|Guy Alvarez, Chief Engagement Officer, Good2bSocial||Mary M. Trice, Digital & Marketing Communications Manager, Winston & Strawn LLP|
|Jennifer Buechele Schaller, Managing Director, National Law Review|
You hear about it all the time and know it’s important for your firm, yet you might feel as if you need a master’s degree to understand search engine optimization (SEO). The SEO workshop at LMA Tech West 2018 offered actionable tips and insights to help bridge the gap between theory and application.
Below, we begin with an overview of the four components of SEO. In section two, we discuss how search engines rank content based on relevance and domain authority with insights on technical, on-page and off-page SEO to make your site perform better. In the third section we discuss how to create SEO-friendly content with insights on ideation and copywriting, as well as tips for creating multimedia and writing article titles that attract attention and clicks.
There are four components of an effective SEO strategy.
Technical SEO allows Google and other search engines to properly crawl and index your site, making you generally easier to find.
On-page SEO includes keywords, page titles, meta tags and meta descriptions, some of which are also aspects of technical SEO. It influences the relevance search engine bots accessing and crawling your site’s content, but more importantly, it should make it easy for human clients to find you based on their own semantics.
For example, clients aren’t going to search for “premises liability,” they’re going to search for “slip and fall,” or something to that effect.
This has a lot to do with domain authority, which is strongly influenced by the number and quality of links you have linking to your site. Domain authority is a rating determining how well a site will rank on a search engine results page. Not all links are created equal, though. Having a link from a high domain authority website is going to get you a lot more juice than getting a link from a mom and pop blog.
Even if you don’t have a geographic focus, you need strong local SEO, including a physical address. Google looks to over 100 online directories to make sure your physical location appears in them. “Local SEO is emerging as a very important factor in how your site ranks,” noted one speaker.
II. Semantic Search: The Future of SEO Relevance
“Google evaluates content according to its relevance—and not by inclusion of individual keywords.” – Searchmetrics
Google does its best to keep people from gaming the system, and it has become far more difficult for people with poor quality or irrelevant content to rank using search engine “hacks.” SEO has more to do with being genuinely helpful and user-friendly than being technically clever.
The cornerstones of semantic search include keyword placement within content, mobile-friendly, well-designed sites and high-quality, relevant backlinks.
Be aware of the ratio of text to the number of links that you have on your page, and be sure your outbound links are appropriate and relevant. Internal links are important as well. Pages on your site that have high domain authority should be linked back to other pages on your site. Internal linking also helps keep people on site for longer periods, which signals to search engine bots that it’s a quality site.
Google has a freshness factor, so newer content outweighs older content, all things being equal. Understanding this can help you manage negative content.
Make sure to implement a redirect if you ever delete a page (such as an attorney bio for someone who’s no longer with your firm) that has any domain authority. Google doesn’t like 404s. Do analysis before you do your redesign and you’ll save yourself frustration. Know the domain authority of each page and don’t kill a page with an authority of 40-plus without implementing a redirect. This is also a time you may wish to disavow or get rid of links that are performing poorly and dragging down your site’s ranking.
Do site audits with tools like SEMrush to identify broken links and 404 errors.
Keyword research is a discipline in itself, but here are some basics:
Google Webmaster Tools is now called Google Search Console. It will show you what keywords your site is actually showing up for. Ask yourself (a) what keywords you want to show up for, and (b) which keywords you’re showing up for that aren’t relevant to your services.
III. Creating SEO-friendly Content
No digital strategy will work without a strong investment in content. Even if you use Google AdWords or paid social marketing, you need SEO-friendly content.
What kind of questions are your attorneys getting from clients? Ask them. Every one of those questions is a potential blog post. Write and crosslink helpful blog entries on these topics.
“Figuring out how to write SEO friendly content is more of an art than a science.”
7 tips for crafting attractive article titles:
7 tips for multimedia:
Go long. Short form articles are more likely to be tagged as “thin” content. Top-ranking posts exceed 1,000 words because they have greater depth of knowledge, and therefore, greater helpfulness. Long-form content typically means greater time on site, which similarly improves rankings.
