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It’s clear that legal marketers continue to be an ever-growing force for change at law firms of any size. With more than 1,300 attendees from around the globe, this week’s Legal Marketing Association (LMA) annual conference in San Diego was the group’s largest to date. For such a specialized gathering, the conference covered a wide and impressive variety of topics interesting to marketers and lawyers alike. Here are my top takeaways:
1. Digital marketing’s drumbeat. Can you hear that? It’s the sound of your competition gaining on you. If you’re not taking full advantage of all sorts of electronic and multimedia forms of marketing — from websites and blogs, to social media and online advertising — you’re going to be left in the dust.
If the talented marketers who won various categories of the LMA’s Your Honor Awards are any indication, law firm marketers are taking full advantage of myriad digital tools and media to reach their clients and prospects in creative and sophisticated ways.
If you think online advertising has come and gone, take a look at Allen Matkins’ Best in Show-winning integrated online advertising campaign that generated thousands of impressions, views and downloads. Another staple of legal marketing, the dreaded holiday card, also got an award-winning makeover by 165-lawyer Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.
Aside from the awards, many firms presented examples of how they engage online with creative campaigns that give their lawyers both opportunities to connect with clients and prospects, as well as interact with their communities.
Based in the Twin Cities, 80-lawyer Maslon launched a three-year project called “Pass It On – An Invitation to Inspiration” that achieved more than 200 entries from inside and outside the firm. Maslon donated to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ Art Adventure Program for each entry received. But Pamela Roemer, Maslon’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, noted that the firm received as much, if not more, from the campaign in tangible benefits in the form of strengthened client relationships, new business opportunities and greater visibility.
The upshot? Cutting-edge use of digital marketing offers significant opportunities to differentiate your firm and lawyers while also providing creative new ways to engage clients and prospects. And it goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway, just in case): digital marketing without fresh and compelling content is a waste of time and effort.
2. Rise of the “Ambiverts.” The old saw is that most lawyers can’t (or don’t want to) sell. They’ll trot out the tried-and-true excuses that they’re introverts and only extroverts can develop business successfully.
Wrong, says noted author Daniel Pink, whose “Drive” and “To Sell Is Human” have become bestselling business books. In his keynote speech, Pink presented evidence from studies that showed those people who were considered “extroverts” were, in fact, not the most successful at sales and business development.
Turns out, people who are “ambiverts” are the best at persuading people. What’s an ambivert? “An ambivert is someone who is somewhat introverted and somewhat extroverted,” said Pink. “They know when to push, and know when to pull back. They know when to talk, and know when to shut up.”
Who are these talented individuals? Most likely, said Pink, they’re you and me. Very few people, including lawyers, he notes, are truly only extroverted or introverted. That means most individuals have the ability to be persuasive and even thrive when it comes to selling and developing business.
Looks like another nail in the coffin of excuses for why lawyers can’t sell.
3. Clients are your newest competitors. The LMA conference always features a panel of general counsel opining and teaching a very interested and engaged audience of marketers. And for good reason, with lots of advice and tips being offered to law firms on how to win business from them.
This year, though, perhaps the most interesting tidbit was that more clients are keeping their legal work for themselves, and that trend has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. Only a few years ago, the panel noted, about two-thirds of clients’ legal work was outsourced to law firms. Now that figure stands at about 50 percent. And the tide isn’t turning: a LexisNexis survey in late 2014 founds that 54 percent of GCs planned to move legal work away from law firms and give it to their in-house lawyers. (Oh, and companies are still consolidating the ranks of law firms that they use.)
Balancing this potentially ominous trend, the GC panel did note that on the bright side, clients aren’t always looking for the cheapest price for legal work. They will pay for high-quality work that provides the value they need. Like everyone else, they’ve learned that sometimes you get what you pay for.
4. Getting business from “investors.” Lawyers’ marketing and business development efforts are usually focused on two main groups: clients and prospects. But Darryl Cross, LexisNexis’ Vice President of Performance Development, offered another group to target: “Investors.”
The idea of engaging investors goes beyond grooming the typical “referral sources” that many lawyers and law firms recognize. They can include obvious examples, such as colleagues at your firm or your law school roommate, but also some more surprising sources such as members of the media or an often-untapped group: old colleagues or alumni of any and all of the firms where you’ve worked. The idea is to engage and partner with these people in ways that can be mutually beneficial in terms of developing business.
5. Words + Visuals = Magic. New this year at the conference was the introduction of real-time “storyboards” drawn by a graphic recording artist. (Full disclosure: my company sponsored these.) If the picture-taking crowds around the boards at the end of sessions were any indication, the attendees loved them. Here’s an example from the Dan Pink session.
The storyboards were a tangible example of advice echoed in several sessions: Don’t just use words to persuade; use images. But don’t use images alone, either. The marketing magic that happens when words and images are combined results in messages that are memorable.
Lawyers often are only comfortable using just words, and nothing but words. But for most marketing and business development activities — whether an RFP response, blog post or a press release — interesting, relevant images and well-written copy are a winning combination.
Bonus: This conference marked the 30th birthday of LMA. Here’s a great video summary of how the organization — and legal marketing — have advanced and improved over the past three decades.
John M. Byrne is President of Glencoe Media Group Inc. He started his career as a journalist before attending law school and then practicing as a litigator with a large law firm. Combining that legal background and his communications and marketing skills, John has worked for nearly 20 years with lawyers and other professionals, helping them develop their brands, produce compelling content and win new clients. After a stint as Chief Marketing Officer for Drinker Biddle & Reath, he opened Glencoe Media Group in 2014. He blogs at thebyrneblog.com and tweets at @johnmbyrne.
Wish you’d been there in person? Well, next year you can. Mark your calendar now for April 11-13, 2016. Next year’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference will take place at the JW Marriott Austin in Austin, TX.
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