It’s marketing M’Lud: Making digital work harder for law firms

In this post we’ll cover:

  • The opportunity for digital to drive business value in law
  • How technology and data forms the foundation of a successful strategy
  • Creating a lead generation engine
  • Building a roadmap and getting started

Over the last few years the B2B sector has seen a revolution in the investment in digital as an acquisition and retention channel. Where previously business development was seen as a relationship-driven exercise, there is more awareness now that the end customer is still a person, and as such has many similar emotional triggers and expectation stemming from their own B2C interactions that guides their decision making when it comes to selecting a business partner or supplier.

With digital experience platforms such as Sitecore that hold rich seams of data about your online audiences and their profiles of interests and engagement, B2B organisations who invest in this technology have access to a wealth of valuable lead and opportunity data that allows them to personalise the experience for these prospects and customers and make their channels work harder for them.

The legal sector in particular is an interesting example of this, and one where we spend a lot of our time at Ratio. Law is a difficult service to “sell” to a customer: of course there is retained business models where regular advice is needed, but a significant proportion of work will only arise when the customer has a particular need for it.

Being able to not only drive expertise awareness but also recognise key trigger points and interactions that initiate meaningful conversations is imperative to ensure you’re involved in those opportunities before the competition. This information also needs to find itself to the right partners within the firm so that they can action it in a timely manner.

The Legal digital landscape

Within the Sitecore world, legal is one of the top sectors. Over the last seven years more and more firms have recognised the value of a class-leading digital platform that keeps them a step ahead of their competitors. Even so, much of the capability of these platforms remains unrealised, making the return on investment (and further investment) difficult to measure and justify.

This is further hampered by other constraints:

  • Digital is often just seen as a shop window rather than a true lead-gen channel
  • Business spend tends to be much more tightly controlled in an equity partner model
  • Legacy platforms such as Interaction CRM and Vuture are poorly implemented and don’t support business or integration needs
  • Marketing and BizDev teams are stretched across multiple areas
  • Lack of input from partners to guide what an ideal lead looks like

So what’s the opportunity?

The opportunity for law firms who have got over the hurdle of introducing a website that demonstrates their expertise and capabilities, should be to deliver more value from the channel:

  • Creating a lead generation model that puts quality leads into the hands of partners
  • Understanding user journey data and interaction points that allows personalisation of these journeys
  • Collecting progressive user data that can be used to target relevant services and expertise
  • Making acquisition channels such as Legal Updates/Insights work harder to provoke a conversation

Clearly we’re talking about a lot of activities here when most people reading this are probably still struggling to manage the website and email channels day-to-day as it is. However without dedicating time to embedding an incremental value model over time, the competition is going to continue to steal a march and it ends up being a false economy rather than one that is not only cost-neutral but delivering a measurable return.

Technology and data

I mentioned earlier about poor implementation and integration of data and technology. With platforms such as Interaction/CRM being used reluctantly in many firms, and Vuture/ESP often being a completely separate platform with the sign-up form on a hosted page with no consistent user experience, it can seem daunting (and costly) to undertake any true integration.

With a lack of any data integration we’re missing the opportunity to feed our legacy platforms with rich user data and losing the ability to personalise the experience for those users across our online and offline channels.

There is also usually very little deep analysis done on the website and email channel data. We’re all familiar with top pages, entry pages, bounce % and so on, but these aren’t really actionable metrics. We might see a lot of people visiting a partner profile page, or low traffic on a service page, but we don’t understand why that is the case and how we improve.  Very rarely are a suite on on-site goals configured or any Average Lead Value (£) identified that tells us where our points of value lie.

Beginning the journey to link these systems together in a meaningful way that has a defined end-point, focusing on high value and low effort, is key to making in-roads and building the business case for further investment.

Bringing it all together into a realistic roadmap

When embarking on this journey the destination needs to be clearly defined. We would usually map this in the form of a roadmap looking at a 3, 6 and 12 month view, with targets set at each stage. Without this roadmap it’s extremely difficult to bring the business along with you and hinders the articulation of what you need. The roadmap is based on several strands:

  • Strategic themes: this is the basis for all the underlying targets. This would usually be aligned to the overall company objectives and focused on things like more new business leads, better quality leads, and increase in existing customer business
  • Business objectives: what we want to achieve. For example, increasing number of partner email contact click-throughs, increasing email conversion, or increasing the number of closed partner opportunities
  • Data: where does it live and how can it be used or integrated
  • Technology: what are the capabilities and what can it do now
  • People and processes: who needs to input into the process, where do we have gaps, what skills do we need

A roadmap won’t work unless all of the above is understood and documented. Only then can our target stages be agreed with the knowledge of what is possible now versus further down the line. The below is a sample effort/reward model driven from a typical roadmap (hey, I wasn’t going to give the roadmap away as well…) may look like this:


As you can see the journey starts with activities that don’t require development work. A personalisation test across a simple user journey with a goal of a contact submission is reasonably straightforward, so long as we have the data and statistical significance on that journey to know how and where to personalise.

Bringing a Vuture-hosted email form into a Sitecore form that simply posts the data off requires a bit more development but has the major benefit of keeping that data within the website platform, allowing us to begin building up a profile enriched with their inbound source data, services interests, goals triggered/lead scores, and thus support further personalisation for that user.

A more long term ambition might be to integrate all of that rich data and scored leads and then email alerts triggered to the partner relevant to the service, allowing them to target their outbound activity and time on opportunities that already have some level of pre-qualification.

Underlying all of this is a robust measurement framework with KPIs that allow reporting on program success and reporting back to the business at each stage of the journey.

At that point, we have the beginnings of a true multichannel marketing engine which we can increment and improve each month, measure effectively, and finally show value to our partners by increasing their opportunity close rate. This is the foundation for further investment in digital capability.

Wrapping it up

Clearly this is a topic that I’ve covered here in reasonably high level but hopefully giving you some solid starting points and actions to consider. To wrap it up into the salient points:

  • Understand what it is you want to achieve
  • Define the people, process and technology
  • Understand the data and how it can be used
  • Build your measurement framework and KPIs
  • Create your roadmap based on effort versus cost
  • Aim to deliver your pilot (something simple should be achievable in the first 2-3 months)