Finally, attorney bios are huge drivers of traffic, accounting for around 80% of legal website traffic. They should be clear, relatable and in excess of 300 words.
|Jennifer Chaloemtiarana, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, Castlight||Pratik Patel, VP, Legal Business Solutions, Elevate Services|
|Mick Cox, Executive Director, Legal Operations, Office of the General Counsel, University of California Office of the President|
“Navigating” is the perfect term for discussing legal technology because it implies both a degree of uncertainty and a method for managing it. We’ll get right to the point:
Technology isn’t a “necessary evil”
Technology is available to help lawyers more effectively provide client services. It is therefore incumbent upon firms to have people that can support the technology. Integrating new technologies doesn’t mean everybody at your firm has to be tech savvy; it requires strong leadership and judgment to bring the right technologies on board and get people to adapt and thrive.
Pratik emphasized that there are two layers of support you need to provide lawyers:
There’s technology that organizes information within documents, eliminating time-consuming contractual work. Tools like billing software and contract management support are also increasingly needed to support legal functions.
The panelists advised that you seek out a suite of tools that come with support services and integrate well with one another. The best tools cover a number of different functions, including managing and interpreting data and analytics.
Technology can help firms move from making decisions based on tribal knowledge to more data-driven, methodical and informed choices, Mick pointed out. It can digest information far more quickly than people. If algorithms and data can help a lawyer or legal team prepare a more effective brief, they should be leveraged.
One point that’s key to legal marketing is that a lot of the challenges lawyers and firms face relate to the business of law rather than the practice of law.
On that note, Pratik pointed out that “there’s not a mindset of installing process-oriented people around the lawyers.” He argued that there should be.
A bit of process training around how to do consulting work can make lawyers more powerful. Support services for lawyers should empower them with guidance rather than being prescriptive. A good onboarding process begins with saying, “We’re not going to lay out the process for you; we’re just going to guide you through the decision-making.”
One size fits one
This is a theme that came up in one form or another in at least half the sessions at LMA Tech West: Know thy firm. There’s not one solution that works for every firm.
Client Service Relationship Managers who aren’t practicing law are becoming more common in the legal industry, providing business representation to help firms manage their business operations. This is often the person designated to manage marketing technology as well.
Broadly speaking, companies providing legal marketing and business intelligence services need to know a lot about a legal business to capture a prospect’s attention.
Data, relationships and customer service
An aspirational goal for law firms and firms providing ancillary services should always be to use data-driven marketing strategies that solve real problems and guide decisions in real time. Mick pointed out the importance of technical support teams having a sincere sense of empathy for clients and the challenges they face.
If you provide support to law firms, you should be invested in how effectively firms paying for your services are using them. These support services providers help firms to understand usage patterns, strengths and weaknesses so they can use your services more optimally. If your firm uses data-driven marketing services, you should likewise have a handle on how they’re being used and to what effect.
These services matter because data-driven decisions help law firm management marketing executives determine where they’re going to invest their time and money.
Jennifer emphasized the need for quarterly retrospectives examining how effectively technology has been used to guide decisions and how it should be used going forward to meet business objectives.
Pratik spoke of an untapped potential in the legal industry, which is the ability for this audience collectively to influence what happens in law schools. He would like to see law schools train aspiring lawyers to be more well-rounded, to understand client needs and cultivate business partnerships. Customer service matters a lot more in the legal industry than it did 10 years ago.
Strategic conversations and relationships characterized by mutual trust are central to the effective deployment of legal marketing technology. Neither party should have a fixed mindset, or the business objectives of both parties will suffer.
|Adrian Dayton, Founder, ClearView Social||Stefanie Marrone, Director of Business Development and Marketing, Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP|
The tweet that changed my life
In 2009, Adrian Dayton responded to an inquiry on Twitter for a contract lawyer and landed a client. The opportunity to leverage social media to bring in business was not lost on him. In the subsequent months, he wrote the first book on social media for lawyers. Social media “masters” aren’t just experts at getting noticed, they deliver on business objectives, drive 10 times the traffic of their peers and bring in high-value clients.
Below are some of the insights Adrian and Stefanie brought to the table, including strategy, self-management, content sharing tools and “The Social Media Secret Sauce.”
