A few weeks ago, I read an interesting piece over on the Content Marketing Institute by Carla Johnson, and I’ve been mulling it over in my mind ever since. Johnson asks whether we’re missing the most important audience for our content marketing – and with a hook like that for the title, you can bet I was going to click to read more.
I’m sure you’re wracking your brains as I was to identify who it is you’re missing – clients, potential clients, referral sources, journalists, conference organizers, influencers, amplifiers…the list goes on. But there is one important group you may be overlooking.
The internal audience at your firm.
The point being that everyone at your firm is a brand ambassador for the firm and its members – everyone, from the receptionist who greets people as they walk in the door and is the first to answer the phone right up to the managing partner of the firm who makes key decisions about strategy and direction, as well as his or her own practice. Every one of those people is telling the story of the firm every time they interact with someone else, whether it’s on purpose or not – that’s just how marketing works.
So how can you expect each of those individuals to properly tell the story of the firm and its members, when they don’t know what it is?
The short answer is, you can’t.
Of course, everyone will have their own version of what the firm is about, what Jill Smith focuses on and what type of clients Bob Jones works with. But is it the same version that the firm would like them to have? Are your partners, your associates, your assistant telling everyone else the type of work that you do correctly? Or are they kind of getting it, but missing a few key points?
Content marketing can help here.
Just as you’re using content marketing to get the story of the firm, and in the individual lawyer’s case, the story of your practice, out into the world to tell people what you’re all about, you should also be using it INTERNALLY to let everyone in the firm know what you’re all about. It may seem like all of this is just cheery handholding storytelling, but there’s actually very good evidence for why you should be doing this:
Depending on the source, research points out that customers are between 60 and 80 percent of the way through the buying process before they engage with a salesperson. The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer shares that while people trust information from businesses and media less, they are putting more trust in what employees say.
We know that customers don’t have relationships with brands, they have relationships with people. And those people are your employees.
To be able to deliver a remarkable customer experience, employees need to understand the purpose of the company and how their role supports the bigger picture. But a Gallup poll reveals that a whopping 41% of U.S. employees don’t know what their employer stands for or what makes their company different from others — just like the telecom company with which I was working.”
While law firms and lawyers operate differently than consumer businesses, this is still true – we all know that most clients are almost all the way through the buying process before they engage with a lawyer. It’s rare that they haven’t already done their due diligence and learned about the reputation of a firm, asked friends for recommendations, googled the firm and the lawyer, and maybe even talked to other clients of the firm.
Lawyers and law firms have long put their stock in word of mouth reputation. And that continues to be the case today – it’s just that word of mouth reputation has extended to include the online world. Clients are more likely to trust what they hear from other people about you and your firm than they are to trust the collateral on your website. But are you sure that the people that they’re talking to understand the purpose of your practice and how their role supports that bigger picture? Do they understand what your firm stands for?
As Johnson suggests:
Just as customers want to self-educate, so do employees. They’re going to go someplace for information, why not their employer? Building and engaging internal audiences are keys to creating differentiating experiences for customers, prospects, and other groups. The objective is to approach internal storytelling with the same strategy, rigor, and creativity as you do external storytelling.”
Firms are not exempt from this either. The legal world has long been great at producing content, and we’re now in the stage of adopting strategy around that and measuring its impact. At the same time, we need to be ensuring that our firms and the people in them are as well educated about the firm and the product – our lawyers and their practices – as they can be in order to be effective ambassadors for that product. Otherwise, at the minimum, you’re missing opportunities to bring in new clients and at the worst, they’re damaging the reputation of the firm and its people.
Johnson uses Blackberry as an example of how a company successfully used internal content marketing, and their Blackberry Square is a great inspiration for law firms:
BlackBerry has one person who sources content, writes, publishes, and operationalizes the process for BlackBerry Square. The content is tracked in terms of views, comments, and “likes” to see what stories are trending, what gets comments, and what ideas reasonably engage the attention of employees. BlackBerry also uses tried-and-true email, town halls, and in-person meetings with employees and supervisors that cascade from the CEO’s team to talk about what’s going on in the company.”
That’s a company who takes their internal content marketing seriously. How would changing the way you deliver content internally at your firms supercharge your firm’s business development efforts?