observed during the show. If your products and services were well received at the show, then follow-up with targeted direct marketing. If, on the other hand, your prospect base feels unsure about your offering or doesn’t quite see its benefits, then follow-up with targeted advertising and public relations aimed at educating and reinforcing key messages. In fact, public relations, and specifically a well-executed post-show announcement, can go a long way in recapping your show successes and remind your targets what sets you apart from the competition and what business benefits they will derive from your solutions.
Remember, what you do after the trade show is an integral part of your overall sales and marketing effort. If you expect to show up at the show, and have your product sell itself, you will be disappointed. By the same respect, you cannot build lasting brand awareness by setting up a booth with a nice graphic and expect to ride out the year on your one presentation alone. As always, the key to getting the most from the show is to have that be the jumping point of your marketing plan, not the end. Use your participation at the show as a kickoff to many more impressions to follow.
Successful exhibiting is truly an example of needing to begin with the end in mind.