Intapp recently announced results from a recent survey designed to evaluate how law firms are differentiating to enable growth. The 2018 Law Firm Growth Enablement Survey, conducted in partnership with Calibrate Legal, surveyed marketing and business development professionals at firms ranging in size from less than 50 attorneys to more than 2,500 attorneys in order to learn more about the client lifecycle, the biggest barriers to growth, and the most widely used and effective marketing and business development strategies in today’s increasingly competitive legal market.
The majority of the firms surveyed said that winning new business was the top growth priority for their firm, with cross-selling to existing clients and pursuing potential new clients also providing growth opportunities. More than 70% of new law firm business is via additional business from existing clients, while 10% comes from referrals from existing clients. Other sources of new business, such as referrals from business partners like accounting or venture capital firms, new business from new clients, leads generated from within the firm, and inquiries generated by outbound marketing, all scored less than 10% in terms of new business effectiveness.
The most critical areas where law firms must focus to drive new business can be described in terms of people, process and data. Frequently cited issues include:
- People – the availability and willingness of lawyers to collaborate (more than 50%) and competing needs due to business development professionals supporting a combination of practice groups, industry/sector teams and client teams (more than 50%)
- Process – almost 50% of firms don’t have a formal sales methodology, and more than 30% have difficulty identifying prospects and/or the right opportunities to pursue
- Data – more than 30% of firms cite leveraging internal and external data to answer client and lawyer needs as a concern, and more than 25% do not use client feedback data in their client retention and business development efforts
The survey shows that for a majority of firms, it is difficult to pursue new business because they spend the bulk of their time being reactive. Furthermore, marketing department accountabilities, programs and budgets are poorly aligned to strategy. A mismatch in accountability for growth also exists, with 51% of Chief Marketing and Business Development officers described as having the “top chair” for growth, but only 11% of those C-level executives actually oversee growth strategy. Other key people issues included the need for lawyers to develop more business development acumen through training, not enough business development resources, and buy-in from other teams to collaborate.
In the area of process, firms are not consistently applying sales methodologies to business development, and some 85% do not track return on investment for pitches or RFP responses, making it difficult to create momentum within firms. Other frequently cited process issues include lead management, pricing to win, chasing poor opportunities, responding quickly to attorney requests for pitch support such as RFP responses and “data dives,” and responding to too many RFPs.
Overall, firms are beginning to track and use data in support of marketing and business development, with more than 90% using data for pitches and cross-selling, website bios, panel participation, and directory submission. Data is being used for marketing-focused activities but is not being leveraged to the same extent in order to support clients’ customer journeys or strategic new business initiatives like cross-selling and client programs. However, ongoing issues around data include capturing relevant internal information, accuracy and completeness of opportunity pipeline data, acquiring market research and intelligence, and data integrity.
“Our data shows that the business development landscape is extremely competitive and that many law firms are struggling to modernize,” observed Jennifer Scalzi, Founder and CEO of Calibrate Legal. “Firms must evolve rapidly to integrate people, process and data to differentiate themselves, showcase specific and relevant expertise, better advocate for clients, and to ultimately grow profitable revenue.”
Integrating People, Process and Data Across the Client Lifecycle
According to Scalzi, addressing people, process and data issues revolves around a deeper understanding of the client lifecycle, as well as integration of today’s data-driven marketing and business development efforts with legacy operational models and ways of doing business.
Today’s leading firms are tasking the CMO with growth strategy and ensuring marketing and business development professionals have a seat at the management table, giving them the power to make strategic impact. Additionally, bifurcating the roles and responsibilities of marketing and business development allows allocation of dedicated resources to sales motions, bringing greater value to cross-selling efforts and developing and cultivating relationships with new clients. This empowers business development professionals to create, develop and expand relationships as a result of both client and cross-firm collaboration. At the point of business acceptance, firms can fine-tune their approach to serving top clients and equip service teams with comprehensive data during the delivery process, ensuring high levels of client service.
Jennifer Roberts, Intapp data scientist, explained: “Modern software is a foundational element of the people, process and data approach, and firms can gather robust data sets, including information on practices, services and case results, to help influence strategic decision-making that allows firms to expand and illustrate key differentiators.” In addition, client nurturing and advocacy are supported by aggregation and analysis of data-driven client feedback and insights. “This combined approach can help a firm create a business development process that is more efficient,” Roberts added, “helping firms better differentiate themselves to enable growth and navigate more effectively in the competitive market for law firm services.”