Disruptive law firms are using content marketing to build their brands and scale their client bases at an alarming speed; meanwhile, more traditional firms are running the risk of falling behind the curve.
The effects are already being felt within the industry. And it's no surprise, given how impactful this approach can be when it's done right.
Content and inbound marketing will enhance your search ranking, attract an audience of prospective clients to your website – enabling you to retarget them and stay front of mind during their decision process – and allow you to generate high-quality leads.
Let's look at why law firms can't afford to ignore this marketing method any longer.
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First off, what is content marketing?
Let's start by taking a step back – because for all the talk about this approach, there's still a lot of uncertainty about what it actually is.
By definition, it's a marketing approach built around the creation of blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, white papers and anything else an audience can consume.
In reality, though, it's about a value exchange: brands build audiences, and convert them into clients or customers, by offering them information, insight, education or even entertainment in return for their time.
In an era where time is precious, and clicks are a highly prized entity, getting the attention of audiences isn't always easy; that's why targeting, relevancy, presentation and strategy are more important than ever. Aligning your content to the customer's decision journey is key; but if you get it right, the rewards are enormous.
But is content marketing not just for consumer brands?
Absolutely not. In fact, if anything, content marketing is better placed for B2B brands – normally the ticket price of the purchase is far higher, and that means there’s a lot more research involved before a decision is made.
Content answers the questions that pop up during the course of this research, and more questions means a far greater need for answers. After all, a consumer looking to engage legal services is going to spend a lot more time reading up than someone buying a pair of socks.
This creates a huge opportunity for legal firms to be in the right place at the right time, as their audiences embark on this quest for information.
B2C content is great for brand-building, or developing immense scale for ecommerce brands, consumers are unlikely to invest the same level of research into buying a pair of socks than they are to hiring a legal firm – this is reflected in the content-led approach.
Why legal firms are perfectly placed for content marketing
There are few better fits for content marketing, even within the B2B world, than legal firms.
For a start, legal professionals tend to be well used to putting pen to paper, and articulating their thoughts in written form. The habit of content creation is one that creates enormous difficulty in certain sectors – so that's the first hurdle cleared straight away.
More importantly, though, legal firms are absolutely bursting with knowledge, information and insight. And the more a firm can share with their prospective clients, the more they’ll empower them to move through the decision process, and reach out to set up that all-important meeting or call.
The modern B2B decision journey (and the knowledge gap)
Initially, it may seem counter-intuitive to share this knowledge so openly.
After all, knowledge is the product; it’s what firms sell to their clients. This is how professional services used to function in the pre-internet days, where the ‘knowledge gap’ between client and agency made for a radically different sales cycle to what we have today.
Today's consumers, however, are far more inclined to conduct intensive research across a number of stages: defining their problem, assessing specific solutions and approaches, and in some cases (rare though it might be in the legal field) making a final decision about who they will hire to solve the issue.
The depth of knowledge
Remember, it's highly unlikely that a business or individual requiring legal services will proceed on their own simply because they've read a blog post, watched a tutorial or consumed an ebook. (If that logic held true, we wouldn't be posting guides like this on our agency website!)
Your depth of knowledge and experience is still going to hold the key to any engagements. And more to the point, your prospective client will be seeking out this information one way or another. The question is, will you be the one to provide it for them?
But what can legal firms actually get out of content marketing?
From tangible benefits to softer, longer-term wins, there's a whole range of opportunities offered by content marketing.
Lead generation for business development
There’s a lot more to content marketing than just getting articles and videos on your website to look great – although looking great never hurts!
On a much more functional level, content marketing will generate high-quality leads for your law firm. And that, in itself, is reason enough to go ahead with this strategy.
A good content strategy will create content for each of the key decision stages – broad and general subject matter expertise to attract users, more specific and firm-specific content targeted at those people, then closing content that fills in the finer details and empowers the client to make a final decision.
Search rankings are predominantly based upon the quality and quantity of external links pointing to your site – so continuous production of high-quality, relevant and interesting content will have a profound impact on your SEO.
This isn't an instant win – but it's an important one.
Content distribution to help prospective clients make a decision
Having content for every stage of the journey is all fine and well – but the firms who are really winning in this area are casting their focus beyond just creating and writing great stuff.
They’re focusing on automated distrubution strategies that put the content in front of the right people, at the right stage of their journey – and ushering them towards a point where they’re ready to book a meeting or a call with one of your representatives.
Perhaps the most obvious use of content marketing – and certainly the most traditional – is that of thought leadership.
Basic legal knowledge has been commodified, and is not going to form a point of difference between you and your nearest rival. So showcasing your expertise, your analytical skills, and your strength of opinion and articulation is absolutely key to standing out.
