‘Stop Thinking About Your Content as Content’

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right HookAs a young associate at a large law firm, I remember a senior associate with whom I was working on a newsletter article tell me that we should provide enough information to clients to showcase our expertise but not so much as to educate the client to make his or her own decisions. It was obviously a self-serving endeavor that — in theory — could work, if clients read the article and called us, their lawyers, for more information or assistance.

At the time, nearly two decades ago, I derided this perspective. Having joined the practice of law after a short career in journalism, I naively thought the purpose of all writing should be to explain in a manner that adequately answered all of the readers’ questions.

Some time later, however, I realized that my mentor was right about the content we were creating.

If I only knew then what marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk now writes in his new book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World. He says:

[S]top thinking about your content as content. Think about it, rather, as micro-content — tiny, unique nuggets of information, humor, commentary, or inspiration that you reimagine every day, even every hour, as you respond to today’s culture, conversations, and current events in real time in a platform’s native language and format.

In other words, think of content as a marketing tool. Just as many book authors never get rich from their writings but instead use them merely to reach an audience that might buy other services.

As Vaynerchuk says, this type of content marketing must be used regularly (“jabs,” by his analogy) before you eventually take your shot (the “right hook”).

Although, as Vaynerchuk knows and explains, the content marketing “jabs” can be delivered by any of numerous methods, I was intrigued to hear him tell author and blogger Michael Hyatt recently that e-mail marketing in particular is “very effective” for him.

Boxing analogies might not immediately seem appropriate for how to market professional services. But it’s obvious that frequent and regular delivery — of content or punches — can indeed be a winning combination.

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!

Food For Thought from the Legal Marketing Association’s Southeast Regional Conference

The recent Charleston, S.C. conference of the Legal Marketing Association’s Southeast Region which I attended with colleague and veteran legal marketer Carol Todd Thomas, was an intellectual as well as a gastronomic feast.  (It’s incredible how many terrific restaurants Charleston supports in its compact historic district.)

I’m still digesting much of what I learned at the conference, but one highlight was a provocative presentation by Allen Fuqua, chief marketing officer of Winstead, who was part of a panel discussion titled “Put Down the Fire Hose and Think Strategically.”

Although framed in the context of a busy law firm marketer, Allen’s advice is applicable to a much broader group — serial multitaskers.  His advice:  Stop doing things that don’t matter.  And the corollary:  Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.

No one is completely in control of the work he or she has to do, but we can control how much effort we allocate to the projects that threaten to overwhelm us.  If there are some unimportant tasks that can’t be ignored or delegated away, we don’t have to make matters worse by performing them to the same high standards we apply to our most important work;  instead, perform them just well enough (and quickly) and then move on to higher value activities.

So, where should we be spending our time?  According to Allen, focus on projects with high potential value to your firm, but only those where excellent execution determines the quality of the result.  Execution is within our control.

Build Loyalty with Information


youtility“We’ve always tried to build loyalty with people, and we can no longer rely on that technique. Now, we must build loyalty with information.”

Well said, Jay Baer.

That’s just one bit of helpful advice from the marketing consultant and self-described “digital pioneer” in his new book, “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype.”

Baer’s book is a testament to the power of content marketing, that is, providing customers or clients with helpful — not just promotional, self-serving — information. Baer’s guidance also reaffirms our perspective at cc:Clients — that educating clients with timely, relevant, easy-to-read news updates (via e-mail newsletters, microsites, blogs and news feeds) is smart marketing.

As Baer writes:

There are only two ways for companies to break through in an environment that is unprecedented in its competitiveness and cacophony. They can be “amazing” or they can be useful….

While being amazing can work, it’s difficult to do and doesn’t produce reliable, linear results….

What if instead of trying to be amazing you just focused on being useful? What if you decided to inform, rather than promote? You know that expression “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime?” Well, the same is true for marketing: If you sell something, you make a customer today; if you help someone, you make a customer for life.

I call this Youtility. Not “utility,” because a utility is a faceless commodity. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.

Some law firms and other professional service companies traditionally have held back when it comes to providing useful, free information. In the past, these professionals feared that doing so might undermine their ability to sell their advice and intellectual property. But, as Baer points out, just the opposite is true: Providing “massively useful information,” for free, is a great marketing tactic that can lead to more, not less, business.

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.

What’s News Now?

News definition in the dictionaryAt cc:Clients, we’ve long used well-targeted, highly relevant news clips as the “hook” to engage readers of the e-mail newsletters we create for our customers.

When we started curating news 10 years ago, we needed to look no further than the web-accessible editions of mainstream print publications – mostly daily newspapers, wire services and weekly magazines.  An important part of our job always has been to scour these traditional news outlets and hand-assemble a collection of the most appropriate news clips for each practice group’s newsletter.

For us, careful “content curation” has always been the essential component of our content marketing products.

Ten years later, it’s striking how dramatically the news industry landscape has changed:

  • The mainstream print media has shrunk – both in the number of publications and, after heavy cuts in the editorial departments, in the number of news articles they produce.
  • At the same time, there’s more news being produced than ever before – it’s just coming from new sources outside the traditional media outlets.  “News” now includes reputable blogs (almost non-existent ten years ago) and news sites that exist only on the Internet.  Some of these are highly-reliable publications with professional writers and editors, and some are just a crank with a website.
  • Broadcasters now routinely re-purpose their stories online, and numerous news websites republish press releases verbatim, without fact-checking.
  • And, there’s more commentary and analysis than ever before.

As a result, a new challenge has arisen: how to sort through what’s legitimate and what’s just noise.  The need for curating content has never been greater.

So, as we begin to provide new distribution vehicles to our customers for our curated news content (e-mail newsletters, blogs, microsites, RSS and XML news feeds, social media posts), we’re also expanding the kinds of news we can incorporate.  As we develop the unique Editorial DNASM for each publication, our customers will have even more choices, including the option to add content from notable and reliable blogs, government and trade group press releases, and interesting opinion and analytical stories.

These new news sources make our customer’s client communications even more relevant, interesting, timely and informative.