Lawyers should do these seven things in 2021 to make their blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts better than ever.
Happy New Year! I am going to hazard a guess that, in keeping with tradition, you have some New Year’s resolutions on the books. Perhaps your most ambitious resolutions concern your professional development.
Like many other lawyers, these resolutions probably include devoting time and resources to your business development and marketing efforts. For most legal practices, a fundamental piece of the business development and marketing puzzle is the consistent creation and publication of thought-leadership marketing content in the form of blog posts, bylined articles, client alerts, and the like.
To help you get 2021 started off on the right foot, add the following seven New Year’s resolutions to your list. They will help you take your and your firm’s thought-leadership marketing content to a whole new level.
Go Deeper, Not Wider
Write your thought-leadership marketing content with a narrow target audience in mind. While you may not (yet) have developed a niche legal practice, you should have an ideal client. If not, identify one. Then, cover legal developments in ways that show you have an understanding of the legal and non-legal issues that ideal client wrestles with.
For example, if your ideal client is an executive at a life sciences startup, don’t just write about how a recent Delaware Chancery Court decision could impact relationships between startups and venture capitalists. Instead, explain how the decision could impact the way life sciences companies seek venture capital.
By consistently writing for your ideal client, you will build a library of content focused on them and their legal issues. Thanks to this library, you will be noticed by, and begin to be recognized as a “go-to” lawyer for, that kind of client. (How else could you have amassed this library if you didn’t have the knowledge to be a “go-to” lawyer?) With more of your ideal clients retaining you, you will develop additional knowledge you can display through your thought leadership. As that cycle continues, odds are good that you will create more distance between you and your peers and competitors—both with your thought-leadership content and your book of business.
Keep Notes of Your Clients’ Questions and Concerns
One way to craft impactful thought-leadership marketing content aimed at your ideal clients is to address the questions and concerns they tend to have. When a client’s legal questions or concerns are addressed by a lawyer’s blog post or bylined article, the client will look to that lawyer as an authority on the legal topic at hand.
Similar clients tend to have similar questions and concerns about similar aspects of similar legal issues. If a client has a particular question about sitting for an upcoming deposition, or has a question about how a pending divorce might impact certain aspects of their everyday lives, chances are good that another client has that same question. Thus, a single piece of thought-leadership marketing content can be of value to many clients.
Because today’s question from a client could be the basis for tomorrow’s blog post, keep a master list of the questions your clients ask and the concerns they raise. Consider keeping this list in an app on your smartphone so it will always be handy. If you are capturing your clients’ questions and concerns frequently enough, you will always have inspiration for your next piece of thought-leadership marketing content.
Subscribe to Email Newsletters From Your Law Firm’s Peer Firms . . .
Yes, you should voluntarily ask to receive more emails than you already do. But there is a good reason for doing so.
You should know what your peer law firms are doing, what they’re saying to their clients and referral sources, and how they’re saying it. Your peer firms’ email newsletters will give you a sense of the matters they’re handling that they can speak publicly about, as well as the legal developments they are addressing through their lawyers’ thought-leadership marketing content. You will also see how frequently those firms’ lawyers are publishing this content.
This is information you can use to make your and your law firm’s thought-leadership marketing program better. Based on what your peer firms are doing, should you and your colleagues publish client alerts more frequently? Is there an opportunity for your firm to establish a blog to cover an emerging new area of law? Should you and your firm increase the number of bylined articles you are writing for The Legal Intelligencer, its sister legal industry trade publications and trade publications in your clients’ industries?
There are lessons to be learned from your peer firms’ design and distribution choices as well. Are their email newsletters easy on the eyes? Are they sending you multiple emails a week or only a single digest/summary email? How do their email newsletters look on a large desktop monitor as compared to a smartphone?
Subscribe to email newsletters from a few of your peer firms so that you can create informal thought-leadership marketing benchmarks that you can meet and exceed (if you are not doing so already).
. . . And the Professional Services Companies You Work With
OK, OK, I know I am pushing my luck here by suggesting you add even more emails to your inbox. But hear me out.
Chances are good that your peer firms’ newsletters are unlikely to inspire any profound changes to your own firm’s thought-leadership marketing efforts. They might inspire you and your colleagues to increase the frequency of your client alerts or your contributions to this publication. But most law firms’ thought-leadership marketing efforts tend to come from the same playbook.
That’s where these additional email newsletters provide value. They could add a few pages to that playbook.
