Digital 100: The Social Creatures and the Kevin Costners

What are the four quadrants in The Digital 100?

When we analyse the top law firms’ digital marketing strategies, they fall into four quadrants: those who are performing well at both web and social (Digital Nirvana); those who aren’t doing either well (Digital Hell); the social creatures and the Kevin Costners.

What is Digital Nirvana?

Those who are doing well get The Digital 100 and are often interested as they’d like to continue to do better. They already understand that digital is bringing them business and wouldn’t consider standing still on it for a moment. They may have even, whisper it, failed a few times, tried out some things that didn’t play out well. They are more likely too, shout it, to have had some stunning results. In our view, those firms in this quadrant are probably pulling away as opposed to simply leading.

What is Digital Hell?

Those in the lower-left quadrant need the most help with neither digital nor social performing well. A great starting point is knowing where you are at the moment and what your immediate steps are: we can help with that.

What are Social Creatures?

Social Creatures are those who have great social media tactics (and maybe even strategies): they are bringing in the crowd. One of the firms near the top of social does exactly this and then loses over 95% of the audience on the first landing page within just a few seconds. That’s not a great experience for anyone and it needs avoiding as it leaves a poor taste in the mouth of the visitor who is then less likely to come to your site the second time. When that feeling accumulates, then Google ends up punishing your rankings as it can see how quickly people leave your site and look for alternative content instead. In short, being a social creature may look great on the stats front, but it doesn’t produce the right outcome.

What are Kevin Costners?

Then there’s the Kevin Costners, so-called because of the movie Field of Dreams. If you build it they will come,” says the voice in the movie, compelling our Kevin to build a baseball field on his farm. For our purposes, the Kevin Costners are just as poorly placed as Social Creatures: they create great websites and great content and then almost no one visits them. Imagine going to hours and hours of effort to create amazing content and then not sharing it when your audiences are hanging out: it’s marketing without purpose. Often this happens where a ‘no risk’ approach to marketing has been taken.

The problem is that, even in the legal sector, without risk, there’s no reward. It’s worth remembering that Costner finally understood why he’d had to build the field in the first place. But he had to be open to taking a risk in order to get his heart’s desire. Taking calculated risks on social media is all that’s needed to bring in the right audiences time and again. Then your website will do the rest.

Next steps

The good news is that if your firm is a Kevin Costner or a Social Creature, there are some easy steps that you can take to move towards the upper right quadrant: digital nirvana.

Want to know which quadrant you’re in? We can either have a coffee to discuss what some of those simple steps are or you maybe you’d prefer to purchase your firm’s dashboard?



Data and marketing: never the Twain shall meet?

What has Mark Twain got to do with data-led marketing?

The following quote is often erroneously attributed to Mark Twain:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

The irony that it’s probably not his saying wouldn’t be lost on the great man.

Just because Twain didn’t write those words precisely, doesn’t imply that there should be any less weight given to their meaning. Welcome to 2019, where we are awash with data, both good and bad and poor decisions made on both.

At TBD, we’ve recently been working on some significant data-led marketing initiatives. Simply put, using data to inform marketing and business development activities so that they are more efficient. As well as advising clients, we have become our own guinea pig, as it were. More of that below.

The history of data in legal marketing

It’s something of a dirty secret in the legal sector that, until now, much of the marketing that has been done since the market liberalised in 1987 has been based on less than perfect data. The main inputs have been track record (i.e. what worked last year will work this year), what competitors are doing, and a good dose of gut instinct (sometimes called marketing chops).

Let’s take those data points in turn:

Our track record is often based on some collective memories, for example how we ran a client event the year before. Perhaps a ‘lessons learned’ document was written to capture all the tweaks and improvements that are needed the next year (I’ve just written one about the school fireworks event last week for the PTA).

There’s a lot of room for improvement here: inputs could be captured better, deciding what the determining factors of an event’s success (like the weather we mention in this piece), outcomes could almost always have been better recorded (how much work did we win that night). And so on and so forth.

Likewise, the success of the event is often affected by who is recalling it judgment being in the eye of the beholder.

Our track record is so subjective or politicised that we often can’t see what needs to be improved or tweaked.

