If you've done any research or read anything recently about marketing, you've probably come across the term "content marketing." It seems to be the newest marketing buzzword. But what is it, and why should lawyers care?
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is all about providing information - content - as a way of engaging potential clients, referral sources and existing clients. It's not about just getting your name out or creating awareness - it's about building a reputation, providing value to others, and creating relationships. It's a way of demonstrating expertise, rather than simply claiming to have it.
Over on Copyblogger, Chris Brogan says,
[T]he real goal of content marketing is to advance your business. If it’s not, then it’s not content marketing. It’s writing.
But Brogan also makes the point that although content marketing is business writing intended to create a specific action to further your business, that doesn't mean that it should be all about you or your service. Instead, it's about starting a relationship.
What do lawyers need to know about content marketing?
Most people are bombarded with advertising and marketing messages all day long: television, radio, billboards, email messages, ads on social media sites, sponsored results on internet searches, etc. While advertising messages may bring 'brand awareness,' they don't necessarily do much to help consumers make decisions about what products or services to purchase. Even a referral from a trusted source may not be enough.
The same principles apply to individuals or businesses who are seeking to hire an attorney. Even if a potential client receives a referral, you can bet that before they blindly make a call, they are going to do their own research - and that research is most likely going to be done on the internet.
Content Marketing on Your Website
At the very least, everyone seeking to hire an attorney is going to look at the lawyer or firm's website and read the lawyer's biography. But they may also put the lawyer's name into Google or another search engine to see what else is said about them or by them on the internet. They may also use those search engines to seek out other attorneys in the area. Or they may not be ready to look for an attorney yet, and instead want to get some answers to their initial questions about their matter or get some basic information before they even consult with an attorney.
Lawyers who have relevant, valuable, meaningful content available not only about themselves and their firms, but about their clients and their clients' problems, challenges and industries are much more likely to get the attention of the potential client and get that client to pick up the telephone and schedule an appointment than lawyers who have little or no information available online.
With an increasing number of lawyers available for clients to choose from, lawyers need to differentiate themselves, which often requires establishing their expertise in a particular niche field, area of practice or industry, or with a particular audience or group of people. Firms are not hiring, and many are downsizing. There is increased competition for work, not to mention the availability of non-lawyer options potential clients may use to avoid hiring a lawyer in the first place.
Simply put, lawyers need to demonstrate their expertise before clients want to speak to them. Lawyers who simply state on their websites that they have expertise or knowledge in a specific area are going to be at a disadvantage when compared to attorneys who demonstrate that expertise with articles, video and other content that shows that they are not only proficient in their area of the law, but that they understand the issues their clients face on a daily basis.
Content marketing can help humanize a lawyer, show that they have a point of view, and give potential clients a taste of what working with a particular lawyer might be like. It is an opportunity to become a trusted authority and a resource for information or perspective on a particular topic. But that content should be original (or have original elements and commentary), relevant and current.
Online content marketing opportunities: Where to post
Information that is found on a firm's website can be a compelling reason for a potential client to reach out to that firm. But it's important for firms to consider other avenues for distributing content and getting the word out about their experise than simply using their own website. Social media is not only gaining in popularity, but it has become an important factor in search rankings, and failure to participate in social media may drastically reduce a firm's exposure and authority online as well as offline.
What other opportunities are there for lawyers to place their content online, besides there own websites?
- Individual lawyer or practice area blogs
- Industry websites or other related blogs
- Social networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook,Twitter, Google+ and others)
Content Marketing Opportunities: What to Post
In our multi-media world, there are all kinds of different formats that lawyers can use for content, including:
- Case studies
- Case studies
Of course, not all content marketing takes place online: don't forget offline outlets such as print publications, one one one meetings, live presentations or workshops, etc.
For an interesting take on content marketing for lawyers, check out this Pinterest board on Content Marketing For Lawyers.
If you need help with content development or marketing strategy in general, don't hesitate to contact me.