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Solidify relationships with clients and referral sources by co-creating thought leadership with them

Thought leadership is as much a client and referrer retention tool as it is a marketing and business development tool. Promote your clients and referral sources by inviting them to share the stage with you.

Attorneys are always looking to strengthen their relationships with their clients and referral sources, especially B2B attorneys.

I read a lot of content created by attorneys. I rarely see attorneys co-creating thought leadership content with their clients or referral sources. This is a huge missed opportunity for attorneys to build and strengthen their relationships with these people. 

That’s because there are many benefits to collaborating with clients and/or referral sources on thought leadership content and so many ways to do so, including by co-authoring articles, appearing together in videos or podcasts, or sharing the stage on webinars or at in-person speaking engagements.

Co-creating thought leadership with your clients and referral sources builds goodwill

Obviously, co-creating thought leadership content builds goodwill with the client or referral source you’re co-creating with. 

By reaching out to a client or referral source to discuss the possibility of co-creating thought leadership content, you are showing them that you are thinking about them. The mere idea of collaboration builds goodwill.

If you approach a client or referral source about collaborating on thought leadership concerning a topic that you know is near and dear to their heart, you’ll ratchet up the goodwill you’re building. Not only would you help bring this issue they care about into the light, but in the course of writing the content, you will be teaming up together to provide a solution or a thoughtful or novel way to approach the issue.

Additionally, by collaborating with clients and referral sources on thought leadership content, you are giving them an opportunity to promote themselves in a new way and through a platform they might not normally use.

Many of your clients, for one reason or another, may not market or promote themselves on their own. Perhaps they’re in-house counsel, so they’re not going to have to go down the normal thought leadership path that many lawyers go down in the course of building their practices and their prominence.

Likewise, your referral sources might not be the kinds of attorneys or non-attorneys to market themselves through thought leadership. Perhaps they’re used to lead generation-type marketing where they don’t get a chance to flex their intellectual muscles.

Co-creating thought leadership with your clients and referral sources reminds them of the scope of your practice

Collaborating on thought leadership with a client or referral source will remind them about the kind of work you do. 

They might not realize that the topic you asked them to cover is an area of law or business you can advise clients on because they’ve only ever sent you a smaller universe of matters than you are capable of handling.

(And perhaps you didn’t exactly do the best job of showing them, over time, the kind of work you can do for them or, in the case of a referral source, their clients.)

So by collaborating with a client or referral source on a particular topic, you can show them that you could help them (or their clients) with that kind of problem and not just the ones you’ve previously helped them (and their clients) with.

Co-creating thought leadership with your clients and referral sources can be an issue-spotting exercise

The process of collaborating on thought leadership allows you to bring to a client’s or referral source’s attention a legal or business issue that they perhaps hadn’t given much thought to previously, but which could end up being an important issue for their organization or clients.

Imagine reaching out to a client and saying, “The Federal Trade Commission recently issued new guidance regarding XYZ. We think there’s some hidden dangers to complying with the guidance that companies like yours might face. I was thinking about writing an article about them. Do you want to chat about this topic and maybe collaborate with me on an article?”

Your client might not had given these dangers much thought or even known about them. But when you collaborate with them on the article because you want them to provide some in-the-weeds guidance from their perspective, you get the opportunity to explain to them how you’d handle those issues for someone in their shoes. 

This allows you to implicitly show them that you are THE lawyer they should reach out to if they would like guidance regarding those issues.

Ask them to collaborate, but do the majority of the work

There are numerous benefits to collaborating with clients or referral sources on thought leadership content, but when you do so, you should be the one doing the heavy lifting.

You should be the one to reach out with an offer to collaborate.

You should be the one—either yourself or in connection with in-house colleagues or an outside ghostwriter—who’s doing the writing for articles and blog posts, or the script/outline writing for videos, webinars, or speaking engagements.

You should be the one—either yourself or in connection with a colleague or outside marketing person—nailing down the details of the process and communicating it to the client or referral source.

You want them to have an easy, frictionless experience. That translates to them doing what they feel they need to do to prepare but then simply showing up to discuss the topic—whether over the phone for an article, on camera for a video, podcast, or webinar, or on stage for a speaking engagement. 

You and your colleagues should do everything else to make this endeavor as painless for your client or referral source as possible.

An underutilized but effective way to establish thought leadership while building and nurturing relationships

Collaborating with clients and referral sources on thought leadership to build and nurture those relationships, while also building their own prominence and authority through that same thought leadership, is something more law firms and lawyers should do.

I don’t know why more firms and lawyers don’t do this already, but their inaction is your opportunity.

Go out there, approach your clients and referral sources about collaborating on thought leadership content, do so, and watch your ties with them grow.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? 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 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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