What is one skill or discipline law firm marketers and BD professionals should consider an absolute necessity when a version of normal returns?
We recently put this question to firm leaders, asking them to imagine telling their team members: "As we come out of this crisis, ______ will matter more than ever to our success."
While friends and colleagues who responded focused (as prompted) on a single skill, their answers resonate as a whole, painting a picture of an industry, a marketplace, that will require all of us to be resilient, agile, and empathetic, with a pro-active, relentless focus on clients, internal and external.
As we've seen observed in many forward-looking posts recently, these skills aren't necessarily new to anyone in law firm marketing and BD — the crisis merely hastens their necessity. In the thoughtful words of law firm leaders:
Resilience & Agility
While some in their answers suggested resilience and others agility, their answers in support shared a quality in common: the ability to pivot, be nimble, and support the firm's and clients' needs. Or, as Kristen Leis says below, "We didn’t stop what we were doing, we just changed the way we did it."
Despina Kartson, Chief Marketing Officer at BakerHostetler: "Legal marketers must be nimble and adapt to the changing needs of clients and thus, the changing ways in which they can support their firms.
Striking the right balance between moving forward with firms’ strategic objectives and shifting to new requirements that may be practice or industry sector focused are key to demonstrating nimbleness.
BD and marketing departments also must adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, all of which bring significant sources of stress. Resilience in our internal communications to colleagues and lawyers and external communications to clients present opportunities for legal marketers to guide firms in the development of new materials, website language and brand messaging."
Business development, for example, shifted from strategic account management to client care...
Kristen Bateman Leis, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Parker Poe: "[At time of writing] we’ve been working remote now for seven weeks. After a few weeks of assessing my team’s productivity, it became clear to me that the role of the business development and marketing professional in a law firm didn’t cease to exist, rather it quickly adapted to many new demands. In other words, we didn’t stop what we were doing, we just changed the way we did it.
Business development, for example, shifted from strategic account management to client care. Marketing and communications shifted from thought leadership to building trust. Legal marketers are quite agile and are well trained to think creatively about how to help clients. Adjusting to the new reality quickly will matter not just for legal marketers, but also for law firms.
...find comfort in uncertainty, and harness the adrenalin that rises when meeting these new challenges.
Heather Morse, Chief Business Development Officer at McGlinchey Stafford: "In an industry built on precedence we have been thrust into a world of uncertainty that requires the agility to pivot at a moment’s notice.
We need the team—attorneys, c-suite, managers—able to withstand the stress of change, find comfort in uncertainty, and harness the adrenalin that rises when meeting these new challenges.
Not knowing what tomorrow will bring is doable. Being able to plan for Q2, Q3 or Q4, let alone 2021, will require agility."
Law firm marketers and business development professionals often find themselves in a position of supporting two constituents: internally, the lawyers for and with whom they work, and, externally the firm's clients. This reality was imbued in the answers we received.
Kim Rennick, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer for the Americas at Allen & Overy: "The ability to truly step into a client or potential client's shoes and see problems from their perspective has always been important, but is particularly so now.
Lawyers and firms that consistently demonstrate empathy ... will win, retain and grow clients...
Legal teams likely will be short staffed or overwhelmed. They may not have the time or bandwidth to fully articulate the pain points that they are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. Lawyers and firms that consistently demonstrate empathy – by truly understanding a client's business and anticipating their needs and problems – will win, retain and grow clients."
Tied to this notion, of course:
Client Focus, Focus, Focus
Wielding a mix of empathy, agility, resilience, and — as JeanMarie Campbell (Head of Client Development, North America, Baker McKenzie) says it, intellectual curiosity — marketing and business development teams "will need to be relentlessly focused on how our clients' business and industries have changed. We need to think now about what those industries might look in six, 12, 18 months and talk to our clients about what we are seeing.
...an intellectual curiosity that is part business-minded and part futurist.
The skills needed in the new normal include excellent research and data analysis. It involves identifying the macro and micro economic indicators just by reading the WSJ, NYT, the Economist or a blog. It includes understanding the power of digital transformation and how it translates to various industries.
The business development/marketing professional who will be successful in the new normal will have an intellectual curiosity that is part business-minded and part futurist. The creativity to see what business opportunities lie ahead and what new industries pop up will separate the marketing department from the business generation department. Some firms will reap the benefits, while others will just survive."
...we have the opportunity to singularly focus on gaining a greater understanding of each client and more effectively and efficiently serving their needs.
Jill Weber, Chief Business Development Officer at Quarles & Brady, concurs: "The 'voice of the client' is the most important area of focus for law firm marketing and business development professionals both now and in the future.
As I heard a general counsel say years ago, 'one size fits one' when serving clients.
We need to deeply understand each individual client's business, culture, and goals, and tailor communications and legal services accordingly. Attorneys and marketing professionals should be proactively tracking news about each client's business and industry, educating themselves on emerging legal trends, and connecting-the-dots with the firm's services to anticipate issues and deliver solutions.
In the absence of traditional marketing activities such as conferences, seminars and client entertainment, we have the opportunity to singularly focus on gaining a greater understanding of each client and more effectively and efficiently serving their needs."
Robin Oliver is Global Director of Business Development at JD Supra. Adrian Lurssen is co-founder & VP of Strategic Development at JD Supra.