Content Marketing for Law Firms: How to Build Trust with Your Audience Through Quality Content
Solo attorneys and legal practices of all sizes looking to deepen existing client relationships and attract new business are increasingly turning to content marketing for law firms. Television commercials, billboards, and static print ads – long staples of law firm marketing campaigns – simply don’t allow firms to demonstrate their mastery over a particular legal practice area.
While such methods can help raise awareness of the law firm in the community, their formats are not intended to provide any depth of messaging, beyond the plea: “We’re here! Call us when you need us!”
When done well, law firm content marketing showcases the firm’s (and its attorneys’) subject matter expertise and commitment to client advocacy. However, when poorly executed, content marketing may have the opposite effect, ultimately driving potential clients to competitor firms.
Creating and implementing a content marketing strategy that emphasizes high-quality content and helps your law practice or legal services organization articulate its value can be an integral part of reaching and surpassing revenue goals.
Defining Law Firm Content Marketing
As its name implies, content marketing involves sharing content, reaching readers, listeners, and viewers and connecting with them. As opposed to traditional marketing methods, the primary goal of content marketing is about that reader-firm connection more so than about selling the firm’s services.
Of course, the ultimate goals for any sort of marketing should be to drive business and increase sales. But content marketing methods are, by design, not overtly “salesy.”
Content marketing strategies can take many different forms. They often incorporate a variety of media types including blogging, curated videos, email marketing, webinars, podcasts, infographics, social media posts, case studies, educational website content, white papers, and more.
If reading that list was overwhelming, here’s the good news: To reap the benefits of effective legal marketing, it is not necessary to use all of these methods. In fact, trying to cast a net that is too wide may be unnecessary.
For example, a law firm whose only practice area is elder law may not find as much value from creating and posting content on LinkedIn as would a firm that handles business law. Knowing your firm’s target audience, and focusing on content creation and dissemination around that audience, is more likely to result in a positive return on the firm’s marketing efforts.
Content Marketing Tips for Law Firms
As you get started with content marketing for law firms, keep the following tips in mind to create effective content that is in line with the best practices for content marketing for law firms or legal service businesses:
Leverage Thought Leadership to Drive Marketing Success
Content marketing for law firms should be engaging and fresh, providing the information that the firm’s ideal client base wants to see and read. Using stories drawn from current events and tying those events to the firm’s legal service offerings can increase readership and, by extension, your firm’s client base.
You want your readers or viewers to learn something and to feel that clicking on and reading your content was a worthwhile use of their time. It is possible to convey this type of authentic, educational message through the use of written (or spoken) words alone. But, using graphs, photos, video clips, and other visual aids can help keep readers’ attention and enhance your messaging.
When brainstorming content topics and formats for your law firm’s marketing program, it is important to take a deliberate approach. Whether created for email distribution, the firm’s blog, or social networking pages, your content should resonate with both its intended viewers and with the partners and staff at your firm. Valuable content teaches your audience something about a particular subject, without providing legal advice.
Ideally, the topics you choose for your content marketing strategies will be at least tangentially related to the practice areas your firm wants to grow. Sharing information – without trying to sell anything to your readers – will send a message that your firm knows more than a thing or two about a particular subject, giving your audience comfort and confidence in reaching out to engage further about that topic.
Keep the Audience in Mind
Delivering thought leadership does not mean your blogs, social media posts, or other elements of the firm’s content marketing strategy need to be dry and boring.
In fact, the opposite is true.
A 1,000-word blog post that reads like a law school textbook, recites statutes, and quotes appellate court decisions may give readers a detailed look at a particular subject. However, unless your intended audience is comprised mainly of legal scholars, judges, and law clerks, you will likely lose their interest after a paragraph or two.
There are more effective ways to get your message across using “plain English.” Remember that your audience won’t have Black’s Law Dictionary handy, nor will they want to look up complex terms. Speak to them in a language they can understand.
Content Marketing is More than Simply Leveraging Keywords
Remember that your target audience is human. Sometimes firms make the mistake of thinking content strategy is solely about search engine optimization (SEO) and driving traffic to the company’s website. In their haste to see results, these firms churn out content that does little more than restate what they’ve previously published on their firms’ websites. Perhaps worse, some firms publish frequent blog posts or social media posts that are clunky and are not reader-friendly, in which the author simply “stuffed” keywords.
To be sure, using keywords to improve Google and other search engine rankings can drive website traffic. But readers looking for legal guidance and representation are generally more drawn to content that flows and that tells a story, than to choppy, poorly-written paragraphs. Well-executed and effective content strategies for law firms are those that provide timely, relevant information while incorporating keywords naturally.
Quality Law Firm Content Marketing Complies with the Rules
In the context of legal marketing, quality content also complies with applicable state bar rules for law firm marketing. While specific content requirements and rules vary somewhat from one state to the next, state bar requirements are based on the American Bar Association’s Model Rules as modernized and updated in 2019.
Firms are generally prohibited from stating or implying that the firm has expertise or specializes in a particular practice area when that is not actually the case. It should go without saying, but legal marketing in any state must refrain from being false or misleading.
For firms or organizations hoping to attract new clients across state lines, be aware that states also differ on their definitions of what constitutes an advertisement, and whether – and on which types of materials – firms must post disclaimers, clearly identifying the piece as an advertisement.
