No matter the industry, prospects must follow a decision path toward your brand. This is no less true for the legal industry. No one wakes up one morning and decides not only do they need legal counsel, but they also know exactly what firm to work with, what services they require, and how much they’re willing to pay to have those services rendered. If only it were so simple, right? The Path of Content Getting new business in the legal industry often comes down to who you know, but even the most prepared and knowledgeable prospect requires a bit of research (i.e., content) before making a buying decision. This could be as simple as validating an attorney’s expertise by reading a published paper or something more complex like needing a detailed proposal, research reports, and presentations with stakeholders. Whatever the hurdles or needs, the path to purchase is driven by content. Whatever the hurdles or needs, the path to purchase is driven by content. Content is your connective tissue. Content brings everything you do together. When we, Boston Digital, engage with legal firms for marketing services (which is quite often; see our portfolio for more), most often the conversation starts at the redesign of the firm’s website. But the website is just one component of your larger ecosystem, so we have to take a step back and look at the full ecosystem. And what brings that ecosystem together is content. The 5 Challenges of Legal Content Marketing We can preach the importance of content in your marketing strategy, but, having worked with many legal firms, we know the challenges most firms face when starting out. In this post, we’ll cover the most common challenges we see and provide tactics to overcome them, including: The Attorney Buy-In Unmeasured Success Creating Content Search Engines Don’t Like Law Firms Lack of Resources 1. The Attorney Buy-In Let’s be honest: content marketing is not easy. It takes time and commitment—developing an editorial calendar, maintaining it, publishing against it, finding the right distribution channels… The time, cost, and commitment can be difficult to translate to your firm’s attorneys as a worthwhile investment. Especially with so much noise in the digital space, attorneys who aren’t fully entrenched in the mechanics and strategy can feel overwhelmed by the idea and not have much faith in its outcomes. Besides, attorneys are used doing things a certain way. As we mentioned earlier, the legal space is driven by networking. Many attorneys believe their networking efforts are the only tactic that successfully bring in new business. While networking is an invaluable tool for bringing in new business, I don't believe it's the only tool at your disposal. Our Solution? Start Small You can’t build a robust strategy overnight anyway, so starting small just makes sense from a logistical point of view as well as a means of getting attorney buy-in. Begin forming small goals—goals that you know your firm can achieve in relatively short time spans. Starting small also gives you the advantage of seeing what works and what doesn’t. You can create small test cases to determine what types of content (ebooks, infographics, video, blogs, etc.) perform better than others as well. Once you achieve a goal, it will not only invite positivity and hope into the workplace, but it will also bond the team together. The firm will start to see actual results and want to start expanding to bigger programs. 2. Unmeasured Success Measuring success is a common challenge in the legal space. For the nonbelievers in your firm, you can’t expect to get the resources or support you need if you can’t prove that what you’re doing works. Our Solution? Create Real KPIs KPIs (key performance indicators) not only hold your marketing team accountable, but they also give your work meaning. And I’m not talking about mega KPIs like “acquire new business.” That’s certainly the end-goal, but you can’t measure success with only one major metric. You need milestones. Moreover, you need to set expectations with your firm. We work with firms to align the right KPIs with the journey or path a prospect takes toward that final conversion (i.e., becoming a client). Maybe the KPI is something simple like providing an email address for future messaging. Or it’s sign up for a webinar. Set these KPIs from the very beginning and make sure your team and your firm’s management agree to the goals. And when you reach those goals? Celebrate! Make sure you celebrate the big wins. Once you start showing success, others will come. 3. Creating Content Oh boy. We’ve already touched on the difficulties of creating a content marketing program, but let’s face it head on. Creating content is a challenge. Creating strong content is an even more complex challenge. How do you balance your strong writers who are not subject matter experts with the experts who aren’t strong writers? How do you ensure the content you create moves prospects down the path to conversion? Our Solution? Define Your Style Build a content style guide everyone in the firm can adhere to. A consistent tone and style must resonate through your content. When someone reads an article from your firm (no matter where it’s found), the readers should know it originated from your firm. This may involve creating an ad hoc brand for your content, such as Adobe’s CMO.com blog, in which content is written for and by marketing executives. Individuality is important, but the content must reflect the brand’s overall voice and support the message along with a unique perspective. 4. Search Engines Don’t Like Law Firms We hear this a lot: SEO (search engine optimization) is not a valid tactic for legal firms. This is often followed by the remark, “Legitimate prospects just don't google 'IP patent law firms in Boston.'” And we tend to agree. To our hypothetical dissenter’s point, people who actually need IP patent law services aren’t using Google to find a firm; they’re turning to their colleagues, investors, or friends for recommendations. However, that doesn’t mean SEO is dead for legal firms. Our Solution? Optimize for Top-of-Funnel Topics Using our patent example above, you can surmise that the companies that are in the process of developing their first IP or are in the business of continuously developing IPs will require some information about the latest changes in patent law. These businesses’ financial success depends on their ability to get patents, so if things change in the industry or legally, they need a resource and thought leader who can help them stay informed. And these companies tend to search Google for topics surrounding IP law. That’s where SEO comes into play. Law firms who want to be found for patent law should take advantage of these searches and direct their SEO strategies to be found for content on those topics. Doing so gets your firm’s brand in front of the right types of clients at the top of the funnel—right at the beginning of their path to conversion. We're not suggesting that by writing content on these topics you'll see immediate returns in the form of new business: Remember, you'll be writing top-of-funnel content; visitors to these topics are not sales-ready yet and maybe won't be for some time. Therefore, you'll need to set KPIs to prove success. Maybe your measuring an increase in site visitors, enewsletter subscriptions, etc. Regardless, getting in front of potential leads long before they begin seeking out firms (including your competitors), they'll already have exposure to your brand and experts. 5. Lack of Resources At times, the marketing department at your firm may be small. The marketers may wear different hats, including putting out new marketing content and managing company blogs. Moreover, there’s a difference between a writer and a subject matter expert. As we’ve noted earlier, the attorney is the subject matter expert, and the marketing team should be the writers. Our Solution? Create a Steering Team A lot of times we’ll recommend a steering team. The steering team approach is one of the best ways to create content. The team consists of a mix of content owners and the marketing team. They drive the process and reach out to attorneys (the subject matter experts) to contribute. To turn knowledge into effective content, provide frameworks for the attorneys to easily adhere to. This will allow your team, including attorneys and marketers, to consistently produce “on-brand” content while still providing knowledge and thought leadership. Don’t discount outsourcing either. Some firms may go out and resource writers from agencies. You can find agencies or firms that specialize in key topics and ideas. Don’t Let Challenges Hold You Back Content matters, especially content that addresses a need, reflects your firm’s brand, and provide value to your readers. While challenges in buy-in, measuring success, content creation, SEO, and resources may seem insurmountable, we believe you can overcome these challenges and create valuable content that connects. Are there other challenges holding you back? Let us know on Twitter or LinkedIn, and we’ll tackle them together.
Legal Content Strategy Framework