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In the last article we looked at the structure of your marketing – think of it like the frame and foundations of your house. It’s the area that firms and chambers most often fall down on. To be honest there is a culture of looking after clients (admittedly with varying degrees of success) but having a professional structure (and holding yourself accountable to it) is less common.

In this article we’re going to look at how you can turn the spotlight outwards (or at least out of the marketing team). This is where we use a range of tools to assess how stakeholders (both internal and external) view your firm/chambers and its reputation, as well as their likelihood to recommend you and their perceptions and views of service/expertise, as well as marketing impression.

First, we need to understand what constitutes a stakeholder. There are 101 definitions on the inter-web but in plain English (and for the purposes of our audits) we consider a stakeholder as anyone that is likely to receive or contribute to your marketing and business development activity. That means:

  • Your marketing team
  • Lawyers
  • Existing clients
  • Lapsed clients
  • Targets and prospects (for the purposes of this exercise we consider targets to be cold and prospects to be non-clients that have had some two-way contact)
  • Press and legal directories
  • Suppliers

When we review each of the stakeholder groups the first question we ask is what we want to find out. Are there any particular areas for concern that you want to focus on?

As a general rule we split this work down into two sections:

  1. A digital survey – covering general but consistent (so you can compare one group against the other) areas of research and questioning
  2. One-to-one conversations – following the survey, usually to tackle more sensitive subjects or to delve a little deeper into interesting findings from the survey

 

The digital survey

Where possible we always structure these to be as close as possible in content – or at least to ask some of the same questions. Being able to compare, for example, the value attributed to types of marketing by clients versus what fee-earners consider to be most valuable, can be an enlightening exercise. 

Our chosen platform is SurveyMonkey but there are plenty of other options and you may have a system linked to your CRM, allowing you to log the results centrally. Frankly, whatever works for you!

So, how many versions of the survey do you need? As a bare minimum we think there is a need to survey your lawyers and your clients/targets/prospects. The client, target and prospect groups can be combined, if it’s easier, but should be sent different links to the survey to allow you to segment the groups when analysing the results. We’d usually suggest sending a different survey to lost jobs (and, frankly, doing this as a matter of course after ever ‘loss’) but – worst comes to the worst – these could be included within the client/target/prospect survey.

Here are our suggestions for things to ask about in each of the two digital surveys:

Clients/prospects/targets Lawyers
Section 1: Service & satisfaction – their experience of working with you Section 1: Strategy
Score performance in terms of overall/legal/support Test their knowledge of your organisational strategic goals
Score performance against any published organisational mission statement or values, including client care statements/standards  Test their knowledge of your organisational mission statement/values
Compare service quality/legal expertise/price to competitors Question, if they don’t know them, why
How important is price in making a decision? Ask them to provide words that they feel sum up your values or approach
How good has their experience of working with you been? Ask them how much total contribution they have in establishing strategic direction, and how much they think they should have
How likely is it that they would recommend you? [This is your Net Promoter question that presents an industry-ranked score] Section 2: Marketing & communication
Section 2: Marketing & communication Score how well planned activities are
How effective are you at marketing [then list each type of marketing e.g. client training, email news, social media etc] Score how well executed activities are
Which areas of marketing matter most to them? [then list each type of marketing e.g. client training, email news, social media etc] Invite longer written explanation as to why they’ve given these scores
Consider adding some longer text answer questions about topics or areas for improvement/adding value How effective are you at marketing [then list each type of marketing e.g. client training, email news, social media etc]
What words or phrases would they use to describe you? [Consider adding tick list of phrases currently used in marketing to test their relevance] Which areas of marketing matter most to clients? [then list each type of marketing e.g. client training, email news, social media etc]
Are there any other organisations they particularly admire for their marketing? Section 3: Performance and opportunity
Section 3: Performance and opportunity How well respected do they think you are for the following areas of work? [insert list]
How well respected do they think you are for the following areas of work? [insert list] How well respected do they think you should be for the following areas of work? [insert list]
How well respected do they think you should be for the following areas of work? [insert list] How much scope for growth do they feel there is in the following areas of work? [insert list]
Finally: Don’t forget to include space to record their contact details in case there are things to follow up, as well as their sector/organisation type, and the areas of work that they send your way/have done, and whether they are a client etc, if this is going to be helpful. Finally: Don’t forget to include space to record their name in case there are things to follow up, as well as their areas of work and location, if this is going to be helpful.

 

A system like SurveyMonkey will not only allow you to collect these results digitally, offering a different link for each of the segments you settle on, but provide useful functionality in how you analyse and report on the results. The digital surveys form the bedrock of your stakeholder research. 

 

One-to-one conversations

Once you’ve done your digital surveys you’ll no doubt have discovered a whole host of areas where you want to delve further. These might be related to areas for development and growth, challenges to mission/vision/values, areas of under-performance or disconnects. At this point one-to-one conversations with key individuals (such as partners, heads of department, suppliers, press, directories editors, major clients etc) can be enlightening. In all cases these will need to be bespoke and prepared. Write out your questions and, where possible, try to keep them as consistent as possible, to allow comparison with other conversations if you can.

 

Other forms of stakeholder research

Of course there are other ways to conduct stakeholder research. If budget allows, focus groups can be an amazing way to test views on performance as well as sourcing ideas for future development. And, of course, don’t forget that one-to-one interviews (or even group interviews) don’t have to be face-to-face if time and scheduling is tight. Telephone or Skype can be just as good!

Finally, don’t forget that talking to suppliers and others involved on the fringes of your marketing activity can also be useful. Having a frank conversation with members of the press and/or directory editors/researchers can also be enlightening (as well as being helpful in raising their awareness of you and your work). They bring a different perspective and that can be valuable. 

In the next article we’ll be looking at how to conduct a simple, marketing-focused competitor analysis… with the emphasis on simple!