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Consolidation means big opportunity

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For marketers, law firms and their lawyers are an exclusive and elusive catch. They present opportunities for sales across a wide array of products and services, but the deliberative, cautious nature of this profession means they don’t bite at the first baited hook. BtoB caught up with Gary Mirkin, VP-national advertising for ALM, a leading integrated media company that publishes The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel and Law.com, to share some tips on reeling them in.

BtoB:What are the biggest opportunities for marketers to reach an attorney audience today?

Mirkin: The legal market has gone through a dynamic change over the past five years, and this change has created a tremendous opportunity for marketers to brand with potential law firm customers and clients. These opportunities play out by firm size and correlate directly with general business in the global economy.

Law firms have been going through a major consolidation in the large and midsize market, primarily through mergers and acquisitions. These mergers/acquisitions have produced large-scale firms with a growing employee base and the same needs for business goods and services that any Fortune 500 company has.

These firms are acquiring best practices and state-of the-art technology, opening up doors for the tech market. They have real estate needs and are either building new office space or opening satellite offices. They have needs for insurance and employee benefit services, as well as marketing and financial services. There are needs for document management services, with a tremendous emphasis on security issues.

Among small firms, there are similar needs but with even more emphasis on technology and marketing, in order for these firms to compete on a level with the larger firms. The small-firm market is an especially large opportunity due to its sheer volume. Over 80% of all attorneys in the U.S. are employed by small firms.

BtoB:What are the biggest challenges in this market?

Mirkin: Law firms are businesses that are run, in many cases, by a group of partners who are well-versed in law but may not be as well-versed in running a growing, dynamic business. Today the professionalization of law firms has led to a trend by the firms to bring in outside professionals like CEOs, CFOs, marketing executives and technologists from outside the legal market. This new group of professionals provides the foundation for running these firms as corporations, and not just family businesses and partnerships. The challenge, like all marketing challenges, is to reach these decision-makers. Finally, it is critical to remember that these are not public companies, so every investment in business services comes with a very close look at ROI.

BtoB:How can marketers best build supplier relationships with law firms?

Mirkin: Marketers often make a mistake by addressing the needs of the legal market the same way they address a general business or a manufacturing business. The most effective way to reach these prospects is to build relationships at numerous levels. Since ROI is key for any new product or service, the marketer needs to establish brand trust as well as practical proof that their investment will be worth it. The most successful marketers use a mix of media including print, online and face to face.

—Roger Slavens

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