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Welcome to the New Normal: The State of Law Firm Marketing

Over the past five years, the legal industry has experienced considerable change in how services are delivered and clients are retained. In 2018 we saw a settling of these changes and a “new normal” set in across the legal industry. Firm-wide growth is still a major priority, but this new normal is having a significant impact on how marketing and business development work to achieve this goal.

This year the 2018 Law Firm Marketing and Business Development Survey results revealed that firms are starting to adapt to meet new client demands and increased competition but significant challenges continue to hinder growth. The insights uncovered were focused on collaboration challenges, budget allocation, and how new approaches have shifted priorities. This is affecting the role of marketing and business development leaders as well as the strategy defined by firm leadership.

New Normal, Same Collaboration Challenges

The most difficult challenge experienced by law firms this year is collaboration. As confirmed by 42% of survey respondents, Business Development Officers need to employ more discipline to successfully take advantage of client development opportunities. The survey also revealed that firms are finding it more difficult to operate as a unified front with a consistent strategy.

Firm adoption of business development efforts, tools, and marketing support continues to be a challenge and affects the ability to achieve collaboration within the firm. Encouraging attorneys to follow through on new opportunities and incentivizing collaboration within the firm are solutions to garnering partnerships between client retention and management leaders.

New Perspectives on Achieving Growth

When asked whether the marketing department has adapted to the change in methods for winning new business, only 40% of COO and Managing Partners said “somewhat.” However, the majority of these respondents did agree that marketing and business development leaders’ skill sets must change in order to deliver value to the firm in the coming years.

In this new normal, a whopping 87% of Managing Partners believe CBDOs and CMOs must change and expand to meet the current industry demands. The need for strong marketing and business development professionals is greater now more than ever. A consistent firm strategy to meet market demands is beginning to be informed by marketing strategy and business development actions; however, for most firms, this is nowhere near the norm.

New Budgets Allocation

Survey results revealed that budgets will remain the same, but allocation is changing in 2018. Respondents highlighted that technology spend is increasing to 10.3% of total budget in 2018. This is a 5.1% increase from last year. The future of law brings opportunities for marketing automation and assistance with tasks like proposal generation as firms work to become more sophisticated and efficient in their marketing and business development activities.

Those who strongly believe there has been significant change in the win methods identify improved strategy execution and new technologies as important directors toward success. Whether or not most attorneys have grown used to industry changes, they know the importance of client management and retention and are exploring new ways to approach these activities.

New Technology Change Agents 

Another big push toward technology is that 61% of firms rate their business development sophistication as “average” or “below average.” These numbers reflect the need of marketing and business development leaders to serve as change agents, bringing new approaches, tools, and solutions for winning clients.

While 66% of survey participants admit to setting specific goals for the firm, it is unclear whether the goals are set by practice group, individual, or the firm as a whole. How successful will a marketing and business development strategy be in the long term if goals are set by individuals who are not communicating within the firm? How much more successfully could the firm use technology to achieve consistency and track their success? Current feedback from attorneys stresses that successful business development strategy is highly dependent on participation and input from key leaders, including the CMO, CIO, and Partners.

This is the new normal, but marketing and Business Development leaders need to continue to adapt and grow

Today’s marketing and business development leaders need to have a new strategy for creating change within a culture that is averse to transition and slow to capitalize on opportunities. CMOs and CBDOs must use their skill set and experience to lead firm strategy and not just react to it. Partner buy-in will be achieved with a strategic, forward-thinking approach that stays ahead of market trends. Creating an environment of collaboration between Partners and the marketing and business development leaders will increase selling success. Sharing information inside the firm also allows for a greater use of analytics (both pure and predictive) to determine market alignment, brand construction, and consistency.

By using data-driven insights, firms can achieve a PRO-active approach to client development and retention instead of remaining reactive or inactive.

Is your firm equipped to maintain a competitive edge and achieve sustainable growth in the current legal climate? Download the Survey Report to gain the insights your firm needs to be successful.

Read the full 2018 Law Firm Marketing and Business Development Survey here.

About the Survey

The 2018 Law Firm Marketing and Business Development Survey, conducted by LexisNexis in conjunction with Catapult Growth Partners, aimed at uncovering marketing and business development trends among firms of all sizes. During March – June 2018, 91 legal marketing and business development leaders, including 40 Am Law 100 Chief Marketing Officers / Chief Business Development Officers (“C-Levels”) were surveyed about their marketing and business development structures, strategies, tactics, measurements, and more.

How can your firm use technology to achieve a nimble and proactive business development program? Download the report to learn more about the key insights driving the law market this year.

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About Brad Stites

Brad Stites
Brad Stites is the Director of Sales and Sales Enablement for LexisNexis Software Solutions where he is responsible for InterAction growth and client success. Brad is an accomplished strategic business leader with extensive technology and enterprise software experience. In his 20-year career, he has proven success in building, leading and revamping sales and sales enablement organizations. His career includes leadership positions within the technology and enterprise software industries. Brad studied Business Management at San Jose State University and Executive Development at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
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