Metrics matter, attendees at Thomson Reuters’ 28th Annual Marketing Partner Forum were told — and it's critical to determine the best factors to measure and how to do it
DANA POINT, Calif. — In today’s digital age, law firm marketers have access to more data and can measure more metrics than ever before. But which numbers matter the most to attorneys and their clients?
It depends on myriad factors, of course, from practice group to industry to the economy to what is happening within the firm or within the client’s company at that particular point in time.
Regardless of what is being measured, however, metrics matter more than ever before — and it was a common theme that surfaced in several presentations and panel discussions this week at Thomson Reuters’ 28th Annual Marketing Partner Forum.
What can you measure?
As several panelists pointed out, the main question for a law firm marketing professionals is to decide what to measure and how — and the overwhelming response was, “Keep it simple.” Start small by asking three to five questions that would necessitate some data gathering and measurement. Importantly, know that you don’t have to get it right from the offset. Focus on who the audience for this information would be and spend time on crafting the story that these metrics are telling to ensure that you get the reactions and follow-through you are seeking, several panelists suggested.
One simple way to start off in the right direction is by asking yourself what questions you want answered and what you want to do with that information.
Return on investment (ROI) is difficult to quantify in marketing, especially when you are only looking at one or two years back. Panelists from several different sessions cited various other measurements that might be much more illuminating and reachable, such as Return on Objective (ROO), which could include factors like whether an initiative would help the firm enter a new market or look more appealing to the next generation of lawyers. Rate of Change (ROC) was another suggestion, and that could include a slew of factors such as whether clients are paying bills more slowly or the matter velocity has been decreasing over time. (For example, a measure showing fewer discounts and post-bill write-offs could indicate a stronger client relationship.) Net Promoter Score remains a key indicator for several law firms, although some are at least talking about surveying clients about firm performance after each matter, instead of only once a year.
Technology solutions continue to expand and become more affordable, several panelists observed, but at the end of the day all that software is just a tool in a kit that a human being has to choose to open and utilize. People and processes are needed in order for technology to succeed, panelists agreed.
In fact, panelists pointed out that many metrics can be found in a firm’s existing email management and other marketing software. When are the best days and times to send client alerts based on open rate? What are the best days and times to hold webinars based on attendance? Which topics are client decision-makers reading and should we be writing more about those issues or asking the client whether we could present a CLE on the topic for them?
How do you measure it?
In a workshop on predicting client profitability through data analysis, Jennifer Roberts, Senior Manager for Strategic Research-Egencia at the Expedia Group, laid out six steps in the “data science lifecycle”, including:
- Business understanding
- Data gathering and prep
- Exploratory analysis
- Statistical analytics and engineering
- Predictive modeling
- Use cases, visualization, etc.
“People get stuck in Stage 3 and never get to 6,” Roberts said, adding that 80% of the time spent with data is very often spent with data cleanup. Steps 2 through 5 don’t have to be that sophisticated, she noted, and Stages 1 and 6 are the most important. “Step 1 is important because if you are solving the wrong problem, it is all for naught.”
What are law firms using to track opportunities? A survey by Ackert presented at the conference showed that 10% of lawyers have a formal system and a dedicated client relationship management (CRM) system; 29% use Word or Excel for this purpose; and 54% have no formal system in place at all.
Firms should be measuring how they are performing in three different phases of the sales funnel — marketing, business development, and client development — and ranking their performance on a scale of 1 to 10. They also should be asking what they need to do to get to the next number, said David Ackert, the firm’s president, adding that marketers also need to take a more creative look at what they are measuring.
“Observe the pipeline engagement currently in play among your lawyers, and reverse-engineer metrics and process improvements that advance your existing position,” Ackert said. “Look at what is already happening and move that needle.”
Melanie S. Green, Chief Client Development & Marketing Officer at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, delivered a similar message during a panel on strategic account management.
Empower the marketing and business development team to create metrics that they can influence rather than just focusing solely on lagging indicators, such as revenue, or hoping the compensation system will change, Green suggested.
“What are the investments these account managers can control to work their way in, gain credibility, and learn about perspective clients? How many times are they sending something proactive to a client?” she asked. “Start with leading indicators. We control the controllables.”