I recently heard Robert Swayze, CFO at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, make a statement to that effect at a panel discussion hosted by the Dallas City Group of the Texas Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association.

When he said it, I did a double-take. Did someone who crunches numbers and oversees spending at a large Texas firm really just confirm something I had quietly kept to myself for years?  He really did.  Wow!

Now, before all my Return-On-Investment metrics proponent colleagues, get upset, let me put the statement and the concept into context.

Swayze was one of four panelists for a discussion entitled “Tracking and Measuring ROI for Your Law Firm,” which was moderated by Bill Bourland, Director of Client Services and Business Development at Carrington Coleman LLP.  Other panelists were Murray Coffey, CMO at Haynes and Boone LLP; Eric Fletcher, CMO at McGlinchey Stafford PLLC; and Timothy Powers, Partner at Haynes and Boone LLP.

ROI is a marketing cornerstone. It’s an important measurement to track and improve the substantial investment required for successful marketing and business development endeavors.  The subject is one that has long interested me.  My partner, Valerie Macalik, is in charge of programming for the Dallas City Group this year.  She and I were brainstorming ideas for programming this year when I threw this one out there for her consideration.

Marketers are always discussing ROI.  And, we’ve discovered that this term means different things to different people.  How should ROI be defined?  Studies consistently show that almost all companies measure some marketing activities but those surveyed show that they only measure half of those activities, meaning marketers spend millions of dollars each year for marketing activities without having to account for the results.

Although there are plenty of activities that you can use metrics to track and measure, there are many more that just can’t be evaluated. “The shift is to conversations … Metrics gives us a framework,” Fletcher said. In the legal industry, it’s about relationships.  How do you measure the cost of developing a relationship in which you become a trusted advisor?   What is the value of a new client?  What does it cost to acquire one?  And what does it cost to keep one? These are a few of the questions Fletcher asked for consideration and he pointed out that corporations are well ahead of the legal industry in that they have calculated these costs.

One of those starting points is to track business development activities through the use of CRM programs, like Interaction, which is something Haynes and Boone insists upon, Powers said.

In the past, law firms spent a lot of money sponsoring a lot of events that partners said were important to their clients.  Now, there has been a shift, Coffey said.  Smart law firms are hiring people like himself to ask partners tough questions about why they want to support the activity and what they will receive from doing so.  And, while this can be challenging, it helps you become a business partner to the attorneys while protecting your firm’s marketing dollars, Coffey concluded.

At the end of the day, law firms are investing in relationships, Fletcher said, and relationships don’t happen in a year.  Law firms have to determine the period of time to which they are willing to commit to investing in building a relationship.

It’s important to note that relationships happen at different speeds for different people.  Sometimes things just click and the stars are aligned just so, and things move quickly. Others take a lot of courting and wooing, and some just aren’t meant to be.

And, in the final analysis, you have to remember “it’s a belly-to-belly business … Your lawyers have to close the deal,” Swayze said.

For those of you who are ROI purists or if you simply want to learn more about how to measure ROI, this article is a good starting point: Calculate ROI for Your Marketing Campaigns.

All good marketing and business development efforts start with a sound plan.  CM2 Marketing is masterful at creating marketing and business development plans for the tightest budgets. 

Author: lisawhitleycoleman

Leave a Reply