Taylor Root founder Nick Root has discovered that law firms have very different ideas about what marketing actually is, compared to their clients. Given law firms are marketing to these clients, surely this is a bit of a problem. So for example, clients will say that some of the most effective "marketing" their law firm does is the provision of secondees to their legal departments, also generosity with time and free advice on off-the-cuff small enquiries - as much as well-targeted, tailored and well-thought-through events or thought leadership. Yet firms put these activities in entirely different boxes just because some are done by the marketing team and others by partners and fee-earners; an arbitrary and inward-looking separation.
I spoke to Nick, still a partner at Taylor Root and now also at sister company Carter Murray, after reading his survey of client attitudes to law firm marketing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (and The Beautiful), advertised in The Lawyer this week. I was keen to know more. "There's quite a gulf between law firms and the people they are marketing to, most commonly in-house lawyers in big corporates, in terms of understanding what makes a positive impact, a meaningful connection and takes a lawyer-client relationship forward, and what is a complete waste of time - or worse, actually has a negative, distancing effect. Hence our title, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly...etc. It's an emotive subject too for busy Heads of Legal; I sent out about 300 personal emails to people I know well in senior in-house legal roles in big corporations and was staggered not only by the speed of response - a good number within just hours, some within seconds in fact - but the sheer numbers who took the time to answer. Even though we limited ourselves to two very targetted questions - what law firm marketing works for you, and what doesn't? - we were surprised by a response rate of over 25%, a long way over the 5% we had been told to expect. People clearly feel strongly about this issue.
"What clients particularly dislike is generic, untailored, irrelevant content, whether lawyers not doing their homework in preparing for sales meetings, or blanket untargetted mailings, or updates that don't tell the client anything or are overly academic - or, as one General Counsel put it, "being inundated with reams and reams of irrelevant rubbish all the time."
Well, that's clear feedback! This disconnect is unhelpful to say the least. And Nick believes there's one key change firms could make to bridge this gap.
"I've never really understood why firms are so reluctant to let their marketing people speak to clients. They always hold them at arm's length. So how on earth can they hope to get close enough to what clients want, to be able to advise their firms how to market to them! Partners are very nervous about "letting their marketeers loose" on clients, afraid of what they might say or the impression they might create. But surely the point is they should take care to hire people into these marketing roles that they rate enough to put in front of clients in the first place."
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (and The Beautiful) is a very smart piece of marketing in its own right: Carter Murray specialises in senior in-house legal marketing roles, and Taylor Root in the placement of senior in-house lawyers, (as well as private practice roles), ie the target of much of the legal profession's marketing budget, so the survey neatly demonstrates the consultancy's extensive network of contacts in both worlds, and a nuanced understanding of its own marketplace in all its subtleties. Talk about practising what you preach!
Nicely done, Nick.
Some news this week left a very bad taste in the mouth. Yes, you've guessed: I'm referring to the story that horsemeat has been found in Tesco value burgers. It was one of those stories that inspired some wonderful lampoonery and punnery. Here are some choice cuts from Twitter (#horsemeat) and The Times' market report (thanks Gary Parkinson) describing how investors are "deserting Tesco at a canter for fear of consumer reaction":
“Reading the label on these Tesco burgers,” one broker says, “it turns out they’re fairly low in fat, but surprisingly high in Shergar.” Another sometime wordsmith muses that “hamburgers” are an anagram of “Shergar bum”. A third, warming to the theme, suggested that in spite of the recent news, Tesco’s burger sales remain stable."
Best of all though, was The Times' cartoon (pictured above with kind permission of the wonderful and multi-award-winning cartoonist Peter Brookes). Enjoy.
An off-stage legal drama for Ex-New Order's Peter Hook has been influencing the musician's on-stage banter. At a gig this week at Camden's Koko (previously the Camden Palace for those of you old enough to remember) a Kysen director witnessed the legendary bassist introduce his rendition of one New Order classic with the words: "My barrister Mark told me to reclaim publicly what is rightfully mine". He then dedicated the song to his adviser. Anyone know who this lawyer is? Answers to the blog please!