Creating consistent, high-quality content is essential to the success of your law firm’s marketing efforts. The best way to get your ideas and insights in front of your audience is through law firm content marketing. By sharing and promoting your best ideas, your law firm will gain trust and build influence with prospects. Over time, by staying top of mind, members of your target audience will come to see your firm and its lawyers as experts capable of solving difficult problems. When a client need arises, your firm will be well-positioned for the opportunity because it put the work in to position itself as a thought leader.
But keep in mind: None of those benefits will accrue without hard work and strategic thinking. Law firm content marketing involves much more than merely publishing blog posts. It requires a comprehensive strategy that involves audience definition, topic ideation, editorial workflow, promotion strategy, and more.
Law firm content marketing—done effectively—involves a big investment of time and resources. Attorneys need to carve out time from client work to create content. A marketing team is required to publish and promote content. And outside consultants, such as an agency that specializes in content marketing, may be needed to develop strategy, supplement content creation, design graphics and other visual storytelling assets, and pitch ideas in order to publish a firm’s content in third-party websites, trade journals, and other outlets.
The investment is worth it, though, because law firm content marketing offers the best ROI among marketing alternatives, such as traditional advertising, PR, and other outbound marketing tactics. According to research done by the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates three times as many leads as outbound marketing tactics yet costs 62% less, and 74% of companies indicate that content marketing increases lead quality and quantity.
It’s important to note from the start that generating a high ROI from content marketing requires having a solid strategy in place. Indeed, companies across the B2B landscape who invest in a documented content marketing strategy consistently outperform those who don’t.
According to the 2019 B2B Content Marketing Survey, only 39% of B2B content programs have a documented content strategy. Those that do are twice as likely to report success in their content marketing.
The benefits of law firm content marketing are pretty clear, as is the need to develop a comprehensive strategy. But before diving in and creating content, it’s important for your law firm to answer these critical questions:
Why are you investing in content marketing? And how do you define success?
These questions are fundamental but few dig in to answer them. Instead, many firms employ a “publish and pray” approach that leads to mixed results at best.
For example, for many law firms, increasing brand awareness is an important content marketing goal. After all, if your firm is well known and well regarded in the marketplace, it’s more likely to be on the shortlist when clients go searching for a solution.
But how do you know if your firm’s brand awareness is increasing? Leading key performance indicators (KPIs) to watch out for—and to define in your content strategy—include social media metrics (increased following, likes, comments, and shares) and website article views and time on site.
The point is, for each content goal you set, link it to the KPIs that will allow you to measure whether you’re getting closer to achieving it. If you’re not setting goals and defining KPIs then you’re just publishing and praying.
The failure of law firms to thoughtfully and strategically think through their goals and objectives, and to define the strategies and tactics necessary to achieve them, is the leading cause of subpar content marketing results.
Achieving success with law firm content marketing doesn’t happen by accident; it's the result of lots of planning, collaboration, writing, editing, promotion, and more. At Harrington Communications, we’ve helped hundreds of law firms plan and execute successful content marketing strategies. Over the years, we’ve refined the content marketing process down to six steps, which are:
Step 1—Define Your Audience. To whom are you trying to communicate and for what purpose?
Step 2—Optimize Your Website. Is your website optimized so that (1) you can generate leads from those who consume your content, and (2) the search engines consider your website authoritative so that it ranks highly in search results?
Step 3—Create a Content Marketing Workflow. What is the process of transforming an idea into polished content, and what teams and systems must be in place for an effective workflow?
Step 4—How to Create Compelling Content that Gets Noticed. Amid all the noise online and in social networks, how can you create content so good that it can’t be ignored by members of your target audience?
Step 5—Market Your Content. What steps need to be taken to get your content on the right platforms and in front of the right audiences?
Step 6—Repurpose Your Best Content. What is required to make your best ideas continue to spread by repackaging and repurposing your content?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through what we’ve learned so that you can apply our best practices and make your law firm’s content marketing more successful. These tips and tactics, and the six-step process that we’ve created, work regardless of whether you’re creating written, video, or audio content. They’re universal best practices for law firm content marketing—regardless of its form. So buckle up (there’s a lot to take in) and get ready to up your content marketing game as you work your way through this guide. Along the way, we’ll share actionable tips and free tools that you can use to make an immediate impact.
Interested in learning about how a content marketing agency can play a pivotal role in improving your law firm’s content marketing efforts, and save you time and resources in the process? Let’s chat!
STEP 1—DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE
Knowing who your clients are and understanding their needs and desires is one the most important elements of your documented content strategy. Your firm isn’t for everyone—at least it shouldn’t be if you hope to stand out—so specifically identifying who you hope to serve with your content, and ultimately your legal services, is critical.
You content should provoke, engage, and speak the language of your audience, and that requires that you know your audience inside and out.
The best content is written with a specific person in mind, so get granular and define audience “personas” as part of your strategy. Consider and answer questions such as:
To whom are you communicating with?
What is their role within a company?
