Five stumbling blocks towards Law Firm CMO’s Digital Adoption

Author: Rahul Khosla | Categories: Digital Marketing, Legal

Progressive CMOs in law firms are embracing digital.  They are becoming key partners in driving demand for firms’ services and engaging clients in a meaningful manner.

A recent study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting found that companies now face a digital imperative: adopt new technologies effectively or face competitive obsolescence.

While digital imperative applies to every industry, it is clear to me that the legal industry, which has traditionally lagged behind the digital adoption curve, will certainly be affected by the transformation upon us in an exponential manner. Further, those firms that take advantage of this digital shift first stand to gain a distinct competitive advantage over those who continue to lag behind.

A new buyer has created new demands

This tectonic has not occurred in a vacuum. The digital transformation is being pushed by changing buyer behaviors. The evidence is rampant:

  • Today’s digital consumers prefer online search over any other method for gathering information, according to ComScore.
  • Similarly, according to a 2012 Google survey, consumers doubled the average number of sources they used to find purchase information in just one year.

For law firms, this new digital generation means that your audience has fundamentally changed the way they interact with your firm online. Buyers are spending time-consuming content that attorneys put out, visiting bio pages and creating digital relationships prior to becoming clients of firms.

In fact, your potential customers get a long way through their decision-making process to hire your firm simply by reviewing digital content, before they ever engage with your attorneys.

This change in buyer behavior is forcing CMOs to reconsider their strategy in how they engage with clients. CMOs realize that while attorneys will drive business development, marketing plays a role in connecting clients with attorneys and driving engagement

How can firms best embrace digital?

Embracing digital means that we do not think of technology as a back-end system, but a capability that the marketing organization must embrace and be central to everything marketing does, to ultimately drive change and transform client engagement

CMOs in law firms realize that they need to move from informational marketing to digital client engagement to improve the effectiveness of marketing.

Often, law firms (and a host of other industries) approach marketing with a philosophy of “spray and pray” – where they send out content with little consideration on what clients want or whether or not their material actually connects with their audience.

Instead, firms must focus on digital client engagement, by sending targeted, personalized thought leadership to engage clients with the right message at the right time.

In an era of cost pressures, the successful firms are finding new ways to create digital business offerings. Some firms have developed an online portal where clients pay/subscribe to content and insights – and I would expect to see more firms assessing and adopting digital business models as the industry evolves.

CMOs can take leadership roles in this regard. As a top marketing leader, you must drive your marketing agenda as you have a unique insight on the right kind of digital engagement will best connect with your clients. To set yourself up for success, create a “revenue agenda” to tie your efforts to hard bottom line figures.

Key challenges impacting success

That’s not to say that adopting new digital strategies is easy. In my experience, there are five critical elements that can curtail firms’ digital adoption:

1. Leadership support

Digital needs to be on the agenda of leaders. Your digital transformation will fail unless your C-suite all bought into and backing the process. To avoid being left behind the digital wave, you need to become an educator in your firm, helping other top leaders understand digital capabilities, the new demands on client engagement and the risks for ignoring your changing audience.

2. Convincing your marketing team to embrace change

A recent Wall Street Journal article decried: “The pace of change in the legal profession could charitably be described as glacial, even as external forces hammer away at a business model better-suited for the 20th century than the present”

While I think that some of that criticism may be a creative license to tell a story, I have also seen an endemic resistance to change at a number of my past clients. Many frustrated change agents find an overall resistance to trying new ideas or methodologies in their marketing teams, who are sometimes more focused on “naval gazing” than creating new competitive advantages. Other times, one or two new “digital natives” just don’t have the political capital to bring digital thinking to teams.

To overcome this, I would recommend pushing your agenda with hard facts and figures – to show the tangible promise of digital adoption, and to pick your battles carefully. Seek out an area of low risk, or a particularly open-minded department, and build you credibility by driving results in that one area first.

3. Legacy technology:

One of the most frustrating barriers to new digital adoption is often your current technology. As in many change management efforts, your marketing teams may be severely impacted or limited by the restrictions of your legacy technology – which may not have the right capabilities you need to create a new channel outreach strategy or track all your data, for example.

Further compounding this issue is often a longstanding lack of communication between the marketing and technology teams at law firms. When your IT team doesn’t understand or support your marketing needs, most digital strategies will be DOA.

To resolve this, make sure to lead in creating strong partnerships with your Technology teams, or create an internal team of marketing technologists in marketing organizations can resolve any technical or communication issues that arise by yourselves.

4. Creating enough content to fill your opportunity funnel

Content marketing increases efficiency by getting the right content to the right person at the right time is key to content marketing success – a marketer’s version of nirvana.

Rather than competing on price, thought leadership pulls people to your site creating stickier, more cost-effective leads. According to inbound marketing leader HubSpot, pulling your audience to your site using content delivers 54% more leads into the marketing funnel than traditional outbound leads and improves average website conversion rates by about double – from 6% to 12%.

Driving business development through content is great on paper, but it can be more difficult in practice. In your firm, getting someone to spend time creating your content assets will compete with their billable hours, which is generally a losing prospect.

Again, the key is to find an internal stakeholder to get behind your thought leadership creation or finding the budget to generate thought leadership directly from the marketing team.

Also, build your internal culture. Lawyer reputations are critical for a firm’s success. If you can show that thought leaderships will boost your top partner’s visibility and credibility, you will see more energy around content creation.

5. Measuring success

For a variety of reasons, most firms do not track KPIs and ROI. They are simply not asking difficult questions of their marketing teams around their efforts impact the firm’s relationships with clients in a measurable manner.

As the saying goes, you manage what you measure. Make sure you are consistently tracking and reporting on your marketing efforts. You don’t need to get that sophisticated, if you don’t have an existing CRM dashboards, you can use a simple excel template, such as our free KPI template.

Create a digital roadmap

For CMOs to truly embrace digital, they need a digital roadmap. A roadmap, such as the one below, provides direction and alignment in your firm by teasing out your overall goals for digital engagement, plus details what strategies and tactics you will use to get there.

digital engagement

The roadmap answers fundamental questions about digital and allows your firm to stay accountable for your progress. It also allows you to answer tough questions around where to make immediate investments, how to attack your digital “low hanging fruit” and what existing efforts you should back off.

How is your firm embracing digital?

“The Internet has been the most fundamental change during my lifetime and for hundreds of years.” – Rupert Murdoch, media mogul

It’s clear that the digital revolution is here to stay. According to a recent Adobe report, 64% of marketers said they expect their role to change in the next year, and 81% in the next three years. To stay competitive, CMOs must learn about how to implement a cohesive digital roadmap in their firms – looking at where you are today and how your marketing will evolve over the next several years – or risk being replaced by new, more technologically savvy marketers.

Digital Marketing