Legal marketing is much more than social media, newsletters, Who's Who Legal and published essays. It is the wonderful discipline where all the threads come together. This article is about what is involved in legal marketing and why it is worth asking yourself even the complicated questions.
Legal marketing is often limited to communication. Without having recorded this empirically, I would estimate that 90-95% of the enquiries we receive are limited to communication topics: optimising the website, training staff on LinkedIn, designing a flyer, setting up a newsletter.... Law firms, but also publishers, organisers and editors, are particularly focused here.
To put it in a nutshell: This is too narrow an understanding of legal marketing.
Communication is the implementation of content in different channels. This is at the end of a whole chain of decisions that starts at a strategic level. Problems that are not solved there then manifest themselves in communication. This often leads to a fallacy and to fighting the symptoms: one tries to correct the mistakes where they become noticeable instead of correcting the cause. It is therefore a mistake to reduce the problem to communication right from the start.
"Marketing is a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers." American Marketing Association, AMA, 2015.
This means that if you don't generate value, you can't communicate value. Consequently, communication does not work either.
Why is legal marketing so often reduced?
One major reason is that the discipline of marketing is understood far too narrowly in the legal industry. There is a lack of understanding of the complexity of the processes and the benefits that a comprehensive marketing process brings in the long term. Things are isolated and quite a few important marketing tasks are neglected or not exercised at all.
The beauty of the story is that legal marketing offers solutions. Done right, it moves your business, your brand, your lawyers forward! It is a wonderful discipline that asks the right questions. It helps us identify the root cause of problems. It is the basis of a sustainably successful business strategy! If you want to be in demand in the long term, you need an ongoing, effective marketing process. Or at least a regular exchange with external experts on the subject.
A bold (and probably also slightly exaggerated) statement for a discipline as traditional as jurisprudence. In any case, marketing has been around since people started selling legal services and products. This may not have been called "marketing" yet, but of course it had similar or the same elements from the beginning that we still use today.
Only those who offer something that is in demand can sell. There is hardly a simpler and more logical law. Added value for turnover.
So I have to ask: "What added value do I offer (today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow)? And what is the price of this offer?". The search for answers to these questions begins long before the added value is communicated.
If you want to increase profit without necessarily reducing costs, you cannot avoid legal marketing. Processes are needed to continuously check the relevance of one's own offer: How can we create additional added value and, in return, siphon off part of this added value?
Many companies in the legal industry rarely, if ever, deal with the necessary issues for this. Structured marketing processes are rare.
Value Creation, Value Communication, Value Delivery. To achieve this, we in Legal Marketing are mainly concerned with two things: First, we ask the right questions. Secondly, we change the perspective for many of these questions.
In order to achieve added value with a project, we discuss different questions with our clients. For example:
And what on earth does that mean for our offer?!
These are just a few examples. It becomes clear: anyone who cannot answer these questions or cannot answer them correctly is very likely to offer something wrong, unclear or not asked for. In communication, these gaps can not be closed anymore.
If I don't know what motivates my target groups, I have no idea what content to fill the communication with. If I do not understand the developments in the market in general and do not recognise the opportunities, my offers will increasingly become discontinued models. If I don't plan my branding strategically, I can't control how my brand is perceived. And so on...
Offer what you can sell, don't sell what you can offer!
The free market economy is merciless. The market determines what is wanted. Only that will be bought. So we can rest assured that we can determine what our offers look like. In the end, we can only sell what the market demands. And only as much of it and at a price as is needed. Once we have accepted this premise, we have already come very far.
Legal marketing helps us here to move skilfully within these applicable laws, to explore all possibilities and to optimise the output....
To understand what generates added value in my target groups in the current context, I have to put myself in their position. What problems do these people have and what would help them?
Looking at your own offer from the target groups' shoes is essential!
Marketing is therefore a broad, strategic discipline.
It also follows that "LegalTech" is actually nothing new. The use of technology in the legal market must also face up to marketing principles. New applications must assert themselves in the added value question. Only where this succeeds, the use of LegalTech is meaningful.
Short-term successes are not yet sustainable added values. The market will determine where things go.
LegalTech is essentially nothing more than the question of optimising an offer reduced to the use of technology. However, marketing should never be limited to this. Many LegalTech applications are about value communication or value delivery. Value creation must not be forgotten! Without observing marketing principles or without a clear understanding of what is in demand in the market, the use of technology is like flying blind.
It goes without saying that legal marketing no longer works without an understanding of technology. How can I be sure that my offer in the legal market will generate sustainable added value if I do not know whether my offer will soon be threatened by LegalTech in some form? Or whether there might be technology that supports me and secures my market position in the long term?
It has always been the task of marketing professionals to observe the new developments and to further develop offers in view of them.
Everything that happens under the title LegalTech belongs to this category. Therefore, this does not have to scare any lawyers. It is the task of legal marketing to make the right offers.
Against this background, I am particularly pleased that the Zurich School of Business (HWZ) offered a CAS Legal Tech for the first time this year. Particularly pleasing: Within this course, a whole day was also dedicated to the topic of legal marketing. I was able to teach this exciting topic in May 2021 and had great fun exchanging ideas with the participants!
We have provided intensive support to the Altenburger law firm (Zurich, Geneva, Lugano) over the past few years. With the go-live of the new website in May 2021, we have completed an essential part of the project. In terms of the findings of this article, this cooperation was about much more than just the website:
«Tobias and his team had the challenging mission to give our firm a fresh look while ensuring continuity… in other words: evolution without disruption. It was a difficult project because it touched upon the identity of our law firm and how we see ourselves and how we would like to be perceived by others. Not an easy project for lawyers 😉. @HeadStarterz had a very organized and systematic approach from the beginning. They really looked into who we are, who we want to be and developed a tailor-made concept for us. I was impressed by Tobias and @HeadStarterz' dedication, responsiveness and patience. I would highly recommend them!» Clarisse von Wunschheim, Partner Altenburger Ltd legal + tax