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Make your case within segments

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The challenges marketers face in reaching an audience of lawyers and law firms are myriad, but the potential rewards are significant. Consider some recent data: The total size of the U.S. legal services industry is approximately $200.0 billion, according to U.S. Dept. of Commerce Economic Census. There are approximately 1.1 million licensed lawyers in the U.S., and approximately 50,000 law firms, 89% of which have 10 or fewer lawyers, according to the American Bar Association. Among the 200 largest firms, fiscal year 2006 revenues ranged from $94.0 million to $1.9 billion, according to American Lawyer’s 2007 Am Law 200 ranking.

Outside of real estate and facilities-related costs, according to ALM’s 2006 Law Firm Technology Research Study conducted by Millward Brown, technology remains one of the biggest spending areas for firms, representing a $2.5 billion opportunity for marketers in the coming year. In the same study, more than 90% of law firms surveyed indicated they plan to buy or upgrade systems and software over the next 12 months.

Areas of particular interest to attorneys include e-discovery products and services; time management tools; time and billing software; financial services; and CRM applications, said Margaret Grisdela, president of Legal Expert Connections, which provides marketing and business development services to the legal industry.
Segmenting the market to determine which groups need which services is key, Grisdela said. "There are a lot of different segments in the legal market, and companies marketing to attorneys should try to be as specific as possible,"she said.

Personal injury attorneys, for instance, might have different needs than insurance defense attorneys, family law attorneys, or trusts and estates attorneys, she said. Marketers can access these particular segments of the market through specialty bar associations, she said.

Time is money

One of the biggest challenges facing marketers targeting this vertical is lawyers’ tight schedules. "Time is the biggest challenge,"said Kevin Vermeulen, VP-sales/group publisher at ALM. "Lawyers don’t have a lot of time because that’s how they make their money—;by billing their time. If they’re using their time for things other than working on client matters, then they’re not making money. So when you target lawyers, you really have to target them through [media] you know they’re using.”
Another hurdle marketers must clear is that lawyers are, by nature and by training, critical thinkers who habitually analyze any argument—;even one about why they should consider a particular product or service.

"They’re used to being persuaded by the preponderance of the evidence or getting the kind of insight to a particular issue that is so overwhelmingly convincing that they’re able to make a decision,"said Mark Young, chief marketing officer at law firm Foley Hoag.

The legal industry is increasingly competitive, Young said, and, as a result, firms are very focused on business development. Marketers would do well to remember this business development imperative when crafting messaging for their campaigns, he added. "The message has to be overwhelming in its strength, compelling to the point where the lawyer thinks ‘There’s no way I can’t buy this product or service,’ "he said.

Messaging that focuses on solving a business problem has worked well for Aderant, a company that sells its practice management system to law firm decision-makers, said Christine Smith, senior marketing manager. "We always have to keep hitting ourselves on the head and telling ourselves it’s not about the technology, it’s about the business issues we’re solving,"she said. "We’re always pushing everyone in our organization who does any kind of client contact to not dwell on the product.”
The company uses several marketing channels, including online and offline advertising, event marketing, e-mail marketing, telemarketing and public relations. Webinars in particular have proven very effective in communicating solutions-oriented messaging, Smith said.

Aderant runs between eight and 15 webinars per quarter, she said. About 200 people register per quarter, representing about 100 to 120 firms. The webinars are easy to produce, she said, and give the company access to existing clients as well as new prospects. "[A prospect’s registration for a webinar] is a great signal to us that they’re starting to look for solutions outside of their primary vendor,"she said. "Once they sign up for a webinar, whether they attend or not, it’s a perfect excuse to contact them and see how their business is going and what they need help with.”

Marketing at trade shows—such as the International Legal Technology Association’s trade show and the Association of Legal Administrators’ show, as well as smaller regional events—;has also been successful for Aderant, Smith said. "You can’t replace that face-to-face conversation that you get at trade shows,"she said. "You get leads you’d never get any other way.”

Smith also recommends using client case studies when marketing to law firms. "Law firms are very much follow-the-leader-type organizations,"she said. "They abhor risk and want to know what other firms are doing before they’ll jump in and buy what you’re selling.”
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