When you’re prioritizing your law firm marketing efforts, you may be asking yourself, “What’s the best way to spend my limited resources, specifically my time and my money?”
Some firms spend vast amounts of both time and money on personal networking and marketing initiatives, but if your firm is working on a more limited budget, you may be asking yourself whether it’s better to focus on personal networking (e.g. dinners, events, happy hours, etc.) or content marketing initiatives, such as blogging, social media, email, digital advertising, press releases, etc.
Personal Networking Still the Gold Standard
Rocky Dhir, the host of the State Bar of Texas podcast, posed this exact question when I was on his show a few months ago: “When I was a young lawyer … older lawyers used to tell me you’ve got to build relationships, you want to go out there, you want to be seen in your community, you want people to know who you are, you want them to think of you when they have a problem. Is that no longer valid?”
It absolutely is still valid. Old school personal networking is still the gold standard for business development. There’s no better way to get someone to like, trust, and hire you than to meet them face-to-face, break bread with them, and develop a real relationship over time.
But, just as online dating apps gave singles new ways to meet prospective romantic partners they otherwise would never have met, content marketing vastly expands your universe of prospective clients. What’s more, blog posts, email newsletters, social media posts, podcasts, and digital ads can help bridge the gap between steak dinners.
So, when people ask us whether they should spend their marketing budget on personal networking or content marketing, the answer is that they should do at least a little bit of both.
How Much Personal Networking is Enough?
How much personal networking you need to do depends on your practice area, your business development needs, and, of course, your other commitments, such as billable work, family, etc. Make a commitment to consistent networking that works for you – whether that’s once a week or once a month – and stick with it. (Check out my colleague Bruce Vincent’s blog post on how to network like a boss.)
Attend bar events, CLEs, and fundraisers. Sponsor the occasional firm happy hour or other client-focused event. But also find the time and budget to write blog posts, post occasionally to social media, and distribute newsletters and client alerts.
Although you can only be one place at a time, the good news about content marketing is that a single blog post or CLE presentation can turn into multiple pieces of other content and, depending on the topic, can be re-used multiple times. What’s more, you don’t have to personally do all of that work yourself if you have a marketing assistant or agency to handle those tasks that don’t require a law degree.
One Event, One Piece of Content, Umpteen Uses
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve given a CLE presentation to your Bar section. Not only does this tick off the “personal networking” part of the equation, but you can also turn it into almost infinite content marketing uses. Here’s how:
- Publish the presentation as a blog post.
- Include a link to a downloadable PDF of the slide show.
- Upload the slide show to LinkedIn SlideShare.
- Add narration or music and turn it into a YouTube video.
- Link to the blog post, SlideShare/YouTube video from your social media channels.
- Create and republish an infographic using the same content.
- Include links to the blog post, slideshow, video and/or infographic in your email newsletter.
- Repost it to your social media channels every few months (assuming it’s an “evergreen” topic about a fairly timeless issue and it’s not, for example, an analysis of a recent Supreme Court ruling). You can use a program like Buffer to schedule those posts well ahead of time, so you don’t have to babysit your social media.
- A year later, revisit the original presentation, freshen it up with new examples, republish it, and repeat the entire process.
One event, one piece of content, umpteen ways to use it to promote your expertise. And, more importantly, the only thing you must do as the J.D. is give the presentation. You probably have to write it as well, but you can get help on this front from an associate or even a ghostwriter. (Read this for more ways to recycle your content.)
It’s Also About Vetting
Another great reason to build and maintain a solid online presence is vetting.
You may be getting great referrals from people who know you personally, but most prospective clients will vet referrals before calling them. And the easiest way to do that is by doing an internet search. So, even if you don’t think people are finding you by doing an internet search for “(your practice area) lawyer (your city or state),” there’s a very good chance that if someone refers you to them, the prospective client is going to check you out online before they call you.
If your online presence is non-existent or, worse, unprofessional, you may never get that call. What’s more, you will probably never know that you missed out on that piece of business.
We all have finite marketing resources, even those firms with seemingly infinite resources. Content marketing is a potent tool to make the most of those resources, leaving you plenty of time to get in some spa days or happy hours with your favorite clients and prospective clients.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.