What challenges are they facing?
What do they care about?
If your law firm produces content for many different practices and industries, this exercise must be conducted for a number of target audiences.
In our experience, the narrower you define your audience the better. For example, let’s assume that the attorneys in your firm’s healthcare practice group want to execute a more aggressive content marketing strategy. Healthcare is a niche, but it’s a big broad one, encompassing doctors, surgical centers, assisted living, hospitals, physician’s practices, health systems, pharmaceutical companies—the list goes on and on. It will be impossible to cover all of the topics, relevant to all of the constituencies, with the depth and insight necessary for those in the industry (defined broadly) to take notice.
Instead, define a much more specific audience, such as “general counsel at health systems with $100+ million in revenue in the Northeast.” That’s a granular description of a buyer persona that you can wrap your mind around. And it’s one that can help you achieve one of the major objectives of a law firm content marketing initiative, which is to make your members of your target audience believe that you’re creating content just for them—and if you’re getting narrow enough with your targeting, you will be.
If you can demonstrate to your readers, viewers, and listeners that you have the empathy and understanding to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes then they’ll keep coming back for more. Ultimately, they’ll start to think of you as the expert who has the solutions to the problems they face. And that’s how content marketing leads to new business. If you stay in front of your target audience frequently enough with high quality content they can’t ignore, you’ll be top of mind when they have a need for a solution of the variety you provide.
From website content to thought leadership marketing, if you want to attract qualified visitors to your law firm website, start by defining your audience. Then, with a clear understanding of the audience you’re communicating with, craft your content with the intention of answering their questions, addressing their objections, making them better informed, and offering evidence—in the form of testimonials, case studies, and other forms of social proof—that your firm is the right choice to help them solve their problems.
Action Step—Try This:
Think strategically about the audience you’re trying to attract, what matters to them, and how you can help them through the content you’re sharing in the marketplace of ideas. It’s not easy, but try boiling it down to a single sentence:
Through our content, [audience x] learns [information y] which provides them [benefit z].
Want an example? Here’s how we fill in the blanks:
Through our content, law firms learn the best practices in content marketing which provides them the tools necessary to generate more and better new business.
The ultimate goal of any law firm content marketing strategy is to generate business. Compelling content (in the form of articles, blog posts, videos, infographics, and other visual storytelling assets) is meant to draw prospective clients in to your website, but if visitors aren’t navigating to your practice area and attorney bio pages (your “sales” pages) then they won’t become leads you can capitalize on. Think of your content as a worm and your practice area and attorney bio pages as the hook.
Thinking about your content in this way helps you to optimize your content for the two different types of prospective clients who search for legal solutions online: “Buyers” and “Browsers.”
Buyers are those who have an urgent need and are searching for an immediate solution. They’re looking to buy, so they’re using specific “commercial-intent” keyphrases, such as “energy industry employment lawyer in Dallas” when doing a Google search. Depending on the audience you’re trying to appeal to (see Step 1), and the key phrases you want to rank for, you’ll want to optimize your “hook” practice area and attorney bio pages to capture traffic from those looking to buy.
Browsers are window shopping. They need an answer to a question but are not yet ready to buy. A Browser will use Google to find an answer to a question such as “what to include in an employee handbook in Texas.” Use your blog to address the types of keyphrases (questions, objections, pain points, and trending topics) that Browsers might be searching for, and include internal links back to your practice area and attorney bio pages relevant to the topic.
To lay a strong foundation to capture leads from both Buyers and Browsers, you need to optimize your pages to attract and convert qualified visitors who need your help.
To increase conversion (that is, move a Browser to a Buyer), make sure to include clear and compelling calls to action on your pages. If you don’t call your audience to action, there’s a good chance they won’t take the next step toward greater engagement with your firm. You don’t need to be salesy or pushy—indeed, you shouldn’t be—but you do need to reduce friction and provide website visitors with a clear explanation of how to move forward. If you confuse, you’ll lose your audience.
Robust content marketing won’t make much of a difference if you’re not driving traffic to a website that is SEO-optimized and built for conversion. However, once you’ve laid a strong foundation, you can get your content creation machine cranking. Soon you’ll start experiencing a steady stream of qualified visitors who are ready to bite.
When helping clients optimize their pages to rank for specific keyphrases, we use a variety of tools. Some of the most useful are from Moz. You can use Moz tools such as the Moz Link Explorer and Moz Keyword Explorer (which are available for free) to assess the competitiveness of phrases and the domain authority of your site.
“Domain authority” is a metric that Moz uses as an indication of the relevance of a particular website—the higher the better. If a website has low domain authority, that means it will have a tougher time ranking highly in Google for competitive keyphrases. We’ll discuss how to increase your site’s domain authority below.
STEP 3—CREATE A CONTENT MARKETING WORKFLOW
Almost every law firm has the intention to create and publish more thought leadership content but most don’t do it nearly consistently enough to make an impact.
