For a vast majority of the 20th century, advertising within the legal profession was against the law. That's right. Legal marketing was—ironically enough—illegal. Attorneys relied solely on referrals and word of mouth promotion to keep business alive.
In 1977, Bates vs. Arizona changed it all.
The pivotal case held that legal advertising was commercial speech and therefore entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Nearly 40 years later, the possibilities for legal marketing are now endless. After a wave of yellow page ads, tv spots and direct mail, legal marketing now takes more of an inbound approach. Now legal marketers engage rather than interrupt through web design, social media and most importantly, content marketing.
Today, content is at the heart of any successful marketing strategy, especially in the legal space. As a law firm you are the primary subject matter experts and often sought out in times of distress; clients depend on you to understand his or her legal rights. Creating valuable and informative content is a great way to educate, demonstrate your firm’s expertise, serve as a valuable resource and differentiate your firm.
But it doesn’t come without its costs; planning and developing content takes a great deal of time and effort. Perhaps you have limited internal resources or maybe you are just unsure of where to begin. Regardless, here is everything you need to know to make your content strategy come to life.
1. Identify Your Objectives
First and foremost, if you’re going to have a successful content marketing strategy, you must first have a thorough understanding of your goals. All too often, businesses start a blog “just because” and end up having either an empty or outdated page that lacks value, timeliness or overall focus. Ask yourself these important questions when planning your content strategy:
- What will the content focus on? One specific practice area or many?
- What are you hoping to gain from content marketing? Higher discoverability through SEO? Educating your users? Showcasing your thought leadership?
- Who is your target audience? By knowing who you want to target, you can produce more relevant and valuable content that your audience will read.
- What type of content will you produce? Strictly blog posts? Ebooks? Case Studies? Guides? Webinars? Whitepapers? Infographics? The list goes on.
2. Develop a Strategy
Once you’ve determined why you want to create content, you must now identify how you’re going to do it. Be sure to take the following steps:
- Assign responsibility. Whether your firm has a dedicated team of marketers or you’re depending primarily on the attorneys to create content, it’s important to have a pre-determined plan for who will be responsible for creating and distributing the content.
- Create a content calendar. Juggling client-work and content is a daunting task and without a concrete plan set, it often gets pushed to the backburner and saved for later. By hammering out when content will be due, you can keep your team honest and your content fresh.
3. Make It Happen
Now that you’ve established why you’re content marketing, what you’ll content market and how you’ll do it; make it happen!
- Generate Ideas. The hardest part of content creation is coming up with what to write about. As legal experts, a great place to start is the news. Have there been any recent developments in your practice area, like important court decisions or issuance of a new regulation? You can also leverage internal resources, such as recent publications or even takeaways from recent events attorneys have attended. Anything to provide value and keep users up to date is a great route to take.
- Write & Optimize. Now it’s time to write that blog post. Keep in mind who you are writing for and how to best appeal to that target audience. Remember to incorporate a few relevant target keywords, as this is great for SEO and will help users who are looking for articles like yours find them easier. Keep headlines short, concise, specific and engaging. Above all: Provide value. Educate. Inform.
- Publish. Once you’ve developed your content, go ahead and show it off. Determine where you will publish your content. Is it on your firm’s blog? Social media? Legal forums? (The best answer is all!) The more outlets the better chance your content—and ultimately website—will be found.
4. You’re Never Truly Done
One of the hardest, but most important, concepts to accept about content marketing is that you’re never truly done. To have a successful content marketing strategy, it’s vital that you continue to:
- Stay Consistent. The key to encouraging users to come back for more is by giving them something to come back to. If you post a great, informative piece that really resonates with a user, there’s a strong chance they’ll come back in the future for more. Don’t disappoint them with an outdated blog. Provide ongoing value by staying consistent with your content creation.
- Measure, measure, measure. In the words of Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Often one of the most overlooked parts of a content marketing strategy is measuring its success and how your is content performing. By using Google Analytics you can start to understand key data on your content like which posts are most popular, which are least, how long are they spending on the content, and so on.
Legal marketing has come a long way. While trends have come and gone since the ages of yellow page advertising, content marketing is undoubtedly here to stay. It's certainly no easy task, but remember:
"Content marketing is a commitment, not a campaign."-John Buscall