I’m going to suggest a theory – that there are many lawyers out there who hear the phrase “content marketing” and assume that it’s either absolute nonsense (raise your hand) or more of that marketing hooey (and therefore secretly nonsense, or at the very least, not something you’re supposed to be involved in – raise your hand).
Am I right?
To be clear, this is not at all meant to disparage either legal marketers, who I deeply respect, for many reasons or most lawyers who are generally too busy doing legal work to understand the nuances of the language that the rest of us come up with business development tactics and strategies.
But I realized that like many tactics, marketers and business developers use if we don’t articulate quickly and efficiently:
- the part of it that’s business development,
- the part of it that lawyers care about, and
- the steps a lawyer can take next
they’re just going to tune out. Because, as we all know, until we kill the billable hour for good, time is money.
So, let’s get to it. Yes, you can use content marketing to get clients – not in all ways, but in some ways. Let’s look at a couple.
Use Case Studies – But Make them Compelling
This may be something that you’ve done in the past, but just in case you haven’t, case studies are an excellent place to look for content. Obviously not every case will be a good candidate (and not every client is going to give you permission!), but some will provide interesting stories that will highlight your creativity and expertise, as well as your ability to advocate for your client. And even better if you can get them to co-author the piece with you.
Typically, you want to follow the format of presenting a challenge, what the solution was, and the end benefit. But Content Marketing Institute offers some excellent tips for making case studies easier to write, and more interesting to read in this article by Gretchen Dukowitz.
Dukowitz focuses on three main points for us:
- Interview a real, live person
- Edit the heck out of your quotes
- Blow things out of proportion
I can almost see the lawyers in the group getting itchy about this, but I promise that she’s not advising anything unethical. Let’s delve in a little bit.
Interview a real, live person
As I alluded to before, if you can arrange to co-author a case study with a client, that’s an excellent idea – clients want to be doing more writing with you, and it will make the piece more interesting to readers. Plus, you’ll have the bonus of not only you being motivated to share the finished piece, but your client will as well.
As Dukowitz says:
Case studies are stories. They have narratives and need to be rooted firmly in the experience of the customer. You can get all of these things by talking to one. The end result is a strong case study with a clear beginning, middle, and end, as opposed to a Frankenstein-assembled story that you put together from random parts.”
Content marketing is really about storytelling. “But we’re lawyers!” I can hear you protesting. Yes, but you still have to be able to tell a compelling story about your practice and expertise so that people will hire you. Word-of-mouth marketing is other people telling your story for you; content marketing is YOU getting to tell that story.
Consider too not just writing about it – there are two things you can do here. You can create a podcast around it, bringing your client on to discuss the story (this works better if you have an existing podcast, obviously) or you can write a blog post or article. You can also do both, taking the podcast and turning that into a blog post or article that you then also share for additional reach.
Edit the heck out of your quotes
On this point, Dukowitz says:
You are not being held to some journalistic standard that says you must reproduce all customer utterances word for word (not even journalists adhere to this standard, by the way). You can – make that should – edit and embellish quotes to make their point more effectively.”
However, she’s also careful to point out that you do then return to the person who said the quote and clear it with them first – that’s why this is still ethical. You’re cleaning up the quotes to make them fit into your story better, and make it more of an effective piece, but you’re also making sure that those you’ve interviewed are fine with that.
Blow things out of proportion
This one is again about storytelling, and not about exaggeration. You want to define the issues in your case study right away in a way that will engage the reader and make them want to continue reading – it should also tell them why and how the following case study will be relevant to them. (For an example of this, read the full post from Dukowitz).
On this point, she says:
The first sentence of your case study should always speak to a broad business issue and provide context for the reader. This provides a better chance that readers will identify with the broader challenge even if they are not in the study’s specific vertical or business.”
So whether you’re already using case studies as a part of your content marketing, or you have yet to include them, those are some excellent tips for how to further develop them to make them more interesting, and to a wider audience.
Now, how does this get you more clients? Two ways:
- First, it further engages you with your existing clients. You’re delving more deeply into your successes with your existing clients and showing them exactly how you solved their challenges with them, but you’re doing it in a way that encourages THEM to identify the ways in which you solved their issues.
- Second, it is showcasing to potential clients the ways in which you advocate and show up for your clients, specifically. And it’s getting your clients to be the ones to tell them how you accomplished that.
