CMO Forum – Best Practices

A recent forum on best practices in competitive intelligence, organized by the New York Legal Marketing Association, offered a robust discussion of what thought leaders see as challenges, strategies and solutions for law firms experiencing the economic trends of greater competition and price pressures in the marketplace.  A conversation with Mark Young, a moderator of the forum and President at Shift Central, a market intelligence agency, provided some highlights of key issues and solutions for this article.  Mark’s 28 years of experience combines service as a CMO for Am Law firms, corporate general counsel and a law firm partner.

For many firms, keeping pace with what needs to be accomplished in order to stay competitive or to be ahead of the curve requires bulking up on talent, competitive intelligence, research and data analysis.  The resources within an organization are often spotty and lack a strategy or the action to implement one.  There is an overarching need to convert market intelligence into action, which brings to mind Thomas Edison’s quote that genius is 1% inspiration and implementation is 99% perspiration.  Consequently, law firms have come to recognize that either they will need to make a bigger investment in marketing, business development and competitive intelligence or that they are no longer able to afford to keep their in-house marketing and research teams fully employed.  Therefore, it is likely that law firms would benefit from both internal and external resources collaboratively working together.

business_development-marketing_0Another key component to a firm’s marketing strategy would include a program or service that engages their associates in marketing and business development.  Many professionals have not been prepared for this nor feel an inclination to do so; however, there is a crusade to guide and lead them—requiring people with a human touch to shift the energetics of resistance and beliefs that are no longer useful.  From a recruitment perspective, another leadership quality, as the need for change may accelerate,

The trend for content marketing has become more acute for lawyers to be publishing, as a way to drive the relationship building and commitment to clients.  Two important factors include: establishing an editorial calendar and providing a trained eye for curating the material, passing on the most valuable content to clients.   Conceivably, new positions such as Director of Content Strategy will emerge, or utilizing a service to be the stewards of one’s marketing and competitive intelligence will be another option.

Another issue that received attention was leadership, leaving an unanswered question—what does this look like?  In discussions with executives, several “thought leaders” come to mind who have navigated their firm to success and have similar distinct traits. The first common denominator is getting the strategy right for their unique culture and environment.  Secondly, they possess the ability to execute and drive the operations with world-class excellence, bringing the strategy alive with the optimization of people and process across every part of the organization.  Thirdly, a thought leader will select and build management teams with the right people and engage them to deliver maximum value.  Lastly, thought leaders will upgrade firm positions with greater talent.  The following are snippets of achievements obtained from executives, who along with their CEO demonstrate the above ingredients.

  • The COO of a southern firm initiated five years ago a plan that Mark Young describes below.  The firm developed a highly sophisticated technological system integrating the whole corporate tree and embedded a marketing mindset within the culture—socializing and delivering a quality product.  Consequently, there is no need to bulk up on marketing and business development staff; there is one in-house coordinator for 250 attorneys and an external resource. The firm has been recognized as the Best Law Firm by U.S. News and Best Lawyers.
  • The COO of a Midwest law firm described how they more than tripled in size.  They had prepared themselves for the recession and beyond with a strategy that included the hiring of additional practice groups, the hiring of an Am Law CMO, and maintaining realization rates in the 90% range.

Mark’s vision for professional service organizations’ market intelligence speaks to “the importance of market intelligence as an integrated business development hub providing forward-looking resources to internal audiences and customized outbound content for select clients, prospects and referral sources.”  He sees a holistic approach for actionable intelligence by which organizations build an internal coalition—supported by an outsourced curator that allows for the seamless integration of market intelligence with the corporate tree—finance, library resources, business analytics, knowledge management, commoditization…  This would be a hub of live, curated content and intelligence related to competition, clients, prospects, laterals, acquisitions, and geographical areas, to name a few, and available for leaders.  With a centralized platform, one can leverage technology for current reports and intelligence.


Karen Sadowski, President
KMS Associates, Inc.

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