Over the past five years, Marketing Operations — the systematic planning, implementation, and management of processes and resources to support marketing activities – has evolved from a niche specialty to a core discipline in the legal marketing world. More and more legal marketers understand the need for modern operational management techniques to streamline work, reduce costs and offer proof of the tangible results they deliver for their firms.
Why is Marketing Operations important to law firms?
The legal services market is in the process of transformation due to technology shifts, the emergence of alternative providers, and changing client demands. Many law firms are under significant earnings pressure, and this means they are motivated to wring the greatest possible value out of expenditures, including marketing. In these challenging times, Marketing Operations can help:
- Gain efficiency – like most legal marketers you are faced with demands to do more with less, and you need to equip your team to do that.
- Make better decisions based on data rather than opinion – and we all know there are lots of opinions about marketing in law firms!
- Improve the team’s focus and get off the hamster wheel – help the team address what is most important, and stop spending time on tasks that do not add value.
- Demonstrate ROI on marketing to leaders – this is becoming more important as law firm CFOs are challenged to reduce non-productive expenditures.
How are law firms adopting Marketing Operations?
In our experience, law firms vary widely in their approaches to Marketing Operations. A very few large firms have created director-level Marketing Operations positions (44 in the Am Law 200 as of January 2023), typically reporting to the CMO or other first-chair marketing/BD leader. These directors typically have full oversight over People, Processes, Technology and Data operations for the marketing/BD function – often including annual business planning for the department. They focus on the efficient operation of the marketing/BD “machine”, freeing up the CMO to focus on firmwide strategy, client connections and attorney relationships.
Other firms apply Marketing Operations practices more selectively, often starting with the technology side. As marketing technologies have proliferated and become easier to purchase, law firm leaders recognize the importance of managing these investments on an integrated basis. Some firms rely entirely on their IT organizations for this purpose. Others see value in creating focused marketing management roles covering all aspects of the firm’s “Martech Stack” – which may include CRM, digital marketing platforms, experience management, and the associated integrations with the firm’s financial, HR and practice management systems.
So what is the best Marketing Operations approach for your firm? It depends on several factors:
- The Ultimate Goal – whether you’re trying to create marginal efficiencies or effect a complete departmental realignment.
- The Resources Available – especially the marketing data you have today, the systems supporting it, and your expectations for funding.
- The Readiness to Change – do leaders and partners buy into the need for better ROI on marketing?
- The Ability to Execute – whether you have the right skills today or will need to develop new ones.
What are the most important trends in legal marketing operations?
Marketing Operations is a rapidly evolving field, and many options are available to legal marketing/BD teams who wish to improve efficiency, organizational agility, and return on investment. Here are six of the top trends affecting legal Marketing Operations in the coming year:
- Workflow Management
- Zero-Entry CRM
- Artificial Intelligence
- Key Client Marketing
- Measurement: Dashboards, Scorecards, and Integrated Metrics
- Data: The Single Source of Truth