Lexis Nexis Interaction today published its Law Firm Marketing & Business Development Survey. The Survey was conducted between August and October 2019. One hundred three legal marketing leaders across the U.S. and Europe participated, many from 40 Am Law 100 firms. Most were with established multi-office firms with over $500 million in annual revenue. In other words, biglaw.
Law firms desperately want business, but are consistently dissatisfied with their efforts
The first thing that jumped out from the Survey: law firms desperately want business, but are consistently dissatisfied with their efforts. Only 49% of U.S. firms describe their business development efforts as successful.
Secondly, most firms understand leadership is critical to strategic planning and business development (87%). Finally, 70% of the firms know that they need and plan more significant websites and social media investments in 2020.
These statistics are all well and good to know. But having worked in biglaw and been reasonably successful at business development, I think there are bigger takeaways. Takeaways that pretty well mirror my experience.
My Key Takeaways.
The biggest obstacle faced by big law firms and their partners? Lack of marketing focus. Lack of strategy. Trying to boil the ocean and pursuing too many perceived business opportunities. Phenomena that are applicable for both new business development and client retention.
In my experience, too many lawyers never want to give up any opportunity. To focus means to give up things.
On the face of it, this may seem surprising. I mean, how hard is it to develop a marketing strategy and focus, especially when it comes to client retention? But, in my experience, too many lawyers never want to give up any opportunity. To focus means to give up things. Lawyers and law firms don’t want to take the chance of being wrong with a chosen focus. This prevents them from focusing on the most profitable and lucrative opportunities. Or they pick something to focus on that’s not realistic.
Historically, this may have worked: firms only needed to get their name out there and business would come. This is no longer true. Today’s competitive marketplace requires focus and strategy. Conversely, competition also exacerbates lawyer reluctance to give up any opportunity no matter how inconsequential. But it’s all the more reason to have a meaningful strategic plan and stick to it.
The second big problem identified by the Survey: lack of follow through. This one may be less surprising given the lack of strategic focus. When you try to pursue everything, you end up not having time to follow through on anything.
I saw this time and time again. A lawyer gets a good business development idea and targets a client or market. She starts a business development initiative. Because it doesn’t immediately show results and because she faces ongoing pressure to bill hours, she gives up and fails to follow up. She later wonders why it didn’t pan out.
Again, all the more reason to have a strategy and focus. Meghan Frank, Global Director of Marketing, LexisNexis Legal & Professional Software Solutions, believes a strategic plan lets everyone know their role. It also clearly sets out the steps that need to be implemented. Without such a plan, a lack of follow through by busy lawyers who bill by the hour is inevitable.
Without data and analytics, firms and lawyers are basically making wild ass guesses about what the focus should be
This leads to the third and perhaps biggest take away from the Survey. Most firms still aren’t using technology and analytics to make business development and marketing decisions. Again, given the first two takeaways, this shouldn’t be a surprise. How bad is it: only 9% of the firms surveyed are using analytics to track business opportunities over their lifecycle.
It’s no wonder there is a lack of focus and follow through! Without data and analytics, firms and lawyers are basically making wild ass guesses about what the focus should be. What targets are realistic and worth pursuing. They miss critical indicators of success. And as Frank puts it, analytics also provides a measure of progress against an overall plan, which reduces the lack of follow through.
Yet These Tools Exist
Clearly, analytical tools exist which aid firms and lawyers in measuring progress. Tools exist which enable better assessment of business development opportunities.
Want to enhance business development? Use data analytics.
LexisNexis, for example, offers its InterAction® for Office 365®. This application uses data from Microsoft® Outlook, Excel, and Word–tool lawyers use every day–to capture client relationship information. The application lets lawyers access the data without having to use tools they don’t typically use.
InterAction also works with Microsoft’s Power BI product to enable the preparation of useful reports and dashboards. These reports can make it easier to interpret and present data about client activity and relationships. The use of analytics will then better inform and support business development strategies.
Another example: Some time ago, I posted about a company called Headnote. Headnote provides analytical tools that can assess whether a line of work is profitable. It also compares whether the value of a client compares favorably to the cost of obtaining and maintaining it. These comparisons help a firm look at how much of its resources are being or should be expended on a target.
These analytical tools could focus lawyers and firms on achievable and profitable business goals. As Scott Wallingford, VP and General Manager of LexisNexis Interaction puts it: “Leveraging client data will help overcome these challenges, providing critical insights to focus business development planning efforts and ultimately achieve improved client service and firm growth.”
Want to enhance business development? Use data analytics.