Most legal firms have a decent grasp of this, perhaps due to the fact that it’s a well established element of marketing in this field.
How it might look
Let's take a relatively simple example: someone who wants to engage a legal team to assist them in trademarking their corporate identity.
Attract the audience
They will more than likely research the topic – and hopefully, they’ll end up on an article by one of your partners called ‘What You Need To Know Before Attempting To Trademark Your Business Name’.
That’s a great start – you’ve proven your authority on this topic, they’ve put a face to your corporate identity via your partner’s byline, and they now presumably have you on their consideration list.
Keep them in your sales cycle
They might call you at this stage; but they might also feel they have more research to do before they’re comfortable taking that step. This is where your content marketing kicks in, and keeps them in the loop.
Using automation and audience management, you can now retarget this person across the web and social media with more relevant content – perhaps more detailed articles on different aspects of trademarking, or a case study on previous work you’ve done in this area.
And finally, you could create a downloadable white paper or ebook on ‘Everything You Need To Know About Trademarking In The EU’ – a high-value downloadable piece of content in that will require the user to enter their email address or phone number before they can access it.
Now, you not only have a highly-qualified lead – but you already know a little bit about the challenge they’re facing before you’ve even sat down for your first meeting.
So what's holding firms back?
If it's such an obvious win, why isn't everyone doing it already? Well, there are a few reasons that are holding firms back.
This is the obvious one – it's a time-consuming pursuit, that requires planning, production, distribution, measurement and ongoing optimisation. And while many other businesses outsource these functions to external agencies, there is a perception that the complexity of the topics makes this option untenable.
This isn't necessarily true, of course; good agencies will be able to transfer the information into a clear, readable format using interviews with subject-matter experts – much like a journalist would – or by editing rough drafts into finished products as part of a well defined review process.
And beyond that, third parties can help with the collateral areas – organising, strategising, distributing and optimising content to ensure it's working for your goals.
Hiring outside expertise to solve a problem is not cheap – just ask anyone who's ever hired a legal firm!
However, there are options beyond full-scale retainers, such as once-off production of individual articles or conversion offers (white papers, etc), or engaging agencies to distribute or advertise the content that you've produced internally.
Obviously full-scale retainers give the best shot at success, particularly as results will take time to develop. But it's important to note that it's more of a sliding scale than a binary choice.
Questions over tone of voice
Across B2B communications, there's an impression that written communications should be technical – that simplification of content for a more general audience amounts to 'dumbing down', and will damage the perception of the brand.
This simply isn't true: the modern decision journey is hugely complicated, and will often involve more than one person – so writing solely for legal experts, at the expense of other stakeholders in the process, is generally not an advisable approach.
This can be a tough cookie to sell to senior partners, and so striking a balanced tone is paramount to getting successful content off the ground.
The ability to make it work
Content marketing and content production often get used interchangeably – and this is a big mistake.
Getting the post live is all fine and well, but the supporting aspects will prove far more important: ensuring it forms part of a well designed strategy, that the distribution framework is in place to get it in front of key audience members, that readers are being retargeted with messaging from further down the funnel, and ensuring that the correct tools are in place to collect leads.
The problem for many firms is that these elements, unlike writing, sit outside of their core competencies – but pushing content live without the right supports is futile, and will only damage content buy-in within the firm in the long run.
Content marketing isn't new – think of how long you've been reading CARA magazine on your Aer Lingus flights, or hearing about stars in the Michelin guide.
But in this digital context, it's definitely considered as such; and senior decision makers can often take a view of 'well the old ways have worked until now – so why change?'
That would be all fine and well, but for the fact that the legal industry is experiencing a wave of disruption – with high-tech, borderless firms sweeping into the frame and nabbing business from older, more established players.
Disruptors target industries with a 'why change?' attitude – and failure to act at this juncture could prove fatal for even the most established firms.
Make it work for you
Whether you're already producing content, or you've had it on your to-do list for a little longer than you'd like to admit, it's not too late to take things up a notch.
We've produced a comprehensive guide on how to create a B2B content strategy, which may provide you with some actionable next steps, including:
- Defining your audience
- Creating a content roadmap
- Producing content efficiently
- Distributing content
- Generating leads from your audience
Remember that more direct help is at hand – and hiring a content marketing agency will deliver clear, defined and measurable results.
And, well, we just happen to be a content marketing agency. (What are the chances!)
If you'd like to talk to us about how you can reap the rewards of top-quality inbound marketing, then use the form below to get in touch. Let's strike content off your to-do list.