The formula for an effective law firm brand is strikingly simple: We deliver [specific service] to [specific market].
But it’s how you prove the formula that will drive success – evidence that you are the leading firm in this position, evidence that typically comes in the form of case studies that show your work in the area; biographies that convey your people’s capabilities; awards and rankings that show your market prominence.
To be sure, these all show that you know what you’re doing. But to truly level up – and to truly own your position – you should show that you know the market; that you understand its trends, issues and pressures; that you are exceptionally well-networked with the players that matter; that you have access to information and insight no one else does.
The best way to do that is through data.
And it might be easier than you think.
Data for Brand-Building: The Basics
Let’s break down some basics about data, and then apply them in the legal marketing context. When we refer to “data” in the branding sense, we’re really talking about storytelling: What are the facts and figures we can collect, collate and use to show an understanding of our market?
First, consider the two types of data:
- Qualitative data is descriptive information that can be observed, but not measured; it is gathered by interviewing or observing.
- Quantitative data concerns information that can be counted or measured; it is gathered by measuring and counting things. Quantitative data can include the quantification of qualitative data (i.e., “Eight out of 10 dentists recommend daily flossing”).
Second, consider two methods of collecting it:
- Data that already exists could include market reports, court filing data, transactional volume and more. While this data exists, your specific application of it would sort it, segment it, group it or package it in a new way. This can be a slightly lighter lift and is recommended for initial data exploration.
- Data that you create typically takes the form of surveys, polling the audiences that matter most to your market and presenting their sentiments on trending issues. (This is where you see the Venn diagram of qualitative and quantitative, the bundling of qualitative thoughts into quantitative metrics.)
How have law firms applied these tactics?
Data in Action: Legal Marketing Projects
For data that already exists, one exemplar is the Seyfarth Shaw employment team’s annual report, EEOC-Initiated Litigation, a reference that “compiles, analyzes and categorizes the major case filings and decisions involving the EEOC” in the prior year.
The data behind this report exists, and is public record; the Seyfarth Shaw team reviews it to find trends and issues relevant to employers, such as:
- Average time for conciliation
- Jurisdictions with fastest and slowest conciliation
- “Hot spots” for EEOC charges (by volume and adjusted per capita)
For example, in this report, an employer could learn that ADA charges are up 7 percent year over year; cases are resolved faster in Miami (37 days) than Phoenix (171 days); and Arkansas leads the nation in EEOC charges received relative to population. Layered over this is expert analysis from the Seyfarth Shaw team, building their credibility through interpretation of the data.
On the small law firm side, Wendt Law Firm, a three-attorney firm in Kansas City, positioned itself as an expert in car accidents by presenting a study, The Most Dangerous Intersections in Missouri. The study was built on collision data compiled by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. It assigned a weighted score to every crash based on the severity, then sorted crashes by intersection to build a list of the most hazardous locations in the state.
For data that must be created, consider Xakia Technologies’ Legal Operations Health Check. Xakia, a software company that seeks to make legal operations accessible to legal departments of all sizes, surveyed hundreds of in-house counsel around the world to assess their adoption of 100 best practices in 10 categories, from Technology Tools to Strategic Planning. Respondents also provided their region, size and industry, allowing for comparisons and benchmarks.
Xakia compiled its data in an e-book, Legal Operations Health Check: Benchmarking Survey and Practical Tips. For the profession at large, it was positioned as a live look at the state of legal operations worldwide; for individual legal departments, it allowed them to measure their progress against similar teams (and scout new ideas, most of which could be fulfilled by Xakia).
To get started, refer to your position: On what do you want to be the expert, and to whom?
Then: What data will make that true?
For example, if you wanted to position your firm as the leading trademark firm for consumer goods companies, and you wanted to use data that already existed, you could look at:
- Volume of trademarks filed in consumer goods categories (going up or down?)
- Average time a trademark is reviewed at the U.S Patent and Trademark Office
- Top trademark filers in the consumer goods categories
- Ten largest trademark verdicts affecting consumer goods categories
If you wanted to create your own data, you could survey various stakeholders within consumer goods – in-house counsel, product developers, marketers – to collect their perspectives. This not only feeds a quantitative bundling of qualitative data (i.e., “68 percent of consumer goods companies rate trademark protection a major priority”), it gives you a very good reason to reach out to all of these people.
Two guidelines when drafting your surveys:
- Make it easy on participants: Keep your surveys to about 12 questions, and employ multiple choice and other “light lift” formats.
- Ensure a strong sample size: Your surveys should be relevant to enough people that you can gather a respectable sample size; 100 is a good target.
Given the investment of time and energy you will spend on a data project, make sure it’s positioned to generate ROI: Plan a multipronged rollout to maximize your marketing return.
Media. Journalists love a good data story, as evidenced by the latest edition of Cision’s State of the Media Report. Indeed, 40 percent of journalists say they are relying more on data this year to shape their editorial strategy than they have in previous years; 68 percent of journalists rely on their sources to provide it. When asked what type of content they wanted most from sources, 68 percent said data in the form of original research, trends and market data.
Clients and Survey Subjects. Make sure to share the survey results directly with the people who participated. It’s common to offer an incentive, such as a first look at the survey or a VIP webinar, for your participants. Beyond the participant pool, share with relevant clients; a personal email from the relationship attorney is a nice touch.
Marketing Communications. By slicing and dicing your data in multiple ways, you can continue the conversation. This can include:
- Blog posts – Xakia, for example, repurposed its health check data into a blog post on in-house counsel’s legal tech wish lists; a forecast for the future of legal operations; and more.
- Firm events – You can unveil your findings at a CLE, through a webinar or with a panel of market experts.
- External events – You can submit to speak about your survey at trade organizations, legal events and more.
- Social media – Social media feeds lend themselves to infographics and snippets of information; tease your survey and entice scrollers to your website.
Finally, don’t forget to circle back to the purpose of the data project in the first place: your authority in your given field.
What did you learn in the survey? Does it show the market moving in a new direction?How can it shape your service delivery – does it inspire a new service, package, training, audit? Does it show an area where your firm needs to bolster expertise? Does it change the way you should present your capabilities or offerings?
It’s this final step where true authority is built and continuously renewed. (Eight out of 10 dentists agree.)