CMO collaborating for better business development strategies

CMOs: Why it pays to collaborate

August 21, 2019
Clare Brown

Information sharing and dissemination goes to the heart of what legal information professionals do, so why has it taken so long for legal business development teams to use the information we can generate? It seems the tide is finally turning. A recent webinar confirmed that a combination of internal and external information - and clever use of data -  is needed to make the shift from a reactive to predictive marketing strategy. 

The blurb for the webinar  “The modern CMO: Advancing marketing from reactive to predictive” stated that “Chief Marketing Officers who modernise business development strategies can accelerate revenue and market share growth with both new and existing clients. This requires unifying data across the entire client lifecycle, making that data transparent, and developing insights that drive better decision making across the board.”

CMO collaborating for better business development strategies

What is the ROI on your business development spend?

Intapp examined the findings of a recent study conducted by ALM Legal Intelligence and Calibrate Legal, which found that Am Law 200 firms saw an average return of $47 million on $1 million of marketing and business development spending. This seems quite impressive but raises further questions. Should law firms be spending more? What are they spending it on? Are law firms spending the money in the right way for the best returns?

For example, putting on events constitutes a major investment. But as the data shows, if 90% of profits come from only 5% to 10% of work, then innovative marketing and business development strategies could generate more work with current clients. If you can promise a valuable evening of networking and targeted discussion for 10 of your top clients, then that might provide a better return on investment than a general “get together” for 300 clients. 

Are you empowering your client?

As consumers we all expect more, and our clients are no exception. We live in a client empowered era and they are better informed than ever before. There is an increasing amount of publicly available information about what clients can expect from their legal advisers. For example, there is more transparency around deciding factors such as social responsibility, diversity issues, flexibility in the legal workforce, and most importantly fees. 

Even within firms transparency can be lacking. When a client asks how much a piece of work will cost, it is no longer enough for firms to say ‘it depends’. To make an informed decision, clients expect them to know costs so it is up to firms to provide definitive answers. They can only do this by breaking down silos and improving coordination between departments - Transparency requires trust so this needs to be built both inside and outside the organisation. 

As they said in the webinar, 'unified transparent data drive[s] better decision making'.

Learn more about client engagement ›

How can a CMO make a difference?

Once again this is about embedded teams. Information people have been aware of the importance and usefulness of being present within legal teams for some time now. This has filtered down to business development and marketing teams. As the webinar asked, is the CMO still too far removed from the work of their organisation? 

Firms collect information on all their clients; client contacts, historical relationships and conflict checking details, financial data and billing. However because of confidentiality issues - and rightly so -  this isn’t always openly available to personnel. On top of this there is a wealth of external information which often requires subscriptions to databases, expert searching, and current awareness alerts.  

Firms need a centralised internal database of all available information to make better decisions. However as every good CMO knows, this confidential, firm-specific information needs to be combined with external knowhow to be truly valuable. This is where they need to talk to their information teams to decide on what they want to see. 

Where does the CMO go from here?

If a finance director is unhappy about sharing information, how does a CMO justify why they want financial data? Often we are overcoming a law firm culture of secrecy and lack of transparency. The CMO should be pointing out the massive benefits of collaboration to the management team.

They should be talking regularly with knowledge and information teams. They should also be very specific with the finance team about the type of financial information required. From this combination of external and internal information, only then can they start on a pathway to effective key client planning. As the Intapp report says:

Key-client plans build the foundation for a better client experience by creating a tailored approach to strategy, origination, and execution of engagements. With the right technology in place, marketing teams can rapidly access client data that allows firms and lawyers to stay ahead of their client demands and anticipate their needs.  

Key Takeaways for CMOs

  • Trust is key. Astronauts, medical professionals and other high performing teams face severe consequences for failure. Although lawyers work within a different environment, there is much lawyers can learn from these high stress experiences. For example lawyers need organised and managed data systems, well thought out strategies, and everyone working towards a common goal.
  • Tech is key. The report talks about cultivating emerging technology to allow firms to identify client needs at the scale and speed necessary. It is not humanly possible to keep up with the amount of data being generated. Surprisingly, many lawyers aren’t aware that many systems in the firm already employ NLP or machine learning.
  • People are key. The CMO is the people expert; build allies, make people happy; develop trusted relationships; establish a reputation. There are multiple parts to the business development / CMO role and they can use their people skills bring departments together.

The most important part of tech solutions is communication and collaboration with a tech companies. Tell them about your problems and see if they listen. Can they come up with a meaningful solution, and promise ongoing support? If they can’t, then you don’t need their product. Always check that the provider knows your industry; your clients; your challenges.


Tech is helping firms combine and manipulate data so that they can concentrate their efforts on existing clients, as well as spotting new markets and opportunities. No doubt it is a challenge to bring all the data together, to tell the full story, and to integrate data culture into the fabric of a firm. But for those who persevere, the rewards are significant.