Just kidding with the 999—though we could easily report on hundreds of ideas exchanged at the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference this week in Las Vegas. More than 1,300 legal marketing professionals gathered there to share secrets and strategies on how to develop business in the “new normal” legal economy. But for this Friday Five, we asked Mark Beese to bring back just a few take-aways to sharpen your marketing and business development efforts.
1. General counsel love blogs (and so does Google). Nearly half of all general counsel surveyed by Inside Counsel magazine reported they had visited a legal blog over the past week. In the corporate counsel session facilitated by Inside Counsel’s new publisher Lloyd Johnson Jr., panelists Kevin Schubert (Las Vegas Sands Corp.), Simon Manoucherian (Griols Inc.) and Megan Belcher (ConAgra Foods) confirmed that they frequently use lawyer blogs to learn quickly about a legal topic before calling outside counsel for help. General counsel look for timely information (hours, not days) on legal developments and changing regulations. Favorite blogs give only information clients and potential clients need, with links to dig deeper. And yes, they’ve hired lawyers after reading a blog post that led to a phone call.
When it comes to search results, Google loves blogs because they are more likely to provide accurate and timely information. Fifty percent of all landing pages in Google searches are blog posts. I’ll let that sink in while you consider when to launch your legal blog.
2. Going mobile. Mobile use of the Internet to view law firm sites has increased 100 percent over the past 12 months. Depending on who you ask, mobile use ranges from 19 to 40 percent of Internet use. So what? Well, have you seen what your law firm’s website looks like on an iPhone? How about a Kindle Fire? If you can’t easily read your firm’s phone number and address (which is what 54 percent of mobile users are looking for on your site), then your clients can’t either. “Responsive” site design will detect the specific device and browser that is reading the site before it appears, and adjust appearance based on the device. WordPress and other providers have options to make your website responsive.
Corporate counsel say they use video posts on blogs to educate their internal clients on legal issues, especially in areas of employment law and regulatory compliance. So, if you want your legal brand to permeate beyond the GC’s office, start thinking about your first YouTube video and make sure it’s quick, easy and foolproof to launch it from a mobile device.
3. Taking advantage of free or low-cost online tools. Gail Lamarche, Marketing Director at Florida’s Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, uses snappy online event invitations and announcements from PaperlessPost to invite prospective clients to firm seminars and webinars. Henderson uses forms from Wufoo for event registration (they can be customized and integrated into your firm’s website, too) and PR.com‘s press release template. SurveyMonkey is a low-cost online survey tool. Also, many firms use WordPress templates developed by Tenrec.com for cost-effective websites and blogs.
4. Clients are changing how they evaluate and buy legal services. Harvard law professor David Wilkins said the days are gone when clients evaluate lawyers and firms strictly on reputation and credentials. Now they are looking for value as defined by metrics that relate to their specific business goals. To compete, lawyers and law firms have to understand what is most important to their clients and then deliver a package of services that best meets their priorities. He also said that clients are demanding their firms be more transparent in how attorneys are selected for their teams, the training they receive and their approaches to project management.
5. Meet our chief pricing officer. That’s right. A CPO could be in your firm’s future. As law firms respond to clients’ requests for alternative fees and value-based billing, they are hiring hybrid marketing-finance-accounting-MBA types to create pricing structures beyond the billable hour. Toby Brown, Director of Strategic Pricing and Analytics at Akin Gump and Colleen Nihill, Firmwide Director of Project Management at Dechert, are two of more than 135 legal pricing professionals who are active in LMA’s new special interest group dedicated to the fourth P of marketing: Pricing.
What do Colleen and Toby do? Each in their own way, they interview prospective clients, often in the context of a competitive bid or proposal, define a clear scope of the work, analyze past similar cases and their cost structure, and work with attorneys to develop a project plan and fee that best meets the needs of the client and the firm. Colleen prefers to build the project from the bottom up, pricing it by phase. Toby emphasizes the importance of scenario planning and looking at the probability of each scenario to inform the project management and pricing decisions.
Mark Beese is President of Leadership for Lawyers, LLC, a consultancy dedicated to helping lawyers become better business developers and leaders. He also teaches Marketing and Business Development at the University of Denver Sturm School of Law. Mark is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and the former CMO of Holland & Hart.