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We often see Legal Marketing teams fall into the trap of “build it and they will come.” But like a CRM, you have to tend to an experience database like you might tend to a garden: plant the seeds and provide lots of up-front care followed by consistent maintenance as the seasons change.  

Next to the CRM, an experience platform is the single most complex piece of a Marketing Technology Stack in law firms today.

As someone who has succeeded – and failed! – at experience platform implementations, I have learned how to make Experience Management work within a law firm. While each law firm is a little different, these key components will get you in the best position to make your experience rollout successful. 

Assemble A Team

From start to finish, an experience platform implementation needs a lot of people, working in harmony, to get everything off the ground. And “a lot of people” doesn’t mean just Marketing. Your core project team should include people from the following functions: 

  • IT 
  • PMO (Project Management Office, if you have one) 
  • Business Development 
  • Marketing Operations/Technology 
  • Knowledge Management (if you have a KM team) 
  • Senior Leadership Sponsors (typically both your CMO and CIO) 
  • Experience Platform Vendor 
  • Consultants (if applicable) 

In addition to the core team, you’ll have other people and functions that will need to review and provide feedback along the way: 

  • HR 
  • Technology Committee (typically partner-lead) 
  • Digital/Comms 
  • Other Senior Leaders (COO, Firm Chair)

PRO TIP: A RACI Table is a great tool for identifying levels of responsibility within a project, from the “hands on” team all the way up to the executive sponsors.  

Build a Project Plan

If it’s not already obvious, launching a platform of this size and scope requires extensive collaboration, feedback and timing. A properly executed project plan can help set timing and resource expectations while also keeping everyone on track.  

Your PMO, or just a single project manager, can help build a project plan. The important part is sticking to the plan. If deadlines shift or resources are delayed, the core project team should be made aware, decisions on moving timelines agreed upon, and the project plan updated accordingly. 

A good ol’ fashioned Gantt chart will serve you very well in this capacity; there are a plethora of tools out there that allow for Gantt-style project plans. We use Smartsheet’s native project plan feature for our own projects. 

PRO TIP: If you are in the middle of an experience project right now and you don’t have a project plan, stop. Go build a project plan before making another move on this project. If there is one piece of information you take away from this whole piece, let it be this one.  

Best Practices Are Called That For a Reason

Good news! You are not the first law firm to implement an experience management system. Part of the reason these platforms are so complex is that they have a LOT of customization options when it comes to data intake.  

Whether you have a “bunch of spreadsheets” or an existing experience database, you already have a general sense of how you want to collect and track your experience data. But is there more data you could be pulling in? Are there ways to automate some of the data collection process? By the way, WHO is going to be doing the data collecting and maintenance?   

Every single experience platform implementation I have worked on has included a change in the experience collection process. This is an opportunity to pair Process Improvement with Technology Improvement. It is the time to ask, “what has worked for others that have done this?” Whether it’s your experience vendor, outside consultants on the project, or your peers at other firms, you should be constantly seeking feedback on how to approach everything from implementation to pilot to launch to full adoption. 

PRO TIP: Wouldn’t you know it, here are some best practices! 

  • Treat IT as a PARTNER on this project, not a RESOURCE 
  • Don’t create too many matter collection profiles (one profile for each practice group usually does the trick) 
  • Consider connecting your website to the experience platform so that you only need to make bio and service page updates in one place (for both the website and proposals/RFPs) 
  • When it comes time for initial data collection for a matter record, the Associate with the most billing hours on the matter should be responsible for filling in that data. Get buy-in from Practice Leaders to ensure enforcement (Note: This is wildly effective when executed properly) 
  • Most experience platforms have a “proposal generator” feature as well. Focus on getting the experience database up and running FIRST, then worry about configuring the proposal generator 
  • Prepare for data issues from your financial system. Every experience database allows for connection to your firm’s financial system to pull in client names and numbers. Unfortunately, a lot of law firm financial systems are…messy. Keep that in mind once you start bringing that data into your experience database 
  • As a follow on to the last point – ALWAYS FIX DATA PROBLEMS AT THE SOURCE 
  • Before full launch, start with one (or a few) practices as a pilot launch group. Gather feedback, adjust, and then prepare for firmwide rollout 
Attorneys Care About the Output

This is a similar issue with CRM systems: lawyers (with rare exception) don’t really have the time to learn how the sausage is made. They want the output. With experience, that means a list of matters related to X and Y. Or a properly formatted pitch document with their updated bio in it. Rather than focusing on HOW the attorneys can use the system, instead tout WHAT they will get out of it: 

  • Consistent, error-free pitch materials 
  • Up-to-date “grab ‘n go” bios 
  • Robust historical reporting on specific types of work for an attorney/practice/industry group 
  • More customization across pitch materials 

This is a great way to ensure partner buy-in by focusing what they can get from the platform rather than the work they would have to do to make the system useful. 

PRO TIP: Unless you have partners explicitly asking to be involved with data input (which does happen occasionally), you should prepare for Marketing and Associates (see previous section) to be the main data stewards of the experience database.  

Put a Person In Charge of The Experience Platform

An experience system is not something that can be “team managed” like an email or website platform might be. Like a CRM, the experience platform is best served by a dedicated manager – whether that is an Experience Manager or a combination CRM/Experience manager (which we see at smaller firms that are using experience platforms). 

Something we’ll talk about in another post in-depth is that Marketing Operations and Technology personnel are shifting away from being SYSTEM owners to being DATA owners. The CRM and experience databases will be the two largest data repositories in the Marketing Technology Stack. It’s vital to have someone committed to managing and maintaining the data within these systems.  

Having a dedicated resource also increases the likelihood of adoption, as there is a face behind the platform that users can go to with questions, issues and ideas. 

PRO TIP: Whoever ends up managing your experience platform should have KPIs put together to measure performance (just like you are definitely doing with your CRM and other MarTech systems, right??) Some ideas: 

  • Number of new matters profiled over the last period (month, quarter, etc.) 
  • Percentage of matters waiting to be profiled (keep as low as possible) 
  • Percentage of attorney bios that haven’t been updated in XX months (keep as low as possible)   
So…What Else?

Oh, there’s still quite a bit. But these are the critical areas where we have seen issues with firms and experience management. An experience platform can be an awesome tool when it’s working as intended. Lean on your vendor, build a killer team (and plan), and leverage help from the outside when you need it.  

Let’s Connect

To learn more about how Calibrate can help optimize your firm’s experience management platform, please reach out to Gordon Braun- Woodbury, Senior Consultant at Calibrate.