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Insights from the 3rd Annual Accelerate Business Development Summit

I look forward to the Accelerate Business Development Summit every year. A unique opportunity to bring together marketing and business development leaders from across North America to share ideas and best practices, and this year didn’t disappoint. The summit was filled with insightful discussion on how to enable law firms to grow in this increasingly competitive environment by using automation, improving data quality and driving insight-driven decision-making. Here are some of my key takeaways from the event.

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Old Things in New Ways: A New Take on Established Practices

Ultimately, client trust is based on reputation, but every firm has a different take on establishing and building their relationships. The firms that find the most success are those that take established practices and make them their own. This year, we learned just how to update the way we approach relationship-building.

To kick us off, networking expert J. Kelly Hoey shared her modernized approach to networking. She explained that the dated images of glad-handing at cocktail parties no longer apply. Now, building relationships focuses less on who you know and more on who knows what you know. Fostering relationships in today’s legal sector requires taking meaningful action to share your expertise and passion broadly.

Technology, Process, and Data Connections Must Work in Harmony

There’s no doubt that our world is changing rapidly, and technology is a factor in many aspects of what we do. In legal services, the personal connection is so important—implementing technology while maintaining a personal touch can truly be an art form. Technology alone doesn’t solve our problems, but the right technology—applied in the proper way—can drive value. When it all comes together, technology can provide us with the insights we need to drive successful decision-making.

Stacey Morrow’s panel discussed effective ways to roll out new technology to ensure that the processes and data associated with it work seamlessly across the firm. From the onset, implementation processes should be grounded in clear and timely communication, firm awareness, and phased training. Once the right processes are in place, it is vital to analyze and communicate data effectively. Effective processes are only half the battle. Data must be presented to the firm’s leadership is a meaningful way. Using data to tell a story based on the analytical insights is key to providing value.

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Development of the right metrics is another key to ensuring that technology, processes, and data connection work together to uncover the insights you’ll need to make strategic decisions. Defining and measuring the right metrics will help you to execute an effective marketing strategy as well as analyze the impact of marketing on your firm’s success.

Meghan Frank’s session confirmed that COOs and managing partners agree that improvement is needed on the metrics used to measure marketing and business development success. Currently, most firms use metrics that are largely subjective, and many firms are just beginning to develop data-driven KPIs that truly evaluate the ROI.

This topic continued to dominate the discussion during our session “Growing Your Firm While Protecting Your Data.” We discussed how firms first must determine the strategic question they are trying to answer and then determine the right data to track to deliver the right insights. We all agreed that no matter which approach is taken, metrics are still a blend of art and science, especially when dealing with a diverse set of stakeholders.

Identifying and measuring the right metrics to promote data-driven insights can only occur if the tools you’re using to collect and analyze data are solid. The LexisNexis® InterAction® team works hard to stay on top of technological trends that improve data-driven decisions, and this was illustrated by Scott Winter during the InterAction Roadmap presentation, as well as by Elena Cutri during her session on AI and end-user adoption. Both Scott and Elena discussed the evolution of InterAction and how recent innovations are impacting the way business development professionals do their job. By staying on the edge of emerging technologies like AI, the InterAction team is dedicated to the continuing improvement of the user experience, end-user adoption, and the facilitation of powerful insight-oriented strategy.

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A Cohesive Strategy Encourages Firm-Wide Growth

Throughout the conference, we discussed how firm-wide growth is contingent on a cohesive strategy, informed by marketing and business development efforts. During the 2018 State of the Industry survey results, it was revealed that after years of change and disruption, the “new normal” state of the industry has changed the way COOs and managing partners view the role of marketing and business development leaders. A firm’s strategy can only be effective when tightly aligned with marketing. As a result, marketing and business development leaders are now expected to provide innovative strategies that help their firm to adapt to the current legal landscape. With growth an ever-increasing priority, firm leadership is more open to non-traditional marketing efforts and they are now looking to the CMO and CBDO for leadership and expertise.

Marketing and branding expert, Ron Tite, gave our second keynote of the conference and echoed this message of strategic cohesion. The talk centered around a Think-Do-Say approach to growth that establishes a unified firm persona. The premise is simple but powerful. Start off by thinking about and defining what your firm’s persona and external corporate purpose is. Next, say what that purpose is and live up to it by doing what you say.

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The evolving role of business development was illustrated during Bryan Austin’s panel on Firm Strategy and Business Development Operations where they discussed the increasing influence on firm strategy. Business development leaders are now expected to serve as leaders across the firm and their work directly affects the success of the entire firm. The sentiment that marketing and business development leaders must be ready to step up to inform firm-wide strategy was repeated throughout the summit, and it is clear that these roles are poised to become the next generation of firm leaders.

A Competitive Landscape Makes Growth Tougher than Ever

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, growth is hard, but not optional. The competitive landscape we face means you have to work smarter to achieve success. Meghan Frank’s State of the Industry survey results proved that increased competition is significantly affecting a firm’s ability to win new business. This atmosphere is only expected to get more competitive, so we need to take a smarter approach to winning new business.

Marketing and business development professionals are tasked with doing old things in new ways. This change was something I saw both at the overall firm and personal levels. Marketing leaders are shifting their budgets away from more traditional activities in order to leverage new channels and tactics. The results showed that firms which embrace a modern marketing plan that includes digital and social approaches alongside traditional ones find the most success. In Brad Stites’ session on go-to-market strategy, we discussed growth and how it’s a priority across the board. The role of the CBDO has materialized and this individual is now expected to act as a change agent and leader within the firm. Though most firms focus heavily on growth, the culture and history of the organization will determine how they move forward with their new, modern marketing strategy.

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Now that the Accelerate Business Development Summit has wrapped up for this year, I can’t wait to see how attendees use the insights that they’ve gained to elevate their team’s performance. I look forward to helping firms achieve their goals and stay on top of the latest Industry trends and best practices.

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About Scott Wallingford

Scott Wallingford
Scott Wallingford is the Vice President and General Manager of LexisNexis’ Law Firm Software Solutions business. A versatile global growth leader for software and technology businesses, he brings over 20 years’ experience in scaling nascent businesses and revitalizing mature ones. Scott’s career includes senior leadership positions in software, telecommunications and management consulting working across U.S., Europe and Asia. He holds a degree in electrical engineering from Northwestern University and an MBA in Finance from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
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