The principle of karma is alive and well on Twitter
If you provide information that helps people get their jobs done better or solves a problem, this will circle back to you. You show people you’re an expert by providing useful content or responses, not by touting your own achievements.
Social Media Triangle: Empathy, Audience, Content
The number one challenge lawyers face with regard to social media is a lack of focus, which lies at the intersection of the following:
Content: “When it comes to content, you can be a collector or you can be a creator,” notes Adrian. Collectors disseminate useful information for the benefit of a target audience.
Consider the Venn diagram below (courtesy of Adrian). Adrian points out that your content strategy can be two of these, but never all three. Think of “clickbait.” It’s cheap, fast and low-quality. Being a collector is good, it’s cheap, but it’s time-consuming.
Collectors have to share every day. Weekly posts are not sufficient. How can you be that prolific? For example, ClearView Social’s platform streamlines social sharing across multiple social media channels, provides content suggestions, allows posts to be scheduled in advance and measures engagement.
Hierarchy of content, with proposed frequencies:
How do you maintain a rigorous schedule for creating and sharing content?
The key method suggested to stay on top of publishing regular content was an editorial calendar, and by spending hours writing every week.
According to Google, the ideal length for a blog post in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) is 2,200 words. In Google’s mind, a 2,200-word article is the most likely to answer people’s questions. Long-form content also results in more time on-page, an important search engine ranking criterion.
If you follow people and your bio is similar to theirs, they’re reasonably likely to follow you.
Cycling refers to the tactic where you follow people and, if they don’t follow you back, you unfollow them. If they notice, it’s a good way to get people into your network. Again with the caveat that you have to be engaging and helpful, you can use tags and “mentions” to piggyback off other people’s audiences, including amplifiers, thought leaders and influencers.
A few tools to help with things like content generation and finding an audience for your content are JDSupra, Lexology and Mondaq. These platforms require an investment but can be used effectively to add value to your marketing.
Social media masters are generous with their knowledge.
Social media masters create content that resonates specifically with one customer or type of customer. As IBM said, “Stop selling what you have. Start selling what they need.”
For all firms, the goal of social media marketing is lead generation and business development. It bears repeating that the way to leverage social media for business development is by providing helpful information, not by explicit self-promotion.
And finally, listen. Monitor your posts’ performance. When you strike a chord, keep at it, expanding on the same or similar topics.
Did you know?
Stephanie opened with a few key social media stats:
It’s not about the number of followers you have – it’s about who follows you.
She went on to address a couple social media best practices. First, know your audience and which platforms it’s most engaged with. (Hint: In the legal industry, it probably isn’t Snapchat.)
Second, content should be totally centered on your clients at all times. Don’t focus on growing your audience; focus on providing value to those that matter.
To accomplish the above, the following social media tools can be helpful:
And here it is…
“The Social Media Secret Sauce”
The discussion closed with two final insights:
Share content at the right time.
In terms of engagement, clicks and shares, the time of day you post to social media matters as much as the quality of your content. For instance, LinkedIn posts get far fewer clicks between 10:45 AM and 4:30 PM than at other times like first thing in the morning and the close of the business day. Having a basic grasp of this will help you generate far greater interest with almost no additional effort.
Use earned and owned media to generate visibility.
Earned media is basically exposure you’ve earned through word of mouth. Owned media is content you’re in direct control of through your site, blog, social media profiles and other platforms. They’re complementary, so think tactically about them. Make yourself part of the story. For instance, make yourself more than an attendee at a conference. Maximize the time your lawyers are figuratively away from their desks.
Social media is an incredibly useful business development tool in the legal industry, so use it!
The 2018 LMA Tech West Conference examined the latest trends and issues affecting the legal marketing technology landscape in all stages of the legal sales cycle. Within this were 10 strategies marketing and business development professionals could implement in their law firms to stay at the forefront of a rapidly changing industry.
Moderator: Jon Metcalf, Director of Marketing Technology, Fenwick & West LLP
|Elonide Semmes, President, Right Hat LLC||Helen Bertelli, Vice President, Infinite Global|
Deb Dobson, Marketing Technology Manager, Fisher Phillips LLP
Anand Ravindra Upadhye, VP of Business Development, Casetext, Inc.
