Key Ingredients for a Business Development Strategy in the Legal Industry in 2021

Article by Steven R. Ongenaet

Featured in Industria Legal, Mx, Vol. 1, July. 2021

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The world is changing rapidly, and our legal marketing practices should keep up. Law firms that continue to rely on yesterday’s marketing and business development strategies run the risk of quickly getting behind quickly.

Marketing used to consist in the diffusion of promotional messages around the service offering. Following the traditional steps of the sales process, one first tried to create awareness and visibility in the market, then getting on the shortlist of potential buyers with a good pitch, and finally to close the deal by offering competitive prices and a convincing operating model to get the job done.

However, in today’s crowded, hyper-connected and hyper-competitive markets, things are totally different.

Firms no longer control the conversation.

Clients are no longer the uninformed individuals who need to be educated by one-way communications from a series of potential providers. Experts agree that in the high-value professional services market, investing in undifferentiated mass marketing efforts are ineffective and a waste of money.

Customers now have access to a wealth of information about each individual and each firm before they start the conversation. They have access, just a few clicks away, to extremely detailed profiles and market intelligence. They are connected with colleagues and competitors on social networks and will determine themselves what information is worth consuming. Today any commercial message or content that does not offer added value, will be deemed irrelevant and ignored completely.

At the same time, law firms are increasingly competing on the basis of client experience, rather than on the quality of legal services. And clients value that experience increasingly by how long it takes to get them to that what they are trying to get or solve. Faced with this scenario, law firms must stay one step ahead of actual demand, identify opportunities proactively and anticipate solutions for problems that do not yet exist.

We often hear that there is an acceleration, but this acceleration is not solely an acceleration in the adoption of new tools and technologies, but an acceleration in the speed of the time-to-market, of the time it takes clients to find the right service and most optimal client experience.

Firms that are able to develop these capabilities through their organizational design and corporate culture are likely to be the only ones to achieve further growth. The key to winning in this new world is to make experiences simple and digital, efficient and accessible.

Winning firms are finally waking up to the idea that their marketing and business development strategy must be based on and guided by hard data. There are three key areas where they can look for answers: Business Intelligence (customer-centric financial KPIs), Relationship Intelligence (collective network of personal connections and interactions) and Market Intelligence (insights on competitive positioning and commercial opportunities).

Such a strategy requires us to look at our data with curiosity and an open mind, not just to answer predetermined questions, but to find hidden correlations and let latent insights from the data emerge.

For law firms that understand the value of positive client experiences, that understand that marketing must be based on personalized, high value-added content, and that manage to implement a data-driven business development strategy aimed at better understanding their clients, the future was never brighter.

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