Effective law firm content marketing requires producing high quality content at a high level of output. Not only does more content give you a better chance to get in front of prospective clients but it also is an important indicator to the search engines that your website is authoritative. To revisit our analogy, the more baited hooks in the water the better.
One of the reasons that law firms that document a content marketing strategy are more successful than those that don’t is that, by having a strategy in place, firms can build an integrated system to enable the consistent creation of new content.
The primary elements involved in creating a strategic content marketing workflow include: a system for generating content ideas, a process for getting content created, and the use of an editorial calendar.
Generate and Capture Ideas
No matter how big your investment, how structured your team is, how dialed-in your processes are, and how expansive your platform, your law firm’s content marketing will only be successful if the ideas you’re writing about address the topics that are trending and top of mind in your industry. Here are some ideas to generate and capture ideas that will keep you relevant and engaged with your audience.
Collaboration Between Marketing Teams and Lawyers
In non-law firm, high-performing B2B companies that prioritize content marketing, you’ll find a tremendous among of synergy between marketing and sales teams. The reason for this is fairly obvious: If the best ideas address the questions, challenges, objections, and pain points of clients or customers, then salespeople—who are constantly engaged with clients or customers—have direct access to that information. They hear it every day in person, on the phone, and in emails during the sales process, and can pass it along to marketing to inform content creation efforts.
The same process should be employed by law firms. Lawyers are on the ground, listening and reacting to the issues facing their clients. They’re hearing, often over and over, the very questions that can serve as the foundation of a successful content marketing effort. To be successful, law firms need to create mechanisms for lawyers to get that information out of their heads and transmitted to the marketing professionals responsible for producing content marketing results.
If a firm’s lawyers aren’t feeding ideas to its marketing professionals then it will be nearly impossible to produce content that’s hyper-relevant to the firm’s target audience. A marketing team can’t ideate content marketing topics in isolation. It needs the input of lawyers, which requires that a process be in place to gather and transmit ideas.
In our experience, such a process involves:
Prompts: Lawyers are busy, and most won’t think about content marketing topics unless prompted to do so. A marketing team should send out weekly (or at least monthly) emails to lawyers asking them to be on the lookout for topics, ideas, insights, and questions that clients are grappling with in order to inform content marketing efforts.
Knowledge Banks: To stay organized, and make it easy for lawyers to transmit content ideas, a system should be established to help gather content ideas. A knowledge bank can be something as simple as a shared Google Doc or folder in a project management system that lawyers can drop ideas into.
Brainstorming Sessions: From time to time, on a monthly or quarterly basis, it’s important for a firm’s lawyers and marketing professionals to get together in-person to discuss content marketing and brainstorm ideas. It can be difficult to extract content inspiration from lawyers, but if you can get everyone in the same room, the ideas start flowing.
Consume Content and Draw Inspiration from Your Work
Effective content creators schedule “whitespace” time to think and process information, and give their minds an opportunity to make creative connections. They also take advantage of margin time—time spent in the car, on the subway, waiting in line—to fire up their content ideation.
Fire requires fuel, however, so effective content creators also consume content—judiciously and strategically—to help generate their own ideas.
They read. They listen to podcasts. They digest and distill wisdom from thought leaders in other disciplines and draw inspiration that allows them to shed new light on issues in their own areas of focus.
They also pay attention to and draw inspiration from their work. Every research assignment, transaction, and litigation strategy session contains nuggets of information waiting to be unearthed. Use the insights drawn directly from legal work as inspiration for content marketing. The odds are that if an issue impacts one client, there are countless, similarly-situated prospective clients waiting in the wings waiting to be informed through discovering your firm’s content.
Conduct a Content Marketing Survey
Want to really know what types of content your clients crave? Ask them!
One of the most effective ways to get great ideas for your law firm’s content marketing is to conduct a survey among members of your target audience (clients and non-clients alike) and gather feedback about:
What questions they want answered
What publications they know, like, and trust (which will help focus your guest-posting strategy)
What forms of content they prefer (written, video, audio, infographic, etc.)
By soliciting their feedback, you’ll get actionable data, and also make your readers, viewers, and listeners feel more invested in your content.
Conducting a content marketing need not be complicated or time consuming. It should be designed using an inexpensive tool such as SurveyMonkey so that it takes your clients less than five minutes to complete. You don’t need lots of data to get the insights you need to make your content marketing more effective—just a few of the right nuggets of information that will allow you to make your content appeal to the very people you’re trying to influence.
Need help creating a content marketing survey? Let’s chat!
Finally, effective content creators have a method for capturing and recording ideas. Ideas spring up during the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places. But ideas are fleeting, so it’s important to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes, whether it’s at the desk, in the middle of the night, or during a morning shower.
Keep a dedicated notepad on your desk, or document on your computer’s desktop, and keep a running list of ideas that can help fuel your content marketing efforts.
Use an Editorial Calendar
It’s unrealistic to think that a law firm that produces huge amounts of content can create a plan for a year’s worth of content in a single sitting, but it’s important to have a sense of what the year ahead holds.
