“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.” ~ Avinash Kaushik, Google
Marketing executives across most industries understand the fundamental shift that has taken place when it comes to marketing. Traditional marketing techniques are quickly being replaced by content marketing as the competition to stand out from the crowd intensifies. As is usually the case, the legal market is lagging behind in this trend, although more law firm CMO’s we speak to these days say they now recognize the growing importance of a content marketing strategy, particularly when it comes to promoting attorney thought leadership.
However, we’ve received feedback from law firm CMO’s explaining that the major obstacle to their making progress is failure to get buy-in from senior partners or to commit necessary resources.
A B2B Content Marketing study conducted by the Content Marketing Institute indicates that legal marketers are not alone when confronting this dilemma. The study compared the practices of self-described effective content marketers with those who are less effective. One of the most striking differences between these groups is the level of executive buy-in. Fewer than 10% of effective marketers who use content marketing have an issue with executive buy-in, but almost a quarter of less effective marketers cite this as a challenge.
So what can a legal marketer do to educate and justify to their senior partners the value of content marketing? Here are some insights and examples to help you make the case for content marketing in your law firm.
- Cost– Content Marketing can be more cost effective than traditional forms of marketing (i.e. advertising, public relations, sponsorships). All you need is a social media optimized website or blog, a content editor and a social media savvy professional that knows how to use social media channels to effectively distribute your content. An added bonus is that it is much easier to track the ROI of your content marketing efforts.
- Reach– This one has to be explained a bit. While I am not suggesting that you can easily reach a mass audience as would be possible with traditional print or media channels, you can be much more effective in who you reach. Whether your target is in-house counsel, C suite executives, board members or high net worth individuals, content marketing gives you an opportunity to create and disseminate content that provides value to your target audience and if you provide that value, then that audience will share your content with their networks. That is the combined power of content marketing and social media.
- Engagement– This one is easy. Content marketing and social media allow your readers to share your content very easily with their networks. The same cannot be said for newspaper articles, TV ads or sponsorships. As mentioned above, if you are creating truly valuable content, then people will want to share it, like it, comment on it and re-tweet it. People will also want to follow you, so that they can continue receiving your insights.
- Website Traffic– Content marketing and social media can be a key driver of traffic to a firm’s website. If the content you are posting to your website is useful and engaging, then social media networks are a great means to drive traffic back to your website. This allows your firm to have content that’s consistently fresh and updated, while at the same time enabling you to promote your services, knowledge and experience and to build your email database by offering valuable added content such as newsletters, white papers, webinars, seminars and videos. An added bonus of content marketing as it relates to a firm’s website traffic is the impact it will have on your website search engine ranking. Content engagement is the most important element considered by Google, Bing and other search engines when it comes to how your website ranks for key words and phrases.
- Content Assets – One of the great benefits of creating valuable content, is that the content will become a long-term asset for your firm. Content assets can be re-purposed in a variety of ways and the most valuable sort of content also has an extended shelf-life. A blog post or presentation you create today, can help you land a client who is looking to solve a particular problem years later. Law firms need to start viewing content marketing as building long term value rather than just creating marketing fluff that can be discarded based on shifts in marketing strategy.
- Relationships-Trust– In the digital world, just like in the physical world, relationships are built and maintained by trust. By establishing trust, it opens the door for providing assistance and working together. One of the best ways to build trust in the digital space is to consistently provide valuable content. A content strategy helps lawyers establish their knowledge and experience, which in turn opens doors to new opportunities. No one likes to be “sold to”. Instead people choose to work with people they like and trust. Content marketing is a great way to build those relationships and establish the lawyer as the trusted advisor even before that lawyer is hired.
- Added Value to Clients – In today’s highly competitive economy, clients have come to expect something beyond good legal work. There are thousands of “good lawyers” out there that produce good work. However, clients want more. The want added value. Content marketing is a great way to provide that added value. It enables the lawyer to consistently inform his or her clients of the latest developments in the law and to provide his or her analysis of how these developments may affect their clients. This type of content does not force the client to incur additional legal fees and at the same time is a great way to cross sell other services within your law firm.
- Timeliness – It can take a long time to get an article published in traditional media and in today’s hyper connected economy, time is a valuable commodity. Being the first to provide analysis on an important legal development in the news may provide a firm with a huge competitive advantage. A firm’s ability to publish relevant and useful content in a very short period of time and have it reach their intended audience is of great value. Therefore it’s important to have an infrastructure in place that allows a law firm to react quickly in response to breaking developments and to have an established content marketing platform to reach their audience.
- Thought Leadership – Last but certainly not least, content marketing allows the lawyer and the law firm to establish themselves as thought leaders in a particular practice area, industry or niche topic. By consistently creating and curating valuable content around a particular area or topic, lawyers can establish their experience and expertise. Lawyers don’t have to tell their clients and prospects they are experts; they can show it through content marketing. A lawyer may be the foremost expert in cross-border taxation, but if she is not writing about it frequently and providing examples and analysis of her work, then she is hiding her light under a bushel.
In summary, content marketing provides enormous benefits for both the individual lawyer and the law firm. Having the right strategy, resources, skills and tools in place is critical for success. Law firm CMO’s and directors of business development need to make sure senior leadership understand the value proposition so they end up with sufficient resources in order to plan and execute an effective strategy.