How to write well for marketing purposes

Last week, I had two strategic planning sessions with private clients. As usual, writing (articles, blog posts or comments, newsletters, client alerts, etc.) featured prominently in both of the business development plans we created. And also as usual, my clients each asked why they should bother writing, when so many other lawyers are already writing on the same topic. It’s a smart question that each lawyer must answer before pinning marketing hopes on writing.

Here’s what it boils down to: to be effective, you must cut through the tremendous amount of noise that your target audience confronts daily. Blog posts, articles, and client alerts too often regurgitate the no-longer news about a legal development without extending any analysis that makes the information relevant to the reader. Given the availability of “as it happens” information about legal developments, simply being a reporter won’t cut through the noise, and it won’t get useful marketing attention. 

So what does make written product effective for marketing?

Star Onboarding Title Page

This infographic summarizes these steps, along with several others that will make your written marketing product useful for readers and therefore effective for marketing.

Is writing an effective tactic in your business development plan? If you’ve recently written something for marketing purposes, review it now to ensure it complies with these guidelines. And if you haven’t written for marketing purposes, brainstorm at least 10 subjects you could write about a set a deadline for yourself.

New study: Should you blog?

I ran across two interesting articles last week summarizing a recent survey on in-house counsel’s content consumption habits and preferences. (Download a summary of the survey results here.) The survey suggests that content marketing for lawyers may not be all it’s cracked up to be… But is that true?

“The survey clearly shows that in-house counsel know the value – or the potential value – of relevant content generated by law firms,” said John Corey, founding partner of Greentarget. “But the sheer volume of content out there combined with the dearth of documented strategies, and even the absence of any kind of strategies, has caused a problem for many firms – and an opportunity for those who can get it right.”

Survey findings include:

  • Client alerts and newsletters are more valuable to survey respondents than blogs
  • Professional use of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is on the rise (though LinkedIn is still the preferred social media platform for professional use)
  • 71% of in-house counsel have used Wikipedia to conduct company and industry research
Blogging seems to take a particular hit in the study findings, with 30% of in-house counsel stating that they don’t visit blogs at all and a decreasing number who report being influenced by a blog in making a hiring decision. However, that means that 70% of in-house counsel do read blogs. It also overlooks the increased visibility that can result from valuable content generation, because a blog can often be a springboard to being quoted in traditional media, which 98% of respondents consider to be very or somewhat credible.

What’s the takeaway message for you?
  1. Have a strategy for producing and using content for marketing purposes. Value quality over quantity.  65% of in-house counsel rate blogs as “somewhat or very credible,” but 75% find law-firm blogs valuable. Don’t waste your time trying to crank out voluminous content; instead, invest the time to provide thoughtful exposition and commentary on topics that matter to your clients and potential clients. Be clear on your content marketing objectives.

  2. Be clear on your content marketing objectives. Are you producing content to establish your credibility in your area of practice? Are you writing in an effort to attract attention from potential clients? Are you writing (or paying someone to write for you) in an effort to attract web traffic through optimized search terms? Each of these objectives (along with others) is viable, but effective implementation calls for different strategies.

  3. Build distribution strategies into your content marketing approach. If you’re spending the time to produce high-quality content, you should also spend the time to distribute it via social media, perhaps to submit it to Wikipedia where appropriate, and to highlight it on your bio sketch and/or firm website.
  4. View content marketing as a door opener, not a business closer. If you’re expecting a blog or newsletter to generate business in and of itself, you’re likely to be disappointed. Instead, use it to build a reputation, to buttress your credibility in practice, and to open or continue conversation with contacts that can lead to business.

  5. Value quality over quantity. It bears repeating, because this point is really the bottom line of content marketing. Throwing something together because you know content is supposed to be valuable is a dead-end effort. Producing content that starts or adds to conversation on issues that matter to the kinds of clients you seek to serve can create significant opportunity.
What’s your content marketing strategy, and how might the survey results influence it?