Recently I had a question about a particular point of immigration law. I didn’t know whether I needed a lawyer, I just knew I needed some more information so I could decide whether I needed to engage an expert.
My first point of call was Google. I typed in “immigration law Australia” and up popped a long list of websites, most of which looked rather suspect. I scanned the first page of search results looking for some useful information about my issue, but all I seemed to find were rather stock standard profiles for people who said they were immigration agents or lawyers. None gave me any specific information that could help me decide whether I actually needed their help, or if they had any specific experience in my area of concern.
It left me feeling rather helpless and disillusioned. After narrowing down my search a little more I did eventually manage to find one person who had written an article on their law firm’s website that gave me some useful information about my predicament. After reading the article I felt as if I could do with a bit more advice on my specific issue, and as they seemed to know what they were talking about I picked up the phone and called them.
Let your fingers do the walking
My approach to engaging professional services is not unusual nowadays. We no longer have to rely on the Yellow Pages to find a service provider, but can do our own research before deciding who we need to speak to. In fact 93% of people do some or all of their research online now. Whether you’re buying a new car or need some taxation advice, Google is our first point of call. It’s actually so common that it’s been given a name, webrooming.
When it comes to legal services this process is even more important. After all, it’s not like you can test drive a lawyer for a few hours before deciding whether they’ve got what you need. Time is money. So whether your client is a consumer or in-house corporate lawyer, they will most probably have done some Internet research on their issue, and on you, before they get in touch. Research in the US has actually found that 74% of prospects beginning a search online end up contacting the office via phone
So if your law firm’s website doesn’t have the information your clients are searching for then they may simply not come across you in their research.
So what does this have to do with content marketing?
Content marketing provides a way for you to let your potential clients know that they should talk to you. Content marketing for law firms can include having a blog, information on recent cases your firm has been involved in, case notes, video clips or even a podcast of your clients or experts talking about their experiences. These are all pieces of information that give people who are searching for legal services information about what your firm is capable of.
Content marketing for law firms is a great way to build your firm’s brand and your personal position as a thought leader in your field. It’s not about telling people what your expertise is, but rather showing them how you can help and letting them decide that they need you.
Now this type of activity doesn’t necessarily replace existing business development in law firms, but it can provide you with access to a broader client base that builds your practice in a cost-effective way. While law firm business development has traditionally included schmoozing a client at the tennis or holding a breakfast briefing, these activities do have their limitations. After all, you can only invite those clients that you know or can identify to these events. Your reach is also limited because entertaining is expensive and there’s only so many hours of in-person events your fee-earners can do in a day.
In contrast content marketing can work when you’re busy servicing your clients or are even asleep.
But won’t I be giving away my expertise?
While this is something many professional services fear when embarking on a content marketing strategy, it’s unfounded. Think of it this way, just because you research whether that weird mark on your arm could be a melanoma doesn’t mean you want to cut it off yourself. It just means that you want to understand more about what you’re potentially up against before speaking to your doctor. It’s no different with legal services.
People are so used to being able to educate themselves about something before they seek advice, that they want to be prepared before they have a meeting. Content marketing for law firms may actually save time in the long-run, because you won’t need to spend as much time in exploratory meetings trying to work out if you can help your client.
A blog post or podcast can never be a substitute for quality legal advice. After all, you’re an expert in your field and you know how complex the law is. Your content is just helping your clients understand where you may be able to help them in a way they couldn’t before.
So is content marketing really about SEO?
Well, the short answer is yes and no. Putting high quality content that is useful to your clients can help your SEO (which stands for Search Engine Optimisation). SEO is about making your website more friendly to Google and other search engines. The more relevant information you have about your services the more likely your law firm’s website will rank higher in searches. This depends on a range of factors including the keywords in your content, your activity in social media and even whether your website is optimised for mobile devices.
Search engines are becoming smarter every day and they want content on your website to be relevant and useful to your target audience. This means if your website has content that is helpful to your clients it’s likely to show up higher when people are searching for your services.
But when it comes down it content marketing is really about helping people who need you find you.
Content marketing will build your practice
Going back to the original question, does your law firm need content marketing? Well that depends on whether you want to build your practice and find new clients that are a good fit for your firm or if you’re happy with the status quo. Because if you’re not providing your clients with information that will help them when they’re researching an issue there’s a good chance another firm is. Who do you think they’ll call?