CMO interview: How to market a law firm in the digital age

Holman Webb Lawyers’ chief marketing and corporations relations officer reveals law firms are still coming to terms with digital and many are still struggling with actively promoting legal services

Holman Webb Lawyers’ chief marketing and corporations relations officer, Adriana Giometti, says it's time lawyers took a more proactive approach to marketing
Holman Webb Lawyers’ chief marketing and corporations relations officer, Adriana Giometti, says it's time lawyers took a more proactive approach to marketing

Law firms are still coming to terms with the new digital landscape and many are still struggling with the concept of having to actually promote their professional legal services, Holman Webb Lawyers’ chief marketing and corporate relations officer, Adriana Giometti, says.

“The days of having your phone ring off the hook while sitting in your office are a thing of the past,” she tells CMO. “And one of the most difficult aspects of marketing a law firm is essentially differentiating your practice from others in such a saturated market.”

Unlike traditional companies and organisations, law firms can’t innovate and bring out ‘new law’ in the way some companies can bring out ‘new products', Giometti says. At the same time, there are a growing number of lawyers battling it out on price.

And while social media is slowly gaining momentum, it isn’t driving revenue, she claims.

“On top of this, written content is overdone and clients are bombarded, so the pressure is on more than ever before to find new and innovative ways to engage with new and prospective clients,” she adds.

A former commercial and tax lawyer with Hall and Wilcox in Melbourne, Giometti moved to Sydney in 2003 and worked as commissioning editor of tax and legal at Thomson Reuters. While in that role, she made the move to marketing after being headhunted by Wotton and Kearney in 2008 to head the firm’s marketing and HR team.

Giometti then moved on to head the marketing and business development team Curwoods Lawyers, and after a quick stint back in publishing with CCH, joined Holman Webb to head the marketing team in 2014. There, she was tasked with coming up with a fresh way to gain a competitive edge in the legal marketplace.

“Having worked as both a lawyer and a marketer for over 20 years, I’ve heard common themes across law firm clients about lawyers: That ‘they’re not commercial’ and ‘they don’t understand the corporate environment’”, she says.

Giometti realised one of the best ways to boost engagement was to move Holman Web’s digital marketing strategy into the 21st century and look at multimedia instead of traditional newsletter campaigns.

“We removed the heavy content-driven newsletters and replaced them replaced with free webinars for clients, introducing a new streaming ‘Holman Webb TV platform’ that not only provides cutting-edge legal thought leadership from our lawyers but also our major clients,” she explains. “As a result of the initiative, the marketing team have also upskilled and added video content management, editing and programming to their CVs.”

As a result, clients are now being made aware of commercial issues they haven’t even considered and the Holman Webb lawyers are now proactively assisting clients rather than resolving problems that have already occurred.

“We have delivered more innovative and relevant content to clients and prospects – website traffic has doubled in the last year and social media has increased by 65 per cent,” Giometti says. “And in a climate where many law firms are struggling to increase revenue – in fact the major big firms all just reported losses– Holman Webb is experiencing 16 per cent growth.”

Future proofing a law firm with the right marketing mix

One of the major initiatives Giometti created at Holman Webb was a new initiative called the ‘Future-Proof your Practice’ series for its lawyers exploring the legal implications of certain technological advancements, which she also presents.

“Our clients are rapidly enhancing their products by working with teams at Silicon Valley – and as their lawyers we need to not only understand the technological advancements, but also prepare our clients for the legalities they may face in this new environment,” she explains. “The Future proof program for lawyers is helping us do that for our clients.

“In the last year alone, the firms has been nominated for over 12 industry and professional awards both firm wide and for individual lawyers due to its innovative approach.”

Working with various futurists, the sessions involve workshops around artificial intelligence and advances in STEM and how the firm can advise and prepare clients on the impact to their businesses. Issues explored include the legal implications for a 3D and 4D printing company where someone prints a gun and commits a felony, or who is at fault when a driverless car collides with another. Or when it is anticipated that a robot will sit on a board by 2026, whether they can be sued since they are not a legal entity or a person.

“These are questions the sessions are raising for our lawyers and driving video content and discussion with our clients,” Giometti continues.

“Most lawyers largely ignored the warnings that law firms needed to change - and the result is the current crisis facing the profession. And in a bid to ensure our junior partners are not exposed to the same issue I am preparing them for the future.

Ongoing commitment to client engagement

As part of an ongoing commitment to maintain a competitive edge, Holman Webb has a business development program that involves monthly workshops and executive coaching for senior staff.

“Lawyers are being taught to have an entrepreneurial spirit so they can thrive in this challenging environment,” Giometti says. “Sessions include how to identify prospects, how to develop rapport with clients, how to close business, how to say no to difficult clients, how to network, how to develop a business plan and how to use social media to raise your profile.

“In addition, we have implemented a software program that immediately sends a very quick customer survey to our clients on closing of a matter.  Traditionally, law firms would engage in an annual client feedback survey.  I see this as waiting far too long to get vital feedback.  In this competitive environment you can’t give clients an opening to go to another firm.”

The firm’s alliances over the last two years with the Entrepreneurs Organisation, a global network for entrepreneurs, and the Association of Corporate Counsel also ensures the firm is at the forefront of issues facing its clients, Giometti says.

“Establishing more strategic and mutually beneficial alliances with key organisations also drives greater ROI and converts members as clients, and we experience a 140 per cent increase in revenue from partnerships over 2 years due to this change,” she adds.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu

 

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