While many firms are content producing powerhouses, pushing out alerts, social media posts and other information daily via the many distribution channels with which they engage their target audiences, they often fail to take the time to think about the how, what, when, where and why of the content they are creating and disseminating and how it will help/benefit their clients and other influential readers.
For example, do you ever feel as if you are a content machine who is just going through the content motions, following orders of those around you, because “that’s the way they’ve always done it,” or because you don’t want to question a partner or someone more senior to you?
If so, take a moment to give yourself a “content timeout” so you can really think about why you are doing what you are doing. If it doesn’t make sense with your brand and business development goals, immediately change your course. Taking the time to ensure that your content marketing strategy and your BD strategy are aligned will enable you to create more focused, strategic content that will better engage and resonate with your target audiences (more on this below).
Remember that the goal of content marketing is not just about populating your social media feeds with a steady stream of content. Rather, the goal is to use content as a differentiator and a tool to help position you and your firm as a thought leader, which will help to keep you top of mind with key individuals. Here are a few things you can do right away to take your content strategy to the next level to help you achieve these goals.
- Align your content strategy to your business development goals. I always say that every single person involved in legal marketing is a business development person regardless of your actual job title or function. You must be focused on lead generation and business development in your position to really understand what the firm’s goals are, especially when it comes to content. Aligning your content and social media strategy to your BD goals will enable you to choose the right practices and industries on which to focus. You can then also use your analytics and competitive intelligence to help support your efforts (such as Google analytics, web site, social media and email stats, among others). Remember, everything you do should be centered on bringing in business for the firm, including every single piece of content you create.
- Show vs. tell. Every piece of content you post should be value-added, helpful and client-centric. So, don’t just tell your clients why you are the best lawyers, show them. Think about how to demonstrate that you are a leader in your field versus telling someone. Write every single piece of content with this concept in mind – from the highest-level thought leadership article to every social media post. Think about “why should your clients care about this?” when crafting language. Remember that most often, your clients are not lawyers, so throw the legalese and jargon out the window and put yourself in their shoes. Clients want to know who you are and how you can help them. It’s that simple.
- Reuse and repurpose everything. Think headshots, practice area images, previously published client alerts and articles. Every single image and piece of content you have can be used multiple times. For example, you can pull out an interesting statistic, create a word cloud, use icons or big numbers to bring important points to life, a quote or just tell the story in a different way, and voilà, it’s a different piece of content! Use an editorial calendar to help you track and manage the posts.
- Create once, publish everywhere (but adjust the message for the medium). Delving deeper into the point above, while you should leverage the social platforms most frequently used by your clients and prospects, don’t post the same exact content and image to LinkedIn that you would post to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. It’s very important that you demonstrate to your target audiences that you have mastery of the social media platforms that you are utilizing or else you are committing social media suicide. Incorrectly using a particular platform shows your audience that you lack critical social media skills. Also, while it’s great if your firm has thousands of followers on LinkedIn and Twitter and the like, don’t forget that you also need to tap into the critical social networks of your lawyers to have maximum engagement. Ensure that your lawyers are properly trained on how to effectively use LinkedIn to share and like content or else you will miss out on reaching their powerful networks!
- Use free online tools to gain a competitive edge. Working at a mid-size firm with a limited budget, I often have to get resourceful. I use a lot of online free/low-cost tools to help me gain a competitive advantage over my peers, such as hashtagify.me (which is a hashtag search/discovery engine that provides you with the top trending hashtags associated with a particular topic and some basic analytics textoo – brilliant!). Also, set up Google Alerts on your top clients and prospects. These are free and give you great insights into your clients. Arm yourself with as much information as you can and you will have an advantage over your competitors and demonstrate to your clients how much you care about their businesses.
- Use evergreen content to your advantage: Evergreen content is SEO-optimized content that doesn’t have an expiration date, or lose its relevancy and value over time. It is high-quality, helpful content that provides value whether it is read today, next week or a year from now. So why is it called “evergreen?” The evergreen tree is a symbol of everlasting life because this type of tree keeps its leaves throughout the seasons, rather than shedding them. Like the trees, evergreen content is considered sustainable and lasting. Creating an evergreen content strategy is easier than you think because you already have all of the content and most of the tools that you need. It just requires a little creative thinking on how to effectively repurpose them. For example, content opportunities (and the visual assets that go along with them) such as lawyer bios, holidays, office openings, firm history, timeless client alerts, case studies on matters/practices, careers, professional development, pro bono and diversity, events, as well as information from transcripts can all be used to fill in content gaps in your editorial calendar.
- Incorporate visuals. Taking the point above a step further, I’m a firm believer that you should post nothing to social media without an image. Why? Because social media posts with images gain more views and engagement, period. Anyone can incorporate visuals into their social media strategy, you just need to be creative and resourceful. You can easily reuse and repurpose images that you already have, and resize them using tools right on your smartphone. In addition, there are many photo and online design tools that enable you to create images for free or at a low cost such as canva.com and Picstitch that enable you to create visually arresting graphics to bring your social media posts to life. For more low cost and even better – free! – tools that you can incorporate into your social media content strategy, take a look at my JD Supra article that explores 17 really cool martech tools that you should know about.
- Focus on the headlines. In order to stand out from the many emails that your in-house counsel receive each day and the countless social media posts they see clogging their feeds, you must create headlines and copy that will draw them in. We already talked about how to effectively use images in your posts, but we didn’t delve into headlines. The subject lines/headlines of your emails (so client alerts, press releases, white papers, CLE programs and anything else that you send via email to clients/contacts) is the very first thing that they see and determines whether someone wants to open up your email – or not. So make them clear, actionable, short, succinct and you get extra points if you can create a “how-to” or “why” piece or use numbers or a list format such as what I did with my title above. “Listcicles” are very popular ways of communicating complex information into digestible chunks.
- Network and share online: LinkedIn is the most important social media channel for law firm business development and professional networking. It enables you to quickly build and grow relationships so that you can bring in new business and referrals, build your brand and stay top of mind with key individuals in your professional network. So, use it smartly and use it often (meaning post and share value-added content, and engage meaningfully with your connections). I write a lot about how to maximize LinkedIn and use it effectively – see my latest JD Supra articles on LinkedIn profile basics and more advanced LinkedIn to-do’s – because I have never seen the platform directly lead to new business more than I have in the last year (hint – use the notifications section to give you reasons to be in touch with important contacts in your network – information is power here!).
- Think quality not quantity. I touched on this a bit above, but since it’s such an important point, I wanted to dedicate a bullet to it. The ultimate goal of content marketing is to drive readers to take action, preferably in the form of contacting and retaining your firm. So it’s not how often you post content to social media that makes a true impact, but rather what you say and how you say it. The quality not the quantity of your posts should always be your primary focus, and keeping that concept at the forefront of your content strategy will help to guide your overall efforts.
For all firms and lawyers, the goal of content marketing is lead generation and business development. How you get there is by building targeted relationships, staying top of mind, providing helpful content and consistently adding value. Try incorporating some of these tools into your content strategy and let me know how it goes!