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What's your law firm's ideal client's decision-influencer persona?

In most law firms where practice groups offer business clients legal services, whom you’ll be dealing with the legal services buying process depends on the size of the target organization. In a small business, you’ll probably deal with one or two principals while in larger firms, you may engage with with several members of the c-suite or multiple people across different business functions.

That’s what makes selling in the B2B space complex; business buying decisions can involve many people across several business units who are deciding what services to buy, from which legal services provider and at what fees. These individuals make up your law firm client’s decision-influencers, and you have to understand them to sell your services to them successfully.

Relying on basic assumptions about prospective clients is not enough in today's legal environment. Click To Tweet

If your law firm has been in business at least several years, you already know what business legal pains your commercial firm relieves for its clients. More than likely, you also have some idea of whom your target client is and what their role in their business is. (If not, you need to start there.)

However, relying on underlying assumptions about prospective clients is not enough in today’s hyper-competitive legal environment. Why? This the video below produced by the Business Marketing Association in 2008 tells you.

These Personas Are the Foundation of Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

Your law firm is still talking to the man in the chair from the 1958 McGraw-Hill ad. While times, markets, technologies and players change, B2B marketing fundamentals never do. Clients today have the same imperatives as they did then.

So your firm needs to distinguish itself from its competitors to become more profitable. Your inbound marketing strategy, particularly the content marketing aspect, facilitates that. But you must understand your legal business buyer’s requirements before developing content.

While times, markets, technologies, and players change, B2B marketing fundamentals never do. Click To Tweet

Because you must up your legal marketing game to compete today, you should start by creating decision-influencer personas. Use the process to gain a comprehensive understanding of current and prospective client’s business operations, goals, budgets and legal needs for which you can offer solutions.

That’s particularly true for those that keep business leaders up at night. When determining this, however, it’s important not to stay stuck in the past in your thinking. This process requires a change in perspective from focusing only on legal practice prowess and not what value you bring to your clients from their viewpoint.

While clients look for personalized service because they expect the boutique law firm experience even from the largest commercial law firms today, that doesn’t mean “good relationships” are enough anymore.

Neither is mastery in particular areas of law or related lawyer inputs. Clients expect both, and it’s become harder to get business solely based on those factors. Companies are re-evaluating how they buy legal services based on data and other strict business criteria. 

Moreover, today’s business legal services buyers demand law firms not only understand their changed business mandates clearly but also understand their operations, goals, and budgets. They also want law firms to show how they bring value to their enterprise and prove that the outcomes of your legal strategies will make them more successful.

Create content that shows clients what makes your firm distinct from others in your practice areas. Click To Tweet

They not only want to know choosing your law firm will benefit their organization but will help them fulfill their professional responsibilities. Their choice of a law firm must make these decision-influencers look brilliant to the big boss. Of course, they want the best pricing for your services, too.

To learn all this, you must create decision-influencer personas for each business professional you’ll meet in the legal buying process. Then, you can create content that shows them what makes your firm distinct in your practice areas from other commercial law firms in the same industries or fee levels.

This decision-influencer persona is a crucial part of your market research. In fact, it might be a waste of time to execute a content marketing program before creating these. However, generating personas requires a precise understanding of what they are. Otherwise, you’ll construct them ineffectively.

How does a legal buyer decision-influencer persona look?

Unlike consumer-focused markets where buyers are individuals, in business organizations, legal service buying decisions often are significantly more involved. Both internal and external influencers comprise the B2B marketing sphere so you’ll need to consider both when selling in B2B.

That makes legal decision-influencer persona a far more useful tool for identifying from whom you’ll need to gain trust in your target business organization to sell your services than a typical buyer persona.

A legal client decision-influencer persona is a detailed profile, avatar or real archetype of all the individual influencers in the legal buying decision cycle. They resemble actual people at the target firms whose legal business your commercial firm wants. 

You develop these not just through general demographic data or entrenched assumptions about legal clients but using qualitative research. Through this process, you collect information about your target clients from behavioral data and actual interviews with your prospective business clients.

A decision-influencer persona is a precise profile of your ideal B2B legal services client. Click To Tweet

You derive those behavioral data from a variety of sources like industry associations, research organizations, corporations, educational institutions, and legal market research consultants. If you’re a large enough law firm, you may have data you can use.

For business decision-influencer personas, you’ll need considerable information about the companies that you can derive from the sources above and directly from the companies themselves.

After getting these behavioral data, you interview legal service buying decision makers in the particular market segments or business types where your law firm wants to or already does offer legal services. You want to match those data with existing people and businesses to avoid assumptions.