Our competitors’ marketing is also often very hard to ascertain. Sure, it’s a good idea to look at others’ materials and ponder what their focus is and their targets are. But, as I have often said to Managing Partners, we can only see the tip of the iceberg from where we’re sat. Beyond the articles published on a firm’s website, or even its guides and brochureware sit a plethora of other activities which any joined-up marketing campaign would deploy. So, guessing motives and actions from our side of the fence is probably not the best use of our time. However, reflecting on this makes us think about how complex our campaigns are and the need to use data to track as much as possible across the full gamut of marketing activities that relate to it.

Gut instinct is not something to lose sight of. A great marketing expert will “know” when something’s going to work even when the data says otherwise or the track record suggests that this new route is not the one to take. In terms of classic adverts, the story behind the Dairy Milk gorilla is now legendary and is based on not much more than naked, out and out, assured marketing chops. Someone took a gamble and it paid off.

Now, I’d suggest that this actually did involve a lot more data in the preparation than is often appreciated: the gut instinct is based on a lot of experience (data point) and a knowledge of the zeitgeist (another data point) and of marketing expertise (more data). It’s just hard to articulate.

Now Cadburys could have focus-grouped their way out of doing the advert. Maybe they almost did. But somewhere along the line, using *all* the data at their fingertips paid off. They committed and the rest is advertising history.

Defining our markets. Marketing as a discipline is first and foremost about defining audiences and markets: literally qualifying who we’re going after and determining if it’s worth doing so financially. The problem in the legal sector is that marketing has often been tactical until now likely based more on a combination of gut/track record and politics and not properly assessing if an opportunity is actually worth pursuing. This is not pervasive, but nor is defining our markets the norm.

What does this mean for marketing in 2019?

Using a track record especially based on memory and perceptions alone will not suffice on its own in 2019. It’s home to too many biases. Equally, old formats without improvements can quickly turn stale. And accepted ways of doing business have changed – especially for digital-first individuals.

Likewise, the speed with which competitors can deploy copycat campaigns is also getting faster. The value of joined-up marketing, and in particular business development-led campaigns mean that the well is often dry by the time the competitors see your work.

Markets can and should be defined so that we can judge if our campaigns worked or didn’t. We need to remove fault and blame when we reflect on our marketing efforts. One lawyer said to me this week “we took a risk and it didn’t work out, but the other nine times we did, it did work out. It’s to be expected.” Amazon even goes as far as to celebrate its failures (“failure is innovation’s inseparable twin”).

On the other side of the coin, what’s equally alarming is the fact that gut instinct is in danger of being ditched altogether in favour of data-driven initiatives. We think that that’s at the peril of your best work and that’s why we advocate data-led marketing initiatives.

Data-led not data-driven

Any campaign should be objectives- or outcomes-driven, not data-driven as such. We’ll write an ‘inputs versus outcomes’ blog post very soon. It’s too important a topic not to.

But using hard or primary data as the sole influence in a marketing campaign would be a mistake. How would it work, for example, if you were creating a market selling a product that had never been sold before?

Equally, not using the many available data sources to make better marketing decisions will make the not-Twain quote above come true: you’ll be basing your approach on things ‘which just ain’t so.’

Hence why we think that 2020 is going to be the year of data-led marketing in law firms. Campaigns and tactical decisions that are based on a better data set are more likely to produce the right outcomes.

In practice, what kinds of results can a data-led marketing approach produce?

Data is the golden thread that runs through all law firm marketing activities.

Objectives which require us to gain more clients, boost profitability and gain profile all have touchpoints across the buyer’s journey which can be improved or tweaked when we reference the data.

What referrals have some of our key account clients helped win?

What level of investment time do we have for each key account?

Which targets are the next big thing in our sector? Why? Who acts for them currently?

Which attendees at our events instruct us? Which clients did we win after attending an event with them?

Which journalists produce the most positive and meaningful coverage of our firm?

Which pages on our websites produce the most leads? Which searches on Google lead to new business? Which of our social content is the most liked and shared?

The list goes on (and on and on).

What can we do about this?

What is safe to say is that if you’re not currently looking at your data, there are probably loads of lessons to learn that would make an immediate and significant impact. Something that we learned about our own business recently was that tweeting in the different quarters of the hour produced hugely different levels of engagement. So, we tweaked our issue times and, guess what, it radically improved our engagement levels. A small but important win for our business.

