Whatever the size of the law firm, small, midsize or Big Law, marketing’s goal is to engage your target audiences and demonstrate your firm to be the authoritative leader in providing the solutions they should choose. As communications expert Seth Godin describes it: “Marketing is the act of telling a story so vivid and true that people who hear it want to tell other people.” One of the most effective components of legal marketing is thought leadership content. With today’s available palette of media tools, law firms are able to design, build and customize the content that their client’s experience like never before. Ensuring that this “content experience” is profound and impactful is a necessary and critical endeavor.
What Is Content Experience?
By definition, content experience is the comprehensive digital interactions someone has with a firm’s subject matter and the impression it leaves on them. It is comprised of a three-step approach — presentation, structure and engagement.
A law firm client’s journey needs to be understood as the entire pathway delivering all manner of impressions. From a response to a request for proposal, to the welcome packet at the point of engagement, to an end of matter survey, to a robust client feedback program, all digital content along this journey must be nurtured, measured, and modified at each step. This can include anything from signing up for access to a white paper, an on-demand CLE or the results to a targeted survey.
Why should marketers devote energies to create a content experience in the client journey? There are few ways to develop goodwill and trust with a potential client that are more effective than providing useful, value-adding information that is easy to find. When a client actively seeks information to help begin a problem-solving process, mediocrity must be pushed aside. Law firms need to do more than summarize or regurgitate baseline information. Many law firm insiders have experienced how difficult it can be to fashion valuable content and make it available timely to its desired audience. Familiar is the mantra that law firms do not have the resources to “feed the content beast as all employees are overloaded.” While this is not untrue, the effort to provide good thought leadership is essential growing your client base. Perhaps this statistic will resonate with law firms: It can take 12 positive experiences to repair the damage of a negative experience, if it can be repaired at all. Clients seek law firms to serve as their trusted advisors. Building trust requires effort. Any energy devoted to a content experience will help to enhance your law firm’s value. It will help showcase why your firm is positioned to handle a new dilemma or issue facing your client or the marketplace.
Creating a Meaningful Content Experience
Conduct a Content Audit
As a precursor to implementing a content experience, marketers should conduct a content audit. This can be performed in something as simple as a spreadsheet or conducted through the use of a variety of tools. Without a dedicated and thoughtfully developed campaign, a significant percentage of potential content will not be properly curated across the appropriate digital channels (such as websites and social media platforms) and will remain underutilized or not utilized. It is important to understand your firm’s current content assets, to document and map the respective content in the appropriate format, determine the practice/industry/service groups where the content can be located, consumed, and utilized both internally, and by clients and prospects. Next, you must endeavor to ensure the content is up-to-date, fresh and authentic. Finally, a robust content strategy requires mapping the content plan — its workflow, calendar/timing, promotion and measurement.
A Content Strategy and Content Plan Alone Are Not Enough
Content experience requires driving traffic to a firm’s digital real estate, and creating an informed and engaged audience, on a regular and repeated basis. Building and maintaining a firm’s reputation requires presenting updates and potential solutions to your client’s questions on a continual and repeated basis. Continued engagement is pivotal in nurturing clients and identifying new targets.
Just as a photojournalist working on a narrative needs a photo editor to implement sequencing that enables the photos to connect to a purpose and make a good book great, content experience has a three-step methodology.
Undertaking a three-pronged approach and sustaining it will provide you with the most value for the content experience.
Prong One: Presentation. Words matter, especially in the legal profession. The proper terms can potentially make all the difference in deciding a matter. The words that comprise our navigation, the time we spend on SEO optimization and visual design, help bolster the overall presentation. With voice-search usage becoming more and more powerful with each passing year, investing time now to enhance your SEO will be beneficial. Ensure search terms and language are consistent across all channels and within brand guidelines. Consider conversational, long-tail, semantic phrases that are in the style of voice search queries. Also, think like a journalist. What differentiates your piece from another? The headlines and sub-headers of each written piece should be crafted carefully, just as are the titles and sections of webinars, podcasts and videos. Moreover, it is important to utilize photos or infographics to strategically capture new audiences and help hone in on important themes.
Prong Two: Structure. Clients and prospects should be able to find what they need in an intuitive fashion. Consider grouping content by topic or industry as opposed to by format (such as white paper, video or blog). People do not generally search sites by the way in which they consume information. An example might be when searching for something and google generates four pages of results, the likelihood of scanning past the first few results is limited. An individual visiting the site should not have to click six times to find the requested information. More than two clicks may result in a disenfranchised user who will seek to find the information elsewhere, possibly on a competitor’s site. A client survey can shed great light on how your audience needs to have content packaged and organized. Also, find out where are clients and prospects searching for the information. Is it in a different area than where it currently resides, such as a practice page vs. industry grouping? Is there value in turning an important white paper into a podcast? This is similar to User Experience and requires resources dedicated to Web analytics. That is the primary way to know if people are coming to your site and what they are doing once they are there. Looking at Web traffic as to where it comes from, where it goes at the point of entry and what people search for most can tell you something is hard to find or it’s a popular topic.
Prong Three: Engagement. It is important to note whether the content compelled a level of action in the market. What subject matter expertise are clients looking for? Law firms have sophisticated business intelligence and practice management tools that assess profitability, team productivity, and legal operations to help drive growth. There are a myriad of marketing tools to help inform the content experience. These range from heat maps to assess targeted Web behaviors to boosting two-way engagement, nurturing leads and tracking relevant issues in the marketplace with listening tools. All require data analyses of your digital properties. Perhaps your firm’s client base consumes information via podcasts when traveling to and from work. Understanding these analytics can change your choices. It enables law firms to help answer the questions both clients and prospects are seeking.
The success of your client’s content experience can be measured. Gather your marketing, business development, communications professionals, and subject matter experts after you conduct your content audit to ensure you are engaging clients and nurturing new relationships. Determine where the content experience will most benefit your marketing goals. Meet your target audiences where they are and create something relatable and meaningful. Double down on what is resonating with your audiences to keep them engaged. Creating valuable content and making it findable will increase your chances for success.
Jennifer S. Bankston has spent over 20 years spearheading strategic initiatives for law firms and other industries. She is President of Bankston Marketing Solutions and can be reached at bankstonmarketingsolutions.com.
The views expressed in the article are those of the authors and not necessarily the views of their clients or other attorneys in their firm.
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