When I heard that Kevin McKeown (@kevinmckeown) of LexBlog and Marketing Brain Fodder’s Eric Fletcher (@ericfletcher) would be giving a webinar together, I knew I couldn’t miss it. So despite battling a low-grade migraine today, I tuned in, and definitely wasn’t disappointed.
Their presentation focused on the top reasons to blog, and if you want to see the tweet stream that came out of the session, take a look at #LexBlogTop5.
Not only did their presentation break down five reasons to blog, but it was broken into five sections:
- "Old school" networking
- Networking is the "new normal"
- Top 5 reasons lawyers should blog
- Your call to action
Kevin kicked off the session with LexBlog’s three core beliefs, which I think will resonate with a lot of you:
- A lawyer’s best work comes from relationships and word of mouth.
- Building online visibility is imperative for driving business development today.
- Authentic online engagement accelerates relationships and word of mouth.
"Old School" Networking
For decades, the way that lawyers built their practices was the same – they’d go to law school, get their degree, hang out a shingle, do good work, and meet people face to face to develop new business. But we’ve now had a digital disruption, with new channels and the game has changed significantly. So how do you adapt?
Networking is the "New Normal"
Eric began tapping into the digital world back in 2002 – he realized that there were professional conversations happening with targets online that he needed to be a part of…and he wasn’t a part of them. So his blog was borne out of that recognition, and it became the gateway to social media for him. It was a slow evolution, always driven by the desire to participate in, instigate, and where possible, frame important dialogue. Those are the same reasons that lawyers want to participate in conversations with their network.
Writing is the best way to demonstrate expertise:
- It’s personal
- It allows you to establish a personal voice
- It allows you to articulate what separates you from the competition
- In the digital arena, it facilitates conversations
Keith McMurdy, a partner at Fox Rothschild, said:
The ease of blogging puts your name and expertise on the internet to potential clients who are searching for that particular expertise."
The key here, Kevin added, is that either you’re going to drive your agenda online, or your competitor is going to drive theirs. Blogging is a great way to showcase your passion and authority for a subject.
Moderator Kara McKenna then asked the attendees to take a poll question – "Are you blogging today?"
- Yes: 60%
- Not yet, but I’m thinking about it: 36%
- No, and I’m not sure it’s for me: 4%
- Nope, never: 0%
Blogging is not the "be all, end all" but the presenters emphasized that as they go through their stories and questions, we would see that blogging IS the answer to some of the questions we may have about how to develop business.
Top 5 Reasons Lawyers Should Blog
- You can’t afford invisibility: We’ve all wrestled with getting our names out there and visible – but social media has changed that. It allows you to create a strategic storyline – a digital footprint – that is representative of who you are as a professional. The creation of the right kind of content can resolve the invisibility issue.
Kevin noted that law firms are innately social – law firms and lawyers depend on social interactions with clients and colleagues to carry out their work and to develop new business. So there’s no choice about being invisible – you have to find a way to take advantage of social media. Forrester research has concluded that all business customers can be reached by social channels.
98% of decision makers are reading blogs, viewing videos, etc. They are passive users of social media. In legal, 74% of in-house counsel are using social media in listen-only mode – they’re hungry for content.
- Share your expertise exponentially: There is a tried and tested formula for business development – identify a target, understand their business, and build a way to connect in the context of that business driver/solution that touches what they care most about. But as Eric said, just talking about that can often sound like "blah, blah, blah." Blogging offers us a way to relate anecdotally, to tell stories, to build context and add dimension around an expertise.
That’s the difference between focusing on what we do, and why we do it. When we talk about what we do, that’s what sounds like "blah, blah, blah." But blogging allows us to talk about the why.
Kevin talked about two phenomena, the first being that of the strength of weak and dormant ties. "Weak ties" are basically those people who don’t know what you know (or who know what you don’t know). A "dormant tie" is stronger – that would be someone that you might have gone to grad school or college with. Kevin illustrated these by saying that if you wanted to find a job, you’d be less likely to find it through friends and family, because they know what you know. You’d be better off asking them to introduce you to others – the weaker the tie, the more likely those people will know something different to you.
