There is a theme going around at the moment, where people wave goodbye to 2020 as if that will miraculously stop the disruption, hurt and challenge of the past year. In many ways people seem to be hoping for a true Christmas miracle, more than ever before. The reality, of course, is that we will all most likely wake up on 1st January with the same hangovers and, unfortunately, the same requirements for isolation, testing, hygiene and more. Worse still is the fear that relaxing restrictions over the Christmas period will lead to a third spike in COVID-19 numbers. It seems clear that, as we head into 2021, things are going to be different from previous years but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will continue to be worse. For, indeed, 2020 has brought with it many positive surprises and changes.
So, what can we expect from 2021 in professional services marketing?
More client feedback and interaction
With the introduction of Zoom or MS Teams to all of our lives there has been a steady adoption of technology as a way of keeping in touch with clients. Whereas, previously, the argument could be made that clients were too busy for client care meetings, focus groups and surveys, this change in technology use has opened the door to greater client interaction and feedback. In 2021 we will see more firms running group feedback sessions, online surveys, polls and even focus groups to learn more about service delivery, new services, innovation and more.
Social media will be more important
Over the course of 2020 more people than ever have started using social media… 346million new people, to be exact. And 43% of all users are using social media more than previously, with 36% using more apps and 15% listening to more podcasts. To put that in perspective that means that, globally, that’s a 10.5% growth in social media use over just the last 12 months. So, being frank, the old argument that your clients and target audiences just don’t use social media is getting a little bit stale. When more than 50% of the world’s population is now using social media, ensuring that feeds are informative, well-branded and communicate a strong message of values and approach is vital. Investing time in getting social media right is going to be a key activity for 2021.
Flexible working and teams
This one is a bit of an obvious one but worth mentioning. There is no denying that the short-sighted firms and chambers have jumped on the old bandwagon of making marketing professionals redundant in a bid to save money. Did they learn nothing from 2008? Recovery is going to come and when it does we think we’ll see a greater focus on flexible working, outsourced teams and a more collaborative, hybrid approach – spread across both employed and contracted individuals.
Greater innovation and creativity
An interesting report showed that Bristol was the top city for ‘at home’ creativity in 2020. And, while this might not look at legaltech specifically, we can see this as a trend that’s here to stay. If you look at the big firms they have been investing in innovation and development for some time (some with large development teams in-house) but a lack of budget has really restricted this in smaller firms. Now, with an increase of developers working from home, and greater client demand for apps, technology and digital practice management – not to mention AI – we think 2021 will see more firms investing in innovation and creativity.
One more thing… let’s not forget that innovation and creativity doesn’t have to mean technology. As marketing people our core purpose is to think innovatively and creatively about how to communicate with an ever-changing audience. The fact that this audience is getting more demanding and tech-savvy is bound to mean an increase in marketing creativity too.
Greater focus on purpose and responsibility
There has been a noticeable shift in the demands clients are making in relation to purpose and responsibility. In fact, we’ve written about this a fair bit over recent months. But there’s no denying that the greater focus on community spirit and ethics is going to have a massive impact on the way professional services are delivered and communicated. Clients want to see that their advisors are thinking about the impact they will have on the world and, in many cases, are willing to pay more to be advised by a firm making a proactive positive impact. We think this will continue into 2021 with more firms investing in audits and reviews to highlight ways in which they a) fall short and b) can improve their ways of working.
More firms and chambers will do the directory submissions
Well… how are you meant to report on a year where everyone stayed at home?! The good news is that, this time around, Chambers & Partners has pushed most of its submission deadlines into 2021, meaning that firms and chambers have more time to compile submissions and to get them working well. We think this extra time, coupled with a reliance on digital marketing, Google traffic and client feedback, is going to mean more than ever entering the directories – something we applaud. Whilst the cynical amongst you might consider them an advertising ploy, we think they’re going to be used more than ever, for a wider audience than ever before.
More collaboration on thought-leadership and events
One of the things we’ve noticed is an increased number of events taking place because firms and chambers can now do them on Zoom. And we’ve noticed an increase in the number of these involving more than one organisation. This is a fantastic example of collaborative thought-leadership and one we really applaud. Perhaps it’s people missing the human interaction but some of the very best events we’ve watched (and participated in) have been panel discussions, drawing together experts from a number of places. Combine this with the fact that putting on Zoom events is quicker, easier and more cost effective and we think 2021 is going to see an explosion of collaborative, easy to access, thought-leadership events.
Greater reporting and measurement of activities
With the increase in digital technology and social media marketing people are able to measure return on investment more than ever before. The fact is, if more people are attending Zoom events, logging on to social media and engaging with client feedback/discussion activities, this presents a wonderful opportunity to collect data and to demonstrate the impact marketing is having on enquiry generation and bottom line. We see this growing over 2021 as more firms embrace the wealth of measurement and reporting tools out there.
More professional networking
Finally, we don’t know about you but we’ve attended some wonderful virtual conferences and networking events. At first we were skeptical about them but it has very quickly become ‘just how we do things’ and we’ve actually really enjoyed it. In fact, many of our clients have said that they’re more likely to turn up to these, rather than avoiding the face-to-face events they have to tip out after work for. Of course, it takes the right platform, planning and a good, strategic approach to make them really productive. You can’t just have a Zoom free-for-all with a bottle of prosecco. But we think more professional networking is going to take place online in 2021 – not least because we think working from home is going to make people rely on professional membership organisations more than ever.
So, those are our suggestions for things we’ll see in 2021. What do you think we’ve missed?