We have spent the last 14 years working within the legal community and a central connection point has always been attending industry events ranging from LegalTech to ABA events and legal administrator programs as well as technology conferences such as the annual ILTA educational conference. For some strange, ‘bad timing’ reason, we have never participated in the Legal Marketing Association’s (LMA) Annual Conference so when we spoke with LMA's Executive Director, Betsi Roach, and discovered the 2013 conference was directly after LexThink.1 and the ABA TECHSHOW, we decided to join 1,200+ legal marketers and law firm marketing-specific vendors at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas, flying directly there from Chicago.
We thoroughly enjoyed the high caliber educational sessions and numerous networking and collaboration opportunities. In the spirit of voicing our 'clean slate' opinion, and with the intention of ‘keeping the marketing innovation ball rolling’, we are sharing our 2013 LMA Conference session take-aways and marketing observations:
- Be proactive and timely with marketing outreach & client communication: One of the big themes all week was the heightened expectations general counsel and corporate legal departments have when it comes to the marketing and content efforts put forth by law firm subject matter experts and legal marketers. The two biggest ‘must provides’ focused on timely and relevant content—new case rulings; relevant legislation; opinion and thought leader pieces by law firm leaders; and email alerts with dynamic, real-time content versus static, re-packaged dated information. As stated by a few panelists during InsideCounsel’s General Counsel Panel, law firms need to be their corporate clients' ‘eyes and ears’ in their particular practice area of expertise: “Before we give you our business, make it yours to know ours, inside and out.”
- Share + inspire: We left LMA inspired to implement what we learned and share lessons learned and examples with our community. Not everyone was so lucky as to attend the annual meeting, but thanks to social networks and tools everyone can benefit from the output of the various sessions. Case in point, we have seen several top notch LMA recap/follow-up blog posts and articles so simply search for #LMA13 on Twitter to view some of these. As you are reading this post, we encourage you to share your ‘take-ways’ not only with other marketers and business development folks, but with lawyers who might wonder why you are out of the office and in Las Vegas. It is your job to share this information and inspire your colleagues to try out new marketing efforts and at a minimum be open to you initiating new marketing programs that could benefit your firm. Also, the best way to ‘share and inspire’ is to get out of your office. Marketers need to proactively engage their attorneys – schedule some visits, take your partner out to lunch and find out what their biggest pains are and how marketing can help. Take this a step further and get involved in the next business pitch, be it by lending creative expertise, statistical and business analysis, a social media primer or something else your attorneys will value and want you to share.
- Bet on big data: While several LMA Conference sessions touched on how legal marketers can make better use of the client data they already have to provide better communication, Wednesday’s final ‘Leveraging Big 4 Consulting Best Practices to Bolster your Business Development Strategies’ session really drove home the big data mining point. As featured in BTI Consulting Group’s session wrap-up, the Big Four accounting firms have long been using aggregated client data and client preferences to determine which content, educational sessions and special programs their clients and prospects might be interested in. Keeping clients looped in on timely information and relevant educational opportunities not only helps marketers standout in the era of the ‘exploding’ inbox, but let’s clients know they know their business and needs as intimately as they do. Our Head of Content Jobst Elster was recently interviewed by ABA’s Law Practice Today - Digital Edge podcast's hosts Sharon Nelson (Sensei Enterprises) and Jim Calloway (Oklahoma Bar Association) on ‘Big Data for Lawyers’ and much of the discussion focused on law firm marketing’s role in pushing the big data envelope. In fact, a recent Gartner survey revealed that by 2017, marketing will have a larger technology budget focused on big data mining and analytics technology than IT!
- Manage + measure: We’ve all heard ‘you can only manage what you measure’ (and vice versa), so prioritize establishing metrics for your marketing efforts. This has many benefits beyond being able to determine the return of your marketing spend and efficacy of your marketing tactics. For one, being able to scientifically prove that a marketing effort works or doesn’t can empower you to experiment more and show your attorneys that say their ‘tried and true’ brown bag sessions are really not adding new clients. LMA Conference presenters mentioned several useful free tracking and measurement tools including Twitter (track new followers and popularity of specific content and call-to-action messages); bitly (provides custom shortened links for blog posts/articles/content that can be tracked revealing click-through rates and popularity); Google Analytics (to track website traffic and online content and link popularity); and Google Alerts (to keep track of legal issues, competitors and trends).
- One North Interactive increasingly advising their clients on how they can establish greater client influence, trust and loyalty leveraging personalized website content and customizing the online user experience based on preferences and real time needs. Client feedback and client loyalty were also central themes of Wednesday's final session moderated by BTI Consulting's principal Marcie Borgal Shunk and highlighted research findings reiterating how far ahead of BigLaw Big 4 Accounting is when it comes to client feedback and satisfaction. It boils down to knowing your clients and what they expect of you. This point was hammered home by LMA Conference keynote speaker and Harvard Law Professor David Wilkins and is clearly articulated as part of the ACC Value Challenge which goes far beyond improving legal spending and is focused on the entire law firm-corporation relationship.
- Thought leadership ... is NOT dead: While it might be an overused and tired buzz word with much promise but lacking content substance, law firm thought leadership remains one of the top criteria GCs look at when engaging potential outside counsel. Your firm leaders not only need to know what they are talking about (subject matter expertise) but display leadership and a ‘voice of authority’ when it comes to their legal expertise. If your traditional thought leadership outreach is falling flat, explore new avenues of reaching your clients and prospects such as concise videos, webinars including actionable intelligence and content, and intimate client events.
- Don’t give up on social media, just ‘spoon feed’ it: While ignorance might be bliss, there’s nothing blissful about avoiding or ignoring social media for your law firm. While your lawyers may not yet see the light when it comes to leveraging social media tools to participate in the online legal conversation, chances are the competition does and within the next few years there will be no alternative. It’s sort of like the proliferation of smartphones these days, everyone has one; the only differentiation is the preferred mobile platform and scope of use aka which apps are you using. With that said, its legal marketing’s job to know which social tools are out there and which ones the firms should consider and vet. Based on what we heard this week, the two pieces of social media ‘low hanging fruit’ are blogs and Twitter. Both can be gradually rolled out and in the case of Twitter, research gathering and content aggregation can be a major firm benefit without actively tweeting or growing your Twitter presence. This week's InsideCounsel 'In-house New Media Engagement Survey' findings revelaed that 74% of all corporate respondents are so called 'invisible users'; they use LinkedIn and other social media tools but mostly to listen in and receive information versus actively participating and sharing. Equally intriguing is the statistic that 55% of GCs read attorney-authored blogs as frequently as blogs authored by professional journalists and 53% of counsel envision a future in which a well executed blog will influence hiring decisions.
While this is not an exhaustive list of ‘lessons learned’, we hope it will inspire and motivate to keep on pushing the envelope when it comes to your firms’ marketing effort. Stay tuned for our next post on ‘No Regrets Marketing … Vegas Style’.