Data Won't Do: The Real Meaning – and Impact – of Law Firm Competitive Intelligence

by JD Supra Perspectives

[Guest post by Dr. Ben Gilad, a leading developer of competitive intelligence theory and practice in the U.S., founder of the Academy of Competitive Intelligence, and an instructor for the 2017 LMA Competitive Intelligence Certificate program. Learn more about the CIC program, held Nov 13-14 in New York City....]

The Secret Ingredient? Perspective.

Competitive intelligence is becoming increasingly important for law firms to stand out in an evolving marketplace. And while legal marketers are poised to execute competitive intelligence strategy within their firms, it is critical for them to first understand what competitive intelligence really is.

Partners see themselves as the sole purveyors of strategy, and they have no intention of relinquishing that role unless they see value they didn’t think about

Many legal marketers compile facts about clients that keep their legal team well informed. There is only one problem with this approach: It isn’t competitive intelligence. It is a library or archive function. It has its value and place in law firms, but it doesn’t amount to intelligence that informs strategic decisions. If marketing in the legal profession intends to impact the strategy of the partners, or expand the market share of the firms by creating a distinct advantage that potential clients recognize as such, data won’t do it. 

There are two reasons why simply collecting data isn’t impactful:

  1. Everyone has the same data, basically. So your firm and other firms face the same space with a commoditized offering. 
  2. Partners see themselves as the sole purveyors of strategy, and they have no intention of relinquishing that role unless they see value they didn’t think about

So if data, small, big or giant, won’t do it, what will? 


Here is an example. Raise your hand if you think Elon Musk is one of the greatest visionary leaders of our time, and Tesla is a huge success story. OK, put your hands down. Ninety-nine percent of you admire Musk. I get it. He is quoted almost as much as Richard Branson and Steve Jobs in every corner of LinkedIn and every motivational meeting. The herd has spoken. 

But there is no insight in the herd’s views. They might be correct or not, but the fact that everyone thinks the same means there are no more opportunities to be had. Buying a house in 2006 (as I did, unfortunately) was not an insight unto the housing market.

Here is a perspective from someone who goes by the moniker EnerTuition on a site called Seeking Alpha. I’ll start from the end: The author recommends shorting Tesla’s stock. That means “borrowing” Tesla’s stock at current prices and selling it, only to repurchase it. Essentially, it is a bet that the price of the stock will fall. 

If you read the article, what’s fascinating is not whether or not that analyst is correct — only time will tell. What’s fascinating is the way the analyst gathers facts that are publicly available to everyone, but lead them to conclude the opposite of everyone else’s adoration of Tesla’s performance. (This perspective is summed up in the author’s heading: “Tesla Story Becoming Increasingly Fantastic as Business Model Falls Apart.”) 

That’s real competitive intelligence.

It brings a unique perspective and leads to the identification of an opportunity (or risk) ignored by others. EnerTuition is a true competitive analyst. If I am the boss, I will remember EnerTuition’s views. It will matter less if that view is proven over time to be correct, as much as the view was intriguing. I’d want to hear from EnerTuition more often on every major issue. In fact, once EnerTuition reveals their real name, I’d make them my VP of marketing… 

That’s how marketers gain impact, and that’s what we will train you to do at the 2017 LMA Competitive Intelligence Certificate program.

Learn more about the 2017 LMA Competitive Intelligence Certificate program, held Nov. 13-14 in New York City, and get the intelligence that sets your firm apart. Early bird pricing ends September 15, 2017


Listen now to the LMA Podcast, Competitive Intelligence and Your Law Firm, with Mark Greene and Dr. Gilad:

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