Getting your hands on the right data is the first vital step to kicking your business development strategy into high gear – but what’s equally important for law firms is knowing what to actually do with that data. In other words, how can you transform raw data into valuable connections, which will then morph into client relationships and thus, business revenue?
Knowing which tools to use to glean the right data points is key, but it is only once piece of a larger puzzle. Knowing how to use that data to reach out to business prospects requires a separate skill set, one that uses the data as a base, but leans much more heavily on soft skills like finding and reaching the right audience – and drawing them in to close a business deal.
Even for the most practical, data-minded among us, though, this process doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, it’s possible to hyper-focus on just a few simple strategies that will take your practice far without consuming too much of your valuable time.
In this blog post, we’ll share five business development hacks to help you get more mileage out of the court data you collect.
Hack #1: Utilize LinkedIn.
While LinkedIn was once akin to an uninspiring, lackluster small town compared to the booming metropolises of Facebook and Twitter, it’s now considered the top social media platform for sales conversions, likely because LinkedIn’s audience has twice the buying power of average internet users.
The most powerful way to leverage LinkedIn for business development is clear: Connecting with potential clients. But what’s less clear is 1) how, exactly, to do this, and 2) what to do with the data once you have it.
To connect with your intended audience, optimize your keywords based on your prospective clients’ legal issues (and thus commonly-searched terms). You can do this by using court data to comb documents to see what terms consistently come up and update your LinkedIn profile to reflect this language. In other words, ensure that both your personal profile and your firm or business’ page accurately describes the legal issues you handle so that your pages will surface when prospective clients search for your area of specialty.
Beyond updating your profile to capture your clients’ search terms, create or curate content that showcases your areas of authority and provides your audience with general guidance and educational value. LinkedIn currently allows users to publish original articles, share other users’ content, and upload short informational videos. Experiment with different types of content to see what resonates the most with your followers.
Once you’ve found and attracted your potential clients, use the platform to make valuable connections with them. This can be accomplished a few different ways:
- By directly inviting them to connect. When you do so, include a personalized message explaining who you are, how you found them, and why you think it would be mutually beneficial for you to connect.
- Through court data. Use data from court records to track down a list of corporations and parties by either case type or practice area. From there, connect with the general counsel, executives, board members, or other key decision makers within the company.
Once you’re connected with key players, seize the opportunity to build brand awareness and to show them (rather than tell them) your experience, authority, and expertise. This may be achieved through direct communication with these individuals, but also by building a commanding online presence.
Hack #2: Develop a robust online presence.
While you should certainly leverage social media platforms to reach your intended audience, it’s also critical to develop your own online presence – namely, your original content, or “owned media.” In other words, in addition to utilizing a platform and sharing or curating content, create your own content on an original website or blog (original content is king!).
Mine the data you’ve collected to pinpoint the types of legal issues your target audience consistently face and build your bank of topics accordingly. One way to do this is to pull court records gained through automatic searches to discover landmark cases in your jurisdiction or practice areas of interest. You can then write articles, blog posts, or guest submissions for legal publications sharing your take on the cases and the legal issues they implicate.
There are several ways to create original content that speaks to – and attracts – your target audience. On your website, share informational resources such as blog posts, presentations, online courses, or free downloadable guides to both inform and educate your prospective clients and present yourself as the preeminent authority in your practice area.
You can also use your original content to build community with your prospective clients, for instance, through an email listserv or the comments section on your blog. When it comes to speaking authoritatively on issues pertinent to your client base, original (rather than shared or curated) content is the best tool. A simple way to get started is to write short commentaries on key cases impacting your firm’s practice areas.
No matter which channel you select, the key is to inform and educate your audience. As a resource and legal counselor, provide them with tools to help them educate themselves on their legal issues while placing yourself in the forefront of their minds should they decide to engage an attorney.
Hack #3: Serve your target clients with a live educational seminar.
Once you understand 1) who your target clients are, 2) the issues they face, and 3) where they are located, hosting a live informational event or workshop is an excellent way to build relationships.
For example, if you litigate labor and employment cases, you can host a live seminar to walk through certain aspects of employment disputes, like teaching hiring and HR policies to implement to avoid common pitfalls. To recruit attendees, use court data to locate companies in your jurisdiction who are frequently sued by employees, and market the event to them in particular (since you will know they have a need for compliance education!).
Hack #4: Research your competitors’ marketing approaches, then mirror them.
Knowing your competition and how they operate can equip you with the business intelligence needed to improve your own business development practices. Using UniCourt’s legal analytics you can easily identify the top attorneys for your particular practice area(s) and jurisdiction, and then see what the most successful attorneys and law firms are doing online.
You can then begin to answer some basic questions to help tailor your own online approach: What type of content are they posting? How are they advertising? What keywords are they using? And even more importantly, how are they engaging with the community? Are they active in trade organizations or boards that include your prospective clients?
Perform some reconnaissance on your competitors’ marketing and PR strategies, consider what has worked well for them and what they can improve, and craft your own strategic marketing and relationship-building plan based on what you learn. Remember, innovation is expensive, but imitation is not.
Hack #5: Systematically build your email list.
Building an email contact list is an excellent way to connect with business prospects without being forced to shout louder than your competition on social media. By dropping information, updates, and educational materials directly into your clients’ inboxes via an email newsletter or updates on newly-published blog content, you have a rare opportunity to speak to them one-on-one instead of vying for their attention in a crowded digital world.
As lawyers, the Rules of Professional Conduct govern your actions when it comes to gathering, storing, and using prospective clients’ contact information, so tread carefully and consult the Rules when launching an email marketing campaign. Generally, though, lawyers can ethically forge these connections so long as they 1) ask for permission, 2) do not directly solicit business, and 3) provide or offer to provide information that is useful, educational, or entertaining to their audiences.
Adherence to the CAN-SPAM Act – a federal compliance law that imposes specific requirements on businesses that use email marketing – can protect attorneys from running afoul of legal marketing practices. For instance, the Act requires absolute transparency from businesses about who they are, what they do, and their intentions in sending the communication. It also forbids using deceptive subject lines and using false information in email headers.
Alternatively, a safe way to organically grow an email following is through lead magnets: Create a free resource or guide to offer your prospective client audience and in exchange for downloading your guide, ask for their contact information and invite them to subscribe to your newsletter or blog updates.
Forging Relationships: One Level Deeper than the Data
Hard data is an essential starting point, but it ultimately only goes so far. Driving business relationships hinges on personal relationships – those built upon mutual trust. The best data in the world is useless if it sits untouched by the human element of connection – so use it well! From refreshing your LinkedIn profile, to researching your competition, to making your digital presence a touchpoint for your audience to find resources and guidance, you can use your data as a powerful weapon to drive profitable, sustainable relationships.