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Use thought-leadership marketing content to boost your law firm’s business development efforts

While law firm blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts are often used for general marketing purposes, they can be strategically deployed to boost a firm’s business development efforts.

Are you and your law firm using thought-leadership marketing content like blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts for more than just general marketing efforts?

Are you using it to boost your and your firm’s business development efforts?

You should.

Marketing vs. Business Development

Before I dive any deeper into this topic, let’s make sure we are on the same page about marketing versus business development.

Lawyer and law firm marketing is primarily focused on creating awareness among a lawyer’s and law firm’s target clients and referral sources. That awareness includes awareness of the kind of law they practice, awareness of their abilities, and awareness of their knowledge about issues that arise within the areas of law they practice.

Usually, marketing is a one-to-many strategy. That is, a lawyer or law firm is crafting and disseminating messages meant to resonate with many recipients at the same time. This may include placing ads in legal industry trade publications, social media marketing, traditional thought-leadership marketing, webinars, email marketing, etc.

On the other hand, business development is more akin to sales. A lawyer or law firm is attempting to guide potential clients and referral sources on a journey from merely being aware of the lawyer or firm to becoming actual clients or referral sources. The lawyer/law firm is making a concerted effort to build trust between the lawyer/law firm and potential clients and referral sources.

Usually, business development is a one-to-one or one-to-few strategy. Lawyers and law firms are crafting and disseminating messages designed to resonate with a few, strategically targeted recipients. These might include targeted emails, small events, one-on-one or few-on-few meetings and social outings, responses to requests for proposals or bids, etc.

Thought-leadership marketing content generally

When we talk about thought-leadership marketing materials for lawyers and law firms such as blog posts, bylined articles, client alerts, and the like, we tend to think about those pieces of content as awareness-generating tools.

Lawyers and their law firms create these pieces of content and publish them on their firms’ websites, in their firms’ email newsletters, and on their firms’ social media feeds. Maybe they try to get them published in third-party publications like legal industry trade publications or trade publications that cover the industries of clients they have and would like to serve.

The purpose of these materials is to generate awareness of the authors and their law firms among prospective clients and referral sources by providing value to them in the form of (free) insights. Lawyers and their firms want these prospective clients and referral sources to become aware of the knowledge and experience the lawyers and law firms have and to begin thinking how it can help them with their, or in the case of referral sources, their clients’, legal issues. Lawyers and law firms want to be top of mind with their prospective clients and referral sources when they are in need of a lawyer—and need to be so if they have any chance of being retained or receiving a referral.

The role for thought-leadership content in business development

While thought-leadership marketing content is typically used as part of lawyer/law firm awareness-generating marketing efforts, I believe it can and should be deployed for business development efforts.

I will go one step further. Lawyers and law firms should be thinking about creating thought-leadership content that is primarily for business-development purposes. Call it “thought-leadership business development content.” While that content could also be used for general marketing purposes, it would be created with an eye toward business development.

Let’s use an example to make this distinction a bit more clear. Let’s say you are a lawyer who represents tech companies.

Your thought-leadership marketing content is probably going to be focused on writing blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts about legal developments that tech companies should know about. You would probably be covering court decisions, administrative agency actions, recent Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission guidance or prosecutions, and the like.

Through this content, you are attempting to show potential clients and referral sources that you are generally knowledgeable about the area of law you practice and recent developments within it.

That’s great for awareness building. But what about when prospective clients or referral sources already know about you? What about when they are interested in interviewing you to see whether they want to hire you? Will this generally applicable content make an impact?

I don’t think it will.

That’s because at that point in the business development/sales process, a prospective client is going to want to see proof that you are able to handle the kind of legal issue they are facing at the moment. They will be looking for signs that your previous experiences and current knowledge fit their needs.

Your published thought-leadership content can absolutely do the talking for you here. But it needs to be the right kind of content.

It needs to focus on specific situations and legal issues your clients are likely to face—and that you can help them successfully work through.

(Like I said before, this kind of thought-leadership business development content can also help you create awareness of yourself, your practice, your knowledge, and your law firm as a general marketing tool. But on the business development side, it can be extremely impactful in convincing potential clients and referral sources that you are the person they should be working with.)

Back to you, our hypothetical lawyer who represents tech companies. Instead of opining only on legal developments in your thought-leadership content, you should consider crafting content focused on specific legal issues tech companies could face at various stages of their growth and operations.

You could cover what a tech company should do when it is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Or what one should do immediately in the wake of a data breach.

Or how to prevent theft of trade secrets and intellectual property.

Or how to deal with a rebel shareholder that is waging a proxy battle in the hopes of ousting incumbent directors.

After a few of these pieces, your library of thought-leadership content will look like it belongs to someone who has intimate knowledge of the legal (and business) issues tech companies are likely to face sooner or later. That is going to get the attention of tech companies’ executives and legal teams when they are vetting potential counsel to hire.

Sure, it will be impressive when this content of yours pops up when these executives and legal team members are conducting online research. But imagine how impactful it will be for you to meet with a prospective client and say things like, “As a matter of fact, we wrote a six-part blog series about this very issue. I’ll send you links to the posts.”

It transforms you from someone who generally practices in this area of law and might know what to do in a particular situation into someone who MUST know how to advise tech companies in these particular situations. How can you NOT given the content you’ve created and the knowledge you’ve displayed within it?!

Obviously, this puts you, our hypothetical tech lawyer, in an advantageous position compared to your peers and competitors who do not have this laser-focused content.

Direct-to-consumer law firms can use thought-leadership business development content, too

So far, I’ve focused this post on business-to-business legal practices where lawyers are serving other businesses. But in direct-to-consumer legal practices, lawyers can put thought-leadership business development content to work as well.

Lawyers in direct-to-consumer legal practices like criminal law, family law, and estate planning can easily craft content that focuses on the difficult situations would-be clients are going through, and the questions and concerns they might have, instead of just discussing what a state’s laws are regarding divorce or dog bites.

For example, a family law lawyer could craft blog posts and client alerts with titles such as “How should I talk to my friends about my pending divorce?” An estate planning lawyer could craft content with titles such as “How do I buy my parents’ home so that I can give it to my children?” A criminal defense lawyer could publish an email newsletter featuring content with titles such as, “Should I tell my boss that I was pulled over for a DUI?”

Again, by focusing on specific situations would-be clients are facing, a lawyer’s thought-leadership content is doing more than just generating awareness. It is helping their business development and sales efforts by showing these would-be clients that the lawyer has the knowledge and expertise to assist would-be clients with their legal problems.

Putting thought-leadership business development content to use at your law firm

Obviously, content marketing and thought-leadership marketing content have a role in your law firm’s marketing efforts. But lawyers, practice groups, and law firms that want to separate themselves from the pack when it comes to building their book of business should be thinking about thought-leadership content as a business development tool.

Simply put, they should be thinking about the kinds of legal questions and concerns their would-be clients are likely to have and use those questions and concerns as inspiration for future blog posts, bylined articles, client alerts, and the like.

Sure, this thought-leadership business development content will have value as part of lawyers’/practice groups’/law firms’ general marketing/awareness efforts.

But more importantly, it will help build and establish connections between lawyers/practice groups/law firms and their would-be clients by demonstrating legal knowledge, experience, and wisdom laser-focused on the kinds of questions, concerns, and issues that would-be clients have and that are forcing them to consider hiring a lawyer in the first place.

Bottom line: While law firm blog posts, bylined articles, and client alerts are often used for general marketing purposes, they can be strategically deployed to boost a firm’s business development efforts.

Interested in learning more about how to craft effective thought-leadership business development content? If so, click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your law firm.

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 content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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