Start thinking through how much content, and what types of content, your firm needs to produce each month to reach your goals. How many blog posts do you need? What guest posts for external publications will you pursue? How often will you create visual content, such as infographics and animated videos? Written content, and the visual storytelling that supports it, takes time create, so give your team a head start by creating an editorial calendar that helps head off the mad rush that so much content creation otherwise entails.
Building an editorial calendar in advance of content creation will help your team stay organized and know what content you need and by when. You’ll be able to prioritize projects and get the appropriate team members clear on their responsibilities over the course of the calendar. It will allow you to schedule content distribution and promotion in advance. It can help you to measure results by seeing all the content you’ve published, and plan to in the future, at a glance.
Your editorial calendar can be simple or complex. It can lay out weekly, monthly, or quarterly objectives. And it can include any number of categories, such as content type, topic, publish date, content creators, publishing location, and call to action, as well as other fields. The purpose of a calendar is to allow your marketing team to quickly access the information they need to create great content. Without one, it’s almost impossible to be strategic about your law firm’s content marketing.
Want access to a free Law Firm Content Marketing Editorial Calendar template? Email Jay Harrington at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to send you the tool we use for both our clients and ourselves.
Establish an Editorial Workflow
An editorial workflow is the process you’ll use to transform an idea into polished content that will get in front of and appeal to your target audience.
A law firm content marketing editorial workflow helps to keep projects on track. It defines who is involved at each stage of the content creation process. It’s particularly important for law firms to have a dialed-in workflow in place because it’s notoriously difficult for law firm marketers to get the content they need from the content creators within their firms—the busy lawyers who are bogged down by client demands. Moreover, law firm marketing departments tend to have quite a bit of turnover among staff, with people switching positions and departments or departing for other opportunities, so having a defined process in place and down on paper (rather than having it reside loosely in someone’s head) allows for someone new to step in and keep things running smoothly.
Creating an editorial workflow for your law firm doesn’t need to be a laborious process but it is a necessary one if you want to keep things on track. Keep it simple. Don’t try to think through every eventuality. Rather, build your workflow around your most common projects (blog posts and articles, for example). Your team will be nimble enough to make adjustments for unique and more in-depth projects. Be specific enough to make your workflow useful for the majority of projects but flexible enough to adapt to the outliers.
The elements of a workflow for most content marketing projects include:
Your editorial workflow should identify the steps involved and parties responsible for each piece of content.
For example, if your firm is creating a new whitepaper, the editorial workflow should establish the parties responsible for brainstorming ideas, pulling together research, writing and editing the content, creating any necessary artwork, and getting the content published and promoted. By documenting these steps and assigning tasks to the appropriate team members, you’ll eliminate inefficiencies, reduce mistakes, meet deadlines, and produce more polished work product. Having an editorial workflow in place allows law firm marketers to work with attorneys in a more organized and seamless fashion.
Many large law firms have the resources and people in place to complete the editorial workflow for a project in-house. Others require outside resources, such as copywriters and designers, who can supplement in-house capabilities.
Some firms, both big and small, determine that a better allocation of their resources is to outsource most of the editorial workflow to an outside expert, such as an agency that specializes in law firm content marketing. After all, the highest and best use of an attorney’s time is solving difficult problems for clients, not stuck in the weeds of a content marketing project.
Interested in learning more about how a content marketing agency can help to make your law firm’s marketing more efficient and effective? Set up a consultation!
STEP 4—CREATE COMPELLING CONTENT THAT GETS NOTICED
All of the strategic planning in the world won’t overcome weak content. There’s simply too much content out there to compete with if all you’re doing is sharing half-hearted insights. Your law firm won’t get noticed if you’re just mailing it in with your content, or merely mimicking the style and substance of your competitors.
If you want to stand out, you need to commit to taking your law firm’s content marketing to the next level. This means going deeper on topics, staying on top of industry trends, and using new and interesting content formats, such as video, audio, and infographics, to showcase your expertise. Your content needs to be remarkable—that is, compelling enough that people can’t help but remark on it and share it with their friends and colleagues.
Tell a Story
How can law firms best engage their audiences through their content marketing? The answer is storytelling. Great content resonates with an audience by helping them meet a need and telling your law firm’s story in the process. What sets a story apart from mere content is its ability to engage someone’s brain. Stories connect emotionally, not just intellectually. They convey insights, but wrapped in an interesting narrative. Your ability to tell stories, through your firm’s brand and its content, is the ultimate differentiator in the crowded marketplace of ideas.
Ironically, at a time when advancements in technology occur at a dizzying pace, the ancient, analog art of storytelling is more important than ever before. As recently as twenty years ago, consumers of legal services lived in a world of information asymmetry where law firms, not clients, held an information advantage. Technology has created information parity, and an environment in which clients are online, in control, and, as a result, searching for a story that resonates.
