Archives for Carol Todd Thomas

Do Lawyers Really Fear Marketing?

After 25 years in law firm marketing, I became a skeptic about a lawyer’s willingness to market.

There are a lot of reasons for this:

  • Lawyers are introverts, believe it or not. Several studies show that they are predominately introverts, more “tellers than sellers.” They are more comfortable talking about themselves, their skills and credentials rather than listening to the needs of others.
  • Lawyers are trained in the law to be risk-averse — something that makes them unlikely to put themselves at risk for failure, something that is inherent in sales and marketing.
  • Lawyers are trained to take a position and argue that position based on facts and the law. But marketing is about feelings, illusive needs and timing.

So, let’s face it, what makes lawyers good at what they do is directly opposed to what it takes to be successful at marketing. We can understand their reluctance to engage in marketing.

As marketers, we provide ideas and suggestions as to what it would take to “market” the lawyer and his/her skills. We meet with resistance. They argue the facts to us and tell us “we just don’t understand” how to market legal services. It’s a profession after all, and they are not in sales.

Well, we are all in sales. We are either selling ourselves, our firm, our practice or the skills of our partners. Lawyers aren’t willing to risk their reputations, client relationships or trust of their partners to engage in “sales and marketing” efforts.

So, how can we reconcile this dichotomy and engage lawyers in active marketing? Content marketing. It leverages lawyers’ strengths and provides clients and potential clients just what they are seeking.

If we engage a lawyer’s strengths — knowledge of the law, experience, successful representations and happy clients, and their personality traits of promoting themselves and their skills, not taking risks and basing their efforts on the facts and the law — we have a recipe for successful legal marketing.

Developing the right content marketing strategy requires understanding your client base and the potential for developing a larger audience for your skills. Target your articles, analysis and presentations in your areas of experience and publish these in places your target audience frequents. Combine that with industry news and market information that supports the lawyer’s content. This positions a lawyer as a thought leader in the area of practice. It demonstrates that the lawyer understands a client’s needs and has successfully provided solutions. It identifies a “fit” between the client and what the lawyer has to offer.

Simple. No reason to resist this type of marketing.

Content Marketing and Curating: Another Arrow in Marketers’ Quivers (Part 2 of 2)

Strategy Word In MazeIn our last blog post, we presented the case for developing a content marketing strategy, which begins with an initial process termed “curating.”

But, to curate effectively, you need to know your audience, and know them well. Then, you must identify the content that is most relevant and valuable to them. And, finally, you need to deliver it to them in a timely fashion in a format that is easy for them to digest.

Determining what is most important to your clients and in what areas they are seeking to develop greater expertise is critical to the curating process and must be integrated into your strategy. Do you perform regular client interviews or end-of-matter surveys to determine their ongoing needs and interests? Do you ask them for feedback on types of publications they read or seminars they attend? These are all important aspects to determine their ongoing interests and need for information.

Further, the content need not be generated entirely at the law firm. The firm can become the “trusted curator” that law professor Renee Newman Knake recently noted in a piece she published. She identified the “enormous potential for lawyers as trusted curators to help narrow the access-to-information gap” that perpetuates the access-to-justice gap in this country.”

Joining self-generated content from law firms with references from the media, blogs or other professionals lends credibility, as well as context, to the content provided. It also makes it easy for the marketplace to identify valuable information that will help them in business decision-making.

In his classic book, Trusted Advisor, David H. Maister states:

The theme of this book is that the key to professional success is not just technical mastery of one’s discipline (which is, of course, essential), but also the quality to work with clients in such a way as to earn their trust and gain their confidence.

Content marketing is one important way to establish that trust and gain confidence, not only from existing clients, but from those who may be seeking counsel in specific subject areas.

Marketing professionals, along with library, competitive intelligence, knowledge management and IT staff, can make the curating process easier for internally generated content. Join this internal content with assistance from services that curate external news, blogs and other information sources and it will place the firms that do it well in a clearly competitive marketplace advantage.

There are some wonderful resources to assist marketers in developing strategies and overcoming obstacles. The Content Marketing Institute publishes helpful white papers and a monthly magazine, Chief Content Officer.

cc:Clients has been doing content curation and publishing for 10 years. We have an “Editorial DNA” process that helps to identify the specific content to be used in the curating process for each particular practice/topic/firm.

The keys to effective content marketing are delivering content that educates the customer, enhances a company’s business goals, and establishes credibility and reliability as content experts. It’s about communicating consistently valuable content to the marketplace.

