What Does Success Look Like For You?

In a recent podcast on reader data and business development, when asked which questions marketers and BD professionals should bring to their analytics, my colleague Adrian Lurssen framed his answer by saying this:

It depends on what your version of success looks like.

Listen to the full program above — it's a wide-ranging conversation about analytics, data, marketing, business development, and content marketing between Reputation Ink's Michelle Calcote King and Adrian. For this post, I want to delve into Adrian's comment regarding success.

Know Where You Are Headed

As Adrian explained, quoting the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley, anyone embarking upon a new project or initiative should ask the question: what will our success look like? Looking ahead, imagining a positive outcome, helps you early on to identify important metrics and performance indicators on the route to that success.

And, as Adrian pointed out in the podcast, when it comes to thought leadership in law firm marketing, success can be many things. Here are two examples:

  • The introduction of a new practice group — your firm has been known for years as a key service provider in one area (say, insurance litigation), and recently you've built a practice around a brand new offering. You launch a blog and begin distributing on JD Supra in order to let the world (AKA: clients, prospects, media members, and referral sources) know that you now offer a new expertise, a new service, in the form of this practice group. Or...
  • Increased invitations to speak at industry conferences & webinars — working with a particular attorney, you've identified that her business development pipeline grows whenever she speaks at industry events, in person or online in webinars and virtual events. You launch a thought leadership series with your attorney that includes as a goal seeing an increase in invitations to speak.

Each of these examples embodies a different measure of success, responding to different "business units" within a firm at different stages of maturity and visibility — and as such, each leads to a different set of questions for your analytics. True of any other versions of success you have in mind. 

For the first, your questions might start higher up the marketing and sales funnel, in the realm of branding and visibility. How many people read our new practice group's content? In which industries did we earn the most readers? Which topics mattered most? Are existing clients reading and, if so, how do we currently serve them? (I am thinking here of a client of ours who used content to introduce their new cannabis practice to the world, and especially to their existing clients in the wine industry.) 

For the second, the lead question is, quite simply: after three months of writing, how many more invitations to speak did we receive? Other questions follow from there, based on how you answer. 

Internal Consensus & Shared Goals

Returning to the podcast, one of Adrian's points is that, by framing your metrics around forward-looking questions, you are able to foster collaboration and shared purpose between your authors/thought leaders and the marketers and BD folks who support them in their writing.

As Adrian points out in the podcast, "How are we doing?" is a limiting sort of question, typically asked by someone who doesn't have a goal in mind for their content efforts. "How are we doing?" Depends on what our success looks like.

On the other hand, using my second example above, if you sit down with an author who has given herself the goal of being invited to speak in industry programs, your first question when checking in is: how many invitations did you earn this quarter? If the answer is zero, this allows the two of you, with shared purpose, to look at the content and assess whether or not it was on-topic. Did she write about the sort of matters covered in her ideal conference programs? Is she connected to organizers on LinkedIn? What's missing that can be remedied in the next quarter's marketing activity?

Content to Support Business Growth

The opposite of what I am describing here is, simply, to write and assume it will lead to new work.

While home runs happen — yes, we've seen plenty of examples of our contributors gaining new clients based only on what they've written — marketing and business development initiatives aren't typically built around the promise of home runs.

The questions you should be asking begin with understanding how your business grows, already. How can your content marketing support that growth, or make it happen more quickly?


Robin Oliver is Global Director of Business Development at JD Supra