By Amy Burton-Bradley, Partner, Julian Midwinter & Associates
Sneak peek of the ALPMA & Julian Midwinter & Associates 'Taking the Pulse' business development and marketing at law firms benchmarking study findings
One of my favourite things with research is drawing insights from open-ended responses. And with the inaugural ALPMA/JMA 'Taking the Pulse' benchmarking study of marketing and business development at law firms, receiving 151 completed responses from law firms in Australia, New Zealand and even Fiji, we have an excellent sample size for analysis.
Most unsuccessful initiatives
Advertising – hasn't worked for many
Of the tiny handful of firms that stated advertising had worked for them, Yellow Pages was considered a fruitful exercise, and one respondent noted local radio advertising had been their most successful initiative.
Overall, when it comes to a lack of success with advertising, we concur with one participant’s comment that advertising can be “impersonal, scattergun”.
JMA’s stance is that advertising can work if targeted correctly to reach the right market. Good advertising sends exactly the right messages to the right audience at times you choose, to change attitudes and/or buying behaviour.
But as the comments bear out, it’s incredibly hard to do well.
Sponsorships – money pit!
A similar number of firms expect to continue investing in sponsorships in future despite, as with advertising, being cited among their least successful initiatives.
Respondents identified the lack of measurable return-on-investment and decision-making applied to sponsorship opportunities as problematic.
What’s going on then?
In some cases, we suspect sponsorship is a “legacy issue” - one commenter noted their firm invested in “sponsorship of the same industry events just because’ we've done it every year”.
However, one firm stated “high profile sponsorship of sports and business awards” had been their firm’s most successful initiative.
Our view is that, like advertising, it’s more about choosing the right firm sponsorship opportunity to reach relevant targets, rather than sponsorship itself being the problem.
When it comes to evaluating sponsorship opportunities key questions to ask include: “Does this sponsorship help us build stronger relationships with our ‘ideal’ clients and/or reinforce our firm’s strategic positioning?”.
Most successful initiatives
It was hard to discern from the commentary a single initiative that trumped all others as a clear-cut success. However, at a higher, more strategic level, it was apparent that whatever the activity, some approaches were clear winners.
Winning approach: Emphasis on existing clients
However, it’s far easier to leverage and grow existing client relationships than it is to develop business with those who don’t already know you.
The bigger challenge of course is winning fresh business with new clients.
Winning approach: Clear focus and careful targeting key
As one respondent said, their greatest success had come from “selectively marketing [the] firm’s many points of difference. Not run of the mill campaigns”.
Again, it seemed to be not so much that any one activity was the 'right' one, but that a focused or targeted approach applied to a well-chosen activity made the difference between success and failure.