Do law firms value contact data enough?

Joanna Goodman outlined the ways in which big data is changing the delivery of legal services – but many law firms are still failing to really harness the value in their own client data.

Seriously, have you ever worked out the value of your contacts? Of course there is more than one way to value a contact.

On one hand, it is easy enough to go to a data company and rent a list – each contact costing just a few pence each. Maybe you have instructed someone junior in your firm to research a specific list within a target market. The time taken to do this might amount to a few pounds rather than pence, but still not a major investment, or is it?

What about the contacts that you acquire through networking? If you track how many hours you spend on networking each month and the number of new contacts that you collect, what does that say? If you network for 10 hours per month and usually charge £240 per hour, the opportunity cost per month is £2,400 – if you add 20 contacts per month to your network then each one has a value of £120.

If you network and build contacts by participating in seminars and events, then you need to factor in time spent preparing the presentation.

What about the leads that are acquired through your firm’s marketing activities? What if you consider the cost of exhibiting at an event (stand, sponsorship, giveaways) plus the opportunity cost from fees lost by people manning the stand?

The best source of work is undoubtedly usually through introductions, and entertaining your professional contacts to cement a good relationship is not without a cost.

So given the importance of attracting and retaining contacts, and the amount of investment required to generate new contacts and develop strong profitable relationships, why is contact data generally so poorly valued and managed in law firms?

Too often contact data is seen as a low priority, an admin task, or ‘not my job’. Eyes frequently glaze over at the mention of customer relationship management or data development.

Admittedly, it is not the most exciting task on the marketing agenda, but when you recognise how much each contact really costs you to attract business then it just makes good sense to ensure that your contact data is not neglected. Nurturing your client database is the first step to that holy grail of effective cross-selling.

Sue Bramall is managing director of Berners Marketing and advises law firms in the UK and overseas