T he term “content marketing” has gone from a buzzword concept that everyone has heard at some point, to an actual line item on many law firm marketing budgets. Content marketing, which is the development and distribution of interesting content across multiple channels as a means of increasing awareness, establishing influence, providing useful information, and shaping your firm’s story, has grown in part because of the change in how people make purchasing decisions. According to Forrester research, 90 percent of customers start their purchase with a search engine. Nearly half of all general counsel surveyed by Inside Counsel magazine reported that they frequently use lawyer blogs to learn quickly about legal topics before calling outside counsel for help. We are a population that values making informed purchase decisions, which makes it an ideal time for law firms to delve into the development of sophisticated content marketing programs. Most legal marketers realize this, but many struggle with where to begin. With so much information available on every topic under the sun, how can you bring visibility to your content?
Start at the End
As with any marketing and communications strategy, first determine what you want the end result to be. The objective of the content marketing campaign should be more than just a general outcome (i.e. “more business”), which can be hard to measure successfully, and instead be more concrete and specific (i.e. “increase blog traffic by 20 percent by the end of Q3”). Specific expected outcomes not only make it easier to demonstrate ROI, but also make it much easier to define your audience(s) and content topics.
Who is Your Content For?
Once you know what you want, you need to determine who is going to get you there. Who do you need to engage to reach your objectives? The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be to produce content for them. Keep these specific audiences in mind as you determine what your content is actually going to cover.
Create With Intent
The key concept with content marketing is to draw interest in, rather than push a message out. It’s about creating content that speaks to your target audience’s interests and addresses their needs and pain points. Generating topic ideas for content can be one of the most challenging parts in executing a content marketing strategy. After an initial list of topics are generated, keeping the momentum going can feel like an uphill battle. Here are a few tricks to spark some ideas:
- Conduct an analysis of significant developments in your client’s business. If you can figure out how those developments will affect their need for legal services, you can develop your content to address their needs and capitalize on those opportunities.
- Set up Google Alerts on the top terms or trends within your target audience’s industry. As other content arrives in your inbox on the topic you will not only become more educated on it, but will likely find gaps in the information already available that you can fill or supplement.
- Ask your attorneys to keep an ongoing list of questions they receive from clients or prospective clients. If the same questions arise that’s a great indicator that its’ information that should be addressed.
- Pay attention to your analytics. Notice which pieces of content are driving the most traffic or getting engaged with the most and expand on those topics for future content pieces.
Give Content “Legs”
Developing sophisticated content takes time, so make sure that you get all that you can from it. Here are a few ways that you can get more out of each piece of content:
- Always include a call to action. This can be in the form of visible social buttons encouraging readers to share the content with their own networks. It can also include text at the end with contact information or links to read further on the topic.
- In addition to relying on others to take your content social, make sure you’re doing it yourself as well. Post it to the firm’s LinkedIn page and ensure the attorney author has also posted it to his or her personal LinkedIn profile or turned it into a LinkedIn Pulse post.
- Tweet it out several times over the course of a few weeks, using different headlines and tagging relevant organization and individuals.
- Take the topic and turn it into a speech or CLE for relevant trade or industry groups.
- Repurpose the content into a presentation to current firm clients, or even other attorneys at the firm who may benefit from knowing more about the subject for cross-selling opportunities.
- Accompany any written content pieces with a short video, no more than a minute, summarizing the piece and its relevance to target audiences.
The emergence of content marketing as a tactic within the legal marketing industry opens the door to a multitude of opportunities never available before. It allows us to engage directly and specifically with purchasers of our services. It give us an opportunity to take control of our own firm’s story and become part of the conversation.
But it also means that we have to become good listeners and observers. It means that we need to start thinking like journalists and editors, not copywriters. It means that our target audience must always be top of mind. It’s no longer about what the law firm would like to say, it’s about what our target audience wants to know. Once we can embrace his mindset the business development possibilities are endless.
About the Author
Jessica G. Sharp is co-founder and principal of Maven Communications LLC, a communications agency based in Philadelphia. You can find her on Twitter @jessicagsharp.