Should Law Firms Invest More in Competitive Intelligence?
Should law firms invest more in competitive intelligence? In my still relatively new role as Chief Knowledge + Information Officer at LAC Group, it’s a new question for me.
[Update of 06 Apr 2019: see, in response to this post, Zena Applebaum‘s post More CI? That’s Axiomatic (via #3Geeks blog). She answers the titular question + explains how CI includes much more than biz dev. I agree.]
In some ways, whether law firms should invest more in competitive intelligence (CI) is a very old question. Why old? I write about how lawyers can practice better and how law firms can improve their business operations. You may not have noticed, but my blog / website has a tagline:
I choose my topics based on what I think law firms need to do to meet this mandate. For example, a couple of years ago I started writing about experience management, as that category of enterprise software emerged. It’s not because this is cool technology (though it is). It’s because it solves a problem for law firms: how to win more business and improve service delivery.
The same is true for competitive intelligence. Many surveys I’ve read over the last few years highlight that clients want law firms to understand the company and the industry. The deeper the insight, the better. Competitive intelligence serves that purpose. It helps win business and improve service delivery.
With that introduction, I reproduce below a blog post I wrote for LAC Group yesterday, Should law firms invest more in competitive intelligence?. And I end with a couple of thoughts about improving the value of CI.
My LAC Group Blog Post on Competitive Intelligence (CI)
We were intrigued to read the February 2019 joint Bloomberg Law and Legal Marketing Associationsurvey, “Where Are We Now? Revealing The Latest Trends In Legal Marketing And Business Development.”
This survey provides valuable data for many aspects of marketing. As a provider of business intelligence (BI) and competitive intelligence (CI), we naturally focused on facets of this survey about the research work marketing does..
Reading—actually, even just glancing at—the survey results makes us wonder: do law firms invest enough to produce the BI and CI they need for business development, client service and other initiatives?
Many legal marketing tasks involve research
We ask if law firms invest enough because the survey found that the top task attorneys ask marketing and BD to work on is ‘gathering company info’ at 57%. Not far behind is ‘industry research’ at 51% and ‘gathering competitive intelligence’ at 43%.
We’d also venture to say that a fair bit of content marketing, coming in second at 54%, requires business and legal research, both for creating quality content and generating new ideas. Likewise the development of business plans, at 33%, needs research support.
Call us biased, but we think these findings support our hypothesis that law firms have frequent needs for substantial amounts of BI and CI. In our experience, this need is driven by both recurring uses and numerous one-off projects.
Where attorneys say they want help
The survey also asked where attorneys want more help from marketers. The answer puts CI in 2nd place at 31% and business/industry research close behind at 30%. Both trail the top item, PR, at 32%, by just a hair.
Do staffing levels and mix support these requirements?
Given the importance of research across both findings above, we are surprised to see that competitive intelligence staff is the smallest group in marketing, per this table:
As you can see, respondents in firms of 300+ attorneys answered that marketing and BD each have about 8.5 FTEs, but only 2.5 FTEs for CI. The ratios for smaller firms are roughly equivalent. Even more surprising, the report reveals that 43% of firms apparently have no staff dedicated to the CI function, as the chart below shows.
Bridging the FTE gap—alternatives to shuffling or more hiring
With many top marketing tasks requiring research support and lawyers saying they want more research, are firms properly staffed to meet that need?
This is an important question because firms that cannot produce sufficient, insightful BI and CI put their business development initiatives at risk. We know from many surveys and reports over the last few years that clients and prospects want law firms that know about their company and industry. CI and BI are key to achieve that. And CI and BI are most effective when treated as an ongoing process for regular monitoring and current awareness.
That means having staff for both regular and surge needs. From our own experience (but not covered in the survey), we know that no matter what staffing level firms have, they struggle with surge demands for BI and CI. A big client pitch or a partner retreat are just two examples that can create surge demand.
If our conclusion that firms may be underinvesting in BI and CI is correct, what can firms do? And what can they do to meet surge demand? The typical answers are shift or add resources.
Shifting does not require more budget but can cause other strains. Adding resources is a solution but requires a good business case. The key to making a business case is showing that your firm win additional business from existing clients and new business from prospects if your lawyers knew more about key company and industry trends and developments.
If you need more resources for research, either ongoing or surge, and if you want to consider alternatives to shifting resources or hiring more, please contact us.
LAC Group CEO Rob Corrao and I will be attending the LMA 2019 annual conference next week in Atlanta. We would welcome discussing our views in this post there. If you will be in Atlanta next week and would like to connect there, please contact me [via LAC]
END NOTE: Adding Value to Competitive Intelligence
As I dive into competitive intelligence, I will look for ways to add more value to it. That can be with technology (e.g., might it be possible to profile a practice and anticipate requests). Or with more visuals: I have commissioned my first infographic, as much to learn the creation process as to have the final output. One immediate learning about an infographic: it’s not just about glomming on a pretty picture at the end of research.
I welcome thoughts on this post and suggestions for adding value – contact me (direct to me).
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