Baltimore Local Program Review: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Legal Marketing Secrets

As technology evolves, as new systems are created and as previously unused strategies are adopted, it becomes almost impossible to stay on top of the ever-changing field of marketing. This panel discussed making the most of these advances for you and your firm, which, in some cases, means not using them at all.

"You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Legal Marketing Secrets" was moderated by Katie O’Rourke, Director of Senior Accounts at ON24, and featured experienced legal marketing panelists: Michael Blachly, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Gray Reed & McGraw LLP; Elaine Seaward, a marketing professional; Darryl Cross, Chief Performance Officer and Founder at HighPer Teams; Merry Neitlich, Founding Partner of EM Consulting; and Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management at Sidley Austin. These six professionals described their most effective marketing tips in relation to technology and system advancements, which much of the time comes down to the old adage, “less is more.”

To start the discussion, Michael noted that the marketing trend he is most excited about is the increased availability of API (application programming interface) because of its ability to allow software systems to “talk to one another.” The APIs he uses reduce the amount of time spent inputting data across channels. Michael continued by discussing his best practices for utilizing the data we receive from technology. He finds that tracking data, presenting successes and getting feedback are vitally important to proving the worth of legal marketing. Twice per year, he and his team produce a report of their marketing initiatives and projects. It includes key performance indicators (KPIs) with data to support their initiatives and updates that have been made to their CRM, website and social media. He has found that this report has been helpful to partners looking for quantitative information regarding the marketing team’s initiatives.

Another panelist raised the concern that this was a lot of information and that partners may not want to take the time to read it all. The co-panelist asked how Michael simplified the data while ensuring that it is meaningful. His answer provides a great tip for anyone worried about their extensive report not making its intended impact. Michael makes an executive summary, one to two pages in length, highlighting the information that is most important. That way, the main points are broken down, and the full report can be used to expand and support these points.

Several panelists noted their excitement for the use of artificial intelligence (AI). Elaine is specifically interested in how AI impacts billable hours and client service, particularly in regard to getting clients' questions answered in a timely fashion. With a focus on the human aspect of technology, Darryl shared that he is most excited about “AI being run by human teams, not the other way around.”

When asked for one of the biggest lessons Darryl has learned, he responded with the question, “Do people hire an individual lawyer or the firm?” His answer: “Both!” He noted that clients want really good teams, and that client industry teams have had a huge impact. In order to give these clients what they want, we need to continually ask “What are we trying to accomplish here?” in order to get to the root of the problem at hand and to ultimately find the solution.

Darryl also remarked that the solutions to our current challenges may already exist with the people and systems we already have. Before implementing a new system, we must leverage those already in place and use technology to do what we are already doing, but better. This will trickle down to the clients, who are ultimately the people we are trying to please.

One of the biggest takeaways from Darryl's discussion was his assertion that we need to “get out of the tech weeds and into the people weeds.” Learn the strengths of the people around you, and use them to your full advantage with the technology you currently have before adding anything new into the mix.

Merry reiterated this sentiment in relation to legal operations, noting that clients are demanding changes, but that we need to understand what technology we already have and how to use it effectively. She also noted “more efficiency leads to more predictability.”

Elaine puts her lawyers front-and-center at seminars, via blogs and in e-alerts to show that they are the “go-to” attorneys in their fields. She has set up an editorial calendar for her firm's blog, so everyone knows when it is their turn to contribute a post. Elaine finds the e-alerts very helpful in getting her lawyers' message delivered to the public and the press immediately. The biggest game changer for her in ensuring each of these initiatives is effective has been the use of CRM in streamlining the process.

Rachel closed out the discussion by reiterating that we need to adopt a “client-centric” approach in our strategies. She noted that we should not only be using technology to alleviate pain on the part of our lawyers and clients, but also measuring the efficacy of those technology efforts. This reflects Michael’s statements on tracking and reporting information to partners to show that the initiatives have been successful.

All in all, this discussion provided a deeper understanding of the importance of using technology to make law firms more efficient for the lawyers and for the clients, rather than using tech for the sake of saying we are using it. In a world in which technology is constantly changing and becoming more sophisticated, it is reassuring to hear that we don’t necessarily always need to change with it. Until and unless we determine the specific reasons why we need it and whom it will help, it may not be the best technology for us, and there may be a way to find a better solution with our existing resources.

By Molly Robinson, Marketing Coordinator, Gordon Feinblatt LLC and Jennifer Dongarra Boehm, Director of Marketing, UHY Advisors Mid-Atlantic MD, Inc., for the Third Quarter 2018 LMA Mid-Atlantic Region Newsletter

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