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MarTech: Making it Work for Your Business

In analysis / By Charles Christian / 26 September 2019

There is an American marketing commentator and cartoonist called Tom Fishburne who published a piece on “marketing effectiveness” this summer. In the accompanying cartoon, one character standing by the inevitable PowerPoint presentation remarks: “We found that our marketing is ineffective and annoying to our potential customers”, while another replies: “With the right software, we could annoy them more effectively.”

And I thought “yes” – this still describes the attitude of so many law firms towards marketing today. The belief that if they buy the right technology, it will somehow magically transform the inadequacy of their marketing activities.

Now as this is a technology column, not a piece on marketing, it would be inappropriate for me to start holding forth about marketing, PR, advertising and branding strategy. However, it is fair to say that it doesn’t matter how much money you have spent on marketing software (or martech); if you have a rubbish campaign, you will still reap rubbish results.

Martech and Data

However, there is another side to martech: regardless of the merits of the marketing campaign it is being used to deliver, it can only ever be as good as the raw data it contains. In effect this is the classic computing issue of GIGO – or Garbage In, Garbage Out – which notoriously manifests itself every Christmas when organisations start mailing out multiple copies of Christmas cards to people who have moved away, died or have no interest anyway. Apart from wasting resources, it can sometimes result in damaging, bad publicity when some poor widow is interviewed in a newspaper lamenting how upset she is to receive cheery greetings cards addressed to her dearly departed – despite the fact she contacts the sender every year to ask them to stop.

So, whatever else you do, ensure your marketing database is accurate and up-to-date. Incidentally, for law firms there is an added complication here that a ‘client’ may appear in a practice management database under many different guises. For example, I may use a law firm for personal (i.e. private client) matters but also for business purposes in my capacity as the managing director of a company. And it is also possible I may be an officer of other companies or organisations, and thus register as a separate client or clients in that capacity. Keeping a clean database therefore requires a lot more effort than merely running a sort routine to delete duplicate entries.

Martech and Culture

And then there is the ‘cultural’ issue. I’ve always been intrigued as to why some law firms enjoy resounding success with a new product implementation and rollout, whereas others, rolling out exactly the software, declare it an unmitigated disaster. The heart of the matter is not so much change management, as it is people and the culture of the law firm.

For example, one of the most widely implemented pieces of martech software over the past 20 years has been the InterAction CRM (client relationship management) system. Some firms swear by it, other swear at it. The issue is it was always designed as an enterprise or firm-wide system. However, in far too many firms it is used as little more than an address book. The culture of lawyers, particularly law firm partners, is that their contacts are “their” clients and they are unwilling to share the details with anyone. The net result is there is no sharing of information and it is not possible to ‘cross-sell’ between different departments’ clients.

To go back to the example I gave earlier, in an ideal world a firm’s marketing or business development team would spot that they had just carried out a residential conveyance for Charles Christian and say “Hey, he writes books… he may be interested in the contract and copyright law services we can offer authors…”. But they don’t because the vital information is still stored in a partner’s head or on a business card stored in their Rolodex of Filofax.

As I said, it’s a cultural thing and until you can get lawyers to willingly share information as a corporate asset, it will remain buried in a silo and, as a consequence, hamper the effectiveness of whatever marketing technology the firm has invested in.

Incidentally, I’m assuming everyone reading this column has heard of the GDPR rules, which most definitely apply to aspects of marketing. Please don’t use the excuse I once heard from a solicitor who was found to be running a pirate copy of a software application: when challenged he replied “I’m an officer of the High Court, so I’m exempt from the provisions of the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act of 1988.”

Speak to our Professional Services team today to find out how we can help you get your data in order.

Charles Christian

Charles Christian

Charles is a former barrister and Reuters correspondent turned writer and the founder of the Legal IT Insider newsletter, website and resource.

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