So… we’ve worked out the frame and foundations (clarity & governance), we’ve looked at the people, and now it’s time to consider what’s going on outside… who are your key competitors, how do they perform against your strategic objectives (ie. how do they demonstrate the things you deem important) and what’s the best way to monitor this (if indeed you do)?
What goes into a competitor analysis?
There is a lot of information available on conducting competitor analysis and it can be as deep and involved as you need or want it to be. You can use scores and weighting as well as looking at everything from financials and service range through to marketing segments/share of market and growth rate.
For the purposes of this audit, however, we believe this is most valuable when kept simple and practical. Let’s remember, this is a MARKETING audit… so let’s focus on that. We think there are a number of key areas you should be looking at:
- Who do they market to? Segments, client type, sectors, locations etc
- What are they ‘selling’? Areas of law, priorities, areas pushed forward/hidden
- What techniques are they using? Marketing mix, campaigns, themes
- How much are they spending? A ‘finger in the air’ look at the type of marketing they do and the amount, as well as the size of the team
- Summary note on overall growth and financial results
What else needs to go in?
In our competitor reviews we include a table of the main competitors, a study of the top three to five competitors, as well as a note on emerging competitors or ‘ones to watch’. These can be indirect competitors (organisations in non-competing markets that might be branching out – for example, former accountants setting up legal consultancy arms – as well as new organisations, niche practices and anything else that takes our eye).
How do you work out who to look at?
Most marketing teams will have a pretty accurate of the firms/chambers that they consider to be their main targets – whether that’s based on location or key areas of law. But when doing this process it’s important to also consider those that might be a surprise… that the ‘outside world’ considers to be competitors.
Of course, start with your usual competitor list. But add to it. Ask clients and targets who they would consider to be your main competition. And look at the directories… in fact, for our money, we think they offer one of the best resources for building an industry assessed and tested competitor list, ranked by performance.
To do this we select the key areas of law that you consider yourself to practice in, as well as your location. This gives you a list of competitors. You can either limit this analysis to those in the same ranked tier as you and above, or include everyone… it’s a great way of looking outside your immediate geographic area too. And don’t forget the directories also include regional summaries (e.g. https://www.legal500.com/c/south-east), if you’re looking for something a little more general.
Finally, consider looking on social media and in the press for key terms, to identify those organisations shouting the loudest on certain topics. This search, in particular, might provide some interesting additions to the list from hungry, determined ‘up-and-comings’.
How should you present it?
It’s really up to you whether you do this as prose (a paragraph or two) on each competitor, or put the information into a table with fields for each question. We tend to favour the latter, with a longer study (a page or so) on each of the top three to five known competitors. We’ll also include a ‘one to watch’ study, and conclude with a ‘key takeaways’ section. This last part is really important. Particularly if you’re a large firm/chambers, you might be analysing a lot of organisations, spread over several areas of law. You need something at the end to draw together the key findings and things to ‘do something with’. These might be actions, ideas, things to flag for further research or areas for concern.
In the next article we tackle the final area for review, in this slimmed down audit – financial activity and reporting.