Savvy law firms are using gamification — adding game-like elements to tasks to encourage participation — as a key strategy for spurring engagement and tightening alignment for their marketing and business development teams. This is a step away from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach. Friendly competition, incentives, and awards are all great ways to motivate employees to get behind important initiatives and focus on key tasks that meaningfully move the needle. Successful implementation of gamification relies on a balance of creativity, clarity, and connection to the objectives at hand.

Match the program to firm culture

Every firm has a unique culture, and successful gamification strategies apply a mindful approach to respect each firm’s proclivities and norms. For instance, in some firms, the lawyers are overtly competitive, whereas in others, the culture is more collaborative. There are a multitude of ways to map gamification to a firm’s culture and I’ve seen some really innovative approaches throughout the years.

For example, a large international firm worked with its IT department to build an online game that tracks experience capture for one of its practice groups. As individuals capture experience, the game moves forward with teams competing globally to win at the end of the year. As many of my readers will know, capturing detailed experience data often proves incredibly challenging; however, this approach played to the culture of the practice group and successfully drove up the quantity of highly categorized experience in the firm. This approach was so successful that — at the time I was working with this firm — its leaders were looking for ways to apply it to other practice groups.

Another firm leveraged the built-in capabilities of its CRM to provide point-in-time dashboards to drive CRM engagement. As a firm that runs many large-scale events throughout the year, it used a single dashboard to drive engagement focused on achievement of event-based goals. The firm acknowledged that — whilst having people consume its content was valuable — the real value was in the face-to-face meetings that took place at the event, and the opportunities identified through those meetings. To that end, the firm created event-specific dashboards that showed leaderboards for meetings scheduled by partners, as well as opportunities and associated projected revenue. Although this approach is not for every firm, it took advantage of this firm’s culture to drive better outcomes. For instance, the firm drove significantly more engagement at its events, which ultimately increased its ROI.

As a secondary outcome, users started to dig into the detail underneath the dashboards and found they were able to capture high-value insights. The more value users derived, the more they shared, and the more people went digging. The firm is now witnessing consistent month-over-month growth in the number of users who are leveraging its CRM system, and the firm attributes a significant proportion of its growth to this approach.

Tie program elements and goals directly to firm strategies

The firm’s executive management team must be responsible for defining goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) from the onset of marketing and business development programs. It’s all about measuring to manage: employees perform best when expectations and measurement criteria are clear and baked-in from the get-go.

In the first example above, the program aimed to capture as much information as possible on the firm’s experience and subject matter expertise. This goal maps directly to the firm’s strategy around amassing and centralizing its intellectual capital in order to provide fast and comprehensive access to all resources, leading to stronger proposals and matter staffing decisions. In the second example, the program’s goal was maximizing one-on-one time spent with key contacts at client events. This goal maps directly to the firm’s desire to tap into a captive audience at those events in order to grow and strengthen relationships, and ultimately secure new matters and expand existing engagements.


Use incentives and rewards to drive engagement and adoption

When designing a program for law firm marketing and business development staff, engagement success hinges on compelling incentives to get started. The experience firms have had with previous marketing and business development solutions accentuates the importance of this factor. From the firm’s perspective, the goal is active firmwide participation that helps support established growth strategies. This is why it is important to build in incentives throughout the program lifecycle to keep staffers engaged.

There are two types of rewards — extrinsic and intrinsic — and the most effective law firm marketing and business development programs feature a blend of both. Extrinsic rewards include things like prizes, bonuses, and other monetary compensation. By contrast, intrinsic rewards focus on recognition for a job well done; they include things like publicized success stories, access to continuing education, and advancement opportunities. When building a reward structure, it’s important to consider individuals’ roles and what matters most to them. Whereas partners may be more interested in kudos, a $100 gift card goes a long way with operations staffers.

With careful planning and program design, gamification pays off in spades.

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