Of all the things 2020 has inflicted on us, the worst must be that IT IS 2020. How did we end up here!?
It's 31 years since the release of "Back to the Future 2", predicting a dire future for us all. The lawless autocracy depicted in the film's 'bad' version of 2015 was bad enough, but our real 2020 is arguably worse!
As I say, the most striking fact is that it's now 2020. The 00s and 10s have sped by in a blur. It seems only a few short years since I finished my law degree, but now my peers are partners and directors in law firms! Looking back, the only way I can define what period of that era I'm looking at is to look at the technology.
Myspace, Flip-Phones, iPods, MSN messenger, Kindle, Blackberry and Nintendo Wii have all come and gone. And they now all look terribly dated compared to today's tech. Sadly, no-one has yet invented the Hoverboard.
This relentless march of time and technology has shaped the marketplace for everything - including legal services.
The word "millennial" is thrown around a lot, and not always in a complimentary way. Surprisingly (to me, at least) a millennial is defined as someone born between 1981 and 1996 (or, aged between 24 and 39). A group into which I fall.
A millennial is more precisely regarded as a "digital native". Someone who has grown up surrounded by (rather than having adapted to) technology.
Marketing to Millennials
This generation are now buyers and decision makers. So we need to tailor our marketing - and our selling - to their expectations.
A recent survey of 200 millennials working in B2B positions found that:
- 56% of millennials working in B2B hold director-level positions or higher.
- 42% hold managerial positions.
- 21% have vice president or C-level roles.
- 44% say they’re the primary decision maker.
- 73% are involved in buying decisions.
This group of buyers is pushing knowledge gatekeepers aside. They are used to carrying out most of life's daily activities in a digital or tech-driven fashion themselves. And it's not only B2B that poses these challenges. This generation are buying homes, accruing wealth, writing wills. They are, as Generation Z would put it, "adulting". (Sidenote: this is just one of the many crimes this particular generation have perpetrated on the English language...)
What does this mean? For a start, these buyers have grown up and worked more or less entirely in the information economy. They are used to accessing information for themselves, conducting research and becoming informed before making a decision.
A survey by Gartner found that 45% of the buying journey takes place independently - both online and off. Only 17% of the time spent buying is spent talking to potential suppliers - and that means ALL suppliers. Not just you!
Not only that, but the buying journey is distinctly non-linear. The graphic below describes a B2B buying journey, but the journey for consumers isn't too different.
Google's "Zero Moment of Truth" expands on this in a consumer context. The "First Moment of Truth" was a term coined by Proctor & Gamble to describe the moment a buyer decides which item to purchase among the various options on the shelf.
The "Zero Moment of Truth" is the product of a buyers research - which product stands out as best among the various options, based on their online research?
So, what can you do to make sure you're marketing to today's audience? Well, as the title suggests, today's buyer wants to be enabled to make a purchase rather than assisted.
Serving the modern buyer
So, what does the modern buyer want to see?
A streamlined digital experience - a modern, navigable website.
Interactive and video content.
Self-service and ecommerce options wherever possible.
Reviews, recommendations and case studies that mirror their own situation or use case.
Indeed, The B2B Millennial Buyer Survey Report found that the most popular forms of content were:
- Reviews - preferred by 61% of respondents.
- Webinars - preferred by 47% of respondents.
- Case Studies - preferred by 34% of respondents.
The survey also asked: "All other things being equal (i.e, price, specs, quality), how important is an excellent digital buying experience to your vendor selection?"
- 55% said it was "extremely important"
- 33% said it was "very important"
- 10% said it was "somewhat important"
- Or, 98% in total!
What kind of content do they want to see? The answer is not "crap".
That seems obvious, but a study by Forrester found that much of the marketing content shared online is, well, crap:
A rather forthright slide produced by Velocity Partners (which can be accessed here) eviscerates much of today's content marketing:
Is your website content "crap"? Or is it, as the slides suggest it ought to be, "intelligent, useful, entertaining and worth consuming?"
Content marketing is a separate topic, and one which we'll follow up on in a later post. Suffice to say, most law firm websites have fairly generic content on their main pages and what might be described as "churnalism" on their "blog" pages.
Unlike Doc Brown's time machine in Back to the Future 2, your law firm's marketing strategy cannot run on garbage.
The takeaway is that the more engaging, informative and useful content you have on your site, the more likely you are to win the "Zero Moment of Truth" against your competitors.
Helping buyers buy
What we've described above is "buyer enablement". Buyer enablement is the methodology of removing friction from the buying process. It means providing information and interactive steps that enables buyers to take many of the steps to a purchase for themselves. Webforms, calculators, livechat, appointment-setting tools and other readily-available technologies can elevate a simple website above the competition.
Does your website provide a friction-free buying process? Can someone take action on your site? Does it generate solid, profitable leads for you? If the answer to any of that is 'no', then it's probably time to fire up a time machine and bring it into the 20's.
The central conceit of the second Back to the Future film is that the film's antagonist, Biff Tannen, gets his hands on a sporting Almanac containing historical results - quite a profitable find, if you can get access to a time machine!
If you could take what you know about law firm marketing now and travel back in time 20 years, how different would the present look? How different will the future look if you start now?
As I say, perhaps the most striking thing about 2020 is that someone born in 1999 is now 21. Feel old yet?