With the many, inexpensive ways we are able to communicate, effective marketing has shifted from interruption-based advertising to information-based content marketing. In a world that values good information, law firms and lawyers have advantages over other industries, but the role of legal marketers has become more technical as a result. It has shifted from crafting messages to ensuring that information is created and delivered to target audiences.
In the past, the role of marketers was to make people aware of a company’s products or services through well placed messages which usually took the form of advertising. Today, as customers are exposed to countless marketing messages employing more media channels than ever before, marketers must focus on customer engagement. The marketing clutter of the Internet (websites, social media and email) and traditional media (TV, radio and print) has shifted marketers’ roles from crafting messages to orchestrating content that prospects and customers will engage with. Like a conductor leading an orchestra, today’s marketer must determine how to most effectively approach content that delivers the greatest impact in getting customers to engage.
Ad Recall Stays the Same
We are exposed to more marketing messages than ever before, but ad recall stays the same. According to a 2014 study of media usage and ad exposure by Media Dynamics, Inc., a typical adult’s daily media consumption has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours (or 590 minutes). But the study also found, that ad recall and retention has stayed nearly the same. Today’s customer has more avoidance options like remote controls and DVRs, and many more channels to choose from. Or, as in the case of the Internet, customers determine where they go and what they view.
The Shift to Content Marketing
With ads becoming less effective, marketers are concentrating on the stuff that people want to engage with – the content – rather than the ads, which are perceived to be interruptions. This kind of marketing, called content marketing, is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content marketing, which many believe is the future of marketing, is the technique of communicating regularly with your customers and prospects without selling. Instead of pitching your services, you deliver information that educates your customer. Underlying content marketing is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
Content Marketing Gives Law Firms an Edge
In most marketing domains, law firms aren’t leaders. More often we take up the rear. But law firms have engaged in content marketing, and are naturally suited to be successful at it. For years, law firms have created Legal Alerts, timely advisories informing their clients and prospects of important changes to the law and their effects. Law firms have well-developed mailing lists and, in many instances, also produce regularly scheduled informational newsletters and blogs. Law, compared with other industries, has an edge. The law has important insights that are (a) valuable, (b) communicated articulately and (c) released on a regular basis.
Many consumer companies employ content marketing, but the content only tangentially relates to their product offerings, whereas law firm content has direct relevance to the legal services.
Compare a funny movie that Coca-Cola releases on social media with a well-written legal alert. The funny movie tangentially relates to the soft drink, but the legal alert directly demonstrates the kind of insight one would experience by engaging with a law firm
High Trust Gives Law Firms an Edge
Because of information overload we have become very adept at filtering information. While the number of messages we get continues to increase, our ability to process them hasn’t changed. We, therefore, use filtering techniques to determine what we will spend time on. Law firm emails have consistently had higher “open rates” than those of other industries because law firms have higher trust levels. Simply put: if your law firm sends you an email, you are more likely to open it and read it. Because most law firm content is high quality – relevant and well written – the industry is likely to maintain this edge.
Law Firms Have Embraced Content Marketing
According to the 2015 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey by Greentarget and Zeughauser Group, 98 percent of law firm Chief Marketing Officers surveyed actively engage in content marketing, and 87 percent expected to produce more content in 2015 than 2014. Furthermore, content marketing appears to be effective as reported in the 2015 Digital Marketing Survey which reports “In House Counsels find traditional client alerts and practice group newsletters to be the most valuable types of law-firm-generated content.”
Social Networks Amplify Good Content
One of the most important filters we use is whether we recognise and trust the sender. Social networks provide a valuable way to amplify content as members of our networks share good information within them. People who may not have read the original content may read it, when shared by a trusted source.
Social Networks and Content Marketing Enhance Lawyer Branding
Most clients state that they hire the lawyer first and the law firm second. But law firm marketing has favoured promoting the law firm brand and not the individual attorney. Part of the challenge is that law firms have so many lawyers that it is impractical to promote each one individually. When attorneys share relevant content on social media – whether or not it is content that they authored – it enhances their brand as an expert in that domain. Social networks provide a practical way to market the lawyer first, then the law firm.
The Importance of Social Networks is Growing
The relative importance of marketing online, and especially through social networks, will continue to grow. It has often been argued that the primary customers for legal services are not active on social networks, but as attorneys who grew up with social media attain positions of importance in companies, social media will take on a more prominent role. According to the 2015 Digital Marketing Survey, 68 percent of respondents said they used LinkedIn in the last week, compared with 62 percent in 2014.
Marketing Can be Measured Effectively
Marketing pioneer John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” This is not true in the age of online marketing. Today, every click on our website, in our emails and on our blogs can be tracked. We can measure who engages with us, in what media, and what information they are interested in.
When we analyse these data points we can be quite effective, as reported in the 2012 Forbes article, How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did. Target statisticians figured out that when their female customers in certain age ranges buy certain products like unscented lotions and vitamin supplements in higher quantities, there’s a high probability that the customer is pregnant. While law firms are not nearly as advanced as Target, the information they possess about their clients provides a wealth of opportunities for uncovering latent legal needs.
How does this affect legal marketing? With the shifts in marketing online and towards content marketing, legal marketers must focus on client and prospect engagement. This role spans both the creative and the technical. Not only must the strategy be executed, but every time content is created, its effectiveness must be measured to refine the strategy. Some of the considerations include:
- What audience are we trying to reach and what action do we want them to take?
- How frequently do we need to communicate with them?
- What is the message and the “call to action” for any specific content?
- What messages are target clients most interested in engaging with?
Medium and Distribution
- What medium will be most effective (email, video, newsletter, blog post, etc)?
- What is the most effective way of amplifying our content (traditional media, LinkedIn, Twitter, syndicators, etc)?
Content marketing and the changing way that we engage in a deluge of communications provides advantages to law firms, as well-written, valuable information from trusted sources is more important than ever before. The role of the legal marketer is shifting from that of a crafter of messages to a conductor, ensuring that information is delivered to the intended audience through a wide range of traditional and online channels. To accomplish this goal, marketers must have a much more technical understanding of online marketing.