Parachuting into one of the UK’s top 15 global law firms on a mission to support the Head of Marketing as she reviewed the business’ email and social media proved to be a fascinating adventure in how to optimise business-to-business marketing.
Through diligence, research, applying marketing strategy and best practice I provided a solution that left the firm ready to implement great change and on target to have ‘best in industry’ communications.
The firm had a great reputation for its legal expertise in its specialist sectors, this knowledge was frequently shared with those who had signed up for legal industry email updates, on social media channels, in lengthy reports and via webinar events.
Engagement was decreasing on outbound emails and social media posts – so something needed to change. The successful global firm had weathered the “perfect storm” of COVID, hybrid-home working and a surge in webinars on hot legal topics. But internally, it was perceived that there were far too many emails being sent to clients and customers, and there little communication between departments to coordinate and collaborate.
Lawyers were creating extensive knowledge content and arranging webinars and then demanding that the marketing teams support their work. The business development teams were being kept in the dark, often finding out about communications that would have been of interest to their nurtured business leads after the event – if at all.
> The ‘Holy Trinity’: Get market orientated, confirm strategy and then choose tactics.
> Interviews and surveys: We needed to collect data. Data to prove (or disprove) the law firm’s hypothesis, and data to better understand their client’s needs.
Meetings were booked in with key internal stakeholders, ethnographic surveys were conducted with key legal clients and an online quantitative survey of the firm’s legal client database was undertaken.
> Strategy review: The firm needed to be crystal clear on their strategy: they needed to be more precise as they segmented their market. Clarity had been eroded by pandemic work practices and hybrid working and a lack of communication between business development, service lines and marketing teams.
Positioning statements for each target industry sector needed to be generated: why were the firm best in class for this kind of work? What did their clients think was special or unique about the provided legal support? What did the firm stand for and against? What did the firm do better, faster or more affordably than their competitors.
Clear marketing and business objectives for the next 12 months needed to be expressed in a simple one sentence format.
> Best practice applied: Once all the information had been collected, external specialists in email and social media would be engaged to offer improved processes and content frameworks for the business’ communications.
> Summary report: All the collected information would then be assembled in a report, highlighting findings, supporting evidence and best practice ready for implementation.
> Research revealed that the firm’s audience did not feel over-loaded with emails from the law firm – in fact quite the opposite – email frequency was considered ‘absolutely fine’, and the content was valued by the email recipients.
However, the target clients revealed that they did not look for legal knowledge on social media – so there was no need to use these channels to share industry expertise.
> The marketing teams had become distanced from the business’ core business drivers, in their rush to fulfil the demands for emails and social media posts from lawyers. Opportunities to promote the firm’s legal offering (the skill-set of the legal teams, their specialisms, their extraordinary knowledge-base, their successes working with global clients, their ‘unstuffy approach’) were being missed.
> Email and social media content did not reflect current trends and best practice in order to maximise engagement. Improvements could be made in design, formatting and content style. There were “quick wins” to be made by observing competitors and other businesses who excel in these areas.
> The firm as a whole needed to better understand how marketing can be integrated throughout the business to support the generation of new and repeat business, rather than just seeing marketing as tactical execution of on-demand communications.
> Market orientation: We established that no one at the firm should assume that they “know” what target clients wanted in their communications. Instead, testing different formats and content styles would confirm which proved the most effective. This applied equally to email and social media.
> Map out the client journey: the client journey needed to be mapped out, from ‘sales funnel’, through onboarding, during ‘the work’ and then concluding with a survey where clients were asked for their Net Promoter Score. Visualised as a series of stepping stones, the client journey needed to be evaluated at every stage, both for effectiveness and also with client feedback, so that improvements could be made and weak points addressed.
> From reactive to planned: The firm’s communications needed to move from a reactive to a more planned approach, giving the marketing teams more opportunity to deliver better communications. Rather than ordering immediate communications, or insisting on event promotion (without – for example – confirming the speakers), processes would be implemented so that communication requirements could be booked, produced and managed to the best of the firm’s ability.
> Marketing Strategy: Working with the firm’s partners and the business development teams, clear market segmentation, targeting and positioning exercises were undertaken, and 12 month objectives were then set. This information was then shared with the marketing teams in easy-to-digest formats.
> Workshops run by my chosen external experts: attended by the marketing teams who assemble emails and social media posts, there was frank and open discussion as to alternative ways of presenting information (design and content style), alongside suggestions for a new role to coordinate all communications, and an online communications calendar to help with scheduling emails and social media posts. Examples of below-par formats, content and messaging were identified, and processes were put in place to ensure these were improved.
> Test, test and test again: a testing approach would now be applied to communications to find the best way to present and deliver content.
> Measure: A more thorough system for evaluating the effectiveness of all communications needed to be introduced with an online internal dashboard showing how emails and social media had performed. The results needed to be shared with team leaders and marketing executives. These results would inform a new iterative approach towards marketing, so that the firm’s communications never stagnated and are always future-facing.
> New processes – education and training: A programme to roll out the new approach was assembled: first ‘buy-in’ from key stakeholders would be secured, then a programme of training for the marketing teams would be provided. Finally the firm would need a round of sessions educating the legal practitioners on the best use of marketing and new processes.
Delighted with the findings, and armed with their route map to more effective communications, the law firm began to implement change.
“Working with Tim brought objective focus to our communications review. His balance of strategy and best practice proved invaluable.”
Julie Marshall, Head of Campaigns and Marketing, Osborne Clarke.
Does your business need a strategic marketing review? Could you benefit from an external, apolitical expert who balances academic theory with experience and best practice?