In today’s business environment, digital strategy and client engagement are no longer nice-to-haves but mandatory prerequisites to grow. A recent study by MIT sloan management announced that companies now face a digital imperative: Adopt new technologies effectively or face competitive obsolescence.
Accelerating technology changes have fundamentally changed the buyer – and sales processes – in B2B industries. Wider access to information and a myriad of channels have created a new kind of client– more digitally savvy, better informed, and who leads the process to engage with providers. In testament, a recent CEB study found that customers are nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging with the organization, regardless of the company’s pricing or fees.
Law firms have quietly been left behind on this digital transformation. For a variety of reasons, marketers and executives in storied, traditional practices remain largely focused on offline business development and relationship-building, and have largely failed to capitalize on new online tools to augment their existing relationship management processes.
Digital engagement is the new handshake. Today’s business relationships can be initiated online, using personalized thought leadership content to attract prospects to your firm, engage with your attorneys and transport them along a buying journey to becoming a client. Your digital platform is now the tool that builds trust and builds relationships with your clients.
In edynamic’s new book, The essential law firm playbook: 7 engagement strategies to compete in the age of the client, we will explore what this brave new digital economy means to your firm’s business development initiatives, and present seven strategies your firm can use to begin your digital engagement journey, including:
Here is an excerpt on the evolution of the Law firm maturity model:
“The digital imperative is driving firms to transform how they use the digital medium to create interest, visibility and client relationships. Firms do not have a choice but to embrace this change, or risk being disrupted.” – Rahul Khosla, CEO, edynamic
To adapt to this new digital client, a new maturity model is emerging in the legal industry as firms move from more traditional informational marketing to digital client engagement.
The new client
The key for law firms to understand is that the new digital imperative doesn’t mean that the client is changing – it means the client has already changed. Digital marketing has matured alongside a new legal consumer. This new client:
As you can see, buyers are spending time-consuming content that attorneys put out, visiting bio pages and creating digital relationships prior to becoming clients of firms. Before potential clients start working with a firm, they learn about attorneys and are influenced by content and thought leadership to make a decision on who to work with.
As a result, the industry is watching as digital strategies mature alongside this new client.
Traditionally, law firms have focused more on building up their practices and reputations than on marketing, considering a Yellow Pages ad or some cursory information online sufficient for most business development efforts. Increasingly, however, a firms’ reputation is what people say about them online, meaning they ignore the digital conversation at their own peril.
According to Altman Weil, the average marketing budget for most law firms is about 2% of overall gross revenue. Consider that ITSMA rates the average marketing budget at many service agencies closer to 25% of total revenue, and you can see how far off the curve many law firms sit today.
Still, watching new business models emerge, firms are moving from informational marketing – where they widely broadcast material (e.g. an email blast, putting content on their website, press release or alert), and hope that this material is somehow consumed to a new digital roadmap, where relevant timely material is delivered to their audience when, and how, they want it.
edynamic’s Digital maturity model for law firms provides a roadmap to clients to move from a traditional marketing approach towards client engagement.
For those firms that do have a digital strategy, many approach marketing with a philosophy of “spray and pray” – where they send out content with little consideration as to what clients want, or whether or not their material actually connects with their audience.
This is often a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, as it has to be. Most often, informational marketing approaches have limited technology, which produces limited intelligence. As a consequence, you may not know what your clients need, or which segments of your audience are even coming to your site.
Today, however, given the transformation of the buyer: Firms don’t have a choice but to adapt, and move towards digital client engagement. As the maturity curve evolves, you can follow firms as they move from an IT-led process to informational outreach efforts, and finally, to the more sophisticated digital engagement approach.
To shield themselves from the “noise” online, law firm buyers have really crystalized their needs to look for a company to provide compelling answers just three questions, in a halo-like screening process:
This more sophisticated audience requires a more sophisticated marketing strategy. Top firms realize that while attorneys will drive business development, marketing plays a role in connecting clients with attorneys and driving engagement.
This is where client engagement comes in: This age of the client has caused firms to focus on how to better interact with their customers (or clients), to build stronger relationships, and ensure that those relationships generate trust and engagement over time.
As the industry evolves into multi-channel distribution, firms need to ensure that their outreach efforts are all working in concert to engage the client. In effect, marketers are creating a double-halo that looks a bit like the figure below.
From the web to email and social to video, law firm marketers need to develop tools and outreach strategies to offer relevant, consistent information to clients based on their needs as they go through their daily lives.
In this way, marketing becomes closer to a one-to-one communication, where prospects and clients receive segmented, relevant communications based on the preferences they have previously expressed, through filling out forms or clicking through your site.
As they proceed along this curve, we expect law firms to follow best-in-class examples from the consulting world, where firms like McKinsey and Accenture effectively leveraged digital to set themselves apart by using content to create relationships with their clients.
Download the full eBook to learn how your firm can leverage digital strategies to guide the business development process, differentiate yourself in an increasingly competitive environment, build client relationships and remain relevant in the new Age of the Client.