In the show that is legal, marketers and business developers have been perennial support players, contributing from the wings. But are we now at the point where they finally get to move centre stage?
The last three decades have witnessed a steady evolution of legal practice and law firm management, driven by technology and more professional, progressive thinking around business strategy, operations and client service.
It’s been a period dominated by the central leads of finance and fee earning, with rollouts of increasingly sophisticated practice management systems and front office applications.
Risk and compliance have morphed from cameo to cast regular over the past 15 years, with management information and business intelligence sharing a similar trajectory. They have been the breakthrough areas in recent times, technology, process and people combining to deliver new capabilities.
Marketing and business development, in contrast, have been the perennial support act. Technology-wise, the past three decades have seen early, very basic marketing modules give way to increasingly powerful CRM platforms; and more recently, over the last five years, there’s been a gradual adoption of pitch automation software as technology and data become weaponised in the fight for new business.
Which brings us to the present and the opportunity for those in marketing and BD to move into the spotlight. Right now, these teams are in the best position ever to help drive profitable growth. But their ability to deliver has dependencies; their success is contingent upon certain conditions being met – and the single most challenging of those? Interoperability.
BD departments are never over resourced and therefore need to rely on the systems they access to provide them with the content and insight to help them develop strategies for their firm to be successful.
What is interoperability?
Accenture has a neat definition: “Interoperability is when enterprise applications can easily interact with each other and exchange data. A seamless user experience across applications creates a single source of data truth that aligns everyone to common goals, leading to better decision making, human connections and insight generation.”
While it’s common for businesses to have different systems in place for various business functions, there’s a strong divide between those that have smooth-sailing absolute interoperability, where system and data work together; and those that haven’t and either work in siloed systems or use their business information in isolation, despite the applications themselves being integrated. ‘Seamless user experience’ and ‘single source of data truth’ are perhaps the nuggets in the definition above.
Why does interoperability matter?
Take your pick. As found by Accenture in a recent report, organisations with high levels of interoperability are growing revenues six times faster than their peers. They are 11% more likely to secure rapid transformation.
The agility, knowledge and agency that they enjoy they put to good use in adapting quickly to new circumstances or seizing opportunities ahead of their competitors. That ‘seamless user experience’ has even been shown to give back two hours of time every workday, a massive productivity boost in itself.
And for marketers and BD professionals? The chance to underscore their value and their transition from peripheral figure to pivotal function.
Interoperability: unlocking your single source of truth
Winning new client work is core to any successful law practice: you’re either bringing net new clients on board or increasing the amount or types of work your law firm provides to its existing clients.
Simple in theory but demanding in practice with several facets to explore as part of that new business/business development equation:
- Who are the right clients to target? Industry, geography, size, ethics and many other demographics influence this decision
- What services do we wish to promote and deliver?
- What revenue and profitability levels are we planning for, and do we have the resources to deliver these services?
Before any of these questions can be answered accurately, and a coherent business development strategy developed, a law firm needs to be across all its key metrics: to pull your data sources together and synthesise those inputs to give you intelligence-based outputs.
For marketing and BD teams, those sources will come from many different parts of the business:
- Financial metrics from the PMS
- Trend and cost case management information
- Firm, team and individual skills, experience and capacity information
- Client relationship metrics and historical interactions
Without that interoperability push, you will be pulled all ways by siloed data sets that are hard to access and, worse, difficult to trust without further validation of each one’s accuracy. You risk stalling at the inputs stage.
With technical interoperability (working integrations) and data interoperability (business workflow integrations), you get your outputs served up fast, without friction. (A quick sidebar – data interoperability and how to get there is another essay in itself but it comes down to how and where data is captured, passed on and kept up to date across sprawling application eco-systems, and how it all works together.
If you don’t get there, then not only is there the risk of the data being different from system to system but because integrations are in place users are under the false assumption that it’s the same.
For example, if your risk system, which typically feeds into your finance system, holds different clients or even different client name spellings, your firm might miss a conflict even through an otherwise thorough clearing process.)
Assuming absolute interoperability – technical and data – and the requisite degree of data hygiene, you finally get to turn all those disparate feeds into a single source of trusted truth. Enterprise business intelligence (BI) dashboards are there to power through the multi-dimensional analysis to surface insights that you’d otherwise remain blind to.
Data perfect, process perfect, pitch perfect
Some business development solutions now also have dashboards that are native to the application, built with the questions in mind that marketing & BD teams need answers to. Rather than getting overwhelmed by data, they can stay focused on insights that matter to them by aligning cross-departmental information with specific use cases – prompting a far more specific, informed and relevant response.
Take proposal automation software PitchPerfect. It has an analytics module that lets BD teams see an analysis of proposal content that has featured in winning pitches in a given sector for opportunities of a certain value. It allows firms to increase their chances of winning by using the content that they know resonates with a particular client segment.
But it can also surface insights such as putting the average cost of pitching for, and delivering, certain matters against the deal value to help teams make better go/no-go decisions in light of projected profitability.
You can go further by evaluating that data through yet another prism: capacity planning analysis, for example, may turn a no-go to a go as with bandwidth available, there may be less appetite for leaving money on the table; or a project that might be no-bidded on a first look at the financials might get the green light when seen through more of a strategic client acquisition lens, the loss-leading Trojan horse as it were.
Quality outputs lead to better outcomes. By leveraging financial, customer and service delivery history and by ‘multiplexing’ all those data flows into one, law firms can target specific organisations in verticals where they have existing significant market share; focus on more profitable work-types; identify up-sell and cross-sell potential more readily; make confident strategic calls on certain opportunities; and always lead with a business pitch and value proposition that has been proven.
It’s this sort of smart approach that will propel marketers and BD into the spotlight. But as noted above, the quality outputs that make this smart approach possible have their dependencies: technical and data interoperability, with a large side order of optimal data hygiene and integrity. If everyone gets this right, it will be your time to shine.
This article first appeared in Centrum, The PSMG Magazine’s 2023 Spring Issue. Read it here >>