Content Marketing and Curating: Another Arrow in Marketers’ Quivers (Part 1 of 2)

Strategy plan on a blackboardNumerous articles have appeared recently in publications, blogs and mainstream media about “Content Marketing.” The topic was among the “#LMA13 (Legal Marketing Association): Top Trends and Takeaways” and was cited in a recent issue of Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing. The topic was also discussed at length among attendees and presenters at the 2013 LMA Conference in Las Vegas.

First, exactly what is meant by “content marketing?” According to Wikipedia:

Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc. Content marketing is focused not on selling, but on simply communicating with customers and prospects. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering “consistent, ongoing valuable information.”

Bottom line: It is the new normal in marketing.

Content is certainly something law firms have in abundance. Some firms are much better than others at writing, cataloging and indexing content that is developed by the professionals in the law firm.

Those firms that do it well have a clear advantage over those whose content is left to be sorted out solely through the firm’s document management system. Identifying the content, its quality and reliability, and who “owns” or controls that content are key components to any strategy development for content marketing.

In developing a strategy to effectively communicate law firm content to clients and potential clients, first and foremost you must:

  1. Identify the form and subject of the content.
  2. Determine who owns or controls that content.
  3. Identify how best to access the content.
  4. Select how best to deliver it.

In our next blog post, we will discuss the steps you need to take to accomplish an effective content marketing strategy.

10 Simple Secrets of Legal Marketing

As I have spoken to law firm marketers and attorneys over the past several months, the lament is very similar: “I don’t really know what I need to do to develop business.”

trophyBut when you break it down, it really is pretty simple.

Attorneys are professionals, and people expect two things from them — a trusting relationship, and delivery of exceptional services. That’s pretty straightforward.

So, when developing business plans with and for attorneys, the marketer has a similarly straightforward job. The business plan breaks down into two segments: Ways to develop trust, and ways to deliver exceptional legal services.

Ways to develop trust

Karen Hough of Improve Edge has identified five key areas for developing trust:

  1. Benevolence
  2. Honesty
  3. Openness
  4. Reliability
  5. Competence

Many of these are personal traits that either exist in your character or not. Be kind, be honest, be open, be reliable. Demonstrate these traits by being genuine and be there for the person or client. Follow-though on commitments and deliver services reliably and competently.

Ways to deliver exceptional legal services

  1. First and foremost, know your area of practice well.
  2. Next, know your colleagues’ areas of practice well enough to refer people to them when they need other services.
  3. Demonstrate your knowledge through writing, speaking, blogging and providing content in your area of the law.
  4. Anticipate needs of your clients and prospective clients. Send them information when you see something that may be helpful to them.
  5. Be where your clients or prospective clients are — whether physically or virtually through social media.

When preparing business plans, keep these 10 factors in mind and develop your strategy by addressing ways to accomplish each of them. It’s just that simple.

How to Build Fierce Loyalty with Clients

Fierce LoyaltyAttending conferences energizes me. The recent LMASE Conference was no exception.

The speakers presented relevant, affirming and useful information. One that stood out to me was Sarah Robinson, author of Fierce Loyalty. She talked about how to build not just client loyalty, but fierce client loyalty.

Simple loyalty builds on a feeling of belonging, recognition and safety — but fierce loyalty develops when pride, trust and passion exist. Building fierce loyalty among our clients takes several key components:

  • Making clients feel valued and important
  • Creating something together
  • Fighting a common enemy
  • Creating a culture of “we”
  • Building in exclusivity
  • Creating barriers to entry
  • Standing for something bold
  • Building a structure with an eye toward pride, trust and passion
  • Initiating opportunities for shared experiences
  • Loving the community you build together

Building systems at our firms that support developing fierce loyalty, whether within the firm or between the firm and its clients, takes first and foremost leadership to make it happen.

How can we accomplish fierce loyalty with our clients unless a firm first builds a culture to support the components identified above? Firm leadership needs to make these a priority, communicate this priority throughout the firm, and build a structure within the firm that will support making it happen. Easier said than done!

Key Lessons from the Content Marketing World Conference

We can helpContent marketing is certainly a hot ticket these days — as evidenced by more than 1,200 attendees from 35 different countries at the recent “Content Marketing World” conference in Cleveland, Ohio, put on by the Content Marketing Institute. The event was packed with sessions on a wide range of topics focused on various aspects of content marketing.

During my years as a marketer in law firms, I always found it helpful to benchmark against our clients’ businesses, and not on what other law firms are doing. Unfortunately, too often lawyers seem to focus more on “doing what other firms are doing” and less on positioning themselves to stand out in the crowd.

Hearing from others who live in the client space and not in the law firm space really helps to focus on providing services and content that clients are interested in learning about — rather than focusing on doing what other law firms are doing.

