FindLaw Speaks with Marketing Guru Roberta Montafia

Roberta Montafia is a legal marketing consultant with over 15 years experience, both domestic and international. She is the former Global Director of Marketing for one of the world's largest law firms, a past president of the Legal Marketing Association and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Legal Sales and Services Organization. Roberta specializes in providing client development initiatives and marketing planning services to a variety of clients, covering a range of services such as brand development, practice and industry group development and attorney training.

What would you identify as some of the biggest challenges facing the legal marketing profession?

The necessity to demonstrate differentiation in a meaningful way continues to present itself as a crucial issue. The pace of change in our industry is accelerated and the landscape continues to change. Particularly in light of all the merger activity, there is an ever-increasing need for firms to find a way to demonstrate their uniqueness and the value they bring to the marketplace.

What do you think is one of the biggest changes to the landscape in recent years?

The maturation of the business of the law. Firms have been investing in the creation of a marketing infrastructure focused on promotion and positioning. We now see that internal focus transitioning to an external focus on business development and sales. And, more and more firms are looking at sales functions modeled on the corporate world. Also, the threat that is coming from the UK firms. There's a natural progression for the UK Magic Circle firms to come into the US as they continue to expand. Additionally, the US based companies with international business holdings are likely to look to those firms for representation. However, the growth they are looking for is through top-tier work, which then leaves good opportunities for medium sized US firms.

With the challenges of differentiation, a number of firms have looked to Sales Professionals (a.k.a. Business Developers) to aid in this, what do you think they add to the equation?

The systematic approach to selling requires a different way of thinking about developing business for the lawyers. The sales professionals bring big picture vision, which is often missing. They bring expertise in account management and are oriented towards exploration. The sales people will play a crucial role in establishing methodologies and training the attorneys in new skill sets necessary to move a firm from an internally focused organization, which most are today, to an integrated approach that focuses on driving revenue growth and building client loyalty.

How do you see sales people fitting into the law firm environment and what role will marketing take in business development?

It's a natural partnership. I see the sales function teaming with both marketing and the attorneys as they work to identify and pursue business opportunities. Marketing will serve as the strong foundation and provide tools -- similar to how we provide support for attorneys now but in a more sophisticated manner.

What types of tools can marketers then offer to their attorneys or sales professionals?

The marketers will need to continue to provide the traditional marketing/communications tools that promote and position their firms in a manner that is in concert with the business strategy. A successful sales function depends on a strong marketing function.

In talking to various industries, how is Industry-driven marketing different than the traditional Practice Group focus?

Industry-driven marketing adds an additional piece to the puzzle. It requires many more specifics and knowledge of the targeted client company, where they are coming from and the challenges they face. It makes us speak more directly to our clients, understand not only their specific business but the industry in which they do business. It requires focus on the development of client teams. These client teams not only bring great comfort to the client, but provide the expertise, talent, and mindset to look at the client as a whole. This gives the client what they want -- legal solutions to business problems. In order to accomplish that, we have to get better at training our industry and practice group leaders. Typically a group leader is chosen because of seniority or because they are rainmakers without much thought as to whether they have good management skills. We have to help them become effective leaders.

How can a marketing department build more accountability or return on investment into its practices?

Return on investment has been difficult to measure in the past as much of marketing was done without specific goals and measurements attached. In addition, many firms continue to struggle with the technology required to effectively track and measure efforts. To begin with we need to be religious in our planning and goal setting for everything we do. Having a regular seminar for 400 people just because you have always done so may not be the best use of your dollars, but having a session for 4 of the right people has a higher probability of generating new business. It's very fact specific and you need to consistently track results. Results don't just have to be tied to new business. It can be increased media hits, article placement, win rates for beauty parades and pitches and all the other efforts that enhance your position in the marketplace.