How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Metrics

When developing a business development strategy for your firm, practice area, industry group or your own individual practice, are you looking at numbers as a means to influence decisions? You should be.

In an age when every facet of life is measurable, firms that want to survive and thrive must welcome a culture where metrics influence business and marketing strategy.

I know—so many of you went to law school because math wasn’t required. The truth is there’s really no need to be alarmed. Numbers are here to help. This column will explore which can be useful, how to act upon them, and ultimately, how to stop worrying and love the metrics.

What Are Metrics and Why Embrace Them?

Metrics can be simple, focusing on a single action or activity, or they can be complex. They can be derived and used for everything we do, and for every process at a firm or in a practice. They can be pooled through tried and true methods, through any operation or all kinds of fancy software. They can even be automated so, oh yes, we can sip on lattes while they work for us.

Metrics are a modern day option to be smart. They allow us to project with greater certainty because they support actions with facts that are concrete and evidenced. They help us stand on our decisions with confidence, and move us away from the brash stunts, or dare I say “bright ideas,” that often result in in costly consequences or waste. 

Think of it this way: a racing vehicle can be outfitted to make it perform better, be more efficient and provide a driver with increased satisfaction. Why shouldn’t we do the same? In the legal industry, satisfaction often results in increased opportunities and stronger client relations.

Stop Worrying About Risk

Does this all sound risky? That’s what they said about social media in law less than a decade ago. Now social media is a must-have for lawyers, firms and companies who want to “get the word out,” maintain their reputations and build deep and far-reaching connections to colleagues, clients and customers in ways not possible before social networking.

Know that every big player, including clients, are using numbers to create informed strategies. Nearly every dominant entity out there, even governments, use consultants to apply metrics and derive efficiencies, which in turn are applied to business or operating models. The real risk here is in inaction.

Question the Assumptions and Standard Operating Procedures

With so many resources available today, data-tracking possibilities are nearly endless. So where do we start? It is helpful to track items with reoccurring problems, issues or pain points, and where operations may not provide desired results as often as they should. Any open discussion between peers at all levels can go a long way in helping decide what metrics to track, especially those conversations questioning the existing and archaic structures at a firm. Consultants often start small by questioning where levels of dissatisfaction exist, and ask what the end result could be if tracked over time. A short study can also help identify issues, make tweaks and to draw fact-based conclusions to identify priorities where metrics may help. Just remember that while numbers can help refine a practice, change will not happen overnight. 

A Fortune 100 company developer once told me that an algorithm for a popular app only worked most of the day, and around peak usage would crash or charge customers an exorbitant amount. It led to lawsuits, frustration, and more importantly, a movement to competitors. Had the group looked at metrics behind this time period, they would have had the salience to deliver changes that were then made too little, too late to an avoidable situation.

Let’s take into consideration the areas where metrics can provide valuable, actionable information. 

Cost Metrics

You can establish data sets and see what influences a budget. In some cases you can look at overhead costs and determine the true return on investment, commonly known as ROI, by a look at whether or not the cost actually generated anything. Many use optimization tools that can focus on issues at hand, such as hours billed per timekeeper and revenue generated.  For example, you can calculate your spend on a client through ads or sponsorships, and compare it to how much you billed them in a year. The improvements made can provide you with a picture of the ROI among each client, and allow you to create principles that influence your future spend.

Efficiency and Performance Metrics

If you’re looking to determine whether or not a group, client or project is efficient, you can see what operations and processes have variations. Variations, if controlled, can result in the definition of efficiency. For example, if a matter is more apt to be resolved in 10 months than the client’s expectation of five months by accounting for variations, you can plan for a team that can meet that expectation. Or you can manage expectations and avoid failures in your long-term reputation, which could harm your reputation and that of your team’s.

Marketing, PR and Communications Metrics

There are so many great tools to track marketing campaign metrics that start with dynamic Customer Relationship Management (CRM) databases. Many platforms automate your delivery and show you a fancy graph for all the outreach you do. They will even show how many “impressions” you have or the number of recipients who actually opened your email.  If you’re not reaching your customer base, these metrics will show it. Even if your clients are busy fielding 500 emails a day, it is helpful to use metrics to see that you are or are not getting through to them. Perhaps that can influence new strategies about how to engage your audience in a way where they think of you for the next opportunity.

What Should Metrics Do?

If the numbers you’re looking at help refine your practice, you’re driving in the right direction. In other words, the metrics allow you to build a better practice over time and through incremental changes. You’ll have a better picture to know what processes you need to revise, to know what expect and know which clients to best serve going forward.

With an informed strategy you should be able to do three big things:

  • Identify deficiencies or areas for improvement
  • Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Evaluate Return on Investment (ROI)

For example, firms have looked at an amalgamation of successful rates, teams and capabilities to determine which upcoming opportunity may be best suited for a client. Over time these data sets prove to be coveted resources when establishing a long-lasting approach that works with market demands on cost, staffing, and much more.

Look Forward, Chin Up Now

If you’re starting out, it just might be helpful to have a few metrics to drive marketing and business strategy. The larger your practice, the more you will want to pay attention to them because let’s face it, your competitors will fight you for market share.

The use of metrics is a successful, but evolving experiment. What we do know is that winners use metrics to develop winning strategies. Any lawyer who embraces the potential to grow through metrics will learn how to better their business with new decision points that will help shape their message across their clients and firm. They will be able to create marketing projects and business programs to minimize waste and variances, and provide growth opportunities. Simply put, embracing metrics leads to good habits, accountability and a sense of confidence in the marketplace that is truly resilient.

Mohib Qidwai is a Marketing Manager at DLA Piper and the 2020 Immediate Past Chair of the Legal Marketing Association’s Los Angeles Steering Committee. He holds a diverse background in marketing and communications, and brings together a decade of experience to shape growing practices, sectors and client relationships in law.

Reprinted with permission from the December 18 issue of The Recorder. © [2019] ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved. The original article can be viewed here.

 

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