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Marketing Technology: What’s That?

Back when I started in Law Firm Marketing, the IT department was God and Marketing was a vestigial part of Admin. Everything that didn’t earn fees was dumped in Marketing. We took care of golf tournaments, firm giveaways, and oh yes, holiday cards. We didn’t decide what events would be run or newsletters issued; we just did what we were told. Many of us could scarcely keep from muttering, “Did you want fries with that?” as we left a meeting.

IT, on the other hand, decided what software the firm would use, what hardware to run it on, and what the communication tools would be. IT hated Marketing because they asked for tools that IT hadn’t heard of. Marketing hated IT because Marketing needed programs that IT knew nothing about and could not support. If the Marketing team had a graphic designer, that person always wanted a Mac, while everyone else was on a PC.

Fast forward a couple of decades and in the best-run firms, the line between the two departments has blurred. Technology is now recognized as a tool, not magic, and IT as a service department, not God. Marketing has added Business Development to its portfolio and has fought hard to win a seat at the decision-making table.

The reason for Marketing’s gains is that Marketing can now reach a much wider audience, much more quickly, and much less expensively. What’s more, Marketing can now analyze results very quickly—all through the use of technology. In fact, a new breed has sprung up: the Marketing Technologist works in the Marketing Department and can speak the same language as the IT Department. This new breed understands both marketing principles and its technical applications, from websites to Client Relationship Management (CRM) systems, from email marketing campaigns to social media advertising.

So this new person is the one who looks after the Twitter feed, updates the website, and keeps the CRM system up to date, right? Er, no. All that can be done by anyone who is competent at data entry (read typing) and takes direction well.

The true Marketing Technologist should be able to strategize how to use technology to help achieve the firm’s business development goals. The Marketing Technologist can evaluate and choose marketing technology providers. The Marketing Technologist should be able to work directly with IT on installation, rollout, and training. The Marketing Technologist is skilled at data analysis—not only to test the effectiveness of marketing initiatives but also to look for opportunities.

Above all, the Marketing Technologist has a very clear idea of who the firm’s ideal client is and what that ideal client does. (So should everyone in the firm, but that’s another story for another day.)

If you’re still with me, you’re probably thinking all this is Big Firm stuff. In firms where the Administrator is the IT Department and the Marketing Department as well as the HR and Accounting Departments, marketing technology is likely something you think you DON’T need. Nothing could be further from the truth. Judicious use of technology keeps small firms competitive and actually keeps their costs down. In my column “Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Marketing”, Number 7 was Automate, Automate, Automate. The gist of the recommendation was that automation has been the great leveller in law firm marketing; whatever marketing you decide to do, there’s a way to automate at least some of it.

You don’t necessarily need a Marketing Technologist on the payroll, just on the other end of the phone or on your computer screen. One of my earliest columns for SLAW was “Staffing the Law Firm Marketing Department: Do You Rent or Do You Buy?” In it I define what can be outsourced and what should be kept in-house.

The one thing that must be done in house is goal-setting: what are our business development goals? What business do we want? This is the question that the law firm leadership must answer. Once your marketing people (in-house or outsourced) know that, they should be able to figure out how best to reach them. At least some of those ways will involve marketing technology.

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