During the Legal Marketing Association’s Social Media Shared Interest Group’s 12 Days of Social Media last year (say that three times fast), my friend Lance Godard predicted that 2015 would be the year of content marketing. And he’s one smart guy, so I always listen to him. As he says:
After all, content marketing has been around forever (long before that’s what we were calling it that, anyway). And we’ve been talking specifically about content marketing in the legal profession for a year or two at least. So why do we think it will change your life in 2015?"
Because it’s catching on in a big way (think LinkedIn Publisher, for starters)… And that means law firms – and legal marketers – are going to have a lot more competition for their written materials in 2015. They’re going to have to stop taking a haphazard, ‘let’s-keep-tweeting-and-posting-on-Facebook-the-links-to-our-content" approach to getting their work in front of the people who buy their services. They’re going to have to write better, to tell better stories, to articulate the skills they have to solve the problems their clients face, using the very language that those clients use to describe their problems. They – and that means all of us, too, – are going to have to get better at this, to spend more resources, to develop stronger strategies, to stop doing the things that don’t work and start doing more of those that do."
I couldn’t agree with him more. So we’re going to be talking more about content marketing here at Zen in 2015, starting with today’s Two for Tuesdays.
Tip One: Start with WHY
As with any good marketing tactic, you have to start with the why. Why are you putting content out there? If your answer is "because everyone else is doing it," then you’ve already lost. President of FastPath Marketing, Ron Stein, has an excellent post on this over at Florida Trend. Stein says:
Content marketing is powerful, as long as you start with a ‘why.’ The purpose will determine the type of content and what it achieves."
So start with that – why is it that you want to put content out there? Stein gives us some clues as to what some of the purpose of content can be – to educate, persuade, entertain, inspire, motivate, and convert. What is your content designed to do?
Once you know what you want your content to do, it’s easy to determine how to deliver and achieve that – of course, you also want to bear in mind who your audience is, so that you’re using the best medium to get your content to the people you want to be in front of.
Here’s the interesting thing – the term "content marketing" is a fairly hot one, but let’s be honest, the legal industry is way ahead in this area for a change, as Lance mentioned in his post. We’ve been putting out substantive articles and information for years in various forms. It’s just now being referred to as "content marketing."
But just because we’re ahead of the curve doesn’t mean we get to excuse ourselves from the due diligence. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and make sure that while we’re putting content out there, we know the "why" behind it. Part of that is because everyone else is doing it too – since it’s not a new thing in the industry, we have competition in this "new’ area for a change.
Tip Two: Think Deep, Not Just Broad
That means we have to be smart about our content marketing, which brings us to tip two. As Stein points out,
Customer engagement is a journey and different types of content are needed for each stage of the relationship building process. That helps you to meet your audience in their preferred place and in the different ways they like to engage."
Typically, we’re putting out one level of content – that introductory-type stuff that shows clients and potential clients that lawyers are the experts in their fields. This is absolutely important content. Stein notes this content as the kind that builds awareness and generates leads – I’d consider this to be the Content Marketing 1.0 level stuff:
Help educate your target audience on their need and create qualified sales prospects with news releases, white papers, infographics, tip sheets, media interviews, explainer videos, how-to guides, ebooks, podcasts, tradeshow displays, user-generated content, guest posts on other sites, and checklists."
Don’t worry too much about the sales-y, market-y speak here – this holds just as true in the legal industry as in any other. This would be your press releases, substantive blog posts and articles, attorney interviews, tool kits, apps, etc.
These are the items that show your potential clients that you’re qualified and able to meet their needs in the way that they want you to. But as we all know, that’s not enough. There are more stages to getting clients to commit – and while personal relationships and other factors enter heavily into the process here, content is not to be ignored either. Let’s look at a couple of other things Stein mentions.
Content nurtures relationships and encourages evaluation. Engage your buyers to build trust with email newsletters, case studies, video demonstrations, FAQs, webinars, information sheets, social media, surveys, comparison charts, contests and giveaways, worksheets, and bios."
This is the second level, and many firms are starting to do more of this. It’s still not as widespread as I’d like it to be (and I’d maybe put bios back in level one if I were writing this), but it’s happening – and those firms differentiate themselves by doing so.
Webinars offer that individual interaction with attorneys that shows that little bit "extra" – personality, expertise, etc. and gives the participants that next level of comfort that may make them want to learn more about a firm or lawyer. This is the same for other types of content at this level, such as video, engagement on social media, etc. There is a real opportunity here for firms and lawyers to take the "why" of the first tip and capitalize on it. I’d call this Content Marketing 2.0.
Then, we get to some real next level stuff:
Content moves prospects to purchase and stick around. Convert buyers and keep them happy long-term customers with return on investment calculators, sales kits, training courses, mobile apps, how-to video galleries, resource pages, polls, customer testimonials, special offers and coupons, free assessments, and third-party product reviews. Of course, for many industries and types of product or services this stage will involve other non-content sales approaches too, such as phone calls, thirty-day trials, and handwritten thank-you notes."
Obviously, this is very different in the legal industry, and even matter by matter, and practice by practice. Which means I challenge you to think about how this Content Marketing 3.0 would apply for your firm. One example that comes to mind is using Viewabill with a client to show a commitment to transparency and collaboration. Another might be a client-centric intranet.
Again, these are points of differentiation that will set you and your firm apart from others as you go up the content marketing scale – it’s about depth, not just breadth.
We’ll talk more content marketing this year, and please feel free to add your tips in the comments section below!