With many law firms reporting a significant slowdown in demand for their services, lawyers are naturally looking to juice up their marketing efforts. The trouble is that business development options are limited when you can’t network face-to-face without putting your and your family’s health at risk and your budget is tight.
Fortunately, content marketing is a socially distant and budget-conscious way to get out the word that you’re open for business. And, surprisingly, that message is something clients and prospective clients need to hear. According to a recent survey by practice management software maker Clio, 22 percent of consumers say they believe that most lawyers have “stopped offering legal services because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
So almost a quarter of consumers think lawyers are at home perfecting their sourdough starter and watching “Dead to Me” on Netflix. Wow.
Need some fresh eyes on your law firm’s business development efforts? We can help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be re-visiting several of our most popular blog posts offering deeper dives on the basic building blocks of content marketing programs for law firms: blogging, social media, and newsletters. We’ll also update and refresh some articles on how to pitch your story to the press and make sure your marketing efforts comply with the State Bar of Texas’ advertising rules.
First, though, here’s a primer on what the heck content marketing is and how a law firm of any size can use it to develop business in even the most challenging times.
What is Content Marketing?
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 online)
- Online profiles
- News releases
- White papers
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:
- Legal FAQs (What kind of insurance do I need? What does my business need to know about the FFCRA or the CARES Act? How will the pandemic affect my family’s visitation schedule?)
- Updates on new regulations on workplace safety, financial disclosures, etc.
- Pending legislation that could affect your clients’ industry
- Interesting trends your clients need to know about
- Your “hot take” on a news story that intersects with your practice area
For most law firms, 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.
Law firms that rely less on referrals and who get most of their clients through internet searches should invest more heavily in SEO, pay-per-click, and other tactics aimed at boosting their website’s paid and organic results on search engines.
Stay Top-of-Mind Among Referral Sources
Most lawyers tell me they get their clients through referrals from other lawyers or previous clients. Content marketing gives those that don’t have big-firm branding budgets the ability to stay on the radar among referral sources through regular, non-intrusive communications.
It’s also about vetting. Think about what you do when you’re looking for a referral, whether it’s for a wedding DJ or a bankruptcy lawyer. You ask around, collect a few names, and then research those names on the internet. Imagine one of the lawyers has a skimpy website and the last blog post they wrote was in 2014. Yet another attorney has updated LinkedIn and Super Lawyers profiles, an active social media presence (including an analysis of a recent Supreme Court ruling), and a press release about a recent victory on behalf of a client. Which lawyer makes a better impression?
By keeping your website fresh and your online profile current, and by providing consistent, relevant information of interest to your clients and prospective clients, content marketing can help lawyers make the best possible first impression.
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 and prospective clients.
- 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 blog posts, award/result announcements and testimonials into a regular e-newsletter for 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, informational content. Email providers such as MailChimp and Campaign Monitor 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, 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 you’re 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 has a better chance of getting through. (If you’re concerned about rising above the noise, check out What Politics Can Teach Law Firms About Getting Noticed.)
Good Content, Consistently
In other words, content is queen. Provide useful content consistently, and you’ll get read. That doesn’t mean your content will be read by everyone all the time, but at least some people some of the time will read it — which is an improvement over doing nothing. And as a bonus, your emails remind your contacts what you do, why you’re good at it, and that you’re open for business (a relevant issue these days).
One critical 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 marketing.
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.
Amy Boardman Hunt is all about helping lawyers find their voice and showcase their expertise. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find great hiking spots in Dallas. If you know of any – or you need a legal marketing muse – drop her a line at email@example.com.