The bottom line for any attorney, law firm, or legal services organization embarking on a new content strategy, is that understanding applicable regulations – before getting too far into the process – is critical. Ignorance of the rules will not be a valid defense if your state’s lawyer’s professional responsibility board takes issue with published content.
Content Consistency and the Right Voice Can Drive Results
Delivering quality content that engages readers and complies with applicable regulations, and doing so again and again over a period of weeks, months, and years, takes planning and commitment. Publishing consistent, relevant, and helpful content can help your firm increase its reach, build and solidify its brand in the communities you serve, and ultimately increase revenues through repeat and referral business.
Make no mistake: Quality content marketing is not sporadic or haphazard.
It is an ongoing and repeatable strategy that uses the voice and style you want it to use – consistently. Your firm’s brand and marketing strategy should reflect the image and tone you want to create for the practice’s operations. For example, a light, witty content tone may not work well for a formal, strait-laced firm focused on wrongful death cases.
Quality Matters in Legal Marketing Efforts
Don’t mistake quantity for quality – especially with law firm marketing efforts. Firms eager to embark on their marketing journeys sometimes think getting the firm’s name out into the community is the most important aspect of their strategy. Of course, you want people to recognize your firm’s name and remember it when they need the services you provide.
However, bombarding the inboxes of your entire mailing list with repetitive, poorly-written content could have an unintended effect. Recipients may be more likely to delete messages without opening or reading them, viewing your efforts as simple marketing rather than as quality deliverables.
Quality legal marketing content is:
- Clear and straightforward. Content published under a law firm’s or legal service provider’s name and brand should be easy to read and digest, using short paragraphs and sentences.
- Factual and honest. Attorneys and other legal professionals are held to the highest ethical standards. Law firm content should reflect this, containing only factual information.
- Authoritative. Your legal content should establish you as someone who understands the subject, is familiar with legal issues related to it, and is adept at helping clients with those types of issues.
- Accurate, with reputable sources and references. In addition to being factual, legal content must be reliable. Sources used and cited should be current and verifiable. Understand copyright and fair use attribution rules when citing or linking content.
- Free of grammatical and spelling errors. Punctuation, spelling, and grammar matter – perhaps more in legal marketing than in other industries. Potential clients expect lawyers to be on top of their language game.
- Timely. Sharing recent legal news and analysis is generally more effective than sharing a court decision from three years ago.
- Value-added. Readers should come away from the content having learned something that adds value to their life.
Starting (or Enhancing) Your Firm’s Content Marketing Strategy
If your firm has been publishing the occasional blog post or sharing links from time-to-time on social media channels but has not yet realized a return on investment for the effort, your content needs may have changed. It may be time to take things up a notch, using law firm content marketing.
Following these steps can help get started with content marketing for your law firm or legal services business:
1. Identify your organization’s brand.
Your brand is more than the logo or tagline your firm uses. As discussed above, identify the voice and tone you want to convey. Your tone should reflect your firm’s messaging, personality, and practice areas.
2. Determine your target audience.
Create personas for each ideal client, identifying their demographics, background, goals, and specific challenges. When you visualize and write down these attributes for the clients you want to serve (not necessarily for the clients your firm currently serves), it will be easier to keep that ideal client in mind when developing content.
3. Research topics and identify keywords.
Your choice of topics is arguably as important as the way you deliver the information to your audience. Start by listing the firm’s practice areas. Then, take a step back to consider how a client might search for the services your firm provides. This can help you brainstorm topics and keywords, which you can then narrow down using a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner.
4. Decide on content types.
As mentioned earlier, there is not any one specific way to “do content marketing correctly.” The best strategy for your firm may be weekly blogs, supplemented with social media posts, and quarterly webinars or podcasts. Alternatively, maybe you feel that bi-weekly blog posts, monthly videos, and white papers will better demonstrate your subject matter expertise. Consider your options and adopt a strategy, understanding that you can – and should – adjust your digital marketing plan over time.
5. Measure results.
The only way to know whether your legal content marketing strategy is working is to actively measure the results you achieve. The quality of leads generated by your marketing efforts, sales, and revenue growth, and increase in website traffic are all metrics that can help you determine whether to stay the course or change direction.
6. Consider hiring a marketing agency.
Legal professionals generally know the law, at least as it pertains to their firms’ practice areas, inside and out. Many attorneys and paralegals are also effective legal writers, drafting persuasive briefs and motions on behalf of their clients. However, when it comes to marketing and developing content it may make sense to hire a marketing professional. That’s because “legal writing” and “content writing” involve different skill sets.
Find a Legal Writer
Understand that content marketing will not turn a struggling firm into an overnight success; estimates for return on investment range from six months to a year or more. Firms choosing this path must be patient while building their brands and messages, knowing they are employing time-tested strategies for success.
Law firms who do not have the resources in house to create content consistently may opt to hire freelance writers who can help with content creation. Freelance legal writers who regularly work with law firms can help create relevant and helpful content that appeals to your target audience and provides value in their search for the right lawyer.
In the end, all of the work that you put into your legal content marketing will pay off as the content should continue to bring new clients to your firm long after it is published.
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A licensed attorney and freelance writer in Saint Paul, MN, Cindy D. has ghost-written hundreds of compelling blog posts and web pages for attorneys, law firms, agencies, and legal services providers since 2015. She has earned her spot on the top 10 legal writers at WriterAccess.