In Determining Marketing and Business Development ROI, Avoid Comparing Apples to Oranges

by ON24


Landing new business in law firms involves a broad mix of marketing and business development activities at various stages of the "client journey" (or "sales funnel," whatever you happen to call that process of building awareness, interest, and engagement with prospects on the path to becoming clients). 

In the name of brand building, marketing, media outreach, business development, and client service, you and members of your team speak, present, write, pitch, connect, network, buy, earn, and otherwise work hard to grow new business for your firm. The activities are extraordinarily varied, as are the tactics and technologies you use to achieve your goals, and yet, time and again, it appears that in conversations about ROI, we're still comparing apples and oranges - as though all else is equal, even when it is not.

Here are three ways to resist that urge: 

1. Don’t Confuse the Tangible With the Intangible. 

When evaluating the benefits of any particular activity, it’s easy to track tangible results, like new invitations to speak, new RFPs, new leads from a networking event, and of course ultimately: new business. 

But activities that typically generate intangible benefits are also important for your efforts. Placing an article in an important industry publication might not to lead directly to new work, but by validating the skills and experience of your lawyers, it makes new opportunities possible: it broadcasts your expertise, increases awareness of how you help clients, and lays the groundwork for new relationships. 

...constantly evaluate how your efforts support tangible and intangible results and balance between the two.

The goal is to constantly evaluate how your efforts support tangible and intangible results and balance between the two. To only focus on branding (which can produce many results that are somewhat harder to track) or to only focus on business development (trackable, but better when you've built awareness and interest) can be limiting. Balance between the two; know the difference between each.

2. Don’t Confuse Marketing With Business Development 

Law firm marketing – activities that lead to awareness, interest, understanding, and engagement – is not selling the firm. 

But without marketing, business development – talking to potential clients who are interested and engaged and able to express an actual need that your lawyers can learn about – is nearly impossible. 

Your firm needs a healthy mix of both types of activity, but it does not need you directly comparing the ROI from marketing with that of sales. In fact, I’d argue that understanding the differences between the two allows you to identify and invest in efforts that produce both marketing and sales opportunities. 

Marketing becomes business development when the presentation becomes a conversation about actual needs...

Webinars are a good example of that, because they give your lawyers a chance to market their expertise – through emails, web announcements, the presentation itself, for example – and to generate selling opportunities with targeted follow-up. Marketing becomes business development when the presentation becomes a conversation about actual needs faced by prospective clients. 

3. Don’t Confuse Cost With Value 

One admirable strength I regularly see in in-house marketers is the ability to convince lawyers that the cost of a particular activity is not necessarily indicative of its value

That’s critical, because it requires that you look beyond what can appear to be an apples-to-apples comparison, to identify the meaningful differences of each option and pick the one that best helps you meet your objectives.

An example from my world: at ON24 we believe, like our law firm clients, in providing a value that far outweighs the cost of our product. Accordingly, we’re constantly looking for ways to increase the value of an ON24 webinar by providing benefits – like actionable intelligence and webinar benchmarking and participant Engagement Scores – that allow firms to better market and better sell their services. For us, value that allows our clients to achieve their objectives is the only measure that counts when we compare ON24 to the competition. 

How do you avoid the apples-to-oranges comparisons in your firm’s marketing and business development spend? I’d love to hear about it


[Katie O'Rourke is Director of Strategic Accounts at ON24. Connect with her on LinkedIn; follow for her latest writing on JD Supra.

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