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Just like many other business owners, it’s hard to convince law firm leaders an attractive website providing foundational content isn’t all that’s necessary to generate qualified leads. That’s particularly true for smaller law firm owners who have fewer resources and less time to market. Indeed, many law practices have achieved their primary aim of providing essential information on their websites. But is that the end of your lead-generating strategy?
That’s only the beginning. As a professional legal marketing manager or an attorney responsible for business development, you know that today law firms practice in a super competitive legal environment. Many business clients see legal services as fungible meaning, for them, almost any good law firm can meet their business legal needs.
Your law firm must work hard to differentiate itself, to attract qualified leads that convert to billable clients or keep the clients you have happy. Your firm must prove your attorneys have super powers; you understand your client’s business and financial imperatives well, and you offer a level of service that is so exceptional, your firm is worth its weight in fees.
Moreover, in the current legal consumer-controlled environment, technology makes it easier for prospective business clients to find legal services more cheaply or replace law firms entirely. So, more law firms are building strong internal marketing teams or outsourcing content marketing strategy to help them mitigate the dramatic changes in the legal practice sector with more successful marketing.
Exceptional Content Differentiates You From Competitors
Savvy law firm marketers, or attorneys conducting their business development, have learned that content marketing is how their law firm can most effectively distinguish itself from competitors. The key to effective differentiating content marketing is producing written content regularly based on a formal content marketing strategy. That’s necessary because it’s no longer enough to have a user-friendly, visually pleasing website that is easy to navigate, use and find online that only contains the expected foundational content.
That doesn’t mean your site’s cornerstone content isn’t still valuable. It is because prospective clients want to get fundamental information about your law firm when they get to your site. So, even your foundational content must be outstanding, audience-focused and SEO-friendly content.
Your site must still include expertly written pages that describe your law firm’s history, practice areas, legal practitioners, their experience and ability, and, often, provides your firm’s latest news. However, you want your website to be more than the clichéd online brochure featuring smiling lawyers and the standard content that many lawyer websites still are, but one that generates leads that become lucrative clients.
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Moreover, obligatory content is simple to create and simple to forget—for both your marketing team and your prospective clients. It’s set it, forget it and hope it attracts the right traffic to generate leads for your law firm. But, not only does it make Google “forget” your website, it does nothing to distinguish your law firm from the many other business law practices providing expert legal services to top business or corporate clients.
Even if you have an elite staff of attorneys and partners on your roster, what makes you different from the other law firms that also do? Are you leveraging their presence with the right content types?
Four Important Types of Content Your Website Needs
Your law firm’s website needs to contain a variety of business-focused content that separates your law firm from its competitors. It’s content that takes much more investment to produce than the necessary content described above. There are at least four types of content that can enhance in lead-generation efforts significantly if carefully planned and constructed expertly to set your firm apart firm from its competitors.
That’s particularly true for law firms commanding higher than average fees but still contending with many other firms for the same or similar corporate legal business. Of course, you’re not providing legal advice in any of this content nor are you directly soliciting clients. These are strictly information products that your law firm can leverage to give a clear understanding to its audience of what your law firm can offer their business.
Understanding that, you can create this content and, at very least, use it to generate qualified leads. To gain access to the some of this content, readers will give their contact information. Thus business development can collect email address and contact information from site visitors.
If this content is well-targeted, that will include current and prospective clients, referring attorneys or other stakeholders who are part of the selection process for legal services. Your business development or sales team can nurture those into billable business at some future time.
1) White Papers or Reports
You’re probably most familiar with those called “Special Reports” or “Position Papers” you’ve seen created for legal associations or legal defense nonprofits and legal news organizations. Like those, a white paper is a well-researched long-form piece of content (usually in report form), or guide describes to readers a legal challenge or complex policy. Then it presents your law firm’s answer to the question that document raises.
This 5-12 page document is not a treatise like you’d see in a law journal but it’s not as casual as a blog article. It’s meant to help your audience understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. It’s done in an interesting way and focuses on their needs and best interests.
There are three varieties of white papers in business-to-business marketing: backgrounder numbered list, and problem/solution. Each has a particular purpose and is a method of promoting your law firm’s products and services. It achieves that by offering selected facts and logical arguments to persuade readers that your law firm is the obvious solution to their business legal challenges.
Which you use depends on your goals and overall content marketing strategy. But, it is a marketing tool so your legal marketing team or an expert strategic content writer with a strong background in content marketing strategy should help you decide which type you offer on your website.
2) Case Studies
This 1-2 page document tells the story of a client your firm pleased by working with them to meet a particular outcome based on an innovative legal strategy. You convey the story from your client’s viewpoint. This long-form testimonial is like having your reader speak directly to the happy client if you use that client’s name.