Nowadays, data is everywhere and it’s easy to act on. It’s just that to be great at data-led marketing, first you need to know what is and what ain’t so. Otherwise, it’ll turn out to be just “lies, damned lies and statistics”, a quote that Twain himself erroneously attributed to Disraeli.

What’s stopping LinkedIn from being a genuinely useful platform for marketers?

Why can’t LinkedIn compete with Facebook and Twitter as a marketing channel?

We can tell you how many followers we have on Twitter, how many friends we have on Facebook and how many followers and employees we have on LinkedIn.

We can also tell you how many followers you have on Twitter, how many friends you have on Facebook and how many followers and employees you have on LinkedIn.

We can tell you how many shares one of our articles gets on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and how many shares your articles get on Twitter and Facebook.

We can also tell you our tweets with the most impressions this year, how many likes/reactions we got on Facebook, what sentiment was behind audience interactions and how many times an advert was served on Twitter and Facebook and if it was clicked on.

The same goes for Pinterest and Reddit.

Why? Because, each of these platforms allows you access the data, either through an API or by downloading it as a CSV file and then compiling it with your other data.

So, what about LinkedIn?

LinkedIn claims to be the largest professional social media site in the world. Agreed.

And if you’re interested in b2b communications rather than b2c, its membership makes it an obvious choice.

And it has some great tools like Sales Navigator (Basically LinkedIn on steroids!), which allows marketers to use the advanced search functionality, coupled with detailed filters, to identify suitable prospects, save them as leads, monitor their activity, and engage with them.

That’s all great, but how does it stack up when it comes to tracking, measuring and reporting on your activity? The answer is… it’s frankly pretty rubbish. LinkedIn will not give you data about your own posts for more than just the prior month.

It will do so on your company page but we all know that’s not where the real engagement happens on LinkedIn, right? It’s a peer-to-peer platform and engagement metrics are unavailable on that front without doing a manual and repetitive task each and every month. In a data-led age, we should be spending time on data analysis not on data collation.

How did we get here?

In around 2015, LinkedIn decided it was going to become the world’s largest publishing house, but then it lost its nerve and reverted to settling for being the world’s largest self-updating CV bank.

LinkedIn’s seemingly never-ending parade of transformations – recruiter, recruiter’s best friend, communications, marketing’s best friend, sales, sales’ best friend, meant that it could never quite settle on what data users should have access to.

Your own contacts… sure, export them into an Excel file.

How many times an article has been read in the last year (if published more than a month ago?), or engagement that takes place in groups forget it.

So why now?

We believe that LinkedIn has settled on a business model and it’s time for it to play ball like other social media do and share insights. It’d be a massive win:win as marketers (like us) would be able to show clients what was working and what was not, and inform their strategies accordingly. That means that LinkedIn would be used better, which means that it would likely be used more, which is to the benefit of everyone, including LinkedIn itself of course.

2020 is the year in which analytics are going to become increasingly important for business professionals as we seek to do more with less. Data-led marketing is essential to demonstrate return on investment and LinkedIn stands to lose out as marketers can’t analyse their return on investment in the platform.

Let’s compare it with Twitter

We’ve recently analysed our twitter stats (get in touch if you’d like us to do that for you), and we have been able to work out:

  • What kinds of tweets work best for us;
  • When best to tweet in terms of:
  • Day of the week
  • Time of day (hour)
  • Minutes past the hour
  • The words and phrases we use
  • Who we speak to most often
  • Who we speak about most often

Now, if similar insights were available to everyone on LinkedIn, about their use of LinkedIn, we’d have a better LinkedIn.

So please can LinkedIn open up their stats and reopen their API?

In return, here’s a massive money-spinner for you, LinkedIn…

How’s about if you launched a new subscription service called Alumni and automatically created an alumni network for every organisation over 20 people? The data would manage itself, companies could segment groups as they do in Sales Navigator, and every single alumni programme in the world would get better as it would start with more perfect data.

That idea is worth more than being stingy with our data, in our opinion. What do you reckon, LinkedIn?


This piece was written in conjunction with content marketing genius Ben Hollom of M2 Bespoke.

