Terri Pepper Gavulic, Executive Director, TerraLex
We were honoured to have the chance to catch up with Terri Pepper Gavulic, Executive Director at TerraLex and chair of the Law Firm Marketing Summit, and to discuss her view on challenges facing law firms and the topics on the upcoming agenda.
We’re delighted to have you back to chair the Law Firm Marketing Summit, Terri. What do you perceive to be the biggest change to legal services in the past couple of years that you’ve been chairing the Summit?
The level of competition is becoming relentless. This is not just from other law firms but also from entities such as accounting firms, LPOs, speciality service providers and even clients themselves who are doing more in-house. Technology solutions also add a level of competition for law firms.
When you look at how other professional services sectors are adapting their marketing and business development strategies to changing market conditions, what do you feel the legal sector should be emulating?
Law firms need to look at their remuneration and incentive systems because it is true that you, “get what you pay for.” The traditional billable hour scheme has always stood in the way of business development, teamwork, and the institutionalization of clients throughout a particular firm.
Law firms should also embrace technology for routine and commoditized work, so marketing and business development can focus on selling higher level services to clients, where the value proposition is very clear and compelling.
As the director of one of the largest global legal networks, what are you hearing from your members are the greatest challenges facing law firms?
There are a few challenges facing all law firms these days, including our members. For example, serving clients globally while remaining independent is a challenge, and the primary reason leading law firms join a network such as TerraLex.
Law firms are also forced to address myriad threats to the workplace, which are also impacting other industries. This includes cyber threats, discrimination and harassment issues in the post #metoo world, and maintaining partner profitability while investing in the necessary technology and operations infrastructure to remain competitive.
One of the biggest challenges for marketing and business development teams working within law firms is to engage the managing partners in the process – what’s your personal tip for getting this to work?
I have a few tips based on my prior experiences as an in-house marketing professional. First, it’s imperative to have a direct reporting relationship with the Managing Partner for all business and client issues (even if you’re supervised by a COO, Executive Director or another leader). This is something that’s easiest to set up at the outset of taking a new job, and if the firm refuses, it might be a red flag that their commitment to marketing and business development isn’t as strong as it should be.
Next, engage the MP on client feedback initiatives. Have them join you on client visits with the firm’s top clients. I have always found this to be the most compelling way to engage the MP.
What do you believe is essential to creating a positive and effective content marketing strategy?
Starting with the actual content, it needs to be “digestible” and not a legal treatise. Think of it as a “Ted Talk” in written form. It should also be written in a commercial manner, from the client’s perspective. Finally, it should have a clear call to action so the reader is driven to understand the problem or opportunity presented and that they should call their lawyer as the next step.
Once you have good content, the delivery steps should include the use of social media delivery systems (which requires focused and daily effort); good SEO so your content is found easily in searches (and everything that goes with that such as meta tagging); and delivery in a variety of methods to suit the needs of a varied audience. This could be email, on your website, and any other method possible.
What do you believe are the most common errors in customer relationship management?
First and foremost is forgetting to listen to the voice of the client. This means you must regularly ask clients for feedback and then use that feedback. CRM should be give and take and not just a firm pushing messages out to its clients. Another big error that I’ve heard repeatedly from clients is when their law firms don’t tell them of other services available. Often lawyers are hesitant to do this, whether because they don’t think “selling” is appropriate; they don’t want to risk their client if someone else doesn’t handle the client just right; or there are disincentives through the remuneration system. But clients will say that they value when their lawyer is thinking about their business holistically and making recommendations or suggestions. This saves the client the time and effort of selecting another service provider and protects the lawyer from losing his or her client to a competitor.
Looking at the agenda for the Law Firm Marketing Summit, which sessions are you most looking forward to?
They all sound fantastic. One that I’ll highlight and am especially glad to see is Bogdan Gecić presenting on Creating Your Social Media Voice. Bogdan’s firm is a new and dynamic TerraLex member, so I’ve had a firsthand opportunity to see what a master he is at leveraging social media. Our team has been gobsmacked at how effective he is, so I can’t wait for him to share his tips with our audience.
If you were to relocate to work in another country, which would you pick?
Toughest question yet! My favourite part of this job is the chance to travel around the world and visit different countries. But if I were to relocate it would have to be somewhere tropical so I can SCUBA dive – maybe Turks & Caicos.
For more information, check out the agenda for the Law Firm Marketing Summit 2018.