In today’s world, where facts, figures, and features are readily available commodities, law firms hoping to build engaged audiences must provide insight, education, and entertainment without interruption. It doesn't matter how big your bullhorn is— amplification and distribution matters little if you're not giving people what they want to read, hear, and see.
The solution to the modern day law firm marketing dilemma lies in inviting your prospects into a story that reflects their challenges, struggles, and opportunities, and not your own.
Story connects with people on an emotional level and inspires them to act. Facts, figures, and features are meaningless—at best they bore people, at worst they turn them off. You can't interrupt people from the content they're trying to consume (through, for example, traditional advertising) and expect them to take notice. Don’t try to pitch prospects before giving them something of value in the form of an insight they’ve never heard before, wrapped in a story that leads to an emotional connection.
As it has for thousands of years, story is the glue that binds people together, and it’s what leads to brand affinity and marketing success as well.
Looking for evidence of the supremacy of storytelling in marketing? Simply consider the storytelling success of billion dollar brands such as Apple, Nike, and Red Bull. They don’t focus on features such as megabytes, stitch counts, and percentages of sodium and potassium in their marketing. Instead they paint pictures of how their products make people’s lives more creative, healthy, and adventurous. In other words, they prioritize connecting emotionally not intellectually, because emotion is the key to buying decisions. Among a sea of similarly qualified lawyers and law firms, clients will choose those who they know, like, and trust.
Once you know what your audience wants, give it to them in a way that makes it land. If you’re drafting an article, write based on how people want to feel (inspired, educated, entertained), not how you want them to feel about you (smart and sophisticated).
Write the way Malcolm Gladwell does or Ernest Hemingway did—using story to parse complex topics at an eighth grade level. Banish jargon and legalisms from your toolkit. Write as if you’re sitting around the kitchen table having a conversation. Again, people’s perceptions will be shaped by how you make them feel, and if you attempt to dazzle them with your brilliance you’ll leave them feeling ignorant and uninformed.
Become the source of the information your audience seeks and they’ll keep coming back for more. Over time your audience will grow to know, like, and trust you because you’re making them better through the information you share. They’ll begin to perceive your firm as one that understands what it’s like to walk in their shoes, and possesses the requisite knowledge and expertise to help them overcome the challenges, and take advantage of opportunities, they face. Eventually, when the time is right, what was once a relationship between writer and reader will become that of attorney and client.
Lawyers and law firms already know that storytelling content is critical—they use it every day while writing briefs, crafting closing arguments, and conducting negotiations.
Now it’s time to start applying it where it can really make a difference, which is incorporating storytelling into content marketing so that it resonates.
Impart Wisdom—Don’t Merely Convey Information
As a law firm content marketer, your job is to help your audience discover new, timely, and relevant information they’re interested in via the content you provide. In yesterday’s world, it was enough to inform audiences what was happening at the moment.
In today’s world, which is one of information parity due to the dissemination of knowledge and information across the Internet, you must explore what’s coming next. You must help clients gain new insights, identify new solutions to problems, and anticipate new trends in their industries. Law firms that become a “lighthouse” for clients and prospects—that is, those who shine a beacon of light on what’s to come—will gain trust and be perceived as an essential resource.
In other words, if you can help your audience meet an essential need (even if they’re not aware of it yet) through your content, then you’ll create brand affinity and ultimately earn new business. To accomplish this, you can’t merely create content and convey information, you must impart wisdom. Clients hire experts and experts exhibit wisdom.
If you expect audiences to give you their attention, you must first give them your wisdom. Shallow thoughts and timid analysis are like mindless small talk. To form strong relationships, one must blaze new ground and inspire audiences. In other words, they must share their wisdom.
Many lawyers and law firms hold back their best ideas for fear of giving away the “secret sauce.” This is shortsighted. Prospective clients aren’t searching for the best ideas and insights online because they’re looking to implement a solution themselves. They’re doing due diligence for the purpose of finding the right expert for the job. Given the massive amount of content marketing being done by law firms, you can be sure of this: If you’re not sharing your best ideas, one of your competitors will be. And if they’re sharing wisdom while you’re merely conveying information, then you’ll be hard pressed to position yourself as the right expert for the job.
Use More Visual Storytelling
Once you have a solid handle on whom you’re trying to reach, and for what purpose, determine what form will your content take. Written content? Infographics? Videos? Slideshare decks? A mix of all of these formats?
When thinking through your mix of content, it’s important to keep in mind that people remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, and 80% of what they see and experience. Therefore, if you want your audience to retain the information you’re sharing, and not merely scan it and move on, then it’s important to use visual as well as written content.
For example, a campaign created for the purpose of driving website traffic may involve the promotion of a white paper through the creation and distribution of infographics and social media graphics. One geared toward conversion of leads may include the development of an animated explainer video that dives more deeply into the benefits of a service offering geared toward a specific audience.
Mix it up.
The written word is only one way to express thought leadership, and if it’s the only format that your firm uses then you’re missing out on opportunities to reach audiences in interesting and engaging ways through visual storytelling.
