A post came through my reader last night, with 7 Tips for Starting a Content Marketing Strategy. Now, I know what you’re thinking, that the idea of crafting a "strategy" around delivering valuable information to your audiences is a bit icky. But I promise that it’s not – this is about identifying what is of most use to your clients and potential clients (and influencers and amplifiers), and making sure that you’re not committing what we call RAM (Random Acts of Marketing).
I’m also sensitive to the use of "marketing" here – I am a marketer myself, and have a great deal of respect for legal marketers, in no small measure because we’ve had to adapt and develop into much more robust and significant roles in recent years. But I know there are some who think of marketing as a necessary evil, or just "those guys down the hall who put together our brochures." (That’s not true, by the way).
True legal marketing, in my book, is identifying how you translate the skills and experience of attorneys to clients, potential clients, and others who will trumpet this information, in a way that those people care about (as well as working with attorneys on how to do this themselves, how to engage and build relationships with all of these individuals, and how to keep their current relationships vibrant and healthy, etc and so on. But I digress).
For me then, "content marketing" is about how we add value to those we work with, and those we want to work with (and those who influence those we work with and want to work with). In order to make sure that we’re adding value properly, we need a strategy, or we’re wasting our time and our audiences’ time (and none of us has the time for that!).
The above post offers seven tips for creating this strategy, but I want to focus on two of these that I think are particularly important.
Tip One: "Tailor to your Personas"
What does that mean? Essentially, know your audience. We recently had a post from rainmaking expert and coach Jaimie Field, in which she talked about how you can clone your ideal client. When you’re identifying what kind of content will be useful, you first need to know who your clients are, and who you want your clients to be.
As the post says:
A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal client. You can create different personas by bucketing ideal clients based on common characteristics, needs or problems."
Once you know who your ideal clients are, it’s much easier to figure out what matters to them, because you understand their goals and needs.
Tailoring your content around your personas will help ensure the right people are finding it, help increase engagement, and help build a loyal audience of the exact types of people you’re trying to target for lead conversion. Without clearly defined personas, you will simply be shooting in the dark with your efforts."
Don’t be too put off by the phrase "lead conversion." We’re just talking about making sure the valuable information that you put out is getting in front of the people you’d like to be your clients, in a way that will reinforce their decision to hire you at some point.
Let me note two things here – first, clients hire people they know like and trust. Yes, there will be times that a client will need to hire someone from a big name firm, simply because that firm has a big name and reputation (those are the "bet the company" cases). Those cases are not the most common matters out there, so rather than focus on that, we need to focus on building relationships. Which leads to my second point…
The times when a client will find something you’ve written (or a video you’ve produced, a webinar, etc.) and hire you because of that piece are few and far between. It happens, but it’s rare.
However. If someone recommends you to a client, or they hear about you through your word of mouth reputation, and they find valuable content that you’ve produced, which showcases both your expertise and your personality, helps them to connect with you, AND gives them the confidence that you have the know-how to handle their work, that will reinforce their decision to hire you.
Alternatively, if you’re a specialist in a particular area, and you’re regularly speaking on that subject, you have a blog that reports on the latest changes and information in that area, you produce videos with timely and actionable information for clients, etc., you’ll be on the radar of anyone who also cares about that particular area, such as clients and potential clients. You’ll be the "go-to" guy or gal. (Psst…and all of those "things" – videos, presentations, blogging – are all content marketing)
Marketing is all about giving potential clients (and existing ones, for that matter), as much information as possible to help them feel that the decision to hire you over anyone else is the only decision they could reasonably make.
But, rather than just throwing information at them about how "great" and "smart" you are, it’s far, far better to show them with substantive content, such as that you’re producing as part of your content marketing strategy. And to make that strategy effective, you have to start by knowing who it is you want to work with, and what they care most about.
Most of you will know from working with those clients the types of information and goals they have, as well as the questions they regularly ask. If you’re not sure what’s most important to them, what they’d like to see more of, and how they’d like to get that information, go ahead and ASK them.
Tip Two: "Look at it as an investment"
We all want our efforts to be immediate successes – I see it all the time, when an attorney works hard to put together a new blog or a comprehensive and thought-provoking article, and then is surprised when the phone isn’t ringing off the hook with new matters within the week.
But as the post says it’s a "marathon, not a sprint." I know that’s not what you want to hear, but as with most things in business, you have to treat content marketing as an investment.
For example, wouldn’t it be nice if you met someone on the plane next to you who was the GC for the biggest company in your area of expertise, and he had a matter that he offered to you after speaking with you for a few minutes during the flight?
Yes, of course. Has that ever happened? Sure, once or twice. But it’s not normally how it works, right?
Even if you’re in the right place at the right time, it takes work to build up the kind of trust that will make someone want to hire you. There has to be the right chemistry. Content marketing is about building and reinforcing that chemistry with valuable information. And it takes time.
In order to stay focused and dedicated in the beginning, continuously remind yourself that each blog post and each content offer is an investment in your marketing ‘assets’ and in the business."
For me, providing content is just a part of my daily business – in the same way that it’s valuable to my attorneys to find ways to connect them and facilitate their relationships and to find people and other organizations that will support their work, it’s valuable to them to filter through all of the noise out there and tell them what I think is important for them to pay attention to in the legal industry. Does it simultaneously reinforce the decision of our member firms to be part of our Network? Absolutely. Will it also result in potential members finding us and becoming convinced we are the right network for them? Yes.
But my purpose in providing the content is to be helpful – it’s part of the investment into the relationships that I have with our clients, potential clients, influencers and amplifiers that I make on a daily basis. And the effects are cumulative – as the article says:
It will not be an overnight success, but instead builds up momentum over time, ike a snowball rolling down a hill."
This all can sound like a LOT of work, which is why it’s best to break it down into manageable pieces.
- Make a list of your favorite clients – the ones you love to work with, and the ones whose work inspires and drives you.
- What do those clients have in common? Make note of their goals, the issues that crop up most often, the questions that they ask.
- Reach out to those clients to ask them what they care about most when it comes to their work. What kinds of information can you be providing that would be useful to them? How would they most like to get that information? Breakfast briefings, webinars, blog posts, articles in their favorite journals, interpretive dance? (Just checking to make sure you’re still reading!)
- Do one thing each day that is content-related (without an expectation of immediate results). Some ideas are:
- Set up an RSS reader if you don’t already have one, and include blogs, news outlets, and search terms for the areas you’re involved in.
- Send yourself links to articles that you’d like read later, or might be valuable to your clients.
- Read those articles on the train, or while you’re watching tv, or over your morning coffee.
- You could send the link to your clients with some comments on why it matters to them.
- Instead of limiting your audience just to that client, why not create a blog post with a link to the article, and your comments on why it matters to clients?
- Join a LinkedIn group talking about this area, and see what the clients are talking about.
- Maybe answer a few of their questions (if it doesn’t enter into a grey area of client confidentiality).
- Take some of those questions and answers (being careful not to identify anyone) and share those in a blog post.
- Take five of those top questions and create a presentation for your next industry conference.
- Do a webinar of the presentation for those who couldn’t attend. Record it so that you can also share it with clients (and even in your LinkedIn groups and on your blog!).
You get the idea. Yes, content marketing can take time. But you don’t have to do all of those things every day – just pick whatever you have time for, and incrementally, it will make a huge difference!
As always, we only have time for two tips, so feel free to add your comments on the other tips below, or tell us what your tips for content marketing are!