Relationships, Diversity and AI: Legal Marketers Converge in New Orleans

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The comment came at the 2018 Legal Marketers Association National Conference in New Orleans — and it says a lot about the state of play in a hypercompetitive industry.

“You can be the best lawyer in the world,” one general counsel said. “But it’s worthless if you can’t communicate with me in a timely way.”

The GC was talking specifically about outside counsel responsiveness. But he could have just as easily been talking about the effectiveness of communicating through law firm-generated content. It’s a topic that weighs heavily on law firm marketers, one we hear about every day — and the focus of Greentarget’s State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey.

Of course, content was far from the only topic of conversation among the 1,500 attendees at LMA two weeks ago. In my first time attending an LMA national conference, I got a virtual crash course in the hottest issues facing Greentarget’s law firm clients and the industry itself. Here are the ones that stood out to me:

  • Relationships Matter for Legal Buyers. From the opening keynote on “The Science of Happiness” to the general counsel panel I referenced above, one message came through loud and clear: building strong relationships between attorneys and in-house counsel is critical. One in-house executive noted that attendees weren’t taking advantage of the opportunity at hand. “I recently attended a legal event with several attorney speakers. I was shocked when, after the panel, all the attorneys were standoff-ish, and rushed out to head back to their billable work instead of speaking with me. It was a major missed opportunity.”
  • Marketing Is Evolving. At the LMA Northeast Cocktail Event sponsored by Greentarget, I spoke with a marketing leader from a firm in Boston. She was starting to take on more of an operational role simply because she had been with the firm for an extended period of time, was intellectually curious and organized, and had built up a lot of internal support. The next day, the Marketing 3.0 session illustrated how many marketers with these traits have transitioned into a practice-group manager role — a great fit for marketers looking to grow within their firms and take on new responsibilities.
  • “Snackable Content.” While many legal marketers are focused on creating sophisticated content with the depth to engage in-house attorneys, one GC at a large consumer goods retailer took a different perspective. “I’m all about reading snackable content,” she said. “It’s how our consumer marketers engage, and internally, it’s how we’ve been trained as a company. This is how we digest information best — short, memorable emails and pieces of content with relevant information.”
  • Importance of Diversity, for GCs and Marketers. The session titled Making the Business Case for Diversity was popular, and I spoke with a few marketers who were glad the topic was on the agenda. One GC from a top retailer shared how diversity is a critical part of their agency selection: “It’s important for our firms to understand our diverse culture and reflect that in their attorneys.” Another in-house attorney agreed: “If we are looking at two similar law firms with the same skill set, a diverse attorney team can make a difference in the selection process.”
  • AI and Machine Learning. The AI session was one of the most well-attended breakouts at the conference. Whether AI is being used to sift through data or assist with digital marketing plans, it’s top of mind for many marketers in the legal space. We’ve implemented AI for research for several of our clients at Greentarget, and we’re excited to see how this trend grows in the future.
  • “Misalignment Between Budget and Ambition.” In the Website Deep Dive breakout session, one legal marketer shared her challenges in overhauling her firm’s website. Planning and objective setting are critical to a successful marketing initiative, but some marketers or executives might not be realistic about what is achievable. As a new business lead, I see this issue time and time again — it’s important to understand what is achievable with limited resources.
  • “Substantive Subject Matter Expertise.” Several sessions featured breakout speakers who shared tips for improving website navigation, layout and content. But I think one GC said it best: “When I’m looking at a firm’s website, I’m looking for substantive subject-matter expertise. It’s not just surface level knowledge — I’m looking for people who understand my business.”

This last point really stuck with me. The ultimate goal of much of the work we do at Greentarget is to position clients as substantive subject-matter experts, to differentiate them for prospective buyers and decision-makers. Clearly, meaningful and substantive points of view are critical to elevating brand awareness and driving smarter conversations.

Jen has held leadership roles in agency business development and marketing for close to a decade at some of the world’s largest PR and advertising firms.

Jen spends her spare time with her husband, chasing two young daughters and a Boston Terrier.