If you’re a small law firm looking to grow your business, you may have encountered the phrase “content marketing” while exploring your marketing options. You may be asking yourself, “What the heck is that?”
This blog post will explain some of the main concepts of content marketing and discuss how it can be a potent tool for solos and small law firms with limited marketing budgets.
Content marketing is an umbrella term that incorporates the following elements (among others):
- Website text
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Search engine optimization for website text and other online content (i.e. making your content easily findable by online)
- Online profiles
- News releases
- White papers
Become a Source of Genuine Value
The essence of content marketing is that you’re promoting your subject matter expertise (whether it’s labor law, family law, or any other practice area) by providing consistent, relevant content of interest to your clients and prospective clients. That could be answers to FAQ-legal inquiries, updates on new regulations, pending legislation that could affect your industry, interesting trends your clients need to know about, or just your “hot take” on a news story that intersects with your practice area.
Content marketing is primarily about two things:
- Building a reputation as a source of genuine value in your practice area; and
- Staying top-of-mind among your clients, prospective clients and referral sources.
It is not primarily about self-promotion, though that can play a part in your overall communications strategy.
Stay Top-of-Mind Among Referral Sources
Most lawyers tell me they get their clients through word-of-mouth, whether through referrals from other lawyers or previous clients. Content marketing gives firms that don’t have big-firm branding budgets the ability to stay on the radar among referral sources through regular, non-intrusive communications.
Here’s an example of how a firm could use content marketing over the course of a few months:
- Write a weekly or semi-weekly blog post about an issue of interest to your clients. That could be about a recent court ruling or an “evergreen” article that answers a prospective client’s frequently asked questions (e.g. What’s the difference between a P.C. and a L.L.C.?).
- Promote your blog post on your firm’s social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are the most popular).
- Issue a news release and/or write a blog post about any recent awards or positive client results you have obtained (assuming you’re not bound by confidentiality issues).
- Secure testimonials from recent clients to include on your website.
- Compile your blog posts, award/result announcements and testimonials into a regular e-newsletter to your email list of clients and referral sources. Note: Although it’s fine to include promotional content in your e-newsletters, the emphasis should be on non-promotional, purely informational content. Email providers such as Emma, Mail Chimp, Campaign Monitor and Vertical Response provide low cost (and sometimes free) options for creating branded emails and maintaining your email list.
Other Options Abound
These are just a few examples of how a small firm can use content marketing. There are also white papers on subjects of interest to clients/prospective clients, ebooks (more in-depth than white papers, but the same concept), videos, podcasts and SlideShare presentations.
If you’re looking to reach those outside of your existing network and are willing to spend a little more, consider syndicating your substantive legal articles through a service such as Mondaq, Lexology or JD Supra. You could also use a service such as General Counsel News to distribute e-announcements, which are typically more along the lines of an advertisement.
Ugh. Another Email?
Some lawyers worry about getting lost in the noise and being just another ignored email in an inbox. That’s a valid concern, but an addressable one.
If your inbox is like mine, it’s a barrage of special offers from retailers, newsletters I signed up for but don’t always read, and fundraising appeals. Occasionally, there are important communications from friends, family and clients. I delete the stuff I know I don’t need, but there are a few I read because they almost always tell me something I need to know. Or, I happen to need dog food and PetSmart just sent me a coupon.
The difference between the emails that get read and those that don’t is relevance. If your subject line is well-crafted and your email content is relevant to the reader, then your message should be opened more often than not.
Good Content, Consistently
In other words, content is queen. Provide good content consistently, and you’ll get read. And as an added bonus, your emails remind your contacts that you’re out there, here’s what you do, and that you’re good at it.
One important note about content marketing: it is not a 30-day ROI. You might get some referrals immediately, but it will most likely take a few months before your efforts bear fruit, depending on how often you publish and what kind of resources you devote to your marketing efforts.
Because my motto is “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,” I endorse starting small and growing from there.
Do something consistently and, once you see the benefits, you will be motivated to devote more resources to the cause.
Where Does SEO Fit?
Search engine optimization is an important element of content marketing, and we will tackle that in a separate blog post because it is so comprehensive that it deserves its own space. The essence of SEO in content marketing is to be the answer to search engine queries relevant to your practice area.
Depending on your practice area, however, SEO may not be a high priority. Practice areas that target consumers – family law, criminal defense, bankruptcy and trust and estates, for example – rely heavily on SEO because their prospective clients are likely to do an online search for a lawyer. Business lawyers, on the other hand, tend to place less emphasis on SEO because their clients are unlikely to do a search that asks, “Who is the best commercial litigator in Houston?”
Regardless of whether you consider SEO a high priority, great content is essential and should be the driving force behind any firm’s content marketing efforts.
Amy Boardman Hunt began her career in legal journalism and has been in legal marketing and public relations since 1997. When she’s not helping lawyers grow their business, she’s trying to find someone to go hiking with her. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Muse Communications, we have 30 years of experience writing for and about lawyers, with 20 of those years spent in legal PR and marketing. Contact us if we can be of assistance in your content marketing efforts.