Winter Webinars, Part Two: Competitive Intelligence, A Joint Effort

The Legal Marketing Association (LMA) recently got together with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) for a webinar/conversation called “Library and Marketing: Why Can’t We Be Friends?”  This is LMA’s,first collaboration with AALL, so it looks like a promising start.

Presenters for the webinar represented the marketing and library functions within their firms.

– Ben Brighoff, Competitive Intelligence Manager, Jenner & Block LLP 
 – Jennifer Bratcher, Director of Client Services, Special Projects, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC
– Juli Hughes, Director of Library Services, Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP
– Caren Luckie, Research Attorney, Jackson Walker LLP

The webinar went for one hour, and the presenters didn’t even get to all the slides, so obviously there was a lot to say on the competitive intelligence function in law firms.  Below are some takeaways.

Takeaway 1

“Competitive intelligence” can be a confusing term, more used by marketing or information professionals than by attorneys.

The webinar included some listener polls, the first of which determined that competitive intelligence was actually the third most popular term used for research done either for, or by, the marketing department.

What do you call research done for / by Marketing?  Ordered by number of responses-

  1. Business Intelligence
  2. Company Research
  3. Competitive Intelligence
  4. Market Intelligence

Presenters’ discussion:

-Jennifer said CI may be used more by Marketing, while attorneys just say research.

-Caren said business development or company research are terms used at her firm, not CI.  All of the terms are appropriate, but CI just never took hold.

-CI can be an awkward or confusing term—does it refer to research on a company, or to a report on competitors?

-CI should denote intelligence that makes the firm more competitive.  This intelligence can include business reports, looking at competitors, providing useful/concrete analysis.

Another listener poll indicated that the business development information most frequently requested was company reports (by far), followed by competitor profiles, and then industry analysis.  Jennifer said company reports with information on who handles the company’s legal matters was their standard request.

Takeaway 2

For the most part, marketing and library/research departments do get along, according to the panelists’ experiences.  Key to making the relationship work seems to be communication; understanding the other department’s role/concerns/pressures, and realizing that you’re both working toward a shared goal.

Presenters’ discussion:

-Communication is important.  Marketing usually gets a request from an attorney, and then has to act as intermediary between requester and the researcher(s).  Translation can be complicated; have to make sure it’s clear what attorney wants so the deliverable reflects what is needed.  Also have to make sure information provided is targeted to attorney’s needs, and that attorney or Marketing does not have to weed through data.

-Can be unrealistic turnaround times for requests (i.e. two hours).  Communication is key to letting requestor know research limitations due to tight turnaround time.  Also important to note that library or research department may have other priorities, such as billable research, competing for their attention.

-Helps if attorneys are aware that the research is being handled by the library or research department, even if requests go through Marketing.  Some libraries brand the reports so it’s evident that they were responsible for the research.  Ben mentioned that firm/library branding looks good if reports are distributed outside of the firm.  In a time of tight budgets, it’s important for libraries to demonstrate their value, and there is value associated with library vetting of the competitive intelligence research.  Caren said they don’t brand their reports—have a good relationship with Marketing and are not worried about credit issues, but they do indicate name of researcher and a date for the report.

-Juli said attorneys are aware of library’s role in competitive intelligence.  She markets the library’s TIP (Targeted Intelligence Profile) Sheets to attorneys so they know what the library can do for them, and she feels it’s empowering that the library has been given room to expand their competitive intelligence efforts.  Her firm’s CI program helps attorneys distinguish themselves because they don’t get a push-button report, but instead get detailed analysis, and information that has been culled through and curated.

Takeaway 3

Again, open communication between involved parties is key.   It’s important that Marketing knows of incoming business development-type requests, but also critical that the library is not just a passive recipient of requests.  Library may need to do a “reference interview” to determine scope of request.

Presenters’ discussion:

-Ben asked if Marketing ever backs away and tells an attorney to talk to the library directly, instead of playing “telephone”, or “pass it down the lane”, or if the library will pass a request to Marketing because they deem it to be a business development request.  Jennifer emphasized that the marketing department needs to be aware of incoming business development requests.  Library panelists stressed that it’s important for a researcher to know the source of requests, and to be able to communicate with the requester as needed.

-Marketing likes to be point of contact for business research requests, so they know what’s going on, and because it will likely come back to Marketing at some point.  Marketing needs to keep track of any pitches/RFPs.  However, will keep Library in loop and include them in communication on requests, so they know scope/areas of particular interest.

-Can be a lot of variables in how a business development request is handled.  Depends upon firm’s culture/processes, and the relationship between departments.  Communication is important because playing telephone tag can lead to confusion.  Ideal if there is a considered process and formal procedure in place, such as all business development requests come through Marketing, and are first vetted for conflicts before research is started.

-Good to have a reference interview at start to avoid unnecessary steps, and to clarify the information needed at an early stage.

-Caren said practice group support teams with representatives from marketing, library and accounting departments have given the library more direct access to practice groups, which is helpful.  Each year they meet for a high-level conversation about what has worked, what hasn’t, and there is discussion about how practice group leaders can better utilize the departments’ skills/abilities.

Final Takeaway

Not only can the Library and Marketing get along, but we can do more!

Presenters’ discussion:

-Jennifer said she truly appreciates the library.  She finds them very resourceful, and an integral part of her work, and she said they provide responsive data.  In a perfect world, she would get a perfect dossier on each company, and buckled-up, perfect reports for every request, but she knows that’s not always feasible.  She’s happy that the library is responsive with a quick turnaround, and they’ll keep working toward the goal of the perfect report.

-Ben said their CI research is done in Marketing, but they still rely on the library for access to resources so the library is vital to what they do.  Over 50% of respondents to a question on who does the CI research indicated that research happens in both Marketing and the library or research department, so it’s obviously important that the departments work together.

-Juli wishes she could do more industry analysis, and show how a company works within an industry.  She would like to do this analysis more, so attorneys see the value and know what level of work-product the Library is capable of turning out.

-Caren said they get a number of requests for news alerts.  Attorneys getting into a certain type of work like to see what’s out there as far as news, conferences, and new product development, so they can help target potential clients, or so they can identify potential deals for current clients.  The library curates the results, so there is a lot of curation for news, litigation alerts, and other business/industry information so attorneys get useful, actionable information.  They’re continually trying to streamline this process.

Thanks to all of these participants for a great webinar, and some good insights into the CI function.

1 thought on “Winter Webinars, Part Two: Competitive Intelligence, A Joint Effort

  1. Pingback: All Hands on Deck for Business Development Efforts: Libraries’ Part in the BD Crew | On Firmer Ground

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