Learn more about the importance of visual storytelling in law firm content marketing in our post: How Visual Storytelling can Accelerate Your Law Firm Content Marketing Success.
Create Original Research
One of the most effective but underutilized content marketing tactics is creating and promoting original research. Original research can help you gain attention, establish yourself as a leader in your industry, and build an audience. It’s a surefire way to break through the noise online if you do it well.
Why is original research so effective in content marketing? It gives you an asset that no one else has. Most of the content you’ll find online is recycled—a slight variation of what everyone else is saying. Think about all of the largely indistinguishable “legal alerts” that law firms across the country send out to clients after a significant court decision is handed down or statute is signed into law.
Original research can give your firm an edge. Reports on benchmarks and trends, a comprehensive “state of the industry” survey, and “best practices” compilations can position your firm as a thought leader and gain attention from influencers, prospective clients, and media.
For example, for more than 20 years, PwC has conducted an annual CEO study that garners massive attention from top decision makers (and media) every time it’s released.
Creating and publishing original research doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Complexity is what keeps people from responding to a research survey. Keep it simple. Consider what issues are of interest to your audience and what questions are unanswered in your industry.
Once you design and conduct a survey, and compile the results, think creatively about how to market your research report. You’ll have lots of data at your disposal to generate blog posts, videos, and infographics that can be published in the marketplace of ideas. You’ll also improve your website’s SEO—other thought leaders, journalists, and influencers in the industry you’re focused on will cite your research in their own content, which will generate valuable “backlinks” to your website.
Need help designing a research survey and promoting its results? We can help!
STEP 5—MARKET YOUR CONTENT
Many law firms overlook the fact that “content marketing” is a two-step process. You must create great “content,” but you must also “market” your content. You know that age-old question about the tree that falls in the forest? The same principle applies with your law firm content marketing.
Not only must you have a solid plan in place to create content, but it’s also essential that you document and execute a strategy to promote your content if you want it to make an impact.
One of the great things about content marketing, as opposed to, say, traditional advertising, is that content promotion can be targeted and its results measured. And a wide range of professionals—not just those in the marketing department—can and should get involved in the marketing of content.
Yes, your marketing team should play a big role in content distribution, but the firm’s lawyers should also share content (and not just their own) with clients and prospects to answer questions, address objections, and offer educational resources throughout the business development process. A firm’s recruiting department can use content to attract, hire, and train new employees. And everyone in the firm should be encouraged to engage with and share a firm’s content on social media in order to give it wider distribution.
At the core of a content promotion strategy is understanding where members of your target audience go to get their information online. The odds are that your firm’s website or blog is not the go-to resource for most. That means that you can’t wait for people to come to you—you need to meet them where they are with your content.
Many lawyers who aspire to be perceived as thought leaders publish most of their content on their firm’s website or blog. This occurs for several reasons, but the primary one is that they don’t take the time to explore the alternatives.
A better approach is to publish most content on third-party platforms. Executives, entrepreneurs, and other consumers of legal services are busy. When they spend time online, they’re visiting sites they know and trust—platforms that aggregate the best of what’s available online in one place.
By understanding where members of their niche audience consume their information, lawyers can seek to publish their thought leadership there. When a lawyer’s byline appears on content published on a trusted platform, the lawyer creates awareness and credibility with a new audience. The content that is shared on third-party, trusted platforms creates a digital breadcrumb trail back to the lawyer’s own website, because most platforms allow their contributors to include links within a bio description, and often within the article itself.
If all you’re doing is publishing content on your own website or blog, then you’re merely preaching to the choir. By sharing content with a broader audience through guest posting, you have the opportunity introduce your expertise to a much bigger group of potential buyers.
Learn more about why guest posting is one of the most important law firm content marketing tactics: Guest Posting: How to Succeed at Law Firm Content Marketing Strategy Without Having a Blog.
Connect with Industry Influencers
One of the biggest challenges a lawyer or law firm faces when trying to build a reputation as a thought leader online is getting people to take notice of your content. People are busy, they’re bombarded by information, and they jealously guard their attention. They pay attention to those they trust, and ignore the rest. Accordingly, if you’re not already part of someone’s trusted inner circle of content producers, they will hold you, and your content, at arm’s length.
The solution to this dilemma is to make an end-run around their attention-defense measures by associating yourself with those who already hold sway with your target market.
These “influencers” consist of people who are considered authoritative in your industry, and publications/platforms that are read and respected by members of your niche market.
Content gets noticed when it spreads. And content spreads when influential people signal (by liking, commenting, and sharing) that it’s worth consuming.
Accordingly, it’s important to make an investment in identifying and cultivating relationships with those who hold sway and influence with the people you’re trying to reach. This will help you to penetrate your target market with your insights.
What is the best way to connect with industry influencers?
First, identify who they are.
Second, connect with them on social media and reach out via email.
Third, give first and ask second. Leverage the rule of reciprocity. Like, comment on, and share their content and they’ll take notice and be more likely to do the same for your content.
