Spinning plates – the life and times of a legal marketing professional

Posted by Chris Davidson, a director of Legal Futures Associate Moore Legal Technology

Davidson: marketers, like lawyers, increasingly specialise

Increasingly, we find ourselves speaking with law firms that have an in-house marketing resource, albeit in many cases that in-house resource is limited to one or two individuals.

Coming from an in-house law firm marketing background myself, I find it heartening that law firms are recognising the value of having in-house marketing support during these times of unprecedented change in the profession.

I have worked with some incredibly talented marketing professionals within law firms, professionals who have achieved a seat at the top table of their respective firms and who consistently make a tangible difference to their firm’s bottom line.

Increasingly, I’m glad to say, having spoken with many legal sector marketing professionals over the past few of years, marketing within law firms is increasingly being viewed as an investment, not an expense.

The loneliness of a law firm marketer

However, not every firm has the budget to hire half a dozen or more marketers, each with niche expertise in a particular area, to cover every need and eventuality.

Many law firms will try and get around this issue by hiring a general ‘all-rounder’. Sounds fair enough in theory, but Googling currently advertised law firm marketing manager jobs and having conducted a straw poll of some friends currently plying their trade as in-house marketing professionals, it’s obvious that the role of the modern legal sector marketer has never been wider or more varied.

Law firms today have the requirement for a marketing function that can manage and bring a certain level of expertise to myriad activities, including but not limited to:

  • Business development (in law firms, the terms ‘marketing’ and ‘business development’ are frequently used interchangeably, but are two functions that should work in tandem to contribute to growing your law firm’s business);
  • Events;
  • Tenders;
  • Strategy;
  • Publications;
  • Mailshots;
  • Digital marketing;
  • Website development;
  • Content marketing;
  • Search optimisation;
  • Social media marketing; and
  • Other adhoc routine marketing tasks, including in one instance thrown up by my straw poll, asking a senior marketing professional with over 20 years’ experience to order croissants and arrange coffee for a client breakfast meeting.

I know from experience that, and appreciating that it can be feast or famine, when managing large events or tenders, for example, there is not a whole lot of time to eat or sleep, never mind keep up with SEO best practice, analyse your website’s conversion rates, develop an engaged social community and manage paid advertising to boot (and don’t dare forget the croissants!).

Even within a digital environment such as ours, while our entire team maintains a general awareness of digital marketing current trends and best practice, we employ specialists with niches areas of expertise within the online marketing sphere.

It’s a trend we’re seeing mirrored increasingly with our law firm clients. While it’s generally accepted that an overarching understanding of the law is required to bring a balanced outlook to the table, potential clients want to engage with a specialist with niche expertise in a particular area of practice. Over recent years, we’ve seen emphasis focusing on the expertise of the individuals employed to provide legal services, as opposed to trusting the firm’s name to generate new business.

Getting the most out of your law firm marketing resource

As Confucius said, “To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge”. I couldn’t agree more.

Many firms simply can’t afford large multi-discipline marketing teams. In our experience of working with in-house marketers, the most successful small teams will contain someone who can lead projects, who has solid marketing, sales, and general business expertise who can set the strategy, hold people accountable, co-ordinate teams, remove obstacles, and communicate with stakeholders.

These individuals will also hire external agencies that can put together a team of people and deliver a range of services tailored to their needs rather than try to be all things to all people, including those who like their breakfast meeting croissant warm!

Increasingly, we see firms retaining one or two marketing professionals, part of whose remit it is to manage a portfolio of outsourced service providers. It’s rare to find a marketing professional who can honestly say that they have in-depth expertise across the full remit of their role.

It makes sense to maximise your valuable time and marketing return on investment by bringing in people with in-depth, niche expertise as and when you need it.

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