Why Can’t We be More Like Amazon.com?

Yesterday I used Google to search for model and pricing information for a K-cup brewer. The search results pulled up various vendors, both brick and mortar and web only retailers. Amazon.com was one of the vendors that came up in the results with several of their partners offering products that caught my interest. So I ended up visiting 2 or 3 Amazon.com pages in my research. But I wasn’t ready to buy yet as I was unsure of what model I wanted, so I didn’t make a purchase.

This morning I have an email from Amazon asking if I am interested in something from their Coffee, Tea & Espresso department. The email includes images, pricing and links to several of the models I looked at as well as a few extra models I hadn’t considered. And the prices appear to be the best price available for each of the models presented. Amazon’s database tracked my interests as represented by the products I looked at and put together a custom offer for me. I have to admit that as a marketer I am impressed with how effective Amazon demonstrates an integrated database marketing strategy.

Database marketing is fundamentally about collecting relevant information about your target market and then using that data to drive the sales cycle. Leveraging database technology in sales was developed by catalogue and direct mail marketers in the eighties. The PC revolution provided a flexible and affordable platform for innovative direct marketers to capture, process and analyze large amounts of customer data. Direct marketers used this data to identify which segments were profitable and to customize offers to separate segments based upon their psychographic profile and/or previous purchases. Amazon has integrated this philosophy into their web storefront technology.  Based upon my viewing habits they identified what products I may be interested in purchasing. They then took this data and automatically constructed a custom offer and sent it to me via an automated cast email.

So why can’t legal service marketers be more like Amazon?

I think we can.

In our business our potential clients browse our website for two reasons; credentialing and education. Those interested in our credentials are browsing pages on our practices, locations, experience and attorney biographies. And those looking for education they will seek out articles, white papers, blogs and events on the subjects that interest them. All of these elements can be turned into data points that could be captured and recorded in the CRM database.

In order to accomplish this you must first identify which elements are important to the sales cycle. For example, is it important when a contact visits your Real Estate practice home page? What if they also click on a few real estate attorney bios? And then visit your experience section looking up what your firm has done with REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)? Such behavior would tend to make one believe they have an interest and perhaps a need for real estate legal help with regards to REITs. If your website were to track and record each of these hits and record them as marketing touchpoints, you could process and analyze the data to identify individual needs that match your offerings.

The most important step – use the data to drive the sales cycle

This is where the Amazon email is so exciting. They tracked my interests, recorded my touchpoints in their database, identified their product offerings that best matched my needs. then they used this data to send me a custom offer. Granted the selling legal services is very different than a coffee brewer, but law firms could do this too for their product offering.

In the legal environment example above the equivalent would be tracking the contact’s interest in REITs. Based on this single touchpoint you should at least add the contact to your REITs mailing list to make sure they receive future marketing communications on the topic. But if your data collection strategy is robust you may have additional data points that could trigger other actions as well.

  • Is the contact an employee at a current client company or a targeted prospect company?
  • Does the contact have an existing relationship with one of your attorneys?
  • What’s the contact’s job title?
  • Has he or she attended any of your Real Estate related events? How many?

The answers to these questions could trigger specific actions from your firm just like my interests triggered a response from Amazon. For example, if the contact has an existing relationship with an attorney that attorney should be notified of the interest so he or she can reach out to the contact if appropriate. Or if the contact is an employee of a targeted prospect company the record should be added to a VIP list for the practice

Your response depends on your objectives and business development strategy.  The point is that there are data point that you should be collecting and then leverage that data to drive your marketing program.

By the way, I did make my selection and purchase as a result of the Amazon email. So I know first hand that the strategy works.

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3 comments so far

  1. Simon Ellison-Bunce on

    Hi Bill,

    It’s an intriguing prospect. The key information Amazon had that enabled them to drive this kind of automation in your case is that they knew exactly who you were when you visited the site (based on a persistent cookie set when you last logged in to your account). But people are generally fairly reluctant to create accounts etc on a new site unless there’s a clear benefit (which obviously applies to Amazon!).

    I guess the question is: what content or services could a law firm provide through their web site that would be valuable enough for people to identify themselves in order to receive?

    • Bill Vannerson on

      Excellent point Simon. I think that there’s a common fear in our industry that that if you “charge admission” that you’re chasing away business. I don’t think so. What I mean is that if you require folks to identify themselves in order to access content of value they won’t do it. I know from my personal experience that I will provide my email address to access articles and white papers if the topic is of high interest to me and I perceive the owner/author to be legitimate.

      People visit law firm websites for two reasons. One is to credential the attorney, find out their experience and hopefully capabilities. Two is for education. It’s on the later content I feel firms can request login information if they offer a library of valuable content that folks want or need. If you build such a library and market it as a “product” folks will gladly “pay” by providing basic information. I especially believe that recordings of webinars and events would have a great deal of appeal.

      Initially you may only have their email address as part of a simple access login. But as you develop an on-line relationship you’ll be ale to capture more data, such as when they register for an event. Then over time your collection of touchpoint data builds and has value as a driver for CRM programs.

  2. Simon Ellison-Bunce on

    Hi Bill,

    I completely agree, particularly when it comes to webinar recordings which are likely to have a greater perceived value for the visitor than a simple newsletter sign-up.

    There’d be some technical challenges in getting the web site and the CRM system integrated in such a way that you could track subsequent visits via a cookie, but nothing insurmountable. And you’d want to ensure the contact knew this was going to happen when they signed up. In Europe at least this principle of “informed consent” for using cookies is now a legal requirement (although far from fully implemented everywhere).


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