Fourth, once you’ve laid the groundwork for the relationship, seek to collaborate with influencers when creating content. Ask influencers to contribute quotes to an article you’re working on. Invite them to submit a guest post to your blog. Collaborate on an industry survey. Offer to write an article for them.
All law firm marketing and business development is dependent upon building relationships. Content marketing is no different.
Build an Email List
There are many tools you can use to market your content but email is the most powerful. Why? Email puts you in direct contact with the very people you’re trying to reach.
Seth Godin pioneered the concept of “permission-based marketing,” which is the idea that marketing is most effective when the people you’re marketing to have granted you permission to send them your content, insights, and sales messages.
Traditional advertising is not permission-based. It’s interruptive. It’s pushy. It requires you to pay to get your message in front of someone. It interrupts the reader, viewer, or listener from consuming the content they’re actually interested in. Think about it: When a commercial comes on TV or radio, are you excited or annoyed?
Assuming that you’ve gained permission to email someone information (and if not, then you’re just spamming, and that’s even worse than advertising), email allows you to market to someone who has willingly agreed to hear what you have you to say. It allows for an equal exchange of value. You get permission to email someone and they get ideas and insights from you.
One of the most important things you can do as a law firm marketer is to stay top of mind with current and prospective clients throughout the year. It’s hard to predict when a client will have an urgent need for legal services, so you need to be there when a need arises. One of the best ways to stay top of mind is to stay top of inbox through emailing clients and prospects your valuable content on a consistent basis.
To run an effective email marketing campaign, a law firm must focus on building a targeted email list full of people who can benefit from what you have to say. Building a list starts with offering potential clients something valuable, called a “lead generator,” on your website. Website visitors can access the lead generator in return for their email address.
A lead-generator is a resource, such as a downloadable PDF document or a series of instructional videos, that is of intense interest to members of the audience you’re targeting. Different pages or blogs on your website may feature different lead generators. For instance, your firm’s healthcare law practice page may feature “5 Things Every Hospital Administrator Must Know About HIPAA” and the business law page may feature “10 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating an ESOP.”
A lead-generator does not often lead to immediate new business. It’s more of a “transitional call to action.” It invites someone to engage in a conversation with your firm over time. It’s a cup of coffee, not an engagement ring. But it’s important to have one because it’s the best way to grow your email list. These days, hardly anyone will fill out a website form suggesting they “Subscribe to Our Newsletter.” You need to give them something more—a tool that makes them smarter and better—if you want something from them (their email address) in return.
A lead-generator is something that provides value and establishes your firm as an authority in its field. When creating a lead generator, here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: It should take no more than 5 hours to create, and no more than 10 minutes to consume. It needs to have a strong title and be chock full of great information. After all, you’re asking your website visitors to turn over something valuable to you (their time and attention), so you need to provide them with something valuable in return.
The purpose of the lead generator is to pique the potential client’s interest with the “What” and the “Why” of a problem or opportunity they are facing, and then position your firm as the guide that will show them “How” to achieve the outcome they are seeking.
Check out this page on our website for some examples of lead generators that we use to build our email list. We have paid resources (books I’ve written) and also a number of free resources, including in-depth guides on topics such as LinkedIn, website lead generation, and personal branding for lawyers.
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are great social media platforms that law firms can and should use to promote their content. But for our money, nothing is more effective than LinkedIn when it comes to content promotion.
According to the 2016 ABA Legal Technology Survey report, more than 93% of lawyers surveyed now use LinkedIn, with large firm attorneys using it the most. There’s a good reason for this—LinkedIn has almost 600 million members and is easily the most “target rich” social media platform for a lawyer with a business-oriented practice. LinkedIn is a professional network, which means that people are spending time there for the purpose of doing business. There is no doubt that LinkedIn is the best place online for lawyers looking to grow their networks and their practices, and one of the primary reasons LinkedIn is so valuable is because it’s a great place to create and share content.
There are several ways for lawyers and law firms to share content on LinkedIn. If an article is published on another platform, such as your firm’s blog or a third party website, then write a short summary and share the article URL via a “LinkedIn Status Update.” If someone from your network “likes” or comments on your update, then it will be shared with their network. The more likes you earn, the more broadly your content will be spread. You can also share your content directly to the LinkedIn Groups you are a member of.
In addition to sharing content you publish elsewhere through status updates, you can publish content directly on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. All LinkedIn members have access to the platform, so it provides a great opportunity to expand your reach beyond your immediate network.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t only be sharing your own original content on LinkedIn. Add value to your network, and develop relationships with influencers within your niche, by sharing other people’s valuable content as well. This is an easy “small win” that takes little effort but pays big dividends.
If you really want to up your content promotion game on LinkedIn, keep an eye on new ways in which LinkedIn offers its users opportunities to share content. When social media platforms roll out new features, they make a big effort to get users to adopt and start using them. Once the feature becomes popular, the platform starts to dial back distribution on the feature, and typically begins charging users to reach a wider audience.
