How to Effectively Leverage Your Current Data with Your Competitive Intelligence and Business Development Efforts

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Data – and specifically how well you can leverage data, apply analytics and implement new technologies – is increasingly becoming a key competitive advantage for law firms, legal recruiters, corporations and legal service providers.

So how do you create a robust and strategic data strategy? And what if you already have a lot of data at your fingertips but you don’t know what to do with it?

A good data strategy is about what your business wants to achieve, and how data can help you get there. To be truly effective, data must address a specific business need, help your organization reach its strategic goals and generate real value.

Here are some ideas to create a more strategic approach to leveraging your competitive intelligence to aid in your business development efforts.

Perform an audit of your current CI landscape – What databases and systems do you already have? And of those, which ones do you actually use? Are you leveraging them to their full capabilities? Now is the time to take stock of everything your organization is already paying for and ensure that you actually need it, use it, know how to leverage all that it can do and know where you have blind spots and needs that aren’t being met

Once you have the answers to the questions above, schedule time with each of your data vendors to get a refresher course on the latest updates on each platform and to find out how your team can better utilize the tools. Come prepared with questions, pain points and even a wish list for the platform. Chances are that you and your team will learn something new as a result.

Do an internal audit to maximize existing resources. Share information with other internal departments on what tools each of them already has with the goal of assembling a master list and leveraging existing tools. We can’t tell you how many times we hear that a marketing department is interested in a demo of our tools when the same firm’s recruiting department has had a subscription to our products for several years. It’s in the firm’s benefit to share resources among the organization.

Create a clear data strategy. Now that you know the kind of data you have and what data you need, you can outline specific goals for using the data that align with your business needs and upcoming projects.

This is important considering the sheer volume of data available today. We see many clients go into “data paralysis” mode where they have collected so much data to analyze that they are almost frozen by it because tackling it seems insurmountable.

Legal data can of course be used in many ways, including:

  • Legal recruiting (associate and lateral hiring)
  • M&A targeting (finding firms that would be a good fit)
  • Business expansion (new markets, new practices, new cities, etc.)
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Benchmarking

Outline your organization’s most important needs and then find ways to use data to support those initiatives. For example:

  • Learning about your key clients

o Relationships are everything so learn about who represents the company, key contacts at that company and who at your organization may know those individuals.

  • Increasing associate hiring by region, practice and/or industry
  • Finding lateral partners in a particular practice, industry or geographic region
  • Seeking new markets in which to expand
  • Creating new practice areas
  • Looking for merger partners or acquisition targets
  • Setting up an alumni relations program
  • Increasing diversity hiring
  • And so much more

The point is that data – when it’s strong – can help support any kind of business growth, marketing or recruiting initiative.

Assign roles and establish processes – It’s important to assign specific responsibilities to individuals involved in the data process, ensure you have clear lines of communication internally between departments and have a consistent process for data requests.

If research is needed by the business development and marketing team but the actual work is conducted by the knowledge management team, make sure your team members explain the why behind the data request instead of just asking for bits of information. In other words, the purpose of what you are trying to achieve with the data you are seeking. This will enable those gathering and synthesizing the data to give you a better work product.

When thinking about staffing, map out the data steps and then think about who would be best to work on the project. These steps include gathering the data, storing it, processing/analyzing it, pulling out the insights from the data and then finally presenting the data. If you find you need additional help that your firm is not currently equipped to handle, outsource the projects.

Finally, set up a process with a simple online intake form to streamline, track and manage data requests. Tracking past data requests in a central place can also improve your efficiency for future similar queries.

Collecting data. You have the systems and team in place but how are you going to collect the data you need for the specific project? First, start by identifying the questions that you want your data to answer. Would qualitative or quantitative data be helpful? A combination of the two? You may want to set up a survey to send out via email and social media as well, especially if you are creating a white paper or research report and want to include timely voices and opinions as part of your narrative. You can then start to shape the narrative of your project based on the raw data.

How to synthesize and present your data. The next step is how to turn your raw data into insights while ensuring you present it in a way that effectively engages and persuades your target audience. This involves knowing your audience and how they would best respond to the information at hand. Do written reports resonate with them? PowerPoints with charts and graphs? Or are they more captivated by storytelling? Always think about how to best convey the information you have or all the work you put into researching and creating your insights can fall flat.

How to maintain the accuracy of your data moving forward. Now that you’ve spent all this time and effort getting your data in good shape and figuring out the data you need, it’s crucial to ensure you have the right tools and processes to maintain your data and make it actionable. Decide the cadence of reporting certain data and assign stakeholders responsible for the process. Create easy-to-update templates so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time when synthesizing the data and so you can easily benchmark each report against the others.

When it comes to people data, your Client Relationship Management (CRM) system not only helps with managing contacts, but when fully deployed and utilized, it can also improve client service, streamline your lead generation process, and uncover hidden relationships. Of course, the key to having a successful CRM system is participation by key stakeholders and having updated data. Take the time to ensure your contacts are regularly updated and segmented. If you find this task to be too much to manage internally, you can outsource it.

In Summary

There is no shortage of data available to law firms and legal service organizations today. The key is to be strategic about collecting it, updating it, synthesizing it and sharing it. Those organizations that view data as a strategic asset and develop robust data and analytics strategies are the ones that will have strategic advantage in today’s competitive legal market.

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