The Digital 100 overall rankings 2019

The Digital 100 – current rankings

Below is the overall ranking for digital marketing at law firms for this quarter.

TBD has used a range of pertinent criteria to rank firms, the vast majority of which are size agnostic.

1 Leigh Day
2 Irwin Mitchell
3 Mishcon de Reya
4 Forsters
5 Simpson Millar
6 Michelmores
7 Linklaters
8 Lewis Silkin
9 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
10 Shoosmiths
11 Stevens & Bolton
12 Hugh James
13 Ashurst
14 Foot Anstey
14 Hogan Lovells
16 Clifford Chance
17 Eversheds Sutherland
18 Pinsent Masons
19 Osborne Clarke
20 Withers
21 Macfarlanes
22 Herbert Smith Freehills
22 Hill Dickinson
24 JMW
25 Walker Morris
26 RPC
27 Digby Brown
28 Taylor Wessing
29 Kennedys
30 Thorntons
31 BLM
32 Harper Macleod
33 Gowling WLG
34 DMH Stallard
35 Bristows
35 MW Solicitors
37 Slaughter and May
38 Keystone Law
39 Winckworth Sherwood
40 Addleshaw Goddard
41 Allen & Overy
42 DWF
43 Veale Wasbrough Vizards
44 Burges Salmon
44 Royds Withy King
44 Russell-Cooke
47 HFW
48 Freeths
49 Kingsley Napley
50 Womble Bond Dickinson
51 TLT
52 Mills & Reeve
53 Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
54 Bird & Bird
55 Shakespeare Martineau
56 Fletchers
57 Clyde & Co
58 Browne Jacobson
59 Norton Rose Fulbright
60 DLA Piper
60 Thrings
62 Clarke Willmott
63 Ward Hadaway
64 Trowers & Hamlins
65 CMS
66 Moore Blatch
67 Blake Morgan
67 Knights
69 Fieldfisher
70 Travers Smith
71 Farrer & Co
72 Stewarts
73 Capsticks
74 Gateley
75 Birketts
75 Harrison Clark Rickerbys
77 Ashfords
78 Simmons & Simmons
79 Brodies
80 Fladgate
81 Stephenson Harwood
82 Watson Farley & Williams
83 Howard Kennedy
84 Bircham Dyson Bell
85 Charles Russell Speechlys
86 Bevan Brittan
87 Keoghs
88 Weightmans
89 Minster Law
90 Brabners
91 Sackers
92 Harbottle & Lewis
93 Burness Paull
93 Penningtons Manches
95 DAC Beachcroft
96 Shepherd & Wedderburn
97 Ince & Co
98 Wedlake Bell
99 Dickson Minto
100 Cripps Pemberton Greenish

To buy a copy of the report, a copy of your own firm’s dashboard, or have any questions, please contact us.

To read more about the report, take a look at this explainer page.

How do you write a great blog post or article?

The anatomy of a great article

How do you write a great article? Here are some steps that you can take which will improve your article which are above and beyond the writing tips we talk about on our Write/Share/Engage courses.

  1. Come up with a thought leadership article idea
  2. See what has already been written on it (yes, look on Google)
  3. Define your audience. Who do you want to read your article?
  4. Check to see what your readers would want you to write about (using tools or actually asking clients)
  5. Refine your original article idea by thinking of a new or different angle – perhaps a hook based on a sector approach/ a news event
  6. What action should your target audience take when they have read it? Consider where the reader is in the journey to making a buying decision – are they just finding out about an issue (awareness), asking probing questions (consideration) or considering which firm to instruct (decision). This will massively affect what you write and when and where you share it.
  7. Look at your existing website and search engine data to see what you might do differently/better than prior articles you or others at your firm have written (check out this guide on data-led marketing to see how we can help you with this)
  8. Produce your article in a timely fashion or make sure that they are genuinely innovative
  9. Use terms that real people search for and understand
  10. Make sure that it is both distributed well…
  11. … and shared at the right time for the target audience
  12. Write content that is evergreen/update-able/campaign-able
  13. Write a great headline and first paragraph
  14. Make sure it has a great (and clear) call to action
  15. Analyse the results What can you learn? Do you need to tweak it?
  16. Tweak the article
  17. Go again

Contact us