Law firm CMOs are pushing change forward. Go-to-market strategies are starting to diverge. Law firm focus on client development is becoming more widespread. Twice as many CMOs think social media is overrated—as opposed to underrated—while the majority of CMOs are starting to use more targeted marketing tactics in attracting clients and new work. And, this is the tip of the iceberg.
Clear and Unmitigated Changes in Law Firm Marketing
BTI just finished analyzing the results of our 10th survey of law firm marketing leaders. We found clear and unmitigated changes in strategy, approach, views on the market, and strategic thinking which help define law firm marketing and business development moving forward. 11 findings immediately stand out:
- Dedicated salespeople return to the law firm marketing scene at 11% of law firms, up from a handful of firms 5 years ago.
Only a small number of law firms have the balance of culture, temperament, respect and trust for BD and compensation systems, as well as support systems, to make this successful. A dedicated salesperson can be a powerful tool, but it rarely works unless the bulk of these elements are already in place when your dedicated salesperson arrives. We expect only a small number of firms will be successful—but, the successful firms will have great results.
- The biggest 30 law firms continue to increase the budget behind client development activities. Client development is now 37% of the marketing budget, up from 34% in 2016.
The law firms under the most pressure to grow are budgeting to protect their client base. Their budgets are in the right place. This has 2 big implications:
— It makes it more difficult for every other law firm who wants business from these clients, and
— Success demands the right tactics and strategies to back these budgets—money alone does not win clients
- 59% of law firms see broad market outreach as the most overrated marketing strategy. CMOs see themselves getting diminishing returns from casting wide nets to catch new clients. Now they are trying to convince their firms the best strategy is to narrowcast to land the best clients.
- 9% of law firms are betting big on social media and making it the centerpiece of their go-to-market strategy.
The law firm social media world has many players but only these 9% say they are in it to win big business. These firms have highly developed themes for their social media activity along with a well thought out ecosystem to support it.
- 20% of law firms see social media as overrated. They expect little from social media. These firms also have minimal, episodic, and sporadic presence in this world.
- CMOs no longer see themselves as resource constrained, as only 9% say it is an obstacle to growth. This is down from 23% in 2016.
While every CMO wants more resources, they no longer see the lack of resources as being an obstacle to growth. 90% of law firms have crossed a strategic threshold where growth is determined by the ability to keep current clients and get new ones faster than everyone else.
- 19% of CMOs see no obstacle to their firm’s growth in 2017, up from a mere 3% in 2016. Strategic confidence grows dramatically. These CMOs believe in their strategies and ability to execute. Most of these CMOs had a hand in developing their firm’s strategy. Again, like the trend in 6, this signals the crossing of the strategic threshold where strategy rules.
- The number of law firms reorganizing themselves increased by a factor of 6 to 17% from 2.3% in 2016. With the resources they need in place, CMOs are changing their organizations to better support the firms and partners to drive growth. We see move to organize around industries, partners, clients, regions and firmwide—including combinations of the above.
- Virtually every law firm is spending less on seminars and events than they were 3 years ago. This serves as another piece of evidence law firms are moving to more targeted marketing.
- Only 16% of CMOs see Artificial Intelligence (AI) driving increased business. Another 25% expect AI will make MBD more productive. 21% don’t know what the impact of AI will be.
We expect AI will eventually help CMOs develop highly personalized proposals and pitches with much less effort. AI will bring industry and product/service information—attorneys will have to supply the non-legal interactions to be able to use AI to develop the right tone and voice. And, a partner will still have to sell it.
- The typical CMO needs 2 years to learn how to work with the partners when joining a new firm. Swapping out CMOs is expensive. More than half of all law firm CMOs are not fully satisfied or engaged. We recommend law firms take a deep look at how they can engage their CMOs more—if not to make your CMO happier, then to save the precious 2 years it takes to bring a new one into the fold.
All these changes add up to opportunity for law firms and CMOs. As law firms develop more focused approaches to the market, marketing and business development are the tools of choice.
There has not been a better time to make a law firm marketing leader’s voice heard. Those who are heard may just become more engaged and want to stay put—and become a permanent part of the 45% of CMOs who are loving what they do. And, will be poised to gain new business and clients at competitor expense.
(This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.)