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| 16 minutes read

CMO Series EP59 - Lynn Tellefsen-Stehle of Structura Strategy Group on the forms and benefits of agile marketing for law firms

With the team stretched to the limit and no end in sight to current projects, the CMO's phone rings with a new business-critical priority or project that needs to be completed ASAP. That is the reality of today's legal marketing teams and the reason behind this week’s topic on the CMO series - Agile Marketing.

Ed Lovatt is lucky to explore this subject with Lynn Tellefsen-Stehle, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at Structura Strategy Group and former CMO and Senior Marketing Leader for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Dentons.

Ed and Lynn cover: 

  • The context in which agile marketing was born
  • The technical definition of agile marketing and how it works 
  • How Lynn came to agile marketing and when it became so crucial to her practice 
  • What makes agile marketing something CMOs and marketing leaders should care about
  • How well understood or leveraged agile marketing is in today's legal marketing functions
  • How to go about diagnosing whether agile marketing is the solution to the problems a team is having
  • Firms' readiness to adopt agile marketing
  • What agile marketing looks like in practice
  • The starting point for people interested in agile marketing for their firm

If you're looking to explore this topic further, check out some of the resources Lynn recommends on the podcast:


Intro: Welcome to the Passle Podcast CMO series.

Ed: Welcome to the Passle CMO podcast series. I'm joined today by Lynn Tellefsen-Stehle, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at Structure Strategy Group and former CMO and senior marketing leader for Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, Cahill Gordon & Reindel as well as Dentons. We're focused today on the benefits and forms of agile marketing for law firms. Welcome, Lynn.

Lynn: Well, thank you, Ed. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Ed: Absolutely, pleasure. So I wanted to kind of jump straight into it for those who are not familiar with the term or what agile marketing is, can you give us a brief rundown?

Lynn: I sure can. I'd love to. But before explaining the technical definition of agile marketing, I'd love to briefly explain the context upon which the official agile marketing movement was born. Marketing work has radically changed, but not the way that we manage it. And one big characteristic of that change is the pace at which legal marketing teams need to perform to make a noticeable impact. The need for speed has never been greater. And a great visual that folks can refer to is the Gartner Marketing in the Digital Age map. It looks like a subway map. The need for speed has never been greater, and I'm envisioning our legal marketing colleagues, Ed, who are listening to this will nod their heads when I say that shifting priorities is a way of life for many of us. Oftentimes when I was in-house, my priorities looked radically different on a Friday than they did on a Monday. And the new and the unexpected is a daily occurrence. And Agile marketing has techniques that are specific to better managing, changing priorities and then the priorities within the work itself. Right? And it provides better visibility into project status, and solves bottlenecks faster than using traditional methods. But technically, agile marketing is a methodology and an approach to managing marketing work in a specific way with certain techniques that respond to the common frustrations marketers today face. And the techniques are specific to marketing to optimise performance. And this is the important part to deliver continuous value to clients. So the one aspect, Ed, I would emphasise for those who are unfamiliar is that Agile marketing is focused on the delivery of continuous value to clients and it provides a reliable, systematic way of doing that.

Ed: I love that answer because it's way more detailed than I thought you would come back with. I thought that there would be just a sky view version of it, but that's much more information. So that's more useful to everybody listening. And you said about some of the marketers listening that would be nodding their heads. And I'm 100% sure there will be. Was there a specific moment, maybe it was at some of your previous firms or maybe during your change to Structura Strategy Group that you can think of that made you come to know Agile Marketing?

