Consider Collaborating with Consulting Firms or Vendors

When you conduct a survey on behalf of a law firm or legal vendor, it might be shrewd to team with others who do not compete with you for purposes of expanding your outreach, whom we will refer to as a “collaborator.” A collaborator may see it in their interest to promote their name in the survey and thereby gather information and contacts that are useful to them. They might agree to e-mail a survey invitation to their proprietary mailing lists and contacts; everyone wins! You get more participants and awareness, they get more publicity, data, and grist for blogs, articles, or webinars. When I carried out benchmarking surveys of law departments, for example, I had a consultant friend in Canada who wrote to his group of contacts. In return, I created a subset of the report for Canadian law departments with data he could turn to his advantage.

All this sounds like an open road, but beware bumps! Consider one drawback of enlisting a collaborator. Presuming they don’t contact you first, it takes time to identify the collaborator and then reach the right person who can agree to such an arrangement. Then, you have to negotiate how it will play out. Issues to be resolved could include ownership of the data that results from the survey, copyright of the report, responsibilities for writing the report, marketing material and their placement in the report, the degree of public disclosure of the findings, and much more.

The collaborator may insist on adding questions that serve their goals but either lengthen the survey too much or contravene your style or purposes. The most likely culprits are questions that read like sales pitches: “How often in the past year have you wished you had better software for financial management?” Such a bald question thrills a marketer but turns off potential participants. A tenuous line separates factual research and blatant selling. Collaborations test that line.

The collaborator may want to include an ad in your report or put their name and logo on the cover or otherwise alter the sense that the marketplace has of your firm’s responsibility for the survey project.

When the collaborator emails invitations to the survey, some of the recipients may have already heard from you. Does it irritate them to be “spammed”? Or does a duplicated invitation add legitimacy to your invitation? After all, another known and reputable group is urging them to complete the survey. The collaborator has explicitly endorsed your survey and by extension your firm. It is also possible that the group you have thrown your lot in with is not looked upon favorably by some people who are invited to take the survey. A spillover reputation can cut both ways of course.

Once you have linked yourself with one collaborator, you probably preclude fruitful collaboration with their competitors. You can’t play the field as freely thereafter.

Consider, too, that time passes while you and your fellow-traveler hammer out decisions. Nothing will happen more quickly than if you were forging ahead on your own unless they bring a specialized skillset, such as graphical design, programming expertise, webinar capability, or otherwise.

Stated generally, when you have another chef cooking with you, you lose complete control over the dish. What you serve might end up improved, but trade offs loom. With another party involved, life is not as simple, and you never know at the onset if the additional participants they deliver will make the angst worthwhile.