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“It’s easier to get more work from an existing client than it is to get a new client.” So goes a longstanding mantra in the marketing and sales world. So, let’s say your goal is to get every bit of legal business your best client has. For the moment, set aside the practical challenges of achieving that. Begin at the beginning: What would that perfect world look like, specifically?

Right now, they’re buying Employment and Patent Prosecution from you. But they’re a disruptive AgTech company. What other legal services would they logically be buying now, and which would you project in the future based on your understanding of their industry and their business? (You do understand their industry and their business, right?)

Map industry issues to your services

Legal service demand, the kind with pricing power and low cost of sales, derives from high-impact business problems or opportunities, for which motivated buyers will create budget where there is none.

A 15-minute perusal of search results for “AgTech industry issues” showed me that this was the conversation afoot in the agriculture space and among those developing tech for it:

Drones

  • Monitoring crop performance and spread to help farmers overcome issues like drought. High quality 3D imagery to analyze/predict soil quality

  • Surveying and planting

  • Mass data collection

  • Precision use of pesticides, water, fertilizer

  • Spying on farm ops by environmental groups

Robotics

  • Reduce manual labor

  • Precisely target spraying, reduce pesticides

  • Weed removal

Sensors and tracking

  • RFID sensors track whole supply chain

  • Trace infection outbreaks

  • Live soil info

  • Plant/pest detection

  • Cattle ID

Machine learning/AI

  • Which traits and genes produce best crops

  • Which areas of farms produce best results

  • Which environmental factors cause most damage

Precision Agriculture:

  • Determine when, where, what to plant

  • Satellite navigation

  • Monitoring/mapping of yields via sensors

  • Weather prediction/scenarios

Challenges

  • Agriculture relatively slow re: innovation

  • Scaling much more difficult

  • Changes in revenue distribution

  • Funding slower than other ‘disrupted’ industries

  • Livestock not getting as much attention as crops

  • AgTech industry immature; most funding at seed stage

Data

  • Standards

  • Protection/privacy

  • Ownership/control/transparency

  • IP

Value

The information is out there. That’s just a quickie list compiled by a layman who knows almost nothing about agriculture or law. Just think how much better you could do with your accumulated experience and access to those with a stake in all these issues.

All these factors have contributed to farmers’ skepticism about value delivered, which in turn reinforces adoption reluctance, which makes it hard for your AgTech clients and prospects to sell into this market.

We’re getting more technology that’s not useful. A lot of people have wasted a lot of money on a lot of tech that’s doing a whole lot of nothing for them.
— Farmer

Action items

  1. Compile your own, better informed, list.

  2. Identify the legal services that map to these factors and challenges. Don’t fall into the trap of using legal service-label nouns such as “Corporate work,” or “Environmental work.” You can’t start a conversation with those. Think more like, “We can help them reduce…” or “...improve…,” etc.

  3. Using the preamble, “It seems like AgTech companies (or their customers) are wrestling with [issue],” initiate discussions with everyone you can reach in the industry, soliciting their insider views of these topics.

  4. Ask each person to introduce you to someone in their circle, from whom you could get additional informed opinion.

That’s it. Before long, you’ll have a vibrant, sustainable discussion in the industry about relevant topics that position you as a thought leader and differentiate you from competitors who are still fighting over a slice of the diminishing mature legal service pie. If you’re doing it well, you should also find yourself devising fresh thinking and solutions to bring to people in the business, thereby creating your own small version of a Blue Ocean strategy.

Mike O’Horo