That way, you’ll create more than a generic profile full of generalities of a target client. In these detailed profiles, you identify each client precisely and give them identities. Where you’re dealing with individual decision-influencers, you’ll use a first name and title and create one for each executive you might encounter during the buying process. Examples are, “Sally–EVP of Personal Banking” or for “Hugo–Tech Startup CEO.”

When you’ll be negotiating with a business, you’ll create them for entire departments or groups of decision-influencers. You’ll identify those by firm type and business unit or department. For example, “Small Tech Firm Cyber Security Team” or “Regional Bank Consumer Credit Division.”

Using comprehensive research methods, you’ll create complete decision-influencer personas that describe them as if they are real people or businesses.

Details to Include in Individual Decision-Influencer Personas

You’ll get elaborate with these decision-influencer personas. You’ll detail who they are and what makes them tick. Base what you’ll include, of course, on whether you’re dealing with a few people in a firm, a team in a functional area or decision makers in business units in a larger company or corporation. 

Let’s take individual decision-influencers like Hugo. Your decision-influencer profile with him might start, “Hugo is a married father of two living in Potomac, MD and ivy league MBA in his mid-30s who owns a virtual tech startup. He likes soy lattes and rides his bike to his office in the local office park.

Hugo shops primarily online, collects rare watches, plays lacrosse on weekends and is a mobile device first adopter in his mid-30s who owns a virtual tech startup. He likes soy lattes and rides his bike to his office in the local office park. He shops primarily online, collects rare watches, plays lacrosse on weekends and is a mobile device first adopter.”

Many people buy legal services the same way they buy other products and services. Click To Tweet

You’ll clearly describe what motivates Hugo, what he is trying to do in his life, profession, and business, what objectives propel his behavior, how he thinks, how he buys any services and why he reaches his buying decisions.

That means you’ll have to ask tech startup entrepreneurs, primarily in the Washington, DC area but perhaps throughout the region you want to serve, some questions. That includes those related to:

  • Personal background (to get demographic and other information)
  • Company or business
  • Role in their business
  • Business challenges
  • Business goals
  • Where they get business information
  • Where they network professionally
  • Buying preferences

While all of this information is important, this last aspect, “buying preferences,” is essential for law firms to understand. You should recognize that today’s target legal clients, no matter what their level in an organization, are not only cost-sensitive. They buy differently from legal consumers of the past.

According to Avvo, many buy legal services the same way they buy other products and services in their personal lives or businesses. They get online, do research and use what they find to make decisions. That’s true even of B2B legal clients where their business organization provides specific buying criteria and constraints.

Remember when creating your firm's content to make it educational, not sales-oriented. Click To Tweet

You must learn and include those details (and all the others) when creating these decision-influencer personas. Understanding these persona elements helps your law firm not only create the right content for its sales process but develop effective reach strategies for its legal content marketing.

However, remember when creating your firm’s content to make it educational, not sales-oriented. B2B readers are researching business ideas or issues when looking for content and using it to make informed decisions. Skip the sales pitch and tell about the business peace of mind, positive outcomes or success working with your law firm brings.

Details to Include in Business Decision-Influencer Personas

In many cases, your ideal legal client’s decision-influencer persona is a business, and the individual decision makers are an entire business unit or team of people. They’re all involved legal buying decision cycle, and you will have to gain the trust of all before the company buys.

That’s when you’ll develop legal client decision-influencer personas for entire teams or businesses applying a modified process from that above. You’ll do individual decision-influencer personas, but you’ll include the business as an influencer.

For example, you’ve done a single decision-influencer persona on “SallyEVP of Personal Banking” but you’ll also do one for her business, “Main Street Bank” and its “Consumer Credit Division.” It could start, “While talking to Sally, EVP of Personal Banking, we learned that Main Street Bank thinks of its regional bank as a group of community banks, has revenue of $150 billion annually, has 250 employees across four states and narrowly avoided the mortgage crisis.”

“Now, the bank’s Consumer Credit Division wants to revamp its lending strategy to attract more mortgage and credit card as well as personal loan business from current consumers while generating new business. They’re concerned about compliance issues, and how the current regulatory environment affects the bank as they construct this strategy. They need legal guidance as they undergo this process.”

So, additional questions you’ll answer for these business decision-influencer personas include:

  • What are the business demographics of the enterprise? Consider industry, size, who their customers are, the number of employees, revenues, industry influence or footprint, revenue cycles, budget and buying cycle, and other necessary data for gaining a clear understanding of that client’s business.
  • Who makes up their leadership, what their average age and background (have their been major generational shifts in recent years) and what their culture is like. (Think Alphabet (Google) vs. IBM. Which does your legal team fit best?)
  • What are their chief business goals for the upcoming year?
  • What are the leading business hurdles they’ll face in the year ahead?
  • What are the important industry dynamics they’re confronting in the marketplace as a business that affects day-to-day operations?
  • How are these industry dynamics causing pain or legal concerns that you’re alleviating with your legal services?
  • What are they businesses in your target industries looking for in legal providers today?
  • How does the target client buy legal and other business services?
  • What firms do you know they’ve worked with in the past?

