Why law firms must adopt intelligent content processes and tools
Over the last two years, content marketing has become an increasingly important business development strategy for law firms. Many large law firms are focusing their marketing efforts on developing client-centric, intelligent content that enables them to provide valuable information and knowledge to their clients and prospects. Law firms are developing content marketing strategies and hiring former journalists and writers to help them execute a content strategy that is engaging and differentiates them from their competition.
Last year, I attended a session at the Legal Marketing Association annual conference titled “Content Strategy is the New Kale.” During that presentation, the panel discussed the importance of content marketing for law firms and how a sound content strategy can enable law firms to achieve their business development goals. This innovative new business technique, “developing a content strategy to build and enhance a business” is a technique that is being used in many different industries to successfully help companies and firms build an audience with their target markets. Joe Poluzzi, founder and CEO of the Content Marketing Institute, recently published a book titled Content Inc., in which he writes about how business and entrepreneurs can use content to build massive audiences and develop a new business model based on content creation.
Content in any form—blogs, newsletters, videos, podcasts, infographics—is the currency for building trust with a law firm’s target audience, and enables a law firm and its lawyers to stay top-of-mind with their clients, and deliver value-added services and products. Many law firms produce enormous amounts of content on a monthly basis, and having the ability to efficiently manage and repurpose this content is a significant challenge for most legal marketers.
Intelligent content provides a significant competitive advantage for law firms.
Intelligent content, as defined by Ann Rockley, is “content that’s structurally rich and semantically categorized and therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable, and adaptable.” How does intelligent content apply to a law firm? Let’s examine each of these six elements separately, and provide examples of how they may be important for a law firm.
1-Structurally rich – Intelligent content has structure. It is organized and tagged in a particular way so that it can be automated. This structure enables machines to automatically assemble and deliver the content when needed. In order to make content structurally rich, we need to remove the formatting (look and feel) and add meta tags that are consistent with the way your firm organizes things. These tags can include information about the content, such as geography, industry, practice area, author, etc.
Content that is structurally rich and categorized may enable a law firm to quickly develop “pitches” and responses to RFPs in a way that is significantly faster and less expensive than the traditional methods used today. If a marketing or business development manager at a law firm needs to quickly respond to an RFP, intelligent content will enable that manager to easily assemble and deliver a response.
2-Semantically categorized – Content that is related to its meaning. This enables computers to retrieve content to a service or practice area even if the content never mentions the service or practice area. The key is to organize this content in an effective manner so that it makes sense to the law firm but also to its clients.
An example of this is a piece of content on private placement memorandums. This piece of content could be semantically categorized as M&A or corporate law even though the document itself never contains these terms. This kind of automation would enable website visitors to find content related to a specific practice area even if the practice area is not mentioned on the actual documents or videos or newsletters. In fact, you could categorize this content with different semantic meanings, once that is focused on clients and one that is internally focused. To get the most out of this content, the categories need to be used by everyone at the firm, and they must support the firm’s business objectives AND client needs.
3-Automatically discoverable – Content must be findable by computers. If you have digital content and your computer can’t find it, then it might as well not exist. This goes beyond a simple web search. Law firm marketing and business development professionals might want to be able to search an intranet to assemble a presentation, or put together a client alert for a certain practice and a certain industry. In this case, metadata enables the intranet to find the right pieces of content for that particular purpose.
Imagine getting a request from a partner at the last minute to put together a presentation for a client tomorrow morning. He wants the presentation to include anything the firm has written about data breach in the automotive industry. A task like this might take several days to put together effectively. However, with intelligent content, a legal marketer may be able to accomplish this in a matter of hours or even minutes.
4-Reusable – Intelligent content enables any organization or law firm to reuse its content in many different ways. A well-structured piece of content can easily be retrieved for reuse. This kind of reuse strategy is sometimes called COPE: create once, publish everywhere. This concept was made famous by NPR when it created a custom content management system to facilitate its content distribution strategy.
This concept is applicable to law firms in many ways. One example of this might be using content that was created for a client alert to be reused for the firm’s blog or website. Or perhaps a presentation that was given at a CLE conference that can be reused for a newsletter or client memo. This enables law firms to get the most use and value out of the content it creates. The more a law firm reuses content, the more valuable the content becomes.
5-Reconfigurable – Content that is reconfigurable allows law firms and other organizations to rearrange it in a way that enables the firm to build new information products to meet new business needs. With intelligent content, law firms are able to configure content according to practice area or industry by adding or excluding modules to give viewers only what they need and want to know.
Client alerts are an example of this. A law firm usually reserves its most valuable content and analysis for its clients. However, there may be instances when a law firm that is trying to win new business may want to use part of a client alert or memo as part of its pitch or proposal. Intelligent content allows the legal marketing professional to easily configure the content and exclude certain modules that are only available to the firm’s clients.
6-Adaptable – Intelligent content can change in appearance and substance according to external conditions. The content can be adapted to fit the person, the device, the geographic location, the time of day, and many other factors. Delivery of the content changes when the system is informed about the recipient (client, prospect, press, alumni) or the context (geography, time of day, device). Adaptable content is more than responsive design. It has the ability to include or remove certain content based upon many different factors.
Imagine an in-house counsel doing a search on a law firm’s website while she is waiting to board her flight that has been delayed. If the law firm’s system knows that this person is doing a search on her phone, is in California, and has visited the firm’s website before, the system could deliver shorter content that is easily read on a phone, and that remembers what the counsel had searched for before. That is content that has adapted based on preferences and situation, and content that may deem to be extremely valuable to a firm’s clients and prospects. Kristen Hicks, a writer for the Content Marketing Institute, recently wrote a blog post in which she mentions that “businesses that have embraced adaptive content have seen huge returns. Website visitors who see content based on what the business already knows about them convert three to 10 times more than average. Those are the kinds of numbers of which all marketers dream.”
Intelligent content can serve as an extremely powerful competitive differentiator for savvy law firms. Law firms that employ intelligent content methods and tools can save a significant amount of time and money when managing their content assets. Intelligent content also enables law firms to be more nimble and take advantage of opportunities when they arise.