It’s that time of year again, the time of year when every post is a round-up, or a look at trends for 2016. We’re saying goodbye to the old, and ringing in the new, as the close of a calendar year has taught us to do.
Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking about what 2016 will have in store. While I won’t be doing any typical “top ten” posts this year, I am using today’s Two for Tuesdays to look at two goals I have for content marketing (my own and the ILN’s) in 2016. I’ve been thinking about these for a while, and fortunately, industry trends seem to be bearing them out. We’ll get to what they are in a moment, but first, I’d like you to think about what your content marketing goals are for 2016 – I read a great quote in an Inc. article this morning that reminded me that we all have to up our game:
A client, whose company was in a very fast growing industry, once said that as their market matured, they would be forced to become better marketers, not simply capturing new and pent-up demand. The same holds true for content marketing. Those who make the effort to do it right–assigning dedicated resources, developing written business plans with clear goals, leveraging tools like Buyer’s Personas to develop content for the customer’s benefit rather than the brand’s and producing a variety of content types–will continue to drive heavy engagement.”
We’re at that jumping off point in the legal industry as well. Content marketing isn’t new to us – we’ve been doing it forever. In the last year, we’ve seen more strategy implemented around it, and moved into an era of more sophisticated tracking. We use data to inform our next steps in what content we produce, and the channels we use to distribute it. There are a few firms lagging behind, but they’re catching up. We’re all being forced to be better marketers, and it’s fantastic – I love listening to brilliant colleagues doing creative, interesting things.
Of course, that begs the question “What’s next?” As we improve, we’re continually asked to innovate and further improve. So we do. With that in mind, what are your content marketing goals for 2016?
Content Marketing Goal One: Segmentation
Segmentation is a goal I’ve been thinking about for a while, because we’re inundated with information. For a time, it was sufficient to pepper everyone with everything we had, and consumers of content were sophisticated (and patient) enough to filter through all of that noise to find the valuable information that they wanted to read/view. We’d help them along with eye-catching headlines, hashtags, keywords, etc.
But with so much saturation in the marketplace, and changes in the algorithms for the way that distribution channels like Facebook and LinkedIn are making content available, it’s just no longer possible or sufficient to use the “spray and pray” method, as it’s called. We have to get much more targeted in our marketing.
Funny enough, everyone else has come to the same conclusion.
In the legal industry, we saw it from a couple of our experts in the 12 Days of Social Media series that the Social Media Shared Interest Group did for the Legal Marketing Association:
Cyndy McCollough, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Buckley Sandler LLP:
What’s the next big thing in social media marketing for law firms in 2016?
In a word, segmentation. We need to speak to our clients where they hang out, which means less blanket broadcasting and more strategic focus on delivering the right message via the right vehicle to the right person. In the late 2000s, as law firms slowly took to social media, we felt it was a huge success just getting our lawyers to establish LinkedIn profiles. Then we were happy to have a branded Twitter feed up and running, where we could share our articles, awards, and client wins. Then some firms started getting smarter about social, building community-focused Facebook pages with engaging alumni and charitable content. What we need to do now is refine our activities to deliver more targeted messages and spend less time yelling into the void and hoping someone hears it. For instance, practices focused on the advertising industry will start maintaining Pinterest and Instagram feeds; entertainment and sports lawyers will probably find creative ways to use Periscope and Meerkat; and IP and tech firms, well I’m guessing drones will be involved, so more video is probably on the horizon. We have to meet our clients where they live.”
Jon Holden, Director of Marketing at Forward Level Marketing
What’s the next big thing in social media marketing for law firms in 2016?
…Different practices need to be treated like different businesses, with different buyers of that service. Highly targeted content that aligns with your specific target is far more critical than a broad strokes approach. Absolutely, an overall brand consistency for the firm is critical, but don’t try and treat everyone the same, and apply the same solutions or marketing approach to everyone.”
