Content is an essential component of marketing and business development, but law firms are often hesitant and overwhelmed at the thought. And frankly, many don’t know where to begin and how to build a content strategy.
During this Law Firm Content series, we’ll talk to law firm marketers, business development leaders, and lawyers about their content efforts, problems, and successes.
The following is the first of a 2-part interview with Jennifer Topper, a long-time business development director for large law firms, and now a consultant to small and mid-size firms.
Why should law firms use content in their marketing and business development efforts?
Content is an excellent way to raise visibility, but more importantly, credibility, particularly for small law firms. It’s difficult to send an email to a client without a reference to your website. And, the website can’t be just a practice description, your biography, and a lovely picture of your office or a stock photo. You must provide useful content by showcasing your value alongside your service offering. Big firms already have the platform. Solos and small firms have to work at it and they do that with content.
And speaking of websites, the trend is simplification – paring down copy. Copy that provides value, not just information. Value comes in many forms: insights and not just experience statements – real, live articles discussing current issues that include client drivers, business decisions, and legislative regulatory impact. Use analytics to determine what works and what doesn’t. Expand on content that visitors flock to. Make search a prominent feature, and not just a tiny box in the top, right-hand corner.
I should add that compelling content is also derived from a firm’s or a lawyer’s own narrative, which can be framed through consistent, templated business planning – a road map for the firm, the department, the practice, and the individual partner. Without this road map, it’s scatter shot marketing, shooting from the hip, losing track, not following up, so your content must follow a strategy and your narrative. To stay focused and get results, you need a plan. Of course, that same philosophy applies to content strategy.
We’re all familiar with the usual content channels: blogs, websites, etc. Are there any untapped content sources for law firms?
Client memos or client alerts, as they’re sometimes called are a big source of content. They’re routinely generated and have been part of the law firm ecosystem that pre-existed websites. Client memos are essentially short pieces – two or three pages – that are responses to or distillations of regulatory, legislative, or litigation changes. Examples include Supreme and Appellate Court decisions or an SEC development that implicate some degree of change to a law firm’s client.
Partners and associates are responsible for writing the memos. These are not fluff marketing pieces. They are timely pieces that need to get out quickly otherwise it’s stale. Law firms typically send these out via email to clients or include a little blurb on their website. And that’s it. It dies there.
Instead, be strategic: Are you putting it out because you feel you have to? Have you revisited your recipient list and segmented it by interest? Should you take a position? People shy away from the latter for the most part unless it’s a particularly egregious position. This is a missed opportunity since most firms don’t consider it part of a business development strategy. Keep in mind that firms must be aware of advertising rules regarding this.
A request for proposal (RFP) is another opportunity for content. For each RFP, you have to generate a value proposition, a message, a differentiator. Not every RFP is going to let you easily tell your story, but you have to artfully find a way. It’s an excellent opportunity for self-reflection – not that any marketer or law firm will call it that – but it’s an opportunity to figure out what makes you different. RFPs are not only a lead qualifying process, but a self-identifier: why the firm is different, why the practice area is different, why the team is different, why the attorney is different.
Coming up in part two: How to get Lawyers to Write and Produce Content
After more than a decade of heading up business development initiatives at large law firms, Jennifer Topper founded Topper Consulting which provides law firm partners and professional services practitioners with practical advice, insight and guidance for business planning and new business development and client retention and acquisition. Jennifer incorporates research and risk analysis to develop innovative ways for law firms to offer new services.