Bringing on a Guest
Having a guest is another category of content marketing that you should not overlook as a lawyer. It has HUGE benefits for you as a content provider and business developer.
There are many reasons to have a guest, either as a blogger or to join you on your podcast. Let’s say that you are looking to develop business – why would you use a guest blogger or podcaster?
- It’s a relationship-builder – not only are you drawing attention to your blog from your existing audience, but you’re also connecting with others from your guests’ industry and niche, showcasing them (which is flattering), and starting or deepening a relationship with them that may prove to be valuable.
- If you know you have a busy time coming up with work, you can schedule them in advance. There is still work involved in managing guest bloggers or podcasters (it’s not as if you hand over the keys and say “good luck!”), but depending on your own process and content generation, it can be less time-consuming than developing your own posts or episodes.
- As much as your readers love to hear your “voice” all the time on your blog or podcast, it can be refreshing to get new perspectives and different “voices” from other bloggers or podcasters. Sharing the spotlight is great to round out the breadth of your blog or podcast in a way that your audience will appreciate.
So now that you’re sold that guest blogging/podcasting is for you, who should you ask? You can look to clients, potential clients (that’s an EXCELLENT way to start a relationship with someone you’ve been trying to get a foot in the door with, by the way), your colleagues, and other referral sources – this is key: you may think that you want to limit yourself to only clients or potential clients, but when you include your colleagues and referral sources, you’re also opening your audience up to a wider variety of referral opportunities as well.
If you’re ready to get started with asking people, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind. The first is that you’ll want to put a process in place. For example, something like this:
- Put together some brief guidelines for posting to your blog or recording for your podcast – what is it about, is there a word target or a time limit, subject line guidelines, etc., do you need categories and tags from them, or will you assign those, same with images. Also identify a deadline for delivery of the post or episode, as well as a publication date (the two should not be on the same date, so you have time to review and edit if necessary).
- Identify your guest blogger or podcaster.
- Reach out to them, preferably by email, but you can also use social media if you don’t have direct contact information for them. Tell them why you’d like them to be a guest blogger or podcaster, what the guidelines are, the rough deadline (if you have one, or leave it open-ended if you’re comfortable with that), and invite them to ask any questions and let you know if they’re willing to participate.
- If they confirm, thank them and respond with a date that you’ll follow up with a reminder about the post or episode (a day or two before the deadline is fine). You should also share with them at this time who your target audience is and what they expect if the guest hasn’t asked already.
- Set up a calendar reminder to reach out. If you haven’t received the draft by that date, do so.
- Review the draft, and discuss any comments or changes with the guest blogger or podcaster. If the changes are minimal, you will still be able to post or publish on the publication date, but if they’re substantial, you’ll have to handle it delicately and revise the publication date.
- Publish when you have the final draft or episode and publicize widely. Make sure to tag them in any social sharing posts.
- Follow up with the guest to share the link and suggest that they may want to share it with their audiences as well. Let them know where you’ve shared it.
- Follow up again with any comments or feedback you receive – especially invite them to respond to any questions on the post that they may not see.
If the post or episode was really good and resonates with your audience, you may want to consider reaching out to them again for another guest post or episode in the future – in that case, give yourself a calendar reminder to do so in another few months.
Also, set up a system by which you can note to yourself who you’d like to have as a guest for you. It can be anyone that you think would be suitable, from those who are very likely to say yes, right up to your dream guests.
Since the worst someone can say is no, it’s ALWAYS worth asking them – and at the very least, you’ve also started a dialogue with that person, which is never a bad thing!
Guest posting can be tricky since you’re effectively passing over the reins of your blog or podcast to someone else. So if this feels like too much, consider co-authoring or co-hosting with someone as an alternative. It will take more work than a regular post or episode would, because you’ll need to collaborate with them a bit more, but the upside of that is that you’re also doing the double-duty of business development at the same time. You’ve chosen this person because they will likely be a good fit for you business-wise – but this will not only help you with that single contact; once you publish, you’ll also be promoting yourself more widely, as that person will be too.
That’s the great benefit of content marketing – while you’re busy doing business development one-on-one with someone, the content that you’ve created with them is being leveraged on your behalf through the channels that you and they have used to promote it. All of your efforts are always magnified, which is why the work of content marketing is always worth the effort when done strategically.