I recently attended the Legal Marketing Association’s Southeastern Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was excited to attend a panel on content marketing. In the session, the presenters asked the room of attendees to raise their hands if they had a documented content marketing strategy. Very few hands were raised.
Greentarget’s 2017 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey reinforced this. According to the survey, 96% of in-house counsel say that there is content overload, while 81% of law firm marketers plan to produce more. And a measly 26% of law firm marketers say they have a documented content strategy.
Stop random acts of content
A clear content marketing strategy is critical to success. Without one, you’ll waste time and money haphazardly creating content that may not be relevant to your target audience, may not address all your audiences or may never been seen. Law firms — especially larger ones — are complex ecosystems, and it’s critical for law firm marketers to focus their resources on the most strategic areas, while having the tools to say “no” to initiatives that don’t support defined goals.
A written strategy helps legal marketers respond to lawyers who suddenly decide they want to write about a topic that has nothing to do with their business development priorities or who get an itch to launch their own blogs, often which, unfortunately, aren’t targeted, written well, strategic or produce any real ROI.
So how do legal marketers create content marketing strategies for their law firms?
1. Start with a clear idea of the work you want to get through the blogging
A content marketing strategy only works when it supports the firm’s overall business strategy. What are the areas in which the firm wants to grow? What are the the firm’s best opportunities for growth?
Write it down. Internal investigations? Patent prosecution? Bet-the-company litigation? Employment law? Whatever it is, be clear about the type of work you want to get, the target client and what that client’s needs and issues are. The more niche, the better.
2. Create “buyer personas”
Buyer personas are what legal marketers often refer to as “client profiles.” Put simply, buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal client (for the particular work you are marketing) and cover things like:
- Job title and responsibilities
- Company revenue
- Challenges or pain points
- Experience / sophistication with legal services
- Goals (What is this prospective client's key goals in his or her job? What drives him or her every day?)
- Common objections to your services (For example, are they price sensitive? Time challenged?)
3. Map out your ideal client’s buying process
When and why will they need you? For some clients and legal work, this is obvious. They get sued, for example. Or there was a change in personnel or corporate structure. However, by mapping out the entire process — from the time clients have no need for your services, to when they start researching solutions to their problems, to evaluating potential law firms, to becoming your client — you’ll be able to tailor your content accordingly and market to the client at each stage of the process.
By taking the time to map out the law firm buyer journey, you’ll identify critical touch points with your law firm. You’ll also start to understand how and why you typically win new work, and why you keep (or lose) clients.
4. Develop an editorial calendar
This is your action plan. Rather than just blogging about topics and issues that are on a particular attorney’s mind at any given time, an editorial calendar is your roadmap — ensuring you are developing the kind of content your audience desires.
While you can still be flexible and blog about timely issues and events, an editorial calendar ensures your blog is strategically focused, that you are addressing all of your buyer personas and that you are providing them the information they truly need. A calendar also ensures consistency and helps you avoid the dread of having to come up with a new topic every week.
In addition to topics, also plan out your content formats. Are you just going to blog? What about webinars, videos, e-books, newsletters or industry reports? Blog posts aren’t the be-all and end-all of content marketing. Other formats may be more effective for your intended goals. In addition, to drive leads, it’s critical to “gate” some of your content (i.e., require users fill out a form to access it). Learn more in my blog post on lead generation for law firms.
We have found that establishing an editorial board for your blog — especially early on in the blog’s life — can help you effectively mine for topics, from recent questions clients had for an attorney, to new trends, rulings, laws and more. However, you should still work from an established editorial calendar, even when mining for more timely topics.
5. Define your search engine optimization (SEO) keywords
While your top priority is to write for your ideal client — and not search engines — by researching SEO keywords, you’ll have a good understanding of the words and phrases your target audience uses the most. And you’ll have a better chance of your content being found.
SEO keywords are simply the words and phrases that searchers types into search engines, also called “search queries.” By using the same ones your audience uses, you’ll be found more easily (and you’ll also speak their language, which is a good thing). Here’s a quick primer we wrote on SEO basics to get you started.
6. Develop a distribution/promotion strategy
Content marketing may still be king, but content promotion is now queen. As I wrote in my blog post on Mark Schaefer’s “content shock” theory, content marketing is maturing. This means that content marketers must move beyond the “post it and they will come” mentality. No longer can firms assume that they can simply create quality content, post it online, promote it via social media and be successful. They must leverage a variety of promotion tactics, including owned, paid and earned media.
And don’t count posting to your own social media channels as ticking off the “content promotion” box. While organic reach (how many people you can reach for free by posting to your page) on Facebook and other social platforms is not dead, it’s pretty low. In fact, it can be less than 10% (that’s 10% of your fans actually seeing one of your posts).
So what’s a legal marketer to do? Pay to play. Start incorporating paid social media (LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, Promoted Tweets, etc.) into your content promotion plan. Stop thinking content is the Field of Dreams of marketing. In today’s content-saturated world, you must pay to get your content to the right audiences.
7. Constantly evaluate, then make adjustments
First, decide what you’re going to measure. In other words, what does success look like? While it’s easy to say “new client work,” you’ll need to look at other metrics to analyze your content so you can tweak it to arrive at the holy grail of success, new client work and higher profits.
Some goals and metrics you can review on a consistent basis include:
- Page views
- Bounce rate
- Social shares
- Email subscribers
- Email opens
Go forth and produce great content
After all your planning is done, your next great challenge is to produce great content. And boy, is this ever a challenge for law firms, filled with lawyers trained in bad writing from the purveyors of complex, obtuse, stuffy writing: law schools. But that’s a blog topic for another time. Until then, happy planning.
For more information on law firm content marketing strategy, contact me at 904-374-5733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See how a content marketing strategy helped an architecture, engineering and construction firm become a niche authority and generate millions in business.