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Stop stressing out about the ROI of your thought leadership

Thought leadership is a long-term positioning play. Don’t worry about getting a quick ROI from it.

If you are investing in thought leadership, don’t worry about getting a quick ROI from it.

Thought leadership is frustrating compared to other forms of marketing because it is often slower to produce results than those other forms.

With social media marketing, within literally seconds of you publishing a post, someone may like it, comment on it, or share it. You have almost instant validation that your post “connected” with your audience.

If you run ads on social media or Google, someone might respond to that ad by clicking it, providing you validation that an ad “worked.”

You could host a webinar, with every attendee serving as proof that the topic resonated with them enough to attend.

Things are different with thought leadership. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of how a potential client saw a lawyer’s article a few days after it was published and decided to retain that lawyer and their firm for a sizable matter based primarily off of that article.

But those instances are few and far between.

Thought leadership is a long-term play

For the vast majority of lawyers, when they rely on thought leadership as a core component of their marketing and business development efforts, they know they’re playing the long game.

They know they’ll need to consistently show up in the marketplace of ideas over time.

They know they’ll need to make sure that past, current, and prospective clients and referral sources are aware of the areas of law they practice, the industries they serve, the kind of work they do for clients, and the knowledge and wisdom they bring to their clients’ matters, which they put on display in their thought leadership.

So much of thought leadership is slowly building trust, slowly showing through content that a lawyer has the goods to help clients with their legal issues and their business issues.

A recent edition of the LinkedIn/Edelman Thought Leadership Research Report found that 61 percent of decision makers say that an organization’s thought leadership can be moderately or a lot more effective at demonstrating the potential value of its products and services compared to traditional product-oriented marketing. Meaning, thought leadership is how lawyers show value to their audience by giving the audience a taste of the knowledge and wisdom they bring to their client matters.

Yet, most sales and marketing experts will tell you that only about 5% of your target audience is going to be in the market for your services at any given time. If a hundred people read a recent thought leadership article that you published, at least 95 of them probably aren’t looking for help regarding the legal or business issues you covered in that article.

That’s why taking the long-term view of thought leadership will be a key driver of your success with it. Your library of thought leadership, slowly but consistently built over time, is there to alert people, or to confirm to them, when they’re finally in that 5% and ready to hire you or someone like you, that you’re the right choice.

They can tell you’re knowledgeable and wise from the content you’ve been creating and (hopefully) sharing on your firm’s website (including your online bio) and your social media accounts when they look you up, or from your content that appears when they’re researching online the legal or business issues they need help with and that you happen to have written about. Your content positions you as someone they should at least reach out to when looking for an attorney to assist them.

Slow and steady—not a quick ROI—wins this race

I understand how it feels when it seems like no one is reading your thought leadership. You might feel like you’re spitting in the wind because you’re not getting much feedback from members of your target audience that they’re reading your articles, blog posts, client alerts, or other content. There’s no way to know whether you’re actually making progress impressing them and getting them to see that you are someone they should contact when they have the kinds of issues you can help them with and that you cover in your thought leadership content.

But that’s the nature of thought leadership. It is usually a long-term, “put-your-head-down-and-consistently publish compelling content” proposition.

If you show up frequently and focus on the legal and/or business issues that your current and prospective clients have, over time, you are going to emerge in their eyes as someone to contact when they need the kind of assistance you can provide.

This takes time. It takes consistency.

It’s frustrating when we want an instant ROI from our marketing and business development efforts and don’t get it. We want to see that we did something on Monday and then by Tuesday or Wednesday, we’re getting results from it. But that’s not how thought leadership tends to work.

That’s why the attorneys who focus on thought leadership and take a long-term approach to it will eventually have a leg up on their peers and competitors.

They’ll be the ones who are consistently going to the marketplace with guidance, insights, knowledge, and wisdom—and the ones who are seen by current and prospective clients as offering the kind of guidance, insights, knowledge, and wisdom they want in an attorney.

These attorneys won’t be discouraged by not securing a quick ROI because they know, over time, their thought leadership efforts will pay dividends.

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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