Part five of a five-part article:
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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