Recently, someone said that “content marketing” is a recent phenomenon in law firms. And I almost fell out of my chair.
Content marketing is NOT new to law firms. In fact, law firms are some of the original content marketers – firms have been producing content for years! What IS new is producing strategy around it, and formulating distribution plans that are measured and further refined based on those measurements. We’re getting more strategic, and it’s that strategy that’s new.
But that doesn’t mean that the road isn’t rife with mistakes – it is. The Content Marketing Institute recently published a book with 13 Content Marketing Mistakes, and highlighted a few in a recent blog post – we’ll be taking the next few weeks to look at these in the context of lawyers and law firms.
Mistake Number One: You Give Up
This is one that we see a lot with law firms and marketing efforts. Although lawyers are known for being risk-averse, once they do commit to a marketing tactic, they expect virtually immediate results. Marketing and business development never happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and continual refinement to nurture anything to success.
CMI says on this:
As Joe Pulizzi once said, “Content marketing doesn’t usually fail because of content quality. The main reason is because it’s inconsistent or it stops.”
Neil [Patel]’s advice? “Never, ever quit.” In fact, he advises that being consistent is one of the best ways to reinvigorate a content marketing program that has grown stagnant or hasn’t quite found its stride:
Consistency won’t automatically make things exciting again, but it will keep things from dying altogether. Besides, stale is sometimes just a phase. Once you plod through the slow times, you’ll emerge on the other side with a more inspired content marketing effort.'”
How can you ensure consistency with a content marketing program? Start with an editorial calendar. When I found myself floundering a few years ago, wanting to produce more blog content, but seemingly never able to find the time, I finally took my own advice and put together an editorial calendar for my blog.
I set the calendar up for a year, but populate it quarterly with broad topics that I think will resonate with my audience based on the data that I have from previous blog posts, conversations happening in the industry, etc. Each week, I review the calendar for the following week, and set up the posts I plan to write in my agenda, so that I know what I have coming up that week. I don’t have to stick with it exactly, but it gives me a roadmap that’s much easier to adhere to than a vague “write blog posts on legal marketing issues” mandate would be.
This is effective no matter what kind of content you are delivering – video, articles, presentations, social media posts, etc. You can even manage multiple calendars, or, preferably, put together one calendar that manages all forms of content in one place.
If you’re not creating the content yourself, but you’re working with others to motivate them, you can act as the managing editor here – be the keeper of the calendar, and set the quarterly meetings to sit down and review the previous quarter’s data to see what worked and what didn’t. Identify what subjects and trends are coming up and should be included in the next quarter, and act as the “issue-spotter” for that person or practice group, who then emails them whenever you see something relevant that they can produce content on. Be the champion that pushes them to produce content. The more of the support-level work that you can handle, the more likely it will be that your lawyers will happily take on the content creation portion of the work.
Mistake Number Two: You Aren’t Marketing Your Content
During our presentation at LMA NE last week, Adrian Lurssen and I talked a little bit about bringing your content TO your audience. There can be this sense among lawyers and law firms (not all of them, but you know who you are) that because you’ve written something smart and brilliant, people will come TO YOU to read it.
We’re all busy people – from you to your clients to influencers and amplifiers. The people who read your content are not sitting around thinking, “Hmm, I wonder when Joe Smith is going to write something else on the NLRB that I’ll want to read.” They’re thinking about whatever is currently on their plate.
So in order to get your content in front of them, you have to go TO THEM.
And that means marketing your content effectively.
As Neil explains in The Advanced Content Marketing Guide, ‘The secret to content marketing boils down to three things: creating great content, making sure it gets found in search engines, and promoting it to your followers.’
If you don’t market your content, it will never get the chance to spread its wings and bring in new fans and followers, let alone new prospects and customers.”
We know you’ve got the part about “creating great content” down – next up is making sure it gets found by search engines and promoting it to the people that need to see it.
So how does that happen? Let’s translate what CMI suggests into legal industry-speak:
Leverage influencer marketing: When influencers promote a product or service, their circles are likely to respond – by taking immediate action and spreading positive brand association.”
We’ve talked before about “influencers” here – “influencers” are those who have a voice in your industry or practice area and can “influence” the spread of your content. You know who they are – they’re the thought leaders, who are not necessarily the purchasers of legal services, but they’re the people that the purchasers of legal services listen to.
Influencers can include:
- Conference organizers
- Competitors (yes, really!)