Again, as in the individual legal buyer decision-influencer persona, you’ll want to understand how organizations in your target industries buy legal services today. Knowing these details also helps you determine if there are changes you must internally to match the expectations of these enterprises. Without understanding these factors, you may be pursuing clients your firm isn’t ready to support.

How to Use Your Law Firm’s Decision-Influencer Personas

To prevent the follow-through failure that many businesses experience after completing these personas, it’s helpful to know how to put these personas to use so they don’t sit idle. After you’ve done this research, if you haven’t already, you determine the different audience or market segments represented by those ideal client decision-influencer personas.

Your law firm marketing team or consultant next integrates those personas into the firm’s marketing plan. Then, the firm creates and executes a personalized messaging plan that speaks directly to each persona. 

You’ll use them to develop specific content that addresses their legal concerns and obstacles as well as business challenges and motivations. Remember to tweak or revise your personas as you learn new information or notice business cycle or other industry changes.

78% of B2B clients still prefer text they see on websites so that's where your content should live. Click To Tweet

Include a reach strategy in this customized content marketing program to distribute your content across the digital platforms where those the people represented by those personas live. In most cases, because 78% of B2B clients still prefer written text they see on websites, that’s where your content should live. But many use social media, too. Just focus the content on the audience first, not just the promotional platform you’ll use.

For teams, you’ll develop content that speaks to that broader audience, like business units, within the target firm and not single individuals. Remember, in this kind of setting, you need to convince a team of executives or business partners of why yours is the right law firm for them.

You do this so that all feel included in the legal services buying process and can come to a consensus that you are the best legal service provider for their needs. Once again, they’ll all want to feel they fulfilled their professional responsibilities effectively by choosing your firm and that your firm will benefit their business.

The right content strategy will get your ideal clients to hire and keep them using your firm. Click To Tweet

By employing the proper tactics in this process, your content marketing program can lead to converting your ideal prospective clients into billable ones and not attracting and disqualifying poor leads. But, remember, your law firm’s aim is to get to know your target audience so well that you can predict and satisfy their need for content that addresses their specific legal issues. 

The right content strategy will get your ideal clients to hire and keep them using your firm for legal services. While relationships, alone, don’t sell legal services in many cases anymore, they’re still important. Your commercial firm builds them on trust that you’ll fulfill their needs over the long-term.

Make Your Client Decision-Influencer Personas Exclusive

Now that you’re clear how to use these personas to target your ideal legal clients, you must consider one another critical part of this processwhom you’re not targeting. It’s as important when developing these ideal client decision-influencer personas that you create “negative personas”those that exclude business leaders or firms with which you don’t want to do business.

For example, those who can’t or won’t invest in your legal services, who may have a negative influence on your law firm or for which there’s some other important reason to avoid them as clients.

That way, you’re sure to offer the right type of content at the right time and the right place for where your target B2B clients are in their buying decision cycle. By making it clear who you don’t serve, you won’t spend time disqualifying weak leads because your content reached the wrong audience.

Excluded personas should know to look elsewhere for help, so they don’t waste their time. Click To Tweet

Excluded personas should be aware in advance to look elsewhere for help, so they don’t waste their time and yours. If that’s unclear and they contact you only to learn they aren’t ideal clients, they might remember that experience later when you do want them as a client.

Targeted Content is Good for Business

Great content helps prospective and current clients develop and maintain trust in your law firm. When you consistently meet their other business criteria, these ongoing business relationships with clients build businesses and increase their profitability. It’s key to improving your bottom line.

Carefully targeted content facilitates those relationships by showing clients you care enough to think about their ongoing requirement for relevant information that addresses their business and legal issues.

Conversely, most B2B readers consider legal content that fails to target them carefully tone-deaf and irrelevant to their needs. Studies show they find it annoying. That includes those your content should have winnowed out as prospects.

Also, in many cases, content that fails to take careful regard of its audience causes a poor perception of the way you provide legal services. That may lead to prospective or even current clients selecting a different law firm for their legal needs.

So, now more than ever, in a highly competitive legal environment that’s expected to become more so soon, it’s important to undergo this critical aspect of your market research process. Develop and use your legal client decision-influencer personas right and you’re more likely to achieve your desired results in your law firm content marketing.

(c) 2016-2019. Dahna M. Chandler for Thrive Wealth Communications, Inc., a division of Thrive Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced in whole or in part without express written permission of the author.