Lynn: Yeah, that's a great question. And there was a few years ago, and I was in-house at my last firm, and candidly, I was looking to remedy burnout on my team and an inability for us to keep pace with the number of, I'll say, forward-reaching strategic initiatives that were requested of us. I'll note that this firm has both equal-sized business-to-business and business-to-consumer practices. We had a big, for instance, personal injury group, mass tort group, etc. And we had a small marketing team. Adding to our team wasn't an option, and I was looking for solutions. So I was interviewing some digital agencies to help run a gap analysis, hopefully, to reveal areas where we could improve so that I could see what I couldn't see. Right. I knew what I could see and I knew that we still had this problem. And I knew that my situation was specific, that I couldn't add more headcount to my problem. I had the tools that I thought our team needed, and the team was optimised in a way that I thought was really great, yet we still couldn't keep up. So I noticed Agile Marketing was something that one of the agencies I was interviewing made a really big deal about, and I had never heard of it. So I literally picked up the phone and I called this person who sent the proposal and I said, what is this? And when I hung up the phone, I found a video from a company called Agile Sherpas, which I think very highly of. And I watched the video, and once I listened to the video and watched the video, it just made sense. It clicked. There were a lot of ways of working that I had been working for years before this term was even coined or known to me, but it really took it to the next level, and the next level was what I needed. How many times the question for you and the listeners is how many times have you updated an app on your phone and the updates were bug fixes? We all find bugs in software annoying, but imagine if we didn't have the app in the first place because the developers were waiting until they planned it all out. And then when they were done, and then when it was tested, they released it. No. Digital-first thinking, I believe, now dominates our world. Markets are emerging and evolving so fast, Ed, relying on annual plans and reviews it's just not as effective as it once was. Think about how dramatically LinkedIn, for instance, as a platform has changed in the last several years. LinkedIn to me is a prime example of how a marketing operation has kept pace with the evolution of the platform itself. I'm guessing that they don't get there with annual reviews and plans. So for me, I was hooked. It was certainly worth a try. At least that was my thinking.

Ed: I love that app analogy. I mean, it's obvious now that you say it, but obviously it's creating something and then just constantly improving on it rather than just waiting until you've found the perfect recipe for it. Yeah, and we all can relate to that, right? Because think about Facebook. Facebook didn't always have the care emoticon or LinkedIn just recently introduced the laughing or I think it's called humour, the humour emoticon - releasing in small batches. And that's the other thing. You can probably remember that certain friends had the care of emoticon and you didn't. And you saw it and you said, what is that what's going on here? Yeah, I think if we think about it, we can all relate to how that affects us in our daily lives and our need for immediacy.

Lynn: I feel like this is a rabbit hole. We could probably go down and talk about. Maybe it’s a round two podcast.

Ed: Right. Don't get me started. I'm really passionate about it. I really am.

Ed: So when you bought in the whole concept of agile marketing, what is it about that do you think is something that CMOs or market leaders, business development teams should really care about?

Lynn: Sure, that's a good question. Well, there are three big reasons I can think of. One is the ability to better align the marketing team's goals with the organisational goals and what leadership wants. Because, look, I mean, priorities are changing all of the time. So being able to better match and align what your team is working on and what your team is producing with what your organisation expects and wants, it's really important. And agile marketing is focused on delivering continuous value to the clients using data. We all have very sophisticated data and dashboards. CMOs care about maximising the effectiveness of their marketing and positively impacting the bottom line. There's a survey that was released, I guess about a month ago about agile marketing, and I can make this available too, if you guys want. It's called the State of Agile Marketing report. It's the fifth annual one, and it was a survey conducted in partnership with Adobe and IBM. In it, there are some really interesting statistics, but one of the most interesting statistics is that organisations that characterise their team as agile marketing mature reported year-over-year cost savings of up to 30% and revenue increases of up to 20%. So those are very good reasons. But generating performance-based marketing systems that deliver requires flexibility, iteration, and database decisions. And agile marketing is all about that. That's one big reason. Think about, and this is something you guys help a lot with, is content creation and distribution. How easy the entire…  it's very, very important to make as much of that execution as efficient as possible. Again in this report, I just want to read off a couple of the answers that I think are revealing that relate to fixing the throughput problem and that is that the folks surveyed and there are hundreds of marketer surveys cited that with agile they were able to better manage changing priorities. They had better visibility into projects. They improved their productivity, which is what I really found a game changer. Team morale was improved. 58% said that. It was easier to manage remote and distributed teams and I think that's important for law firms who have teams all over the world. They could prioritise more effectively, release marketing work more effectively, change direction faster, improve the quality of their work, identify roadblocks and overcome them faster, and better align the team around business objectives. 45% said that, although that would be higher on my list. and better align with the teams outside of marketing and I'm thinking the technological team, your IT department. Also there's still more demand than supply when it comes to recruiting talent in the marketing realm. So using a better method to get your work done in the meantime as you're recruiting or if you have staff attrition, I think is also a really attractive prospect and if teams don't become Agile, I think they'll fall behind. And some of the reasons cited by those in this survey again and again I think at our legal marketing colleagues are going to be nodding their heads. I'll speak for myself and say I was nodding my head. We have too many last-minute requests. There's no consistent way of working across marketing projects. The quality and effectiveness of our marketing needs to improve. We lack an effective process for managing stakeholder feedback. Leadership does not understand what we are working on. We work too slowly. Our team does not have a good enough sense of what others are working on. And these were the problems that these folks surveyed came to solve with this new way of managing their marketing work.

