A year into the pandemic, trends in legal marketing have become clear. Is your law firm keeping up?
Assess your technology. “There’s much more stress on the technology that marketing departments are using,” Farone observes. “Because everyone is working from home, people need information online, at their fingertips.” CMOs and partners expect their teams to be able to implement dashboards they can use to access client data, from pitching, to billing, to client service teams.
The tech marketers and lawyers use to connect day-to-day has also found a place in the spotlight. “We’re all pushing the envelope by trying to be more creative in how we engage people,” says Farone. By now, most lawyers know to avoid using cat filters on their Zoom calls – but there’s still plenty to learn. Marketers can lead the way in making seminars and meetings engaging and interactive, using branded backgrounds, chat boxes, polling, and Q&A tools.
Invest in training. This past year has seen a rise in training for lawyers at all stages of their careers. Farone observes: “Firms are realizing that each individual has a value, especially if the firm has downsized or furloughed professionals. Savvy firms are looking at ways to support employees to be the best at what they do. Training helps expand skillsets, but it also sends a message to people that they matter, and that the firm cares about you and wants to invest in your future.” She adds, “Younger lawyers really want to be part of the business and they want a sense of purpose. So I see firms doing more business development training earlier in lawyers’ careers.”
Always connect. By now, if lawyers haven’t gotten into the habit of engaging personally with key clients and contacts, they are putting key relationships at risk. “One-on-one conversations are vital,” says Farone. “If we’ve seen any attribute matter more than ever, it’s empathy.”
At the outset of the shutdown, she advised firms to “Make sure you have a good system to reach out to clients on a regular basis, particularly if you’re not working with them on something. There’s a great value to simply being in touch. Lawyers still can call and ask, ‘How are you doing, is there anything I can do for you?’” They can even offer friendly assistance, such as advice from their IT department or help finding a job for a family member. “Build connections by helping people where it’s appropriate and needed.”
This is another area where marketing teams can be useful, she suggests: “A good marketing department can help develop questions for partners to ask clients, or suggest a few things to offer them – such as joining an online cultural event, or participating in a speaking engagement or webinar.” Personalizing these recommendations is important, of course: “We need to be real and authentic.”
Firms have gotten creative about virtual events, from yoga to gallery tours, to intensive discussions of diversity topics. Still, Farone advises, “You can do all the creative events in the world, but there’s nothing that’s going to replace that personal phone call. I’ve spoken to many general counsel who haven’t gotten these calls, who say how nice it would be if they did. So I think there is a disconnect between the firms saying that they are reaching out, and the clients who are not getting that message.”
Beware of memo fatigue. Building on the “empathy” point, Farone notes, “You really have to understand what your client is going through and provide them with what they need.” Don’t feel obligated to produce client alerts covering every regulatory development – chances are, other firms are doing this already, and clients are overwhelmed with redundant analysis.
“It’s important to ask clients, what kinds of updates do you want? Is it lengthy, in-depth client memos, or would it be better for me to call you, have a weekly meeting with your staff, or host a monthly meeting with others in your industry? Have those conversations and design your outreach based on what your client wants, rather than what we as law firms think they want.”
Look to other industries. Law firms can operate in a bubble, while corporations and other organizations zoom ahead with innovative ways to reach clients. Learn from them, Farone says – for example, focus groups are a great way to gather feedback and spark ideas. Knowledge and a little bit of creativity can spark new marketing ideas.