You may find it comforting to know that, despite all the talk about innovation and disruption in the business of law, some of the long-standing tactics of legal marketing and business development remain effective. Last month, two client contacts independently forwarded the same competitor’s legal update to lawyers in my firm and asked for advice on the subject.
The publication had the desired effect in that it caught the attention of exactly the kind of client it was targeting, but unfortunately for the competitor, it generated two leads for our firm instead. It was an instructive reminder of the value of client-focused publishing not only as a tool for business development but as an important service for clients.
There’s no downside in having a robust publications strategy for specific areas of legal expertise, even if the leads sometimes go astray. I say strategy instead of program because the objective is not to be prolific and overwhelm readership. The objective is to inform clients and prospects of the impact of immediate significant legal changes or areas of potential risk. In turn, you will reinforce your expertise and credibility in the market.
From a practical perspective, a publications strategy should contemplate idea generation (either by monitoring relevant legal developments or having a trend-spotter) from the client’s point of view. Sometimes it’s easier to write about what interests you, but keep in mind that time-starved clients want to understand the impact of the law on the business more so than anything else. In my anecdote above, the subject matter was not highly technical, complex or even official, but involved an ever-increasing area of risk that cuts across a wide variety of businesses. Perhaps it was not very interesting to write about but clearly the subject matter is of keen interest to clients looking to manage a risk who’s form and substance change at an unprecedented pace.
A publications strategy should also allocate ‘equitable’ writing responsibilities (many hands make for light work), provide editorial guidelines to address potential conflicts and overall topic appropriateness, and ensure that the team can quickly mobilize for production.
Some of the best legal updates for clients – ones that generate leads from clients and media – adhere to a set of best practices, which are easier said than done. Not being a die-hard digital marketer, the following best practices are useful for authors and practice support personnel to guide the publication to market and get the most out of the investment:
- Use a pithy title that conveys the impact of the legal subject matter on the business.
- Don’t bury the lede. Summarize the business implications upfront, either in the cover email as part of the distribution or in the first few sentences of the article.
- Use plain business language and limit technical descriptions is possible.
- Keep it short.
- Share it with lawyers in your practice area and with lawyers across the firm. Encourage them to personally forward it to clients who may be affected.
- Work with your marketing professionals to optimize the content on the firm website and social media channels.