Of all the conversations surrounding legal tech and industry innovation, I believe the most deleterious of all is the idea that lawyers are the proximate cause of delayed innovation…
In this article, I’ll make the case that notorious lawyer “curmudgeonliness’’ actually strengthens the legal tech ecosystem, helping them build stronger, faster and savvier technology products and show how this is essential for “crossing the chasm” and true legal innovation. Said another way, “Pressure makes diamonds’’. Let us see how.
The New Entrepreneur
In the tech startup world, two of the most ubiquitous phrased are …’’9 out of 10 startups fail’’ and ‘’is there product-market fit’’. These phrases are now so well-known that when I told my parents I was going into legal tech they both reflexively shot back …’’But don’t startups just run out of money or get bought and disappear’’? But of course, they are right and that’s because most business verticals today rush to tech like a moth to a flame, seeking out “competitive advantage or innovation” as a means to all ends, resulting - of course being that
… 9 out of 10 startup tech companies fail.
Here’s where legal tech might be blessed (despite what we feel). I believe lawyer’s natural skepticism will not only help us beat the “9 out of every startup fail’’ statistic but by building better and truly focused products, legal tech will get lawyers sick and sneeeeeze … because “sneezing” lawyers are the key to spreading the innovation bug and crossing the chasm. A theme we turn to next.
A Leap to Faith
About twenty-three years ago, Geoffrey Moore published “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Solutions to Mainstream Customers’’. This criminally-forgotten book introduced the “crossing the chasm’’ lexicon to tech entrepreneurs everywhere and became a stalwart for tech marketers by arguing that Everett Rodger’s technology adoption lifecycle lacked a “chasm” when it came to discontinuous innovations - like legaltech, specifically that a “chasm” existed between “early adopters” and the “early majority”. According to Moore, in order to cross that chasm, a successful firm [must] create a bandwagon effect in which enough momentum builds, then the product becomes a de facto standard. [ Source: Wikipedia]
Today Crossing The Chasm is mostly remembered for its “early adopters”, “innovators” and “early majorities” categories, but as Andy Rachleff, Co-Founder of WealthFront argued in his Medium article, the most relevant takeaway for Legal Tech companies seems to have been forgotten, essentially, that in order to cross the chasm you need a “whole product” solution.
The chasm lies between the early adopter and early majority stages. A whole product is required for a technology to cross the chasm. It includes the features, interfaces, and third party products and services needed to garner the references required to sell the new technology to a broad and demanding audience.
But for early stage startups, with limited resources a whole product means a focused product, for a focused niche.
In the case of Wealthfront, Rachleff and Co. focused on solving the “intro-investment” problem for tech-employees in San Francisco because what Rachleff knew from Crossing the Chasm was that getting this problem right for these early adopters would cause them to sneeze their success across the chasm, as it were. Which brings us to the idea of solving niche problems.
Getting Lawyers sick
Lifted from Seth Godin’s wonderful book, Purple Cow, “Sneezers” are ...the ones who launch and maintain idea viruses. Innovators or Early Adopters may be the first to buy your product, but if they’re not sneezers they won’t help spread your idea. …meaning it is useless to advertise to anyone besides interested sneezers.
Finding the “sneezers” and solving a problem completely for them is the key to crossing the chasm.Which leads us back to today’s “tech” issue and my parents’ “9 out of 10” quip.
The existential issue facing tech companies today is not “can” but “should”. Based on Moore and Godin, we can at least guide ourselves by asking ourselves, “are we solving real problems for sneezers?” So how do you find these Sneezers? Let’s get to that right now.
All your marketing is wrong
Nothing is ever straightforward and finding your sneezers is no different. Luckily, this is where “good” marketing comes in - what I call sneezer marketing.
Unfortunately today most marketing is actually, “anti-sneeze” marketing which is why today’s marketing is so, well … bad. Only 0.75 percent of B2B marketing-generated leads ever become closed revenue [Forrester]
Today “marketing” revolves around “getting the word out”, “branding” and “filling the funnel” with general content for nearly everyone, the thought being “get lots of eyeballs on us and someone is going to buy, right?” Yes … exactly 1%.
In other words, today’s marketing is all about quantity, not quality and is anti-sneezer at its worst, counting the “people you reach rather than reaching the people who count … the sneezers.” So here’s the big insight from me, the “legal tech marketer”
Marketing is not about qualifying…It's about disqualifying people.
Which brings us full circle. If legal tech is a discontinuous innovation (yes) and sneezers are the ones who make legal tech stick (yes)...then you need to get them sick by making niche whole products that summarily solve problems for them.
Marketing to anyone other than sneezers is not only a waste of time, but also creates the unwanted noise, clutter and hype which early majority and cynics *cough lawyers hate and run away from…
Bringing us full circle back to lawyers and my original point about their cynicism being a net benefit. For those Legal Tech companies who can integrate product, marketing and sales into an iterative feedback loop that simultaneously finds sneezers and narrows down their product focus to the core niche problems solutions for them, the probability of crossing the chasm increases exponentially. By being “hard sells” lawyers are helping legal tech build better because as Bill Gates has famously said, “your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.
Despite that tough road we’re going through right now, I believe Legal Tech is actually blessed with a notoriously difficult to please contingency - who ironically - might just be our greatest asset. Let’s not waste this chance.
About the author
Ben Chiriboga is a former litigator turned legal marketer focused on bringing innovation to the practice of law.
He is the founder of Legal Client Funnels, the world's first marketing and growth consultancy dedicated to Legal Tech companies, where he combines his deep industry knowledge with today's best demand generation and sales practices.