And more, depending on your area of the law. Are you properly connected to, and engaged with, those influencers in your field, who will share and amplify your content when you produce it?
Activate your followers and subscribers: Get your audience members excited about your content and they’ll share it with their networks on your behalf.”
Your followers and subscribers are another audience that you want to be empowering to share your content. Sometimes this group overlaps with the first (hopefully it does!), but these are also inclusive of friends and colleagues in the marketplace, who have come to see you as a source of good information (both yours AND others) and so they’re willing to share what you have written because they find it valuable.
Create Google AdWords campaigns: If you’re promoting a new white paper or e-book, create display campaigns to raise awareness and remarketing campaigns to retarget visitors who abandon your content before taking action.”
This is a bit “Content Marketing 2.0” for most lawyers and law firms, but don’t let that scare you. As we’ve discussed before, content is more than just blogging, and lawyers often create a lot of great long form content in the form of white papers and e-books. Use Google AdWords to reach the right audience with your content (with Google’s help).
Develop social media campaigns: Sharing your content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram may not make your content a viral success story overnight, but every interaction it earns from the members of your community has the potential to create a ripple effect that can impact your bottom line over the long term.”
This is fairly self-explanatory, but I will say that it emphasizes the importance of social media once again. I know that while more and more lawyers are coming to terms with the adoption of social media, there are still some that aren’t sold on using it themselves. Some still believe that it’s something that only kids use.
But I’m here to tell you that social media is a part of the human landscape these days and everyone is using it. Even if it’s not to engage, LinkedIn and Twitter especially have an amazing capacity as a research tool – and that’s why it’s essential to have your content on there. Not only are you empowering your own social followers to engage with and share your content, but you’re also allowing those who aren’t connected with you to find it, based on keywords and their own connections.
I’ve had a LOT of anecdotal conversations in recent weeks with lawyers (especially in-house lawyers) who may not be engaging on social media, but they ARE using it for research, both to learn more about the outside counsel they may be hiring as well as to get up to speed on the subjects that they’re interested in at the moment. Make sure your content is out there and available to them.
Build email marketing campaigns: Think of a well-executed email strategy as the backbone of a successful content marketing program. It’s an essential structure that supports your various content efforts and is the best technique for building a subscriber base – which helps you stay at the top of your readers’ minds.”
We tend to think of email as passé these days – but it’s still a valid distribution channel for content marketing, and CMI agrees with that here. Hopefully you and your firm have a strong CRM system, and you can use that to target key segments of your client and potential client database with specific pieces of content that is directly relevant to them.
Yes, it’s true that a lot of us gloss over emails that we get, because we get SO.DARN.MANY of them, but email, done right, can also be a very effective distribution channel, so it’s worth pursuing and measuring as part of your content marketing strategy to see if it’s right for you.
And finally, a really out of the box one for law firms:
Experiment with native advertising: This in-stream content distribution technique uses ads that appear as part of the typical browsing experience, extending the reach of your content to audiences that may not be exposed to your owned channels.”
Before we get into this too much, what is native advertising?
According to digital advertising firm Solve Media, native advertising refers to a specific mode of monetization that aims to augment user experience through relevant content that is delivered in-stream.
Popular social media sites have put native advertising in play through examples like:
- Promoted tweets on Twitter
- Sponsored stories on Facebook
- Featured videos on YouTube”
The idea here is that it’s supposed to flow through with the rest of your browsing experience so that you almost don’t notice that it’s an ad. Instagram users will especially be familiar with this – you regularly will see photos pop up, and it’s only after you “like” them that you realize that it’s a sponsored photo.
It’s different from traditional advertising, obviously, but it’s still having the effect of getting your content in front of more people (without asking them to do anything beyond what they would typically be doing in their browsing session).
There are possibly some great benefits from this (and as far as I know, law firms aren’t capitalizing on these yet, so there’s also a HUGE opportunity here).
- Reaching a new audience outside of your typical channels (think clients and potential clients in your practice or industry areas).
- Extending the life of content (It lives online forever, but why not reinvigorate interest in it?)
- Retargeting leads and prospects (don’t let the sales speak freak you out – it just means that you’re specifically identifying those people that can really benefit from the subject of your content in an effective way – and isn’t that a good thing?)
There’s some great food for thought here, in terms of what we’re potentially doing wrong, and what we can be doing better. Next week, we’ll look at a couple of the other mistakes that CMI identifies, but in the meantime, what are some of the issues you’ve come across with content marketing?