There is no question that we are doing business in a VUCA environment. VUCA is an acronym we don’t often hear in the legal industry. It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, and was coined by the U.S. Army to describe the post-Cold War world. When you think about what has been happening in the legal services industry for the last decade, you could say we have been operating in our own VUCA environment. Buyers of legal services are more sophisticated than ever and are redefining the meaning of value, some are involving procurement professionals in the buying process. At the same time, we see the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and its applications to our industry. And competition is accelerating and coming from new entrants to the marketplace.
So how do law firm leaders tackle a VUCA environment? Engage and empower their CMOs collaborate and help lead change.
According to a 2018 study “Rethink the Role of the CMO” commissioned by Accenture and conducted by Forrester Consulting, 90% of organizations view the CMO as the connective tissue between different lines of business and as central to filling the gap in the C-Suite and technology ecosystem to drive growth.
In the legal industry, there are reports of CMO tenure ticking up, however, the talent churn seems to never end. Repeated turnover simply can’t be viewed as success.
While roles differ from firm-to-firm, success is more likely when CMOs are empowered to collaborate, innovate, break down organizational silos and drive change. CMOs are natural strategists who understand where their firm’s services fit into the marketplace and what moves are necessary to achieve growth. But their perspective should be sought well beyond market strategy to nearly every aspect of the business — internal and external — from processes and procedures, prospects and clients to employees and recruits.
Here are four areas to which CMOS can bring some clarity in a volatile, uncertain, complex and sometimes ambiguous world.
Client experience (CX) is identified in “Rethink the Role of the CMO” as the new battleground for brands. The research finds that nearly 87% of organizations agree that traditional experiences are no longer enough to satisfy their customers.
CMOS recognize the importance of knowing and understanding the clients of their firms — how they move through the evaluation and buying process and what host of issues may be at play. That’s why they are the perfect ones to lead the effort to map the entire end-to-end client journey and engage their counterparts across the firm to help turn that journey into a seamless, frictionless experience.
What metrics is your firm using to gauge client satisfaction? Your CMO should play a lead role using:
- Client interviews;
- Tracking methods to assess the quality of the client’s experience;
- Training that focuses on skills such as active listening and emotional intelligence (EI); and
- Tools and content to reach and respond to clients with a customized approach instead of a canned approach seen as not particularly helpful.
When you ask clients how to make their experience better, the results are sometimes surprising, surprisingly simple — a change to a billing process or access to an online portal. Such instances provide your CMO the opportunity to collaborate with the accounting department or IT department to make improvements. Not every improvement is a heavy lift so do make CX a top priority.
Culture and Employer Branding
Read the headlines, talk to your human resources professionals, and think about your own experience — the market for talent is tight. It can take months to fill an open position, which can in turn, impact your ability to advance initiatives or take on new work. CMOs know that a brand needs to start from the inside out. HR is the face of the firm’s recruitment process, is often the first impression for new employees, and is a relationship that continues for the length of the time of employment. Naturally then, it is easy to assign “employer branding” to the HR team. Employer branding is the process of creating a distinctively great place to work and then promoting it to your current and future talent. Given the importance of talent to any firm, consider collaboration between HR and marketing to create a unified strategy.
A great place to work coupled with a unified strategy drives engagement, and higher levels of engagement leads to higher levels of productivity and client satisfaction. It also creates motivated brand ambassadors. So, when your employee brand ambassadors are conversing on the soccer field or having dinner with friends, make sure they can articulate your vision, mission and brand promise.
Take it a step further. Let your CMO and HR officer partner to activate your brand ambassadors online. Of course, you should issue a social media policy with clear guidance. Then, get your employees posting, tweeting and chatting about your firm by providing them with great content — firm news and articles, infographics, videos and behind-the-scenes views of your firm.
Make it easy. Working together, your marketing and HR teams could create a regular email that includes shareable content. Encourage employees to follow, like and share the firm’s social media updates. Build campaigns around special events like a firm milestone anniversary or the arrival of summer associates.
Attracting and retaining talent across your firm is a key to a healthy organization, to winning choice work and fostering loyal client relationships. Those who can clearly articulate their vision, mission and culture, and reach employees and recruits with clear messages, have the upper hand.
Marketing is a technical discipline given that it relies heavily on technology to deliver intelligent and personalized CX. Digital is now the norm and relies on the ability to leverage various types of data. So, it is imperative that the CMO play a role in identifying and integrating the myriad points of data residing within the firm. This goes beyond CRM to systems that reside in accounting, recruiting, human resources, business development, etc. The IT department will man the laboring oar in integrating systems but remember, it is the CMO that represents the voice of the client and is diligently focused on delivering the best experiences for those clients. If you are shooting to deliver a first-class client experience, collaboration is key.
Over the years, it was common to hear that there was a disjointed relationship between the marketing and IT departments. At this juncture, the relationship must be symbiotic. Your CMO and CIO should be working together to make decisions about the tools that affect the multiple channels you use to capture and analyze data and the platforms used to reach your target audiences.
Every CMO must focus on growth and return on investment. To keep pace in a volatile marketplace, innovation must also be a priority. What better place than the marketing department, led by the CMO, to brainstorm, think big thoughts, take some risks and innovate. The marketing department should be where R&D takes place. What drives R&D — imagining new ways to attract business and improve the client experience.
Yet, most legal marketers will tell you that they have little free time to think outside the box. Allow your marketing team the time and creative space it needs to cultivate fresh thinking and redefine client benefits in ways that are provocative, simple and distinctive.
The buyers of legal services have been calling for change for a decade and they have more options as alternative service providers enter the market. The race is on!
To quote Microsoft CMO Chris Capossela: “One thing about customer engagement that people sometimes leave out is how there’s real power in not just thinking about the customer engagement, but also thinking about how you need to change your products, how you need to change your pricing, your packaging. CMOs of the future will be influencing the products that a company builds, the policies it has in place, the way a company operates, and will essentially be a change agent inside the company.”
If we look to the corporate world, marketing is no longer a singularly-focused department. Rather it is a cross-departmental discipline that touches every corner of the business. CMOs have a real role to play in helping the law firm navigate in a VUCA environment. Empower yours to build true partnerships with their counterparts across the firm to align efforts that will create superior client and employee experiences and drive growth.
Tammy Mangan is a seasoned marketing and business development professional having served in senior roles at AmLaw 100 and 200 firms. She currently serves as Vice President of Marketing for Guidepost Solutions, a global leader in compliance, investigations, and security consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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