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5 reasons content marketing is the new norm for law firms

Ben WightwickTraditional law firm marketing is changing. Ten years ago much of the revenue generated for law firms was through established long-term existing clients, and new business was attributed to partner networks and direct connections. Now with the changing legal market, the introduction of legal start-ups, and client demand for better value, the market is more competitive. Firms need to differentiate themselves to win new business. Law firm marketing is now as much about lead generation as it is about the traditional marketing and communications role, and the responsibility for generating new business is being shared across the firm. 

So where does content marketing fit in?

"Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action" Content Marketing Institute 

Your digital assets combined with your expertise and people will in the future be the lifeblood of your lead generation. It will revolve around products and services, great content and content experiences, carefully crafted multi-faceted campaigns across many different channels. The electronic content created by most law firms which is available on the web is not optimised for lead generation and this is where content marketing strategies can come in. 

Don't think that having a snazzy website is the answer. Websites have always been considered the ‘shop window’ into your business and as such they are designed and structured in this way. Your global office locations, your practices areas and your lawyers' bios can give an idea of the breadth of service you can provide but it is usually very sterile. It is there for people who know what they are looking for because they know the brand and usually is designed with your existing clients in mind. Very few law firm websites are designed to blend the old school marketing content and the new requirements being placed on law firm CMOs: lead generation. This means law firm websites will need to change in the coming years. 

Content marketing will soon become the new norm for law firm lead generation. Here are five reasons why: 

1. It has huge potential to increase business

Ignoring content marketing is a massive risk. Your competitors will likely already be thinking about combining existing practices with content marketing. Placing your focus on traditional marketing functions is no longer enough and won’t help you compete. You are going to need more than email marketing to established lists of existing clients combined with white papers, events and other general attorney bios and brochures. 

While traditional and digital marketing techniques may raise awareness of your firm, content marketing builds trust in your brand through content that is helpful, interesting and valuable to potential clients. Spamming clients and potential clients with emails is not good practice, and your firm’s website is likely to give little away in terms of the expertise offered within your firm. 

You may think it’s impossible to devote more time to creating resources, but you’ve likely already got loads of great content stored in Word documents, static intranets and PDFs. Firms also spend a lot of time and money on creating hard copy brochures that look impressive but don't make great digital content. These would all make excellent content offers, but aren’t accessible for people outside the company or indexable by Google so they can’t attract new leads. 

Instead think about running a crafted campaign based around a combination of digital content like blogs, microsite and social media on one topic. 

2. Law firms are already doing it and you're behind the curve

Businesses outside of legal have been using content marketing tactics and strategies for years with great returns. Some law firms are already making great strides by leveraging content marketing. These tend to be the smaller more nimble firms or individual departments within the larger firms. Some of the obvious benefits to great content marketing for law firms are the potential to: 

  • Increase sales
  • Create more new business leads from your target markets, from unexpected areas or industries
  • Create thought leaders and promote your people’s expertise to a broad audience
  • Build a following and build deeper relationships with your audience not just your clients
  • Increase corporate brand awareness to build trust and a deeper understanding
  • Build out amazing content journeys that draw in prospects and are valuable to your existing clients

The best way to engage clients in your content is to let them choose what they want when they want it. Allow clients to use preferences to select the type and topic of content they want emailed to them and the frequency – that could be as soon as new content meeting their criteria is posted, or a daily or weekly digest. Not only does this mean that clients are more likely to read the content they receive, but also it reduces the amount of email campaigns your marketing and business development teams need to run. 

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3. Business has evolved from B2B and now it is H2H

Bryan Kramer talks about how marketing should not just be aimed at business-to-business, or business-to-consumer. Now, it should be human-to-human. His book, There is No B2B or B2C: It's Human to Human: #H2H, dives into this concept, explaining that marketers have traditionally been trained to speak to "businesses" or "consumers” as broad groups. This has meant that marketers have developed an unnatural language to speak to these groups, rather than talking directly to individuals. 

The point is that marketers need to approach their audiences as humans with emotions, tastes and interests. Bryan explains that today, communication needs to be adjusted to keep up with an increasingly social and digital world where everyone has a voice and everyone is bombarded by marketing messaging. 

Instead, you need to think about personalisation, through content specifically meeting needs and answering questions that your audience has. Think of your target audience and write for them. Think about brevity; audiences for law firm marketers are busy people and don’t have time to filter through content to find the information they need. Make sure they get exactly what they want from your content. Use content to build relationships with clients beyond simply connecting on LinkedIn, and create thought leaders from experts within the firm. 

4. Rapid growth of other mediums of content

People have become used to consuming content in many different mediums. It’s not about reading pages and pages of information anymore; people expect to be able to watch videos, listen to podcasts, view infographics, interact with slideshows and download resources on any given subject. Make the most of these different types of content to attract interest from every angle. 

When it comes to developing a campaign around an event or timely topic, for instance the launch of a graduate trainee programme, consider building a microsite. They direct audiences to one place that contains all resources surrounding one subject. Blog posts, press releases, event information, contact details, application forms and so on can be stored within the microsite. Keeping related content together on a separate URL from your main website means that it is easy to direct users to content directly or via email and social media. 

It is also possible to maximise the value of one particular piece of content by repurposing it as different types of media. Film videos of events or keynotes, transform an article into an infographic, and create SlideShares from keynote slide decks. Variety of content types will capture the attention of different audiences, and also allows marketing teams to produce large quantities of content without having to rely on fee-earners as a resource for information. Different forms of content will appeal to different audiences too, further increasing the content’s reach. 

Finally, consider integrating the campaign with other schools of marketing. Promote your content through online PR, contact relevant thought-leaders to review the article or expose their network to it through social media channels, and maximise search engine traffic through effective SEO. This can be done in-house or by utilising agencies who may be able to gain broader reach through existing contacts or industry influence. 

Modes of consumption have changed too, and today people use mobile devices more than ever for consuming digital content. A Greentarget survey showed that 53% of in-house lawyers - the target market for law firms - are reading daily general business media on their smartphones. Make sure your content is easily accessible on mobile devices by ensuring you are using a responsively designed platform or website to publish your content through.

5. The rise of social media

Social media enables law firms to reach new prospects, promote their competency, and expose their expertise and practice areas to a wider audience. It can also help firms to develop their online brand and presence, enabling them to join in the social conversation and reach out to a whole new network of potential leads. 

Law firms can promote their content to a wider audience through their social channels, which exposes it to a network outside of their own. This content will position the firm as a thought leader and will also act as a method of lead generation; use social media to drive traffic to gated content that requires readers to submit lead capture forms before they can access the content. 

Marketing teams should encourage individual lawyers to embrace social media for personal purposes too. Individual lawyers can create an online community of legal professionals, sharing knowledge and ideas, and fostering innovation in the field in an informal setting. Making connections between lawyers across jurisdictions can only help to boost the profession and strengthen the legal network.  

In summary

Law firms are already winning new business and building engagement through content marketing. When will you start? 

Ben Wightwick is an experienced technology professional and consultant with over 10 years' legal, social and content publishing technology solutions experience. Ben is client focused and enjoys working closely with clients and colleagues to ensure the successful delivery of technology solutions which help clients derive the most value from their investment in HighQ software. He is Product Director of HighQ Publisher, but his role at HighQ extends to writing, speaking, consulting, marketing, social media presence, defining strategy and other areas of general business improvement.
 

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