Content marketing is a simple enough paradigm. You create content in order to showcase your expertise. In doing so you create trust in the value of your services, establish trust with your prospective clients, and enhance your reputation. It’s one of those things that the online community has been touting lately, but there’s nothing really new to it – the only difference is that now it’s called “content marketing” rather than “relationship building.” And as with relationships offline, if you’re not creating content online then you don’t exist. It is not enough to be listed in a directory, or have a nice brochure website. Every lawyer must engage in content marketing in order to maintain relevance in the marketplace.
There are new spheres in the discovery of content. Brand used to be it. That’s the way Media still thinks:
- That we go to the programers’ schedule.
- We buy the magazine.
- We buy the newspaper.
That’s over! Search reversed that. We ask the question; if you have an answer, you’re there. If not, you don’t exist.
When you think about your presence on the Internet you have to realize the vast majority of the time, your customers are not looking for you.
Of course, if a client is referred to your law firm then they are probably looking you up. At that point, your firm is already “at front of mind.” For many lawyers, however, chances are pretty good that the client knows nothing about you in advance of stumbling across your website or blog. There aren’t many lawyers who can afford the level of marketing to become synonymous with a practice area. Relying on word of mouth is not an option for a starting attorney and a limited approach even for a seasoned attorney. There are only so many people you can personally interact with. Just as whistle stop campaign speeches gave way to televised town hall meetings, you have to create vicarious personal interactions.
Your client goes online with a problem. Even clients without computers do this through friends and family with computers. Prospective clients may come across your website and see that you handle their type of case. However, what are you telling them?
- How do you handle it?
- What’s necessary?
- How long does it take?
- How much does it cost?
That’s just the start of what your clients want to know. The goal of every lawyer should be to provide these answers online, thereby giving prospective clients the information they need in order to make a good decision.
People don’t want to hire lawyers. They want to work with you less than they want a prostate exam, and at least that’s covered by health insurance. Clients pay for legal services out of their own pocket - and that makes them reluctant consumers. Lawyers represent not only a drain of time and money, but also a recognition that a situation has spiralled out of control and requires professional help.
Before your clients hire a lawyer, they want to know the answer to a few very simple questions.
Can I handle the problem myself?
What are the issues?
What is the steps in resolving it?
The more information you can make available, the more customers will want to hire you. This may sound counterintuitive. You may be concerned that if you explain what you do, your customers may decide to handle their cases without you.
That may happen, however are you really losing clients? Consider the number of inquiries you get from people who you know are just trying to get as much free advice as possible before you end the call. I don’t begrudge them. However, it is uncompensated time for you and your staff. Isn’t it easier to let customers who never had any intention of hiring you get their information from your website, instead of taking your time to repeat what you have said a hundred times before?
There are also a number of people I would love to help and I would love to keep talking to. However, I also need to generate income to keep my doors open and the lights on. The content I create explains legal issues, while freeing me to continue working on fee generating cases.
In both cases, I am connecting with customers! I am doing more than just putting up an online billboard saying I handle a particular area of law. My disability site has over 400 posts. That’s four hundred different ways to reach, connect, and interact with customers. Four hundred chances to answer customers’ questions and show that I am the right lawyer for them.
Creating content generates an extraordinary amount of good will:
- You are answering customers’ questions.
- You are helping customers understand what may happen in their case and what can be done about it.
- Your customers are learning how knowledgeable you are.
Most importantly: your content lets prospective clients vicariously experience what it’s like to work with your office. Are you knowledgeable? Can you explain the law? Are you nice? Are you funny? Can they work with you?
Clients are already on the web searching for answers. They don’t want a billboard. They don’t want a brochure. That’s just noise. Clients want content. They want answers. If you cannot provide that, you don’t exist.
Photo credit: coxy (Flickr)
Tomasz Stasiuk is a Colorado legal technology consultant and disability attorney. Tomasz Stasiuk writes and presents on how solo and small firm lawyers can leverage technology and new media to reduce expenses, work faster, and communicate more effectively. You can find out more about Tomasz Stasiuk at http://planet10tech.com.