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The Future is Here: Digital Demand Generation in Large Law Firms

Digital Demand Generation is an evolution that will revolutionize how law firms acquire clients by engaging them in a more meaningful manner.

The client acquisition process for large law firms has been a winding road, snaking its way through the mainstays of tried-and-true communication:  word-of-mouth marketing, professional references, and events to attract the interest of potential clients. Networking and building relationships has also been a trusted way for clients to find an attorney or law firm. There has been an unpopular opinion of digital marketing as a viable method, seen as a “hard sell”.

Which type of role has digital marketing traditionally played in the acquisition process? Little-to-none.

However, the client acquisition process is radically changing – attitudes and actions towards digital marketing have experienced a paradigm shift. Although it will never be a substitution for human connection, it does allow for law firms to initially create and further strengthen relationships with clients.

The digitally-savvy client

Not only has digital marketing technology changed how clients and firms engage, but clients are now more informed and in control of how, when, and where they consume information. There is also no shortage of readily available sources to choose from:  websites, social media, white papers, blogs and other digital outlets—and users decide which format best suits them.  The digitally-savvy client quite often starts the buying process.

So what does a law firm now need to acquire new clients? A specific demand generation strategy that engages clients throughout each step of their journey:  identification, qualification, and retention.

A slower digital adoption rate by firms

Clients are definitely utilizing online resources for information, but some law firms are not effectively engaging with clients in an impactful way:

  • “One size fits all” approach:  There is a lack of targeted marketing and the “spray and pray” model is old; generic email alerts and newsletters now need to speak to specific client segments.
  • Lack of integrated marketing:  Online and offline marketing must connect.  Event marketing, for example, needs an online thought leadership component; follow through with thought leadership post-event is critical.
  • Limited relationship nurturing:  Building a relationship with prospects and clients can have a significant impact on client acquisition and firm’s revenue; right now it is a missing piece in law firm marketing.
  • Missing engagement measurement:  Marketing doesn’t leverage a measurement system to gain insight on client engagement. Without it there is a lack of insight about the client in order to plan, and then react to their needs.

If you’d like a proof point that illustrates how well marketing is engaging clients, just check the amount of returning visitors you receive on your website or the response to emails you send. The data may tell you that clients aren’t interested in what you’re providing them, and they are not engaged!  This is true for most law firms.

Strong demand generation program that nurtures clients has many facets

So how do law firms engage with clients digitally? A solid demand generation program is necessary, and involves the following elements:

  • Client nurturing strategy
  • Content marketing
  • Cross-channel focus
  • Marketing automation platform
  • Search engine optimization

Demand generation in large law firms requires relationship nurturing

There are three fundamental questions that clients have when considering working with an attorney and firm: 1.’ Do you know my business?’ 2. ‘Have you solved similar problems [to mine]?’  3.’ Will we be able to effectively work together?’ Client acquisition is very personal and never transactional; clients aren’t buying a service—they seek expertise and a tailored approach to marketing.

As seen in the illustration below with Buyer and Firm engagement during the acquisition process, the client [Buyer] looks to identify, qualify and select a firm with the three fundamental questions in mind. But in order for these steps to take place, firm [Seller] needs to create awareness of their services and build relationships with clients. Source: Bloom Group

Demand Generation in large law firms is more than only lead generation; it’s about nurturing prospects to position a firm’s expertise that is most important. Nurturing is a process that builds relationships and trust in a consistent and contextual manner to engage the buyer throughout their decision-making journey. The buyer normally has questions throughout the process that need to be addressed, and a good demand generation strategy positions content and expertise in order to answer these questions.

Marketing is a primary driver of demand generation. While client acquisition is ultimately handled by the attorney, marketing leads the creation of the demand generation strategy and helps to nurture relationships, positions the firm and attorney effectively, engages prospects, and builds relationships—all of which enable the attorney to prioritize their potential client list and acquire clients.