Marvin Minsky and colleagues started research on artificial intelligence (AI) at Dartmouth College in 1956. Why has it just now become such a talking point? Panel moderator Jon Metcalf proposed a threefold explanation:
Each speaker had a unique focus, summarized below:
Elonide Semmes: How to Use Artificial Intelligence to Improve Business Development
The legal profession is always looking for precedent. We can’t afford to do this with AI.
Consider this: We use AI every day with Facebook, Google, Spotify, Netflix, Waze, Shazaam and other popular apps without thinking about it. If you’re unclear about what exactly AI is, here’s Elonide’s explanation:
“Generally, AI is computers performing analytics tasks previously believed to be the sole province of the human brain.”
Alternative Legal Service Providers
Computers can do a lot of things in the practice of law more efficiently than people can, and firms should be using it to their advantage. Consider this:
Why Use AI in Marketing?
Ironically, AI can make marketing and business development not only more efficient, but more personal. For instance, AI can help marketing change the conversation by:
Key Takeaway: AI is not to be ignored by law firms wishing to remain competitive and profitable.
An interesting aside: Elonide pointed out that those who predicted President Trump’s victory were those looking at social semantics. That means they focus less on polls and more on how language conveys the strength of people’s convictions and emotions. AI has the emotional intelligence and detachment to identify those things better than people.
Ben Greenzweig: Blockchain 101: Why Legal Marketers Should Pay Attention to this Disruptive Technology
“Blockchain is to transactions what the internet is to information.”
Blockchain emerged with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum as a sort of continuously-growing chain ledger that links and secures transactions using cryptography. Reflect on the above statement: It is really that revolutionary, and its utility goes well beyond cryptocurrencies. Among other things, this is because a blockchain is resistant to tampering or modification.
Much like cryptocurrencies, regulators and security hawks are looking at this new transaction technology with eyebrows raised.
The regulatory wave is coming
Cryptocurrency is “a stock that just happens to be digital,” stated Ben, and regulators are becoming involved accordingly. There will be a national security event in which crypto/blockchain is implicated, and if regulators haven’t already assumed a large role by then, they will. So why do those of us who aren’t policy wonks need to understand it?
Blockchain will become a mandate with conventional, national currencies because of traceability. Does this mean anonymity will fall by the wayside altogether, that a warrant will be required to unearth transactions and parties arousing suspicion, or will it simply make counterfeiting impossible and flag large, unreported transactions? We’ll see.
At any rate, it will impact every industry, including healthcare, education, transportation and law. Many countries have already gone to blockchain technology for information management. Further, blockchain will inevitably play a key role in legal billing technology. For instance, each billing increment will be directly traceable to an action, such as drafting an email or filing a discovery request.
Key Takeaway: There are a large number of blockchain uses. Become an early adopter and get involved.
Helen Bertelli: Immersive Storytelling with Virtual and Augmented Reality
Helen opened with a couple attention-grabbing facts:
“VR is going to play a role in keeping users engaged in your content,” Helen stated. In fact, PwC, KPMG and all the big professional services firms now have heads of VR.
VR generates more empathy than any other medium. Similarly, it can maintain users’ attention longer, ultimately building relationships and generating revenue more effectively than written or video content.
“What fascinates me about VR is that you can make people feel something so powerfully.”
Key Takeaway: Marketers need to take VR seriously. VR will be to video what video was to text – an indispensable next step in SEO strategy.
Infinite Global launched its VR “walkable website” at the March 2017 LMA Conference. In short order, website traffic doubled, LinkedIn impressions tripled and the firm saw a 354 percent increase in résumés compared to previous hiring rounds.
Anand Ravindra Upadhye: Why legal marketers should care about legal research
“Lawyers face a nearly impossible task when doing research, and a task that human beings are ill-equipped to do,” stated Anand.
AI has arrived at legal research, and litigators are embracing it because it improves how their work revolves along the three critical dimensions of efficiency, accuracy and innovation.
In three seconds, AI can pull cases that are relevant to, but not cited in, your case. It can comb the entire corpus of common law – a task that is humanly impossible.
Clients are pushing back hard against being billed for legal research. They’re no longer willing to pay Lexis Nexis and other database fees. They scrutinize these items and often flat out refuse to pay. Consequently, there is now a two-tiered billing system