Kevin met Eric through Twitter, and liked what he had to say. When he has a business trip to Dallas, they met in person and became friends – now they’re cohosting a webinar. Eric has sent Kevin very high quality referrals – he generated business from a weak tie that became a strong tie. He also gave the example of Eric being asked to coauthor "Eight Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success" with Kent Huffman – they’d followed each other first on social media, then met at a conference and that led to a relationship, which led to the book. The online world helps put the strength of weak or dormant ties on steroids.
Everything that you say and do online spreads beyond those that you know – this is the second phenomenon, the third degrees of influence rules. It is the companion rule to weak and dormant ties. What you say online matters, and if you say it in the right way, it will drive your business development. Eric underscored the importance of authenticity – this is the critical part. Marketing has always been about – but even more so today – finding ways to get leverage to generate an exponential return. So when you start talking about arithmetic, and the question of "why should you blog?" the answer is "because blogging changes the arithmetic in your favor.
- Your future clients are googling you: My attorneys will tell you that I say this ALL.THE.TIME. Eric said that the coveted face-to-face referral that lawyers hold so dearly is inextricably linked to their online identity. A referral may get the ball rolling, but the client will do more research online – are you active on social media, what does your website look like? So you’d better have a solid digital content strategy in place – a blog can help that.
We’ve talked about the old school way of building business and solidifying your practice, and the way that things are today in the new normal – what Kevin has talked about underscores that today, the formula for connecting, establishing, and nurturing relationships has a digital component that is critical to the process. A blog is your best digital component – it’s personal and it’s as close to a three-dimensional tool that you’ll find in the digital arena.
Kevin noted that 78% of executive-level buyers go online to look for their legal counsel. Blogging is a very flexible medium that allows you to tap into that.
Kara then took us through an exercise – to first google our names, and then to google "lawyer" in our practice area and geography. Getting seen in these search results is about contributing new, regular, authentic content.
- Your competition is already doing it: Although there are thousands of blogs, Kevin noted that only a small sliver of them are professional, and even then, blogging requires passion and authority – and that leaves most people out (sentiment from Hugh McCloud). So there are a lot of blogs out there, whose authors don’t understand how to create engagement, and to blog with passion and authority – you can do this better than your competition.
If you want to establish trust online, you have to use YOUR voice, and not the voice of your firm brand, or "firm speak." People want to hear from you and not an entity – so that also means no ghostblogging or ghost-tweeting. That’s a non-starter if you want to be successful online.
Eric added that from a marketing perspective, nothing differentiates you more than your own authentic, unique voice. Blogging amplifies this. Kevin said that blogging also reinforces the idea of "all your competitors can and will say that, so what makes you unique?"
- Be more profitable: There is research and science behind the fact that generating more online leads equals greater profitability. Kevin talked about one of his clients, Dave Donoghue, who was signed by Kevin O’Keefe years ago. It took him some time to hit his stride with blogging, but now, he disclosed that the ROI on his blog is currently at over seven figures.
Dan Harris and Dan Schwartz are two other great examples of this – and success isn’t just defined financially. It can also be defined as being cited by respected publications like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, being asked to speak at major conferences, etc. These "softer" things can also lead to better profitability.
For professional services firms that get 40-60% of their leads online (that’s all professional firms, not just legal), they grow four times faster. The greater the proportion, the greater the firm’s profitability. And the number one technique used by the fastest growing and most profitable firms is blogging.
Eric boils it down in this way – business development is about coming to grip with a new kind of arithmetic. He mentioned "listenomics," a term coined by Bob Garfield, which, put simply, refers to the new normal and the arithmetic we deal with. We are in a marketplace where the audience decides what information they want to take in, and when and how they want access to it.
