Using a RevOps Framework to Transition to a Digital First Revenue Enablement Function
In our previous blog post, we discussed how the current ‘new normal’ that law firms find themselves in, is actually a perfect catalyst and opportunity for innovation and transformation, particularly in one the most crucial aspects of a firm’s bottom line: client acquisition and retention processes.
Most law firms have some form of Business Development and Marketing function in place, however, they tend to be out-dated legacy structures that mimic traditional marketing and customer acquisition methods.
“Law firms hire Marketers in Business Development roles and then use them as administrators” –
Former Chief Marketing Officer, Top 50 Global firm
Some of the challenges we have observed with these legacy organization structures are:
• Reactive rather than proactive: The organization structure is based on the assumptions that lawyers have sufficient sales and marketing knowledge to know how to plan and focus their efforts and which silo to request assistance from internally. Alternatively, Business Development Directors become the administrative role connecting lawyers to the appropriate departments – an ineffective use of their skills.
• Silos and multiple everything: Functions are “traditional” and not relevant in the digital–first environment. When combined with the inherent expectation of partners that they receive “white glove service” each silo is staffed for peak capacity, resulting in operational inefficiencies, particularly given the lack of metrics. Decision making as well is reactive and by committee and rarely based on the right metrics.
• Skills gap: Often, a single BD director role is expected to be responsible for sales activities such as generating leads, and growing customers as well as marketing activities such as brand marketing, practice area/service offering marketing, content marketing and demand generation. This usually translates to a skills gap.
• Lack of automation: Where technology exists, the Martech stack is disparate with limited utility. It is a quite common need to access 5-6 different systems for each sales/marketing activity, such as a marketing list and client contact management tool, pitching tool (templates, CVs, photos, previous proposal data),experience database (of previous matters), mailing tool resulting in the need for an administrative layer to oversee correct usage.
In comparison, modern sales and marketing teams in the corporate world are technology and insights led. B2B companies have seen significant adoption of the Revenue Operations (RevOps) framework focused on supporting front-end sales professionals with a cohesive unit comprised of inside sales, marketing, customer support, and operations, to keep the funnel active. A good discussion on B2B organizations transitioning to a RevOps organization structure is presented here.
So, what would an organization structure based on a RevOps framework look like within law firms and how would this benefit fee-earners?
The key principles we considered in defining a RevOps based function within law firms were:
• Partners are the account executives/owners of the client relationships. What key functions are needed to proactively support fee earners in this role and how to avoid unnecessary wastage of their time in ineffective business development activities?
• Centralizing the operational elements of marketing, sales and customer experience, so suitable metrics can be defined and tracked.
• Implementing automation and a modern technology stack to support all aspects of the customer acquisition and retention activities.
A modern law firm focused on revenue operations would have four main functions:
In the last decade, law firms have invested much effort in improving operating practices to deliver legal services but failed to apply a similar rigor to client acquisition and retention processes. The idea that sales is all about relationships still exists. The enablement function plays an important role in empowering partners to focus their client acquisition and retention efforts on a well-defined methodology – Strategize, Listen, Act and Measure. More on this methodology is presented in our blog post here.
It does this by:
1. Enabling one-time activities such as a proactive data and insights-led strategy development at a firm and individual lawyer level.
2. Embedding ongoing coaching into work and facilitating collaboration and execution. Currently these activities are ad-hoc, reactive and spread across Business Development and Professional Development functions.
3. Institutionalising weekly, monthly, quarterly routines that reinforces the focus on client acquisition goals – e.g. key account meetings, industry workshops, win/loss workshops.
Based on our experience of working with law firms, certain key principles are critical to implement a best practices Enablement function:
• Avoid 1:1 and/or “in-class” only sessions
• Facilitate monthly or quarterly industry/practice group sessions that are data and insights driven – monthly or quarterly meetings among lawyers have been in place for some time soon but without content and insights-based strategy support, these sessions tend to be ineffective and without sufficient follow-up.
Best practices of lawyer enablement are further discussed in our blog here. For many firms, outsourcing this function to experts initially may be the best path to transformation.