Content marketing drives client engagement

Leaders in digital marketing are starting to adopt content marketing techniques to engage clients. According to a survey from Altman Weill’s 2011 Chief Legal Officer Survey, content marketing activities, including webinars are most effective,  after utilizing personal contacts. And while social media ranked last for client acquisition, it is still an effective tool to nurture prospects if done wisely.

Law firms need to look at consulting firms {such as McKinsey and Accenture} and learn from their client engagement approach. Their tactic is to leverage content marketing, where it is targeted across channels at each stage in the buyer’s journey, and client engagement is measured to drive towards 1-to-1 client marketing.

What is the key to content marketing? It’s to provide users with useful content that’s authentic and specific to the buyer’s needs.  While marketing and content writers can provide editorial support and guidance about what buyers look for, attorneys do have to create their own content— there’s no better way to interest clients. But different types of content drive different results. Traditional content, such as white papers and case studies are effective, but blogs and videos are excellent examples of social content and can cast the net wide with extensive reach.

The HALO Effect – A lifecycle of client engagement in a cross-channel, meaningful manner

While producing content is important, the distribution strategy is just as important.  Law firms need to create a HALO effect around clients to engage them at every touch point in a relevant way.  As seen below, the client is at the center of all engagement, and content is highly targeted. Firms must also ensure each tactic used by the firm or attorney is consistent {whether an event, website, webinar, or social media}, and there is insight across all elements to inform the marketer of the level of client engagement and their needs, so that business development regarding the client’s interests can take place.

By creating a digital HALO around the client, the buying process of the client can start anywhere, but the client is more likely to engage with the firm through the course of the journey.

Search Engine Optimization {SEO} creates visibility for the firm and attorneys

Another way to stand out online is with SEO. Perception is a metric, and the higher the SEO ranking for a firm in a particular practice area, the more perceived value; it allows the firm to appear as a leader in that specific Area of Practice (AOP) within the mind of the user.

SEO can be used by firms to:

  • Increase attorney visibility
  • Position AOP and industry focus
  • Geographically (GEO) target to increase global reach

Don’t turn a blind eye to Social Demand Generation

While it is not a mainstay in law firms, social demand generation is quickly becoming the most popular form of demand generation in B2B marketing.  Social media allows marketers to engage with clients and have conversations to influence their behavior. No other marketing channel allows as much ongoing dialogue as social media. We advise our clients to ‘listen’ to social media channels to gather marketing insight, and use it is as a distribution channel for all thought leadership content.

Marketing Automation platforms improve lead generation, improve client engagement and provide efficiencies

As I have mentioned above, nurturing clients and prospects is a very personal activity, and a critical part of client engagement and marketing. A marketing automation platform ensures that content marketing creates a HALO effect, and makes the engagement with clients personal.  Platforms like Eloqua, Silverpop and Marketo are revolutionizing how B2B marketers are able to personalize content to buyer behavior.

An effective marketing automation platform allows marketers to:

  • Segment buyers based on their behavior and needs
  • Target personalized content to prospects to make the client feel the information is relevant
  • Provide the right content at the right time, and now on the right device
  • Improve marketing resource efficiencies by allowing marketers to do more with less
  • Measure engagement and prioritize opportunities

“Marketing Automation use has shown a 107% increase in lead generation, a 40% increase in deal size, and a 32% increase in attendance.”
Source: Eloqua

In conclusion of this blog, an excellent demand generation program can improve client engagement and create growth for law firms.  Demand generation practices are starting to take root in firms and will soon revolutionize how law firms market to their clients.  Firms need to now start preparing sophisticated demand generation strategies to engage with clients to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Much more to come…

In a blog series, I will cover best practices, from both inside and outside the legal industry, that can be used to help firms excel at engaging prospects, nurturing, and enabling client acquisition:

  1. How buyer behavior can shape your demand generation strategy
  2. Content and thought leadership marketing in law firms
  3. Drive the HALO effect through integrated marketing campaign strategy
  4. Marketing Automation:  the key to successful demand generation
  5. SEO strategies for law firms
  6. Demand generation lessons from management consulting firms

This is just the beginning and I look forward to your comments on my future posts.

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