Last fall at a networking event before a Legal Marketing Association regional conference, I overheard my colleague Adrian Lurssen discussing how reader data can support business development with the head of BD for a global law firm, one of the AmLaw 50.
"One challenge," Adrian said, "is that most content programs within law firms are run by folks in Communications. It makes perfect sense: typically, thought leadership is part of an overall comms strategy — but..."
Before Adrian could finish, the BD director jumped in: "...but often the people who benefit most from the insights created by consumption of that content, the reader data, work in business development."
I thought of this exchange recently while listening to Adrian present on the same subject (reader data and BD) for a LMASE webinar lunch-and-learn. One takeaway from the conversation is — sigh — that once we all networked in person. Another takeaway, which was also a theme of Adrian's recent webinar: it's what you actually do with your data that determines its value.
Here are three best practices your firm should be following that can make all the difference when it comes to turning analytics into business development wins.
1. Make Sure the Right People See Your Data
Specifically, as above: make sure folks in business development functions see your reader data; often they have knowledge that helps them to make connections no one else at the firm can see.
In that recent webinar, Adrian told the story of a BD director seeing for the first time the readership interests of executives at a company his firm had been pitching. His immediate response to the data: "We've been using the wrong practice group to approach this organization. They're actually interested in X, and we've been trying to talk to them about Y."
...make sure folks in business development functions see your firm's reader data
I am reminded of Kathleen Flynn's guidance (captured in a short video) — a simple but powerful piece of advice: make sure your RFP team sees your reader data. Watch Kathleen's video to see her explain why.
Cast a wide net, internally, as you share your reader data. Give practice group heads, BD team members, industry leads, and anyone with a specific focus access to the bigger picture so that they can make connections, share insights. One simple action item: put all of these key people on internal distribution lists for your monthly and quarterly analytics reports. Or, in the case of a platform like ours, give them the ability to log in and see analytics whenever they want. [Here's Adrian making the point in a short, JD Supra analytics video tip.]
2. Bring Questions to Your Reader Data
Whenever I visit JD Supra HQ in the San Francisco Bay Area, I hear this point made again and again in team discussions. The questions you bring to your data make all the difference.
Today, people running successful thought leadership programs don't stop with basic questions of visibility: how many people read us last month? They pry for deeper insights: in which industries (and at what companies) are we seeing most engagement for these topics? Are our clients reading us? Who else are they reading? And on...
As Adrian pointed out in his webinar, often the most successful questions are those that lead to even more questions. (Is this company in which we are seeing surprise visibility an opportunity? Or should we refine our content to the targets we really want?)
Paul Ryplewski, VP of Client Services, recently wrote an indepth post on this topic, not just outlining important questions to ask but also mapping them to the marketing and BD funnel as it relates to reader behavior. (Or, more to the point, client and prospect behavior.) Read it here for more on this point: Always ask these questions of your reader data. The post includes a comprehensive list of questions you should absolutely be asking at each stage of the funnel.
3. Make Data Analysis a Habit/Ongoing, Scheduled Event
This is another key takeaway in Adrian's success stories from his webinar presentation. The people who leverage data effectively schedule time to do so.
It might be as simple as blocking off one hour a month to bring those important questions to your analytics, but often it is more. In another video I encourage you to watch, Clinton Gary, Chief Strategy & Business Development Office at Burr & Forman, describes how his team dives into their reader data once a month. It starts with three people packaging up key findings and then reporting them in a meeting with the entire marketing and business development team. To my mind, this is a perfect execution of all of these best practices I've mentioned: the right people, the right questions, and engaging data on a regular schedule.
When you make looking at your data a regular habit (no matter what that looks like in your firm) you are assigning it the importance it deserves and you're allowing yourself to benchmark key performance indicators. Very quickly you can, among things, see if your visibility in a sector is going up or down; whether certain topics your thought leaders are addressing are emerging as timely and important; whether you're leaving work on the table with your clients; and on.
What are you going to do next?
Naturally, what ties all of the above together is ... follow-through.
So, another key best practice is being able to ask and answer: what next?
As Adrian pointed out in his presentation, reader data can help teams to refine their content strategy; find growth opportunities (with existing clients, in strategically important industries, in emerging areas); build internal consensus around key growth areas; and develop new business. Consider all of the above relative to this.
Your monthly dive into analytics, your sharing, your questions are all in the service of an ongoing, dynamic action plan that influences existing client relationships, business development activities with prospects, and marketing/branding activities across the board. More on this in a next post...
Robin Oliver is Global Director of Business Development at JD Supra