Ed: Even I was nodding my head whilst you are reading. Those are all things I've heard as well. This is accurate.

Lynn: Oh, you have. Okay, well, that was certainly some of those were on my list.

Ed: Would you say all firms are able to or are ready to adopt to the agile marketing concept?

Lynn: That's a good question, Ed, but I couldn't say it's really early in its years as a formal in its infancy I think, in terms of being kind of a formal movement, I think it's specific to each firm, right? I think their resources, their priorities are different, the way their teams are composed are different. It's really going to depend.

Ed: I think that's a fair answer. If you were able to have the all-seeing eye and say, this firm is able to from such a position, say, yes, this firm can, this firm can't right now, but people would be paying a lot of money to be doing that, I think.

Lynn: Maybe that's a goal, right? That's the goal. I'll get there someday. I can say that if I had tried to adopt it when I first got to my last firm, the answer would be we weren't ready. I believe that the team needs to be otherwise optimised. That doesn't mean that every position needs to be filled. But if you're already performing at what you think is pretty much your peak performance on a good day and you still can't handle the requests that are coming in or be as forward reaching as you want, or have the white space to actually think strategically, then that's something that needs to be addressed I think first. There are companies, very well known companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and also some big financial institutions that have adopted agile. But like anything that's change management, change management is a big undertaking. So that's a whole other aspect of whether or not a firm would want to adopt agile marketing. What is its appetite and what are its resources for managing a fairly big change? Is this something that the organisation wants to do or is this something that's specific to the marketing department? Because agile marketing is specific to marketing work, maybe in a way that scrum is specific to software development, but there are lots of different ways of looking at it, and approaching it. Do you layer it in? Do you have a team that's big enough to take five to seven people off the grid, so to speak, and put them in an agile group and train them and then layer or do you want to just layer in some of the techniques I'll give you a for instance, at Wilentz I just layered in some of the techniques. I didn't have a big enough team, I thought, and I also didn't have enough time. I had to get work out the door. So we implemented things like visual project management. So we used a program called Trello and the way we work gradually changed and that tool helped us to change the way we work, work and process limits. We put those in place. I started looking at calculating the cost of delay, and there are specific ways to calculate the cost of delay in terms of presenting to leadership, which projects I thought were priorities relative to the expected ROI and the resources that we had. So the ability to prioritise and reprioritise without disrupting the throughput is a goal worth pursuing, in my opinion.

Ed: You mentioned earlier, offering continuous value to clients. Are there other impacts that are visible or at least obvious to the firm or the people within marketing teams from adopting agile marketing?

