This morning, I’m bringing you a guest post from Lance Godard, of The Godard Group, who is sharing some excellent tips on how to use content to create and deliver value for readers. Have you been wondering how you bridge that gap between good writing, and great writing that catches the attention of potential clients, referral sources and influencers, and shows you to be a thought leader? Lance has the answers. For over 30 years, Lance has worked with lawyers and law firms to help them craft their messages, so if you’re looking for someone to help you with your content, look no further than The Godard Group.

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Blog posts, presentations, podcasts, and more: today there are more ways than ever for lawyers to market themselves and their firms. Whatever the method, though, it’s critical to remember that the most effective marketing is that which creates and delivers value to your clients and potential clients.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that other types of marketing – directories, sustained advertising, charity sponsorships, and the like – are never worthwhile. But it does mean that you cannot rely on promotional marketing alone to articulate your firm’s brand.

Instead, you need content, in all its formats, content that informs and educates your readers, content that confirms your ability to solve the very problems your targets are facing.

For example: do your articles discuss the dangers of non-compliance with the U.K. Bribery Act or do they propose ways to develop anti-corruption strategies without disrupting business operations around the globe? Do your presentations focus on the cost of counterfeiting and other IP theft around the world, or instead provide concrete examples of successful countermeasures and lessons learned? More to the point, do you talk about the problems clients already know they face, or do you identify specific ways to overcome those obstacles?

Your targets want more than a lawyer who understands the issues: they want one who proposes actionable solutions to the challenges they’re facing. Here are three ways to make sure your content does just that:

Write about issues that matter to readers

Like most lawyers, you probably have already identified a list of topics you could write about. The work you do every day – filing patents in the United States, preparing for a government investigation in China, terminating employees in France, and more – is good fodder for articles and blog posts, and of broad general interest to your audience.

But generic content about generic issues isn’t going to capture the attention of readers. More importantly, it’s not going to show them that you understand their challenges, that you know their industry, that you have actionable solutions.

For that, you need to identify and propose solutions around the issues that matter to your audience, that address the things that keep them up at night. Talk to your clients and prospects to enhance your understanding of their urgencies and the specific challenges they have today. Review the business and legal press to ensure you’re up to speed on economic trends and legislative developments. Identify one or two hot topics that seem to be top of mind for your audience, then look at how others are framing those issues and solutions.

In short: do your homework to ensure that you write about the issues that truly matter to readers, not about what you hope they care about or what you think they should care about.

Measure your results

If you’re producing content on a regular basis and pushing it out to your audience via email, social media, LinkedIn, and other free and paid channels, you’re generating data that can help you produce better content, content that is more relevant to your readers, content that helps you reach your goal.

Start measuring it. Start tracking how many people open your blog posts, how long they stay on the site, where they’re coming from, what terms they search for when they’ve finished reading the first article and what to know more. Start analyzing the data to see what’s resonating with readers, what’s leaving them indifferent, what’s prompting them to seek out more.

Patterns will form: topics that people avoid and ones they can’t seem to read enough about, days of the week when your audience doesn’t go online, keywords that catch their attention more than others, titles and distribution channels that work best. Let those patterns guide your future content.

Find the right formula

When you’re building a marketing and branding initiative around content, readers can seem pretty fickle. They’ll love one blog post on U.S. tax law while completely ignoring another. They’ll actively share an article on the pitfalls of short-term financing without reading the follow-up. That it might be because you haven’t yet hit on the right formula: the topics they’re most worried about, or the titles that catch their eye, the best times and places to share it online.

That’s why you need to track data, to see when your audience is reading your work, to find out where they are going to get it, to understand what interests them the most. And that’s also why you need to experiment, to shake things up, to see how changes you can control – where you publish your work and when you share it, for example – influence readership. So that you can do more of the things that work, and less of those that don’t.

Does featuring an article on your firm’s home page lead to more page views? How many more readers do you get when you double or triple the number of times you share it on Twitter? What’s the effect of adding your email address in the text? How about using an alternate title when sharing a piece on LinkedIn or on Facebook?

The bottom line? Content marketing success depends on how well you understand what’s keeping your clients and potential clients up at night and on your ability to articulate practical solutions to those problems. But whether or not content marketing works for you also depends on your ability to get people to read your written work. That’s why you need to experiment until you find a formula that works, and then experiment so more to see if you can’t make it better.