Information is Power (PSMG Magazine, March 08)

Then a few years ago I attended a British Retail Consortium seminar where the speaker was the E-commerce manager.  As a marketing specialist it was thrilling to hear how they were able to capture the most minute detail regarding our purchasing habits and use this to present other merchandise to tempt us.

Despite their many faults, Tesco have become masters of cross-selling via the data gathered on-line and via their club card.  They know that I have a dog because of my regular ordering of Pedigree Chum and often send me money off vouchers for own-brand dog food.  I never redeem these vouchers – but full marks for trying!

Cross selling is still something of a holy grail amongst professional firms, as it has proven difficult to change behaviour and encourage fee-earners to promote services other than their own.  Fee earners appear reluctant to record more than the bare minimum data in any contact management system.

However electronic marketing technologies are starting to play a role in changing this and the future potential is significant, if we can aim to move even part of the way towards the sophistication of Tesco’s data management with permission-based contact information.  Clients and prospects are happy to provide a certain amount of data if it is perceived to be relevant and will ensure that they receive relevant targeted information.

Since that seminar it has been disappointing to see how slowly many professional firms have adopted electronic marketing techniques, despite much talk of increasing competitive threats, particularly within the legal profession.  Discussions with clients revealed that there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what the actual benefits were and whether this could really be useful in the professional services environment.

In the absence of any available information on this topic, Berners Marketing, undertook an on-line survey amongst the legal profession and gathered responses from 112 law firms ranging from multi-nationals to sole practitioners, practising across a variety of market sectors.  The questionnaire focused on the use of their web site, search engine optimisation and how email marketing is used.  The survey also investigated how firms measured their return on investment, the advantages firms were experiencing and identified common barriers to success.

Whilst anyone responding to an on-line marketing survey is likely to be pre-disposed to digital marketing techniques, almost all respondents agreed that electronic marketing is important to the future needs of their firm, with 70% describing it as “very important” or “extremely important”.
One of the obvious advantages of electronic marketing is the ability to track and measure activities in detail and therefore evaluate the return on investment.  However, few firms are taking full advantage of this yet with almost half of the sample undertaking no measurement at all.  The most common measures used were web site visitors (52%), number of enquiries (44%) and increase in e-news subscribers (28%).

A fifth of respondents do measure the value of new business acquired as a result of their electronic marketing activities.  The market-leading technologies allow you to track everything from page views, email opens and click-throughs, providing valuable information for the business development team. 

Firms also recorded client satisfaction information, using on-line surveys, details of recruitment vacancies filled and the number of quotation requests received.

Given that the business case for introducing an e-newsletter usually highlights the potential savings in print, fulfilment and postage costs, it was surprising that only four respondents measure the value of any cost savings.

Respondents cited a wide range of benefits, and the wide variety of electronic marketing tools is playing a growing role in helping firms to:

  • raise awareness of their brand amongst existing and new markets in new ways
  • enable a better understanding of the firms full range of services and capabilities
  • differentiate them from their competitors in the eyes of potential clients, referrers and recruits.

When asked to identify the key barriers to the successful implementation of an electronic marketing techniques, a common set of concerns emerged with nearly half of respondents noting a lack of strategy as a hindrance.  This was followed closely by poor technology infrastructure and the lack of a client and contact database.

I often see the expression “client-focused” in marketing strategies – but how client focused are most firms?  How well do they really know and anticipate the needs of their clients? 

Last summer, I came across a number of firms struggling to identify those clients without an enduring power of attorney in order to promote the service before a change in the law.  In most cases, it was a painful exercise.  For business clients, how easy is it to extract different market sectors who might need advice on a particular issue following a relevant case?

Compare this to, who identify that you have had a baby when you start buying nappies – and might take the opportunity to suggest that you update your will in the future!

Whilst many firms are experiencing a range of tangible benefits, most firms are just scratching the surface of electronic marketing and there is still significant potential for firms to benefit further from the use of new on-line marketing techniques within their business development strategy, and it will be interesting to see what future trends emerge.

The Survey of Electronic Marketing in the Legal Profession 2007/08 is published by Berners Marketing Ltd.  PSMG members can receive a discount of £25 off the cover price of £95 by quoting PSMG03. Click on the following link to order your copy of the 2007/08 Survey of Digital Marketing in the Legal Profession.

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