Good eDiscovery marketing must give would-be clients useful information and help, not just shout “buy me” with a list of functions and benefits. All forms of media must be pressed into service, and value lies more in helpful content than in glossy presentation.
We are suddenly hearing a lot about Applied Discovery, which has been in the electronic discovery market since 1998 and part of LexisNexis since 2003. I will be meeting them at LegalTech in New York at the beginning of February and will find out more about the products and services, not least the introduction of a new Global Alliance Partner Program whose aim is to deliver complex discovery services worldwide to law firms and corporations. The press release is here and there are links from it to pages about the products and services which Applied Discovery offers.
What interests me for present purposes is the pure marketing angle. Here is a company which has been around forever, doing solid business in the e-discovery market, so far as I am aware, but not really attracting attention – my attention, anyway. Suddenly its name is everywhere. Wearing my marketing hat, I have to wonder why.
The higher profile happened within days of Rob Robinson’s appointment as Senior Director of Worldwide Marketing towards the end of last year. Is Rob responsible for the higher profile? Did he join them because they were getting a higher profile? Is it just a coincidence? And what has happened to Rob’s former employer, who fell off the radar (my radar anyway) at the same time?
Leave aside for the moment that I have known Rob, virtually at least, for a long time, what is his secret? How is it that, apparently within days of his appointment, the Applied Discovery brand takes such a jump forward? Much of the answer lies in adroit use of the marketing power of the web (most recently on Twitter). I am not here giving away any secrets because I am not privy to them, and anyway the approach is hardly secret (that’s the point, obviously). The subject is important, not because (or not just because) of the commercial advantage of one company versus the others, but because of the wider purpose, attracting new work from the law firms and corporate clients. All the players have a common interest in persuading potential clients new to ediscovery that economy, defensibility and a better job all round lies in earlier instruction of expert help in parallel with their competition between themselves.
Good marketing is made up of many components, but part of it lies in the transmission of genuinely useful information which people want to read for its own sake. I realised this years ago when I was myself a software developer looking for clients. Most of our marketing materials (all sent by post in those days) was of the conventional “buy me” variety. One day, we sent out a pamphlet which barely mentioned the fact that we had a solution to sell but which was just about the problems and how to solve them in general terms. The reaction which we got to that was very much better than we ever got to our lists of functions and benefits.
You have to have a decent product to sell of course – marketing skill alone cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It is the alliance of a good name in the market and the skilled use of every available channel to distribute helpful information which makes the difference.
The weekly eDiscovery Snapshot which Applied Discovery sends out is in the same format as Rob Robinson has used for ever. Its list of cases and articles is an indispensable source for people who would otherwise have to do for themselves the immense amount of reading which is done for them. It is marketing gold-dust isn’t it – a weekly email from a supplier which everyone is grateful to receive?
The rest of us gladly pass on what is collected for us – The Posse List, for example, whose Electronic Discovery Reading Room is fast becoming the most comprehensive online resource on eDiscovery matters, reproduces the weekly Snapshot, giving due credit to Applied Discovery. The weekly lists are supplemented by Rob’s frequent daily updates on Twitter.
The written word is not the only available medium. I have written a fair amount advocating the use of video as a medium for reaching wider audiences. I have just come across a video put up by Applied Discovery – a mixture of text, talking heads and video of a conference session – which is a useful, painless, and extremely cost-effective means (cost-effective for both Applied Discovery and for the viewer) of delivering information.
It is worth watching to hear US Magistrate Judge David Waxse’s contribution to the panel session, much of which has passed into eDiscovery folklore. The lawyers who say “I’m willing to co-operate but this a****** won’t”; the parties who are told to come back from a meet and confer with either an agreement or a video of their attempts to agree (and the judge who was dismayed to get an eight-hour video); the lawyers who say “we have no ESI” and, worse, those who say “we have ESI but we don’t want to mess with it”; the lawyer who planned to print out all the electronic documents and then scan them back in to search them.
It is worth watching, too, for George Socha’s observation that there are so few trials now that most lawyers “don’t know what the endgame looks like” and cannot ask themselves “is this going to get me where I need to be?”
I give you these snippets to show that video is a low-cost way of delivering high-value content. None of the material which has drawn Applied Discovery to my attention recently is glossy, expensive-looking stuff. It is a great deal more effective, I would say, than a great deal of the conventional promotion which is done in this business. I am looking forward to finding out more about the substance behind the very effective marketing.