Where you don’t or can’t use the client’s name, the case study can describe a scenario where you provided a legal solution that resulted in a beneficial outcome. But, to effectively differentiate your firm from others, it must focus on a decidedly innovative legal approach your legal practice used to meet the client’s needs. It also could show an effective way that your law practice applied a legal strategy that saved your client’s business significant money or other resources by the way you executed the legal plan.
Your firm can use this piece of content to reassure your prospective or current legal client that engaging with you will lead to winning results. You can make the case study either a page on your website or a downloadable document that is an email list building tool.
The professional who writes your case study should have a background telling business stories that draw the audience in, keep them reading and persuades them that you’re the legal expert to solve their particular business issue.
3) Thought Leadership Blogs
This lead-generating strategy is slightly different from a marketing blog written in your firm’s name. Here, the members of your legal team who are authoritative in your practice areas and the legal services your law firm write the content. Depending on your law firm’s practice groups and resources, your blog can (and should) include a variety of content types like infographics, videos, and podcasts.
You can discuss speaking engagements, presentations and your innovative insights into legal issues and industry news related to your practice area expertise in the form blog posts. Depending on the size of your practice and its practice areas or groups, you can have multiple blogs with different attorneys as authors.
These kinds of blogs not only show you as a practice area expert, but they can also humanize your law firm by providing insight into the personalities and styles of attorney-authors. And, that’s important because people, even business executives, buy services from other people.
That’s particularly important in the modern legal industry where clients expect even the largest firms to practice like boutique firms offering the highest of direct personal service to corporate clients. They want to learn more about with whom they’ll regularly be working on their legal matters. Blogs like this help by showing your attorneys voice to readers.
Lawyers should regularly update this blog (depending on the size of your law firm, once or twice a week). It should focus on the attorneys’ legal skill over their non-legal opinion (though occasional opinion pieces are acceptable). Of course, you must write it well.
But, as importantly, for any content on a law firm’s thought leadership blog with an attorney’s byline, those lawyers actually must write the posts to prevent allegations of plagiarism. That also would violate legal marketing or advertising rules in your jurisdiction.
4) Exceptional Email Newsletters
You know that email lists are worth their weight in platinum for law firms but only if your email newsletter is unique, not another “us too” digital missive. You must regularly publish the email newsletter and give immediately useful and applicable information to your subscribers in every addition.
Because yours is likely a B2B firm or corporate practice group, it must keep your busy executive audience informed of issues, policy changes and legal news they may not have time to find themselves but affect their business.
Even in-house corporate attorneys can’t regularly stay apprised of all the legal issues that affect day-to-day legal practice within their organizations. These newsletters offer an opportunity for law firms to give innovative perspectives on legal matters that affect your clients and do it more informally and regularly than you would through paid client contact. It’s best if your email newsletter also provides content only subscribers receive.
As mentioned above, any content your firm says a particular attorney wrote, that attorney must write. While professional writers can edit the content, a significant rewrite means it’s not original content, and it should cite the attorney but you name the law firm as its author. Otherwise, readers might construe it as intentionally misleading and in most jurisdictions, that would violate local bar rules on attorney advertising.
Make Sure Your Content is Expertly Crafted
To be successful with these content types, expertly plan, structure and develop them. The writing must meet the expectations of your clients, many of whom are not legal experts or aren’t proficient in your practice areas. So, write your content in your audiences’ everyday professional language.
Law firm marketing experts, especially those with journalism or professional nonmarketing writing backgrounds, are most useful for this reason. They know how to tell stories and create expertly targeted content that satisfies your legal audience while providing the tools your firm needs to grow revenue. They’re aware they must create unique content focused on your target audience’s needs and based on their place in their decision-making process. (These stages also are called “buyer decision cycle” in B2B marketing or “buyer’s journey” in B2C marketing”). It shouldn’t focus only your marketing goals but your client’s business goals.
Moreover, your marketing professionals, whether in-house or consultants, will create the reach strategy that gets the content before the right legal audience, so they read the content. To do this correctly, attorneys should take their lead from the legal marketing experts they’ve hired or who are on staff in creating and distributing the content.
Well-qualified leads whom you can convert to billable clients are your return on investment in both these content types and the professionals to get them created and distributed right. Providing your current and prospective clients with content they want, trust and need to decide to hire your firm will set it apart from those law firms that don’t. That will lead to more industry credibility and closed business.
(c) 2016. Dahna M. Chandler for Thrive Writing, Inc., a division of Audience First Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Make no reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, without express written permission of the author.