Industry: 9 lessons from pioneering digital marketing at Baker McKenzie Asia

I started out in digital marketing by accident, I kept providing digital solutions (that clients and partners loved) in my traditional marketing and business development (BD) role and was asked to do it full time, asked to build the function. So I ended up building the function from scratch for Baker McKenzie in Asia Pacific. This meant I was responsible for developing digital marketing skills for about 3500 people, around 350 of whom were partners. The first two years was focused on digital solutions for client work, such as deploying SharePoint in creative ways (one of my solutions got the client shortlisted for an FT Innovative Lawyer Award Asia), the second two years was focused on building the social media marketing and social selling function.

Was I any good?

The digital marketing function I built and lead increased Baker McKenzie’s Asia followers by 100%, generated about 8 million impressions, 60,000 engagements and 30,000 click throughs in 2 years. I also trained 200 people in person and 650 people in total in social selling and social media marketing. I significantly contributed to Baker McKenzie’s status as the world’s most followed law firm. I also successfully won business for partners through social selling techniques that were new to them, we even got a matter through LinkedIn InMail.

I have created innovative solutions for delivering legal advice and training to clients, including one that was shortlisted in the FT Innovative Lawyer Asia Pacific Awards 2015 in the In-house category by using SharePoint creatively. I also made a global project for one of our top clients possible where I reduced the costs of the project by using SharePoint and repurposing existing content; we were able to profitably charge half the fees and that was still almost US$1 million. I have also created a legal training game that walks employees of client companies through various ethically-challenging scenarios.

So what did I learn from those years?

Lesson #1: Processes are run by people

Your function will not get off the ground until you understand the individuals who will run them and their strengths and weaknesses. Many marketers are uncomfortable with technology and techie language. Also, many processes will be run by marketing newbies, so you may find that you have to teach marketing fundamentals along with the digital and tech thinking.

Lesson #2: You have two core user groups

Your marketing solutions had better work for target market AND those who run the processes. In professional services, your marketing team will run your digital marketing processes, while the partners run social selling processes and client service delivery. Your digital marketing processes need to capture information and form it into something that will work on digital channels, but it needs to do this in a way that is easy for the people who run the processes. It has to be much much easier than the traditional processes that they are running and it needs to segue seamlessly with them. This is because they will be reluctant to take on what they perceive to be the big task of learning about technology.

Lesson #3: Understand how the traditional marketing processes work

If you’re the lone specialist, you’ll be relying on the traditional marketers to integrate digital channels into their usual workload, so you had better understand what their workload looks like. Almost all big companies will get as much as they can out of their marketing support (it makes good business sense to do so), so they will likely already be at full capacity. Marketing also works in phases – campaign and campaign planning time is busy – so conversations that could be perceived as adding to the workload are best had during quiet periods.

Lesson #4: Use templates and apply graphic design

Templates will do 70% of the work for you so that you can focus on the high-value work. Graphic designers can design documents based on how people interact with them when you’re not there to explain how to use them. Those resources are usually focused towards the outside world in a large corporate, but try to harness them for your internal processes and you’ll get much higher quality information.

Lesson #5: Use a design lens to design your processes

A design perspective is about building empathy with the end user as an individual and solving unmet needs (see my blog post on this). Here is a real life example. I had one marketer who was responsible for distributing legal updates to clients by email and for maintaining the information in the Client Relationship Management (CRM) tool. She managed these as two separate processes. I’d had success winning business for the firm by getting partners to repurpose the legal updates they’d written to clients as LinkedIn articles. I suggested that she do this, then capture engagement from key clients in teh CRM to list the “hot leads”/ “prospects” (people interested in your thinking and willing to sit down and talk about your service). She could demonstrate significant added value within both processes, prove the value with data and without a lot of additional work. This social selling-based tweak to the process was shaped by this specific user/ processes manager, which gave it far more likelihood of sticking from a change management perspective. Along these lines, I also used user-specific “How To” guides and developed many different ways to repurpose content effectively.

Lesson #6: Record successful case studies

I would record successful case studies to use in lots of contexts:

  • Presentation-ready slides
  • “How To” user guides I’d leave with partners who I had coached in social selling
  • “Top Tip” on the bottom of various Outlook emails I used to encourage sharing of key social media posts

In professional services, partners have a key tension that you must understand. They must spend time on client work so that they can bill the client and bring in working capital, and they are responsible for developing new business. They are both sales people and the technical expert delivering on the service. Most will only try ideas with some form of track record.

Lesson #7: New leaders and new partners will experiment with you

New leaders want to make their mark and leave a legacy. They are willing to try new things. This was how I got the Ethics Training Game off the ground. I was bought in to Baker McKenzie specifically to build marketing and BD for the Asia Pacific Compliance practice with the regional chair of Dispute Resolution. I thought up the game and she took a risk on me by funding it, together we made it a reality.

Most Senior Associates are responsible for the project management of delivering technical legal work, with support from the partner. They generally do not get a huge amount of business development and sales experience. When they become a partner, they suddenly become accountable to the firm for generating new business. However, they may be operating in a market that is already well-serviced. They will need to try new things to compete – and new things includes digital marketing ideas. I persuaded one new partner to publish her recent legal update as a LinkedIn article, with some minor tweaks – the whole process took about 15 minutes. She had two calls asking for a quote for her services within two days based solely on the LinkedIn article. That’s pretty good return on investment.

Lesson #8: Be clear on the Job To Be Done

As the digital marketing specialist, you’ll be using the channels that are your specialty in the service of comms, marketing, business development, branding and much more. Be very clear what the purpose, or Job To Be Done, is and how you will measure that.

Comms is generally about profile, you normally have a single sentence statement right at the top. Success is when you’ve got a high volume of traffic or impressions from the right group of people.

Marketing is about bringing in “hot leads” or “prospects”, so you’ll use open questions to pique the curiosity of your reader. You’re more interested in conversion metrics, such as click through, comments or new followers. You want to capture these people and hand them to a sales person, which at a professional services firm is a partner. I once had a Director at a major global bank in Vietnam like a post from the firm LinkedIn account. I passed the lead on to the Managing Partner of the Vietnam office who connected the person with the lead financial services partner in Vietnam. That Director started attending firm financial services client meet ups. We successfully shifted that person from a new contact to a prospective client.

Lesson #9: There’s content everywhere

Really, people create content all the time. In professional services, it’s how they show their expertise. It is mostly textual and it’s often long. I am a big believer in repurposing content. You will need to put some thought into how to tweak it to fit the channel. I’ve ghostwritten some very effective articles by combining a legal update, knowledge of a partner’s practice, a recent thought leadership piece and a department guidebook. I mash them up and see what comes out before handing them over to the partner.

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