The current state at most law firms is that resources are siloed and spread across Library and a minimally staffed business analyst or CI teams and are reactive in their process. The activities are spread across business analyst teams, BD directors or marketers, and the skills, tools and technology required to support a digital-first, insights-driven approach have not been considered. The inherent assumption is that Lawyers know what market or client intelligence is available and how to use this.
Insights functions need to become more proactive, align with firm strategy, gather data, and extract insights to support all aspects of the ‘Strategize, Listen, Act and Measure’ client acquisition methodology. This is a best practice already well implemented in consulting and accounting firms and severely lagging in law firms.
Centralizing Operations is core to implementing the RevOps framework. Given the size and “in the background” nature of revenue enablement functions within law firms, operational tasks such as communications (newsletters, webinars), proposal writing, and digital marketing (SEO, social media) can be combined with measurement of metrics such as progress through the sales funnel, win/loss rates, and CAC and centralized in a single function.
By doing this, resources can be cross-trained – as an example, skills required for proposal writing are similar to skills required to support internal and external communication and digital marketing initiatives, but usually lie in two separate silos at law firms.
In the current cost-cutting environment, this is a key area where synergies and efficiencies can be identified, particularly with the use of best of breed project management technologies.
The current marketing and sales technology landscape is widespread (1500+ SaaS technologies) enabling a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness in the operational aspects of the function. The typical law firm uses 17 separate marketing technologies, across silos, and that lack of integration is the No. 1 technology challenge facing CMOs.
RevOps on the other hand takes ownership of a single technology stack that should be used for sales, marketing, and client relationship management.
Resources evaluating and managing selection and implementation of these technologies will be an increasingly important resource and should not be blended with a central IT team whose priorities will be supporting professionals in their practice, as they should be.
Identifying Specialization vs. Generalization in Each Activity
To effectively transform the function, several roles within the existing teams need to be redefined. For example, the role of a traditional business development director as a generalist support function that shuffles between operations, enablement and insights activities and/or executes an administrative role coordinating across silos, does not fit in to the RevOps structure.
Transitioning to RevOps will require law firms to commit to a firmwide transformation and appoint an executive to play a leadership role in establishing a single purpose and a common vision around “profitable revenue generation”. In recent times, law firms have oscillated between CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), CCO (Chief Client Officer) and sometimes both roles exist within a firm without a clarity of role definition. Furthermore, there is an ongoing debate around whether this role ought to be staffed by a lawyer (who would understand the nuances of legal practice and thus be able to communicate with fee-earners) or a marketing expert.
We suggest that if law firms are serious about client acquisition and revenue generation, the role that needs to be in place is that of Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). The CRO’s role should be to bring together lawyers, business development, marketing, and other supporting teams aligned with a single goal of growing revenues. The CRO would be responsible for customer experience across the funnel and implement the right teams, metrics, and systems to drive revenue growth.
With regard to the debate on whether the individual needs to be a lawyer or not, we would suggest this is a very individual firm decision as it is deeply intertwined with the topics of firm culture and compensation. Identifying a successful business development lawyer willing to step away from an active billable practice to take on this role is challenging for a range of reasons. On the other hand, hiring an external expert not familiar with firm culture is also subject to a number of challenges.
A key aspect of transitioning to RevOps will be the need for hiring/training teams on new age skills that are already commonplace in the technology sector. Some of the upgraded skills required by the teams to make RevOps work in the law firm environment include:
1. Conversant with technology: Understand new technologies and tools. Know what it takes to implement new tech and processes for adoption within the firm.
2. Familiarity with digital marketing: Understand content marketing, funnel, and growth hacking techniques.
3. Comfortable with data: Metrics driven approach and conversant with managing high-velocity data and processes.
RevOps is a fairly recent phenomenon and there is no single approach, structure or playbook that works for every organisation. However, the underlying principles of operational excellence and metrics-based decision making have stood the test of time.
Achieving such a transformation in a law firm, particularly the alignment and refocusing of various teams within firms is challenging as it involves dealing with significant cultural issues. A good way to start the process is to begin scoping the entire business development and marketing function to assess the scope for transformation.
Law firms have been known to wait for a crisis to push through challenges – and the current crisis provides an excellent opportunity to make a significant impact on long term viability, drive law firm innovation forward, and ensure that firms are suitably equipped to thrive in the new ‘digital-first’ world.