Lynn: Yeah. I mean, I think that the question is how well can you anticipate and respond to the needs of your clients? Right? So how happy are your clients and how well are you anticipating what your clients need? Digital marketing, for instance. If a firm wants to do digital marketing in any real way and do that marketing in-house, it doesn't sound crazy, but I don't see how you do it without using an agile framework. So, for instance, hypotheses are tested by using agile marketing, and that's not just creative AB. Everyone loves to look at creative and say, did this colour resonate better? Did this one, this ad with the person who's pictured doing this perform better than that? That's great. You need to do that. But the hypotheses about the ability to target is what's important first. You have to get that down first. So you don't just go out with, using the Facebook example again, you don't just come out with the care emoticon. You do some testing first. You have a hypothesis. I think that the platform users want a care emoticon. Sometimes people want to express themselves in that way, so they test for that. And once they get the data back that proves that then they go and create their campaign and then they go and roll it out. So I think that in terms of visibility, you have happier in-house clients and happier external clients. They are more satisfied. So there's a big difference, I know, in the feedback that we get. The leadership team understands what's being worked on. The results are being presented in a way that's in alignment with what the leadership team is looking for and not necessarily what's important to the marketing department. For example, I'm just going to throw something out here. Bounce rate. There's a lot of talk about bounce rates on websites. Well, bounce rate needs to be spoken of in the context upon the page in which it resides and the campaign upon which it's factoring into that campaign. But does the firm leadership care about the bounce rate? Probably not, but they do care that they're providing the right information to the right audience and that the marketing department is helping to prepare, distribute, and serve it up in a way that's intuitive to the client at the time they need it when they need it, and having a system for doing that I think really helps strengthen a team and also helps strengthen the confidence level. And I'll tell you from this report that the team said exactly that. They felt more confident, they felt better able to handle changing priorities, they felt better able to handle work remotely or in person, and they felt better able to handle all aspects of digital marketing, including content development. And content development is clearly one of our industry's biggest challenges because we're thought leaders, right? And we market our lawyers as thought leaders. So being anticipatory and being fast is important. There's a reason why we call them alerts, right? They're not sent two months later.

Ed: It obviously has a knock-on effect. It's not just happy clients at the end of the day, it also has a positive effect on the firm and the people working within it. When we're getting towards the end point of the podcast and generally we have a normal question right at the end, which we ask everybody, I'm going to maybe break the mould a little bit and ask a two-pronged question. What would you say is the starting point or would be the starting point for those that are interested in agile marketing for their firm? And then the final question that we ask pretty much everybody is what would be your piece of advice for somebody who is interested in or wants to just jump straight into starting with agile marketing? So what is the starting point, but what would be your advice?

Lynn: Got it. Okay, so two-pronged question. There's a lot of information about agile marketing that's out there, so I would start there. There is something called an Agile Marketing Manifesto which sounds a little bit daunting, but it's certainly worth pursuing what the principles are. There's an international Consortium for Agile, which is where I got my certifications and I would highly recommend folks also check that out. And the URL for that is and there are a lot of resources there for folks who are curious about it. Agile Sherpas is also a great resource for learning about agile marketing. And where do I think folks should start? I think they should start with their own team in their own situation. And looking at that. At Structure Strategy Group, we've developed an Agile Marketing appraisal system that's specific to law firms ad and it examines some of the common pain points that we've already discussed…  too much work, moving too slowly, feeling out of alignment with other parts of the organisation, feeling stressed out, burned out. There's common pain points as well as the team's composition, the geographic coverage, the practices for the firm and currently the way they handle their marketing work, right? Those are all important. And it also infuses all that I've learned and Paula Zirinsky has learned and experienced as an in-house CMO for over 15 years. And so our appraisal focuses on readiness and, if ready, personalised ways of approaching adoption. Our focus on assisting the CMO to best adapt to the world transformed by technological acceleration, the pandemic, and the increasingly digital-first thinking of the modern-day client as the generations shift. So I do believe it's highly personalised, and you really need to look at your exact situation, your goals.

Ed: Lynn, thank you so much for being on the podcast. It's been wonderful to dig into a topic that I know that you're a huge fan of. There are also, I think, probably six other topics that you and I could go down rabbit holes on and discuss for another 30, 40 minutes on each topic, but maybe that is a round two, three and four of a podcast. So thank you very much.

Lynn: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Ed: We'll see if we can get you on again and we'll keep in touch.

Lynn: Thank you so much. Take care. Bye.


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