Accounting firms, expert witness firms, legal recruiters, and other professional services firms you and your colleagues work with might have a different approach to thought-leadership marketing that you find compelling enough to at least test. Perhaps they approach client alerts differently. Maybe their blog posts (which they link to in their email newsletters) are written in a polished but informal style that is particularly engaging. Perhaps they have a bylined article strategy that you have not seen other law firms employ.
Yes, obviously, some of these companies might not align perfectly with your legal practice, particularly if you have a direct-to-consumer legal practice like personal injury or family law. But you’re not looking for a perfect fit with these email newsletters. You’re looking for inspiration and innovative approaches to thought-leadership marketing.
Evaluate Your Thought-Leadership Content Distribution Channels
It is one thing to create engaging blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts. It is another thing to get those engaging pieces of content seen and read by the right people, such as prospective clients and referral sources.
Take a look at the channels through which you and your law firm are distributing your thought-leadership marketing content. Are these channels reaching the people your firm needs to be reaching with this content? In other words, are your target audiences seeing this content promptly upon publication?
Your firm’s website and social media channels are no-brainer, foundational content distribution channels. But they will generally only be seen by people who already know you and your firm.
That’s why your firm should be utilizing other channels through which to distribute its lawyers’ thought-leadership marketing content. These channels will reach people who may not already be familiar with your firm and its work. These channels include legal industry trade publications like The Legal Intelligencer and its sister publications, trade publications in your clients’ industries, blogs from complementary professional services firms that allow guest posts, and trade association publications, to name a few.
If your firm is not reaching both friends and strangers through its thought-leadership marketing content distribution channels, it must increase the number of channels it uses.
Digest the Data
When you and your firm have a thought-leadership marketing content program in place, the publication, distribution, and consumption of that content will generate data. Analyze that data to see what’s working, what’s not, and which aspects of your program deserve more attention.
Production-based data, such as the number of authored blog posts or client alerts, will tell you which lawyers and practice groups are regularly crafting thought-leadership marketing content, and which ones are not.
Audience-based data will tell you if you are growing the number of people who proactively opted in to receive your content, or otherwise sought it out. This includes email subscribers, social media followers, subscribers to your YouTube channel, and visitors to your website.
Consumption-based data will tell you how many people (and in some instances who specifically) are actually consuming your content. This includes open rates and click rates on email newsletters, video views, and visitors to particular blog posts or client alerts.
Engagement-based data will give you an idea of who is taking the extra step to engage with your content. This includes social media likes, shares, and comments, replies to email newsletters and comments on YouTube videos.
You and your colleagues must periodically look at this data so that you can determine where your firm should dedicate its time and resources. If blog posts covering a particular topic or written in a particular style consistently perform well on your firm’s website and on its social media channels, consider writing similar blog posts more frequently. If you have difficulty growing or maintaining email newsletter subscribers, look closely at your email newsletter strategy and tinker with it until you see improvement.
If mined, analyzed and acted on regularly, this data can help your law firm keep its thought-leadership marketing program firing on all cylinders.
Make Writing a Habit
Few of us can look back at 2020 and say, “You know, I probably wrote too many blog posts and client alerts throughout the year.” When it comes to thought-leadership marketing content, most of us could do more than we are currently doing. After all, I’ve previously explained the business case for you and your law firm investing in creating thought-leadership marketing content.
To commit to frequently and consistently crafting and publishing thought-leadership marketing content, you must make doing so a habit. It takes between 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit, according to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
While it need not be a daily habit, consider developing a monthly or quarterly habit of crafting blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts. This new habit will likely make a significant positive impact on your business development and marketing efforts. Of course, you need not shoulder the burden yourself. It is customary for law firms to have junior associates, in-house ghostwriters, or outside ghostwriters ethically collaborate with more senior associates and partners on thought-leadership marketing content. That way, those lawyers get the benefits of having their bylines on a piece of content without having to devote much non-billable time to the endeavor.
New Year’s Resolutions Work Keeping
These seven New Year’s resolutions do not require new workout equipment, a recurring subscription to online fitness classes, or even a fancy new blender. They simply require you to take a closer look at your and your firm’s thought-leadership marketing efforts. But like your other New Year’s resolutions, these resolutions have the potential to dramatically improve a key part of your life: your ability to market yourself and develop an impressive book of business.
Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service collaborates with lawyers to ethically craft BigLaw-quality thought-leadership marketing content so that those lawyers can market themselves while they stay billable, engage in other work-related activities or simply live their lives outside of the office. Contact him at email@example.com or 215-454-2180.
Reprinted with permission from the January 12, 2021, edition of The Legal Intelligencer © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited, contact 877-257-3382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in getting some outside help implementing these seven New Year’s resolutions? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your law firm.