content marketing opportunities for law firmsLast weekend I had a chance to look through the 2014 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey put together by Greentarget, ALM and the Zeughauser Group. For the last few years this has proven to be one of the most instructive surveys done in the legal market and this year turns out to be no exception.

If anything, this year’s survey is more informative since it now includes data collected from law firm marketing directors about their approach to content creation. By combining this with data collected from in-house counsel (as information-consumers), the survey ends up providing a much fuller and nuanced view of the state of content marketing in the legal industry today.

For me there are two standout points in the 2014 Survey. The first is the precipitous decline in the market position of traditional publishers. This is most clearly evidenced by a stunning drop in law market readership for business and trade print publications. According to the Survey, in the last year alone, the daily readership for the print edition of general or business newspapers declined among in-house counsel from 55% to 33%! A trend line like that does not suggest much of a future. The numbers for legal trade industry publications in print are not much better. The Survey reports that 69% of the in-house readers look at legal trade publications in print infrequently (meaning monthly) or not at all.

And turning to online content, the Survey shows that traditional publishers may not be faring better. Among the in-house readership, traditional media-branded blogs on the whole performed no better than those authored by law firms and in fact among in-house readers, 18% reported consulting law firm blogs very often, compared to just 12% who consulted media-branded blogs on a similar frequency.

My second major takeaway is that most law firms still seem to be completely missing the boat when it comes to their social media and content marketing efforts. In this regard Greentarget’s findings are perfectly consistent with the findings in our own research last year that we undertook with Above the Law in connection with compiling the Social Law Firm Index.

According to the Greentarget 2014 Survey, 41% of the law firms polled reported spending 10% or less of their total marketing budget on content marketing efforts and only 13% of the firms said they spent more than 20% on content marketing. At the same time, 42 % of all firms identified content marketing as among the most important of their current business development strategies. Not only that but 60% of the firms reported that they had no intention of raising the budget next year to support content marketing programs even though 83% of all firms indicated they intended to produce more content. Finally, 71% of the firms have yet to take even so basic a step as appointing a manager to take charge of their content marketing efforts.

So putting the data together, the Survey presents a striking picture – a great opportunity that is still not being recognized by most law firms. On the one hand there is strong evidence of the continuing erosion of mind share held by traditional media publishers, as the legal market continues to shift its attention to digital platforms for news and current awareness information where readers’ attention is up for grabs. This is what creates the opportunity for each law firm (as well as every legal vendor) to develop its own content marketing strategy as the most cost-effective means to achieve reach and engage with the legal market. Law firm marketing departments seem to recognize this – it’s just that they are not backing up the recognition with hard dollars, nor do they seem prepared to devote the necessary human resources to do a smarter or better job. Their only plan seems to be to crank out more of the same. Come on all you CMO’s out there – it’s time to wake up and smell the content or however else you choose to say it – don’t let this opportunity slip away!

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