In professional services, the blog is invaluable currency – it’s one of your greatest assets. An this is where empathy is important, added Kevin, Take off your lawyer hat and put yourself in the position of someone online. You don’t want to be marketed to – people don’t hire law firms, they hire the people inside them. They want to hear your voice. So the takeaway from today’s session is to be sincere and authentic; to be real and yourself – that’s the easiest way.
Call to Action
The call to action for the attendees is this: bring to life online what makes you unique. Blogging is a great way to demonstrate your passion, authenticity, and expertise. As Eric said, nothing will differentiate you more than your own authentic voice, and picking the right tools to deliver it.
There is nothing as vulnerable as entrenched success – what worked for you yesterday, will not work for you today. It may work longer, but it won’t work forever. There is a digital disruption in the legal arena, and we need to adapt, and adapt quickly.
Kevin referenced a report from Harvard, the companion to the keynote by Clay Christensen at their disruptive innovation conference (link to report to be added later). The keynote outlines the disruption throughout history in a number of industries, and overlays and compares that to the disruption that we’re experiencing now in professional services, particularly law. Many people think that the disruption may not affect law in the way it’s affected other professional services, so Kevin and Eric suggest watching as much of the keynote as you can make time for – it will be well-worth it.
Alternatively, check out the half-page quote on page 13 of the report, which will give a summary of the same.
- Can you discuss metrics a little, and how to get the most measurable ROI from blogging?
Kevin: You have to focus on the right things, and ROI can be confusing, and lead you to focus on the wrong things. Kevin looks at these things:
- Is the way I’m building my online identity enhancing my reputation?
- Is the way I’m blogging growing my network of relationships?
- Am I igniting weak and dormant social ties?
- Is the way I’m blogging positioning me a a subject matter expert?
He knows that answer won’t satisfy everyone. There are people who are hyper-focused on metrics, and that’s wrong. Those are the same people who want to have twitter, a blog, website, etc and just broadcast, but there’s a certain passivity to that, which won’t drive business development. Instead, use your online activity in an offensive way – don’t sit and wait for visitors to arrive. Write your posts with someone in mind, and reach out to them.
Eric agreed that this is a tough question, and that those focused on black and white metrics need to broaden the discussion. He cited Ted Rubin, a prominent CMO who wrote "Return o Relationships." If we view blogging, or any tool, as an opportunity to stand on the mountain and broadcast our message, we’re not in the business of building relationships.
But, if we believe that relationships trump everything, and almost every service provider he knows will eventually get to that spot, then part of the discussion of ROI has to focus on what we’re getting – the return on relationships – and whether we’re building our network.
- How do you create target market awareness of a blog?
Kevin said that you need to understand who you are, what you’re about, and what your passion is – if you can’t tap into that, it’s hard to do targeting or sustainability. Eric added that targeting is about knowing who you want to talk to, and the simple answer is that if he wants to talk to someone, he reaches out to them. He doesn’t depend on anyone just finding his blog.
- From an audience member who had never blogged before: Do you have any tips for writing that first post?
Kevin joked that we never forget our first posts – he never published his. He recommended that it be a welcome post that identifies what the blog will be about. Eric echoed that, and suggested that the author write about something that they care about deeply. He recommended just "ripping off the bandaid" and that if you know you’re going to target a specific area of the law, to go deeply into that in your first post. Another suggestion is to recognize someone influential in the field in your first post (and reach out to them), which will put your blog on the map.
- When working with lawyers and encouraging them to write, is there a term to use other than "blogging" to gain more traction, or should you stick with that?
Eric advised against getting hung up on terms and said that marketers should use the terms that connect with their audience. Blogging is about dispensing valuable information, so whatever language work, use that – "article," "newsletter," "self-publishing," etc.
Kevin agreed, but added that blogging is different to other types of writing – it’s not long treatises or books. The tone should be more conversational, so lawyers should just take off their legal hats and be real.
There were more questions, but we’d run out of time, so the presenters wrapped it up. Thanks to Kevin and Eric for an excellent session!