Outside of the legal industry, experts are talking segmentation too. In an article for Inc., Joel Comm rounds up experts to discuss how internet marketing will change in 2016:
It will be necessary for companies and organizations to be even more streamlined than ever in how they segment their markets and the messaging to their markets.” — Kathleen Gage, an online marketing expert at KathleenGage.com
John Hall rounded up additional experts for Inc. who echoed the endorsement of segmentation:
Customers don’t just respond better to extremely personalized communications–they expect it. In 2016, marketers need to do two things: Segment audiences into the smallest possible groups to deliver seemingly one-on-one messages, and automate systems to deliver rapid-response, behavior-driven messaging.” — Diana Smith, director of marketing at Segment
Finely tuned audience segmentation will be a key tactic for paid advertising in 2016. When paired with automated ad optimization, these specific target audiences help marketers find the best possible outcomes for every digital campaign. More precise targets will make your content more relevant and convert more often than broader categories.” — Lior Tamir, co-founder and CEO of Accomplice
We’ve got to get more targeted with our messages, and deliver them to the audiences that want them – why? Because that’s what they expect (and are demanding), and because with SO much content out there, it’s the only way that we’re going to be able to make ours rise above the noise. Note that I’m assuming that the content being produced is extremely high quality and relevant – that’s the first step.
Content Marketing Goal Two: More Strategy
As I mentioned in my introductory remarks, we’ve seen an increase in the strategy around content marketing in the last year – 58 % of CMO respondents in this year’s Greentarget Digital Media Survey said that they had a content strategy in place (documented or otherwise), and 30% said they plan to put a content strategy in place in the next 12 months. Only 11%, down from 28% in 2014, said that they have no strategy and no plans to implement one.
As Greentarget points out in their Executive Summary:
If law-firm content marketing is to achieve the results firms seek, we believe its imperative that they start with well-thought-out, documented strategies. An effective strategy must articulate precisely how content will serve both an audience need and the firm’s business goal. From there, it’s still vital to produce high-quality content that is accessible, credible and engaging – but without that first step, the most well-written, authoritative material is unlikely to achieve its desired effect.”
While we have a content strategy at the ILN as part of our overall marketing & business development plan, in 2016, I’m planning to break it out to be its own standalone roadmap, and to further develop it – and that’s where this idea of “more strategy” comes in. We’ve talked before about heading into Content Marketing 2.0 this year, and moving from having a strategy in place that informs our initial content marketing efforts, to having one that allows us to be constantly reviewing and refining our efforts to ensure that we’re always delivering what our audiences want, to ultimately make our content marketing more efficient and successful. For me, that’s what 2016’s goal of “more strategy” is about.
Let’s here what some of the experts, both in and out of legal, have to say about strategy:
I think the next big thing in social is when we (the marketers) start building some structure around our efforts. For sure, keep on top of the latest, coolest gizmos, but focus on building a repeatable strategy for your content, one that addresses business goals, and not just marketing goals.” — Jon Holden, Director of Marketing at Forward Level Marketing
[I]it is not good enough to just have channels on all mediums for law firms anymore. Firms struggle to define their strategy—why are they on social media and why would the content they post matter? Having a consistent voice and not having enough resources continue to be stumbling blocks for many firms. There are many tools now available to help us manage our online brand and presence. Develop a social media and content strategy plan and align it with your marketing/communications calendar. This will help you plan ahead and be more proactive and strategic with trending/hot topics that emerge.” — Jacqueline Madarang, Marketing Technology Manager at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings
“I think the best marketing tactic is having a cohesive strategy. It is not about a social media strategy, install ads, or a street team–these are all just channels. A brand needs to think about its voice and optimize it using the data it generates from using the various methods through which it communicates. It will ultimately require an on-and-off digital strategy to build awareness. I think in 2016, we will see a lot more people learn that it is all about building a well-rounded, cohesive voice and vision to share their messages.” — Lucky Lance Gobindram, co-founder and president of OAB Studios
The long and the short of it is the message that we heard right at the beginning: “As the market matures, we are forced to become better marketers.”
And isn’t that a great thing?