Mike Gingerich, a social media blogger, summarized some key takeaways from the conference that I thought were worth sharing and may help when you are considering your strategy for content marketing:

  • Just be helpful. Clients come to professionals when they are in need of help. Positioning yourself with content that is useful and helpful to a potential client is a key for attracting attention to your practice.
  • Make an emotional connection. Engage people on an emotional level — strike a chord. Let people know you care and are really interested in their needs and issues. Demonstrate that you really understand their business issues.
  • Focus on four types of content:
    • Promoter — content that facilitates a sale such as content on your website
    • Preacher — content that answers problems or questions
    • Professor — content that teaches or addresses larger issues
    • Poet — content that tells a story and makes an emotional connection
  • Bigger results, less content. Be short and to the point. People don’t have the time to read long dissertations about a topic. Tell them what they need to know in as few words as possible. They will come to you for the details when they are ready.

Match Your Content to Your Prospect’s Stage in the Sales Cycle

Content Flow Chart BlackboardAs marketers, we are constantly challenged by the various forms of communication now available to us, and perplexed as to which one(s) to choose that will be most effective in delivering content and messages to our target audience.

These communications methods (“demand generation avenues” in sales parlance) are in a constant state of flux as consumers/potential customers are directed in a variety of directions based on search terms used in Internet searches. There are thousands of websites that may contain applicable content to the potential customer. So, where do you spend your time, money, and effort to be sure you reach your target audience?

The Content Marketing Institute offers free webinars from time to time on a variety of topics. Most recently, I attended one on the “State of Demand 2013.” The focus of the webinar was on the current state of demand generation and what consumers want and need from marketing communications. Mathew Sweezey, Manager of Marketing Research and Education at Pardot (a company), was the speaker.

Sweezey suggests that there are cycles that need to be understood in order to layer your sales approach. Customers are 2/3 of the way through the sales cycle by the time they reach out to you and may be ready to buy services. 98% of people start their search for services on Google, but their search definitions change as they refine their search terms. They go through this cycle 3-4 times before narrowing their actions to stage 2.

  • Stage One:  Unidentified need (content should be about them, not you)
  • Stage Two:  Need, but do not have budget/buying authority
  • Stage Three: Need urgent and authority to buy. They have a short list (content is about you and what you have to offer)

Content needs to be drafted with these stages in mind. For example, at Stage One, prospects are just conducting general searches to identify content and educate themselves. Content provided at this stage would be general information about the subject or direct people to others who are thought leaders on the subject. Posting this type of information to websites or microsites, and positioning for good SEO results is are key elements.

At Stage Two, you want to draft content that provides social proof. What are others doing in this area? Content may include case studies or examples of key players in an industry who have had success in the subject area. It demonstrates how to use the services, information or products to be successful. Case studies or short videos or a white paper about what others are doing may also be useful.

Finally, at Stage Three, you want them to know how you can help them. Include specific information about you, your company and services and connect their needs to how you can provide assistance.

In short, focus your general web or blog content on things that are about them; focus your email marketing about what others are doing that may apply to their specific needs, and then focus your ‘sales pitch’ in person on what you have to offer that is targeted to meet their needs.

This allows you to segment and target your content most efficiently.

Important Lessons in Law Firm Content Marketing from Down Under

AustraliaA recent post on the Legal Marketing Association‘s listserv included a link to an article titled “Explaining the Value of Content to Marketing Dinosaurs.”

The article provides great advice on convincing those who still think about and expect to use marketing techniques developed in the dark ages — that is, the age before the Internet. The article came from King Content, an Australian company.

The Aussies have been on the cutting edge of law firm content curation for years. They have long been leaders in knowledge management, categorizing law firms’ intellectual capital in ways that make it useful to both the lawyers as well as their clients. Their practices speed the delivery of services and reduce costs using methods that U.S. firms are just now being pressured to do.

These Australian firms (including, for example, Cooper Grace Ward in Brisbane, which has written about “Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession“) use technology platforms, social media best practices, knowledge transfer and retention and precedents management. They use these methods to reduce their costs and time to delivery of work product in ways that allow them to manage client demands for alternative fee arrangements and highlight the importance of managing knowledge. As a result, they ensure a competitive edge in a market where “shopping legal services and comparisons to firms” are becoming more common.

U.S. firms have much to learn about how these foreign firms have used content to develop a law firm practice model that places them in a competitive advantage. Marrying firm-developed content with news and references to other sources of information on a subject is crucial to the long-term success of firms that need to differentiate themselves in the highly competitive global legal markets.