Why lawyers and (and other expert advisors) should share their knowledge freely online
Why lawyers and (and other expert advisors) should share their knowledge freely online:
1. You are in the information business. It stands to reason that you need to be active in the information marketplace (i.e. the internet). If you want to participate, you need to share useful information, not keep it to yourself.
2. The more you share your expertise, the easier it is for your potential clients to find you.
3. For those who do not like hard selling, content marketing is ideal because it is non-intrusive, non-pushy, and genuinely helpful to people. It just happens to attract customers as a by-product of helping them.
4. Writing about your areas of expertise makes you better at articulating your knowledge. The skill of writing carries over into everything else you do as a knowledge professional.
5. Clients do their own research online before contacting an advisor. If you do not provide helpful information, your prospective clients will get it elsewhere.
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How to create legal content that actually generates leads
Most law firms today embrace content marketing as a central pillar of their marketing strategy. However, the efficacy of these initiatives can vary widely.
I’m still finding that law firms and other professional services firms tend to lack a coherent approach to content. This results in legal content that is sub-optimal, and that yields mediocre results for the firm.
Content marketing as a discipline originates from fields unrelated to law and advisory services (for example, public relations and brand marketing). As a result, many firms are utilising a content marketing strategy that is ill suited for their industry.
If you expect your fee earners to give up precious time to writing content, you want to ensure that content goes a long way.
With this in mind, I’ve listed some key considering that I believe are specifically suited to professional services firms who want to see exceptional results from their content marketing efforts:
1. Write content that has a long lifespan
Many law firms utilise the services of a public relations agency to help produce and distribute its content. However, PR agencies focus their content on news publications, which of course are designed to be read this week and then discarded. In order to get published in a news publication, the articles need to be highly relevant to whatever is hot in the news. But that means it quickly loses relevance and fails to be effective in the long term.
There is a place for news-focused PR, but law firms should prioritise content that has a longer shelf-life. This could include legal advice and thought leadership pieces commenting on a specific business sector.
2. Market your content
This directly follows from the point above. If legal content has a long shelf life, it means that it is a long-term asset. And like all assets, it should be looked after to maximise its lifespan and ensure a healthy return on investment. This means that once a content piece is published, it should be tended to regularly. There are a few things to keep in mind in this regard:
Help people find the content by linking to it from as many places as reasonably possible, e.g. from other related articles and from relevant pages of your website.
Inform your audience of the new content. Mention it in your email newsletters to your clients.
Convert the articles into short social media snippets and share these snippets on social media with a link to the article. This can be done when first published, but also every few months if the content remains relevant.
Ensure your content is SEO optimised so that readers find it from search engines long into the future.
3. Set your post up for lead generation
You wouldn’t set up a shop without a cashier. But many insight articles are published without providing an easy way for the reader to contact the author.
The point of content marketing is to generate new business. But law firms are making simple errors that undermine these efforts. Some of the tactics below make a reader more likely to send an inquiry:
Cite a specific lawyer as the author (not just the law firm). Where possible, include a photo, a bio and contact details for the lawyer.
Include a lead form alongside the article.
At the end of the article, add a line invite readers send any queries to the author.
When a lead comes in, respond within 1-2 hours. People who send leads online may contact two or more firms. Quick responses matter if you want to win the client.
4. Focus on helping the client rather than showing off your knowledge
A common error law firms make is to write theoretical articles in the style of a law school essayOne reason for this error is that law firms often assign content writing to juniors who are still programmed to write for law school. These juniors may, understandably, be more concerned about proving their knowledge than about winning new clients for the firm.
But your clients are not looking for a legal education. They need a solution to a specific problem. Use your experience to identify the real pressing concerns of your clients. Simply think back to your most recent cases and identify the specific pain points and legal obstacles faced by your clients, and how you solved these obstacles. Then write a practical help guide designed to help other people with that same problem.
Instead of writing a general piece about some new legislation that has come into effect, get more practical and write, for example, about the most pressing compliance risk that arises from this legislation and what measures you can take to mitigate it.
Rather than writing about some new precedent-setting case law, put yourself in the shoes of a client and try to directly tackle the legal implications it may have for your clients.
5. Write compelling headlines
Many firms’ articles seem to mimic magazine style titles, like ‘Sleep When You’re Dead’, which says nothing about the content of the article.
Other firms make the mistake of being overly legalistic, using titles that mention specific cases or legal acronyms.
What law firms should do is use the headline is to tell the reader exactly what benefit they will get from reading the article. Don’t get cute or complicated with it. Your headline is your hook, so choose it wisely. In fact, choose it before you’ve written your article, its the most important part.
6. Do not hold back on the important information
Although law firms have, thankfully, realised the importance of sharing information, there is still a mistaken perception that law content should be general and basic. Lawyers seem to believe that they should withhold the most valuable information as this is valuable IP to be reserved for paying customers only.
We find that it is almost impossible to share too much. Even if you give the client all the information they need to write the contract themselves, they still need you. Do not underestimate the level of value you add by virtue of your knowledge and expertise. If you think that giving away the wording of a clause negates your value, then you’re selling yourself short. Instead, giving your reader a full answer helps demonstrate your expertise, builds trust and makes it more likely that your reader will send an inquiry.