The challenges of being different
By Kerry Jack
Kerry Jack considers uniqueness in marketing
Firms are constantly looking for ways in which they can differentiate themselves in a hugely competitive market.
Plenty of firms will state they are innovative, forward thinking and client-centred, but to stand out enough to win and retain clients, firms have to go much further.
Those responsible for driving much of this work are the marketing and business development (BD) directors. Their position in the firm is quite unique, working across all functions, practice areas and sector groups they provide a 360° view of the firm.
Passle’s ‘CMO Series’ podcast series regularly speaks to the brains behind some of the most well-known firms in the industry about the secrets of their marketing and BD success.
From content marketing to data mining, to forming emotional connections with clients, the insights are enlightening and provide food for thought for other firms looking to differentiate themselves.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the highlights:
Become part of the market ecosystem
Successful firms need to go further than simply demonstrating their understanding of the market, they need to become part of the ecosystem, according to Lee Garfinkle, chief client development and relationship officer at Goodwin.
“Take the tech market. We know the investors, the entrepreneurs, the accelerators, the incubators, the serial entrepreneurs, the sources of capital, and we can make those connections. I think that’s how you really demonstrate your knowledge of an industry. It’s showing you are part of the ecosystem, you know the right people. You have been there before, so you know the challenges people in those industries face and you know in advance how to solve those problems.”
To become a trusted adviser, you also need to let clients know your door is open for business and operational problems as well as legal issues, he adds.
Data can provide valuable insights about your business and the wider market, but many firms are still getting to grips with it, says Kalisha Crawford, director of marketing and business development at Ropers Majewski. She acknowledges it can be difficult for smaller firms with less information and fewer resources, but suggests starting small, with whatever data you have and using a spreadsheet if necessary.
“If you are starting to see a lot of a new kind of case… that’s an early opportunity to get in front of that, train your team, put out some thought leadership, so you can create your own opportunities from the data as you’re seeing it.”
Connecting with clients on a personal level is key to success for Julia Bennett, chief marketing officer at Brown Rudnick.
While consumer brands excel at this, Julia believes emotional connection is often lost in professional services and says firms need to focus more on the individuals they are working with.
“Our client is the corporation or organisation we serve, but our client is also the individual who we are supporting,” she says.
Be kind and helpful and show an interest in their own professional goals. People buy from people.
One of the most recent challenges faced by law firms has been the conflict in Ukraine.
Sadie Baron is Chief Marketing Officer at Reed Smith – and says the start of the war brought into sharp focus the need for law firms to be agile.
“The latest crisis between Russia and Ukraine was a great example of where clients were desperate for advice overnight…to respond to that I had to ask people to stop doing their day job, and pivot and move. That’s not sustainable in my view.”
As a result, she is now looking at how the firm is aligned cross practice, cross industry and cross geography, so she can take these capabilities out to market quickly.
“I am thinking of putting in an agile marketing function to the team. In purest terms you’d call them a ‘squad’, which derives from software development. Essentially, it’s a group of people who have a range of skills from content creation, subject matter expertise through to campaigns, digital and client engagement.”
Sadie highlights an innovative approach to a perennial BD and marketing challenge, namely the need to be agile while also delivering on day-to-day requirements.
It was only in the mid-1980s restrictions around law firms marketing themselves were lifted, so in the context of the profession, the BD and marketing function is still relatively new. However, much has been achieved in that time.
Marketing and business development departments are now flourishing and can be the driving force behind lasting success. Those who fail to recognise the value of their marketing functions will get left behind.
Kerry Jack is CEO of Black Letter Communications: blacklettercommunications.co.uk