Strong Trends Energize Law Firm Market Research – Part 2

This is part 2 of the article Strong Trends Energize Law Firm Market Research. To read part 1, click here.

Researching Market TrendsThe best brands today are interactive

In the past century, branding was a one-way process – delivered from the provider of the product or the service to the consumer of the product or service. The brand was tightly controlled and conveyed to audiences using traditional mass media buys, placements and speaking engagements.

“Today, thanks to the Internet, branding is now much more interactive and collaborative,” said Elkins. “It is created and controlled not by its owner, but by what clients and consumers say about the brand in the course of uncontrolled social media conversations.

“The consumer landscape is dynamic,” said Elkins. “Brands must complement traditional methods of market research and message delivery with non-traditional, innovative research approaches that successfully reveal clients’ wants, wishes, desires and unmet needs. Brands must be nimble enough to adapt quickly and engage across multiple touch points.”

The best brands today solve problems

Today’s compelling law firm brand is not about the features of a product or service. Instead, it is about meeting clients’ needs and solving clients’ problems. The brand is about solutions.

“For example, retail customers rarely want to buy a drill just to have a drill,” said Elkins. “They want to solve the problem of mounting a new shelf in the kitchen on which to place their cookbooks. Ownership of a drill must be branded as leading to that result.”

Traditional branding efforts followed a linear pattern, with a beginning and an end. This is the pattern most law firms are used to.

  1. Conduct market/brand research
  2. Understand the market perceptions of an entity’s brand, products or services
  3. Define (or redefine) the desired value proposition and brand promise
  4. Build a brand platform
  5. Deliver the brand through outbound communications

Today, effective branding efforts are circular and continuous:

  1. Conduct market/brand research to determine perception and value
  2. Engage in client intelligence via “client listening”
  3. Look to and prepare for the future using “trend spotting”
  4. Measure success, using benchmark campaigns, initiatives and monitoring
  5. Integrate marketing research in ways that meet the needs and match the comfort zones of attorneys
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat

Listening posts in an interactive environment

The best way to find out what is in the hearts and minds of your clients is to ask them – using both quantitative and (increasingly) quantitative methods. These tools work not only for market research, but can also be used when creating persuasive and effective strategies for juries in the courtroom.

“To know what your clients are thinking and feeling, law firms must create a way for them to interact with you,” said Elkins. “We call these methods ‘listening posts.’”

Listening posts can provide real-time monitoring on a set schedule of public opinion and trends, using surveys (online or phone), interviews and discussions. Surveys can be general, to take the pulse of opinions and emerging trends, or specific, to track specific issues or activities. Group discussions (online on in person) involving 6-24 people from a targeted group can delve deeply into member values.

“Static quantitative data gained by this process can be used to create attitudinal and demographic profiles,” said Elkins. “Dynamic quantitative information such as attitudes, behaviors, emotions and personal values) can be used along with demographics to create segments. The audiences in targeted profiles and segments can be presented with specific test messages or arguments.

When your target audience is a jury, arguments and trial strategy can be tested on segments in simulated settings, such as mock juries, shadow juries and communications workshops.

“There is a definite movement away from strictly demographic profiles and towards segments based on psychographic behavioral information,” said Elkins.

Another way to “listen” to how clients are branding your services is to create your own online client advisory panels and communities, such as bulletin boards (online, moderated discussion with individuals reacting to information you post), strategy labs (in-person or online group interactive sessions among you, your clients and your influencers) and online communities (live, real-time, dynamic online communities to use as a sounding board on emerging issues and activities). These are tools that you create, manage and maintain.
“Finally,” said Elkins, “ law firms can ‘listen’ to clients by using software that ‘scrapes’ and reports on websites and social media sites (that you do not create or maintain) to monitor online discussion of cases and legal issues — sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, public message boards, and relevant online media coverage.

“Scraping tools can be fine-tuned to measure and weigh the ‘volume’ of a discussion, the sentiment (pro and con) of a discussion, and the prominence of those participating in the discussion,” said Elkins. “Whether you like it or not, what these people are saying is shaping your brand. You must respond.”

In the past, law firms have based their business development decisions on demographic data generated by market research. Today, in order to achieve the best results, they must factor behavioral data into that equation. In addition, they must recognize that their clients now own their brands. They must listen carefully, especially online and in real time, to understand what their clients are saying.

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Janet Ellen Raasch

About Janet Ellen Raasch

Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer, ghostwriter, editor and blogger at Constant Content Blog who works closely with professional services providers – especially lawyers, law firms, legal consultants and legal organizations – to help them achieve name recognition and new business through publication of keyword-rich content for the web and social media sites as well as articles and books for print. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or

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  1. Strong Trends Energize Law Firm Market Research - Part 2 - Legal Marketing News | Legal Marketing News - 03/10/2014

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