The days of spending six months on thought leadership campaigns are over

Ben Edwards sets out five top tips from this week's Law Firm Marketing Summit

While the coronavirus pandemic has been a huge challenge for law firms, it has been even more challenging for their business development and marketing teams. Marketing budgets have been cut sharply – on average by 70% over the past couple of months, according to Acritas data. But it has also created another problem: how do you build a business during a crisis? That was the theme of the fifth annual Law Firm Marketing Summit, which took place this week and was jointly hosted by The Global Legal Post and Legal Media Monitor.

Tip 1 - Be creative with business development

Unusual times call for a different, thinking-outside-the-box approach to your marketing and business development strategies. Alessandra Almeida Jones, director of marketing at Baker McKenzie, says the Covid-19 crisis has underscored the need to be more agile. That means the days of spending six months or longer on a thought leadership campaign are over - marketers need to get comfortable with the idea that you’re not necessarily presenting a solution but instead curating a debate. Clients are being flooded with information, so you need to think about how to make it relevant, she says. The winners will be those who can think deeply but also move swiftly.

Tip 2 - Content that helps (with no sales agenda)

Clients are under huge pressure right now. Legal budgets are being slashed, straining resources at a time when in-house teams need more help than ever. Marketing and business development professionals must recognise this and proactively provide support and advice that is easy to digest and can help in-house lawyers grasp issues quickly. Lesley Wan, general counsel at FBN Bank, says GCs are calling out for succinct and useful information from their legal suppliers. For those trying to connect with potential new clients at a time when traditional face-to-face relationship building isn’t possible, sending bullet points of summarised expertise can be a good icebreaker, says Wan. Clients also want to know what is going on in the market and what others are doing. Be sure to provide those insights.

Tip 3 - Understand your clients

Given the current operating environment, it is vital that you understand your clients’ needs and problems. To do that, says Eversheds Sutherland partner James Batham, you must be genuinely interested in your clients. Not just in their business lives, but in their personal lives too. That means listening to your clients, and then showing that you have listened, Batham says. If you have produced some content and there is a relevant passage for a particular client, flag it to them. By asking better questions and listening properly to what they are saying, not only will you build trust and forge deeper personal relationships, it will also help you gain insights into your clients that partners might not know themselves.

Tip 4 - Be relevant to your business

If you want to expand your influence with law firm leaders and ensure a seat at the table, you need to demonstrate your value to the business. As indicated above, gaining unique insights into clients that partners don’t have will boost your credibility. Another way to grab their attention is to speak their language, says Matthew Fuller, head of business development for the Americas and EMEA at White & Case. By using data and evidence-based insights to support your advice, lawyers will be more likely to listen. Michelle Michaels, chief marketing officer at Hinshaw & Culbertson, says it’s also important to speak up in meetings and always come loaded with ideas—even if they are rejected, you are demonstrating value because you are offering suggestions.

Tip 5 - Don't ease up on diversity and inclusion

There is a risk in the current climate that diversity and inclusion initiatives will take a back seat. The key message from legal buyers is: don’t even dream about it. “Anyone thinking about survival and doesn’t think diversity and inclusion is critical to survival has missed the boat,” says Banke Odunaike, head of legal for EMEA at CBRE. She says it is vital that law firms continue to work on diversity and inclusion, with a particular focus on the inclusion part to ensure their diversity has longevity. Lesley Wan says GCs have a responsibility to bring about positive change and that law firms they work with must reflect the society they operate in. When panel reviews come around, she says, law firms need to know GCs are serious about diversity and inclusion.

Ben Edwards is co-founder and editorial director of Pensar Media. His blog can be found here.

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