One of the biggest mistakes law firms make in their marketing is abdicating all of their responsibility for marketing to a marketing professional and taking the lawyers entirely out of the equation. While marketing professionals certainly have their place in law firm marketing, some marketing and business development tasks are best tackled by the lawyers themselves.
Marketing professionals can help lawyers and law firms create professional marketing pieces, develop ads, generate marketing and editorial calendars, do the initial set up of newsletters, websites, social media accounts and blogs, create designs and themes, find images for posts, handle the technical aspects of posting and post links to articles and other firm content. But leaving all of your marketing to marketing professionals misses two important opportunities.
One missed opportunity is to establish your expertise and demonstrate your knowledge and your ability to help others. Too much of marketing is still too promotional and too focused on the firm, rather than on the audience the firm is trying to reach with its marketing. The lawyers in your firm are the subject matter experts. The lawyers are the ones involved with clients daily: answering their questions, solving their problems and advocating for their interests. Rather than using someone else to simply talk about your expertise, develop content that demonstrates it.
The second and possibly the most important missed opportunity is the opportunity to connect with others and to develop relationships. This mistake is made often when lawyers and their firms use social networking platforms – the emphasis should be on networking. If you wouldn’t send someone else to a live networking event in your place, you should think twice about allowing others to take your place (and use your name) on social networking sites.
People do business with people they know, like and trust. If you want people to do business with you or your firm, you need to build those relationships and have those conversations. That means if you want to use these tools effectively, you need to participate: read what others write or post about and engage with them, and generate your own content that provides value and engages others.
Many lawyers balk at blogging or participating in other content marketing opportunities, including writing articles, creating presentations, developing firm newsletters and the like, because they think they don’t have time to create content, or because they think they have nothing to say.
To make it easier, here are some ideas that may help you use what you are already doing every day to create content:
Develop frequently asked questions. Most lawyers encounter the same questions over and over in their practices, because their clients encounter the same or similar problems over and over. Start by writing down the 10 questions clients ask most frequently, and then answer them. This can be the basis of a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on your website, but you can also write more in-depth answers which be individual blog posts, articles, or presentations. As you encounter more common questions, add to your list or develop a new post.
Educate clients and referral sources about what to look for in a lawyer. What are the most important qualities a lawyer or firm should possess in order to represent clients effectively in your area of practice? Develop content around those qualities, for example, “5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer to Handle Your Real Estate Closing,” and be sure to include the reasons why each one is important (bonus points for writing this piece in such a way that you or your firm become the obvious – and possibly the only – choice for clients).
Do an interview. Interview a client or former client (subject to ethics rules) about their problem, their experience with your firm and how it was resolved. Or simply interview the client about their business. Not only is this a great way to develop content for your firm’s marketing, but it provides some visibility for your client and their business as well. Added pluses include strengthening your relationship with your client or former client, reminding them of what a great job you and your firm did for them (which may generate referrals), and getting to know your client better.
Create case studies. Case studies can be effective tools to educate potential clients and referral sources about what you do without being overly promotional. Think about a case you handled or a problem you solved and tell a story about it. Case studies don’t need to include client names, but should include enough detail to make the story interesting to others who may encounter similar problems.
Highlight common mistakes. For each area of practice your firm covers, write about the most common mistakes clients make that get them into trouble and talk about how you can solve them or how others can avoid making those same mistakes in the future.
Build a glossary of terms. Define confusing legal terms and show how they apply to your clients. Although you deal with these legal terms on a daily basis, chances are that your clients and potential clients don’t.
Compile resources. What services do clients who come to you for legal help need in addition to legal services? Develop a list of resources and create content around those resources. This can be a great way to generate referrals and improve relationships with vendors and referral sources. For example, if you represent clients in residential real estate matters, you may want to compile lists of moving companies, resources for packing services and supplies, or home improvement stores or services, cleaning services, etc. If you represent start-up businesses, your resource list might include the local small business administrative office, licensing offices, local accountants or other business vendors and more.
Construct Checklists. What are the three most important business documents every business owner should have? What records must employers keep about their employees? What information does your client need to provide to you in order for you to write their contract? What documents do clients need to bring to your initial consultation? Checklists can be helpful tools for clients or potential clients, and can also be a quick and easy way to develop content.
Share content created by others. Another way to develop content is simply to find interesting information that was developed by someone else, add your commentary or personal notes to it (giving attribution to the original author, of course) and share it with your contacts. Sharing others’ content not only provides valuable information to your audience, but it also builds relationships with those whose content you share.
Re-purpose legal content. As a lawyer, you are already generating content every day. You’re writing letters to clients, briefs or motions to the court, and more. Think about how the content you are already creating can be re-purposed into marketing content. Take the issues from your brief or recent trial and write about those issues and how they might affect others who are similarly situated. Take news items that impact on your area of practice and talk about the lessons others can learn from them.
Re-purpose marketing content. Each of the ideas in this list can be used in multiple ways. If you record your interview with your client, it can not only be a blog post or article, but it can also be an audio podcast and/or video. Snippets might become testimonials on your website. Your FAQs could become a quick slide presentation and can be handouts for clients as part of your client welcome package. Articles or presentations can become content for your website or blog, as well as social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with links to the original content.
Try some of these ideas. Hopefully you’ll be inspired and find new ways to provide information and resources to your audience and engage with them on a different level.