I’ve written often that ‘There is no competition.” And I believe this.
However, when it comes to positioning yourself in the legal market you still need to understand the competitive environment you are working in order to position yourself properly.
What has interested me the most these past years is how there are a tremendous number of new venues available today to solo practitioners to learn not only about their competition but also about their potential client. This ‘intelligence’ 1) didn’t really exist before the last few years and 2) (thankfully for you) still remains a mystery to the majority of legal professionals today.
Social media in all its incarnations (blogs, podcasts, wikis, communities, etc.) is a ‘soft intelligence’ gathering vehicle unparalleled in terms of ‘real time’ results, accessibility and low cost.
Why are these vehicles so brilliant and different then most traditional information gathering vehicles? Because those who are participating are doing so enthusiastically and voluntarily. They are offering their opinions in a raw, unsanitized way. Let’s face it, when we think we are dealing with our peers we are more spontaneous, honest and more revealing then if we were cold-called or surveyed.
For lawyers who understand and appreciate the value of social media, what can you learn in terms of competitive intelligence? If you know what you are looking for you will find:
• Attitudes about you, your services, your competitors and the profession
• What they like and don’t like about the above
• Specific challenges you are up against when trying to deliver your services and attract clients
• Trends in the profession as a whole and in your practice areas
• (Important) The unmet needs of your clients, or potential clients and even those who would refer you clients.
Most importantly, the information is in real time conversation. We see this over and over again with Twitter as people use hashtags to highlight a particular topic and Facebook when someone comments on our ‘status’ updates. If you are tuned-in and engaged you would be wise to join the conversation to learn more about the issue and try to address the issue immediately.
This soft intelligence isn’t really about actual facts and figures. It is about attitudes and why your potential clients may act the way they do. Yet, attitude can be just as important, if not more important than, traditional market research.
When you glimpse into the mind of your potential client it can help you understand their underlying assumptions, which not only helps to explain their behavior today but also helps you to see how they are likely to behave in the future (both good and bad). I’m not saying to forgo traditional data research, but for the solo, this low cost analysis of social media in conjunction with the more traditional use of social media can provide the ultimate information you need to shape your marketing plan and tailor your services.
It’s fair to say most people using social media do so to check out what everyone else is doing. Seldom do they turn the light back upon themselves by spending time analyzing what’s right in front of them. When was the last time you really analyzed the comments on your blog and who was doing the commenting? We block spam bots and porn on Twitter but have we analyzed who is following us and why? Same thing when it comes to who is connecting with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Paying attention to what is being said about you, to your face and behind your back, and who is intentionally avoiding talking about you at all and why is important. I’m not preaching paranoia here. I’m simply stating there is a vast pool of information available to you and you should be tuned in to seeking it out, receiving it and working with it properly to improve your practice, the client experience and your competitive edge.
It may seem like another incredibly time-consuming task that will take you away from your work and your clients. But it really isn’t all that time-consuming. What is important is understanding why it is necessary to your practice to do so. Try this one very simple step for starters:
Create Google Alerts for:
- Your personal name
- Your firm name
- Your practice area
- Your primary and secondary competitor
- Key words in your practice area
- Your clients’ names, businesses, etc.
- Potential clients’ names, businesses, etc.
Have these alerts come not more than once a day.
If you are monitoring a particular matter, have alerts on a given topic, name, etc. just for that period of time it interests you.
This is one simple step you can take to monitor conversations in real time.
Many pay big bucks to legal marketing firms to learn ‘soft intelligence’ and these marketing firms are the very ones who tend to dismiss social media as a colossal waste of time. Most solos have neither the money nor the inclination to pay marketing firms for that which they can gather themselves especially when they already utilize social media. Understanding the value of this soft intelligence plus this simple ”no-cost’ solution keeps you on top of your game with your potential clients and light years ahead of the competition.