From a marketing perspective, how should professional services firms prepare for 2022? Melissa Davis, our CEO and Founder shares her thoughts.
A new year can be a great opportunity for a new start. After the past two years however, I think all of us are just hoping for a little bit less upheaval…and as for the Government, well I think they’d probably like the toxic headlines to die down long enough for a swift half.
So if you’re wondering what trends we can expect to see and the direction of travel for those of us in the professional services sector I’ve detailed my thoughts.
The likes of Coca Cola and Facebook will be looking to new horizons, such as the ‘metaverse’ and ‘non-fungible tokens’ (whatever they are) in 2022, terms we will become more and more familiar with.
I believe those of us in legal services can expect change but of a much simpler kind.
Barely a few weeks ago, we all hoped the worst of the pandemic would soon be past. Working, practising law and growing a client base would go back to something resembling life pre-Covid, we thought.
But the rise of Omicron has changed all that. I know that all too well as I should be in Dubai right now delivering relationship training for partnership but because of a positive PCR I am grounded in London. And so, 2022 will be a year where all of us – lawyers, communications experts, marketeers and BDOs – adapt yet again. It’s now clear that viral intrusions into our everyday lives could be a factor for the foreseeable future.
TikTok for lawyers?
Whilst that sounds gloomy, the legal sector has a good track record of adapting to change. And it will have to carry on adapting, including the way lawyers communicate, grow their businesses and carry out their day-to-day work.
It isn’t an option. It’s essential for the whole legal sector and other professional services to ensure resilience in the face of the unpredictable nature of Covid.
That’s why I predict that 2022 will see lawyers looking at how they communicate as much as what they say.
From a law firm’s perspective, visibility to potential and existing clients is now more important than ever as we move away from in-person meetings and introductions being the norm. It means greater reliance on social media, appearing in the media, on the radio and television, podcasts, as well blogs, vlogs and even TikTok, which has its fair share of members from the world’s legal fraternity.
Now, obviously TikTok might be a step too far for many legal businesses. But communicating with the outside world regularly and across a range of channels is now essential for any law firm in the early 2020s, as we settle into a hybrid world of time in the office but also, for most people, more time at home.
Many firms have already set the groundwork for this and will be well set if restrictions limit in-person business development. But there are others who have put off major changes in the belief that the pandemic would pass and life would go back to how it was before.
Those businesses will surely realise that they need to get their house in order now that the anticipated return to normal looks some way off. The time for ‘wait and see’ has long since passed.
Of course, it is not as straightforward as it sounds. Before jumping onto the Twittersphere, blasting out a blog, picking up the phone to a journalist or filming yourself explaining new case law on your phone for YouTube, getting clarity on your firm’s purpose and core messaging is a must. It’s a task every professional services firm, in law or otherwise, should carry out in order to be ready to adapt to changing restrictions and risks that come with a long-term pandemic.
Knowing who you are before you tell the world about it should come first.
Listening more in 2022 and beyond
For 2022, I also predict that many legal sector businesses and lawyers will adopt client listening initiatives to understand more about how they are perceived and to identify where they can be more appealing and clearer on their messaging.
MD Communications already works with many international law firms on this listening exercise and the results are often not what the partners expected to hear. Nevertheless, it becomes an invaluable tool in ensuring you give legal services clients what they want and can help to develop new services.
Many law firms have often believed that they know their clients as well as anyone. That may be true, but with one rather important exception – the client themselves. Why wouldn’t you ask your clients what they want – to check you’re giving them what they need and crucially, to identify if they need any other service before one of your competitors does?
Marketing practices and innovation
In my view, in 2022 the legal sector is likely to move from short-term adaptation / keeping the wheels turning to longer-term thinking around how to operate effectively within the ‘new normal’ as we slowly emerge from the stop/start crisis management of the past two years.
As the PM might say, we need to work out how to live alongside the virus. That will likely drive more consolidation and innovation, and these are two areas in which law firms have generally failed to apply best practice marketing practice, despite the fact that most businesses would see effective communication and marketing as critical to success.
The best firms will realise that, in this new normal, how effectively they communicate with clients will be key, since whatever happens, we’re likely to face a world in which meeting at networking events and getting on in person isn’t likely to be enough to drive new business. That will mean that, as with many other long-term trends like digitisation, the gradual process of professionalising and improving the way lawyers build their professional and personal brands, grow their relationships and build a flow of high quality work will be brought forward – those that do this well will have a much more substantial advantage and we will start to see this factor making the difference between those doing well and those doing less well. We will also likely see the huge upswing in work for lawyers slowing down. I think it was Warren Buffett who said that, at the beach, you can’t tell who is naked until the tide goes out – in the latter half of 2022, some law firms will likely realise they’ve been swimming around in the emperor’s new clothes.