For example, for several years after Facebook rolled out “Fan” pages (the pages maintained by businesses and organizations), a post published by the Fan page administrator would be pushed out to the feeds of 100% of users who previously “liked” the page. Now only about 15% of users see such content. If a Fan page administrator wants to reach more people, it must “Boost” a post (i.e., pay Facebook an advertising fee).
In 2019, look for opportunities to play “social arbitrage” by pushing out your content via new social media platform features that allow you to widely distribute content for little or no expense. Currently, the best opportunity to get your content in front of a big audience is LinkedIn video. LinkedIn video was made available to most users in August 2017, and ever since LinkedIn has been making a hard push into the video space. Perhaps you have noticed that more and more video is being posted on your LinkedIn feed. Therefore, if you make and post video content (for example a webinar or a short “how to” tutorial) on LinkedIn, it’s likely to be widely distributed and viewed.
This trend is likely to accelerate, as LinkedIn is rolling out a new feature in 2019 called “LinkedIn Live,” which will allow users to livestream their content on the platform. You can bet on the fact that people who go “live” to share their content will get huge distribution on the network.
Want to learn more about how to use LinkedIn to make your law firm content marketing more effective? Download our free guide: "How to Make an Impact on LinkedIn: A Step-by-Step Guide for Lawyers" (scroll down the page and you’ll find it).
STEP 6—REPURPOSE YOUR BEST CONTENT
Law firm content marketers are always racing to create something new. A new post. A new white paper. A new presentation or newsletter. The problem is, aside from a couple of likes and shares on social media, most written content sits dormant on a firm’s website. Creating new content is important, but marketing your firm’s existing content is even more so.
Every piece of content your law firm creates is a single idea that is part of a larger idea framework. And within every piece of content there are smaller ideas that can exist on their own. Accordingly, rather than spending all of your time and resources creating new written content, a more effective and profitable use of your firm’s marketing investment is to repurpose your existing, evergreen content into new visual forms in order to reach new audiences.
A blog post can become an infographic. A white paper can be transformed into a series of articles and short videos. A three-part article series can be turned into an e-book. Every piece of content can be broken down into social media graphics. And so on.
These new content assets, which often take the form of visual storytelling, can be shared on social media, via email, and on your firm’s website to gain awareness and drive traffic. When we work with clients to create new visual content from existing written content we call it a “Burst”—because within every existing article, blog post, or white paper, there are visual stories waiting to burst out.
There are many benefits to content repurposing, including:
Expanding Upon Ideas: You’ve already put the work in to refine an idea, compile the research, and get your thoughts down on paper. Why not leverage that work to create additional content assets?
Cutting Down on Content Creation Time: Content repurposing allows your firm to create more and better content. It also takes the pressure off your content marketing team to always be creating something new.
Reaching Different Audiences: Different people learn differently, so if all you’re doing is creating one form of content (such as written content), you’re missing out on opportunities to reach new audiences, and appeal to different people with different content preferences.
Increasing the Shelf Life of Content: Every day, more than 100 billion emails are sent, 3 million blog posts are published, and 500 million Tweets are posted. With all that noise, how can you possibly break through? Content marketing allows your audience to discover and engage with your content after it has been repurposed into a new form, and through different channels. You can’t just publish and pray that your audience will find your content. You must continually market your ideas, and one of the best ways to do that is through content repurposing.
SET YOUR LAW FIRM APART WITH BETTER CONTENT MARKETING
Engaging in effective law firm content marketing is one of the few ways to avoid the “race to the bottom” in which many lawyers and law firms will be forced to participate in the coming year. If you’re merely one of many, then there’s little chance you’ll differentiate yourself from the pack and sidestep the RFP and rate-cut cattle call.
When legal work is perceived as a commodity—and an increasing amount of it is these days—then the lowest cost provider wins. But when it really matters, price is an afterthought and a successful outcome is all that matters.
Assuming you want to position your law firm above and beyond your competitors in the legal marketplace, and be in the running for premium work, then expressing and establishing thought leadership through content marketing is a means to your end, and it offers the best return for your marketing investment.
But it’s not easy to stand out. Achieving success through law firm content marketing requires hard work and a strategic approach. If you’ve made it this far (holy cow, this is a REALLY long blog post!) then it’s clear that you have an intense interest in what it takes to make the most of your firm’s content marketing investment. Now go put these principles into practice and reap the business development benefits that are waiting on the other side of a well-executed content marketing strategy.
If you’re inspired to take action with your law firm content marketing strategy, but you’d like to learn more information about how we help law firms, please set up a free consultation with us. We’d love to chat about your law firm’s specific needs or answer any remaining questions you have so we can get you on the path to achieving your content marketing goals.
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We work with professional services firms to develop content marketing strategies, create visual storytelling assets, and build brands and websites that lead to new business.
If you’re interested in increasing the returns on your marketing investments, contact me to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to define clear goals, create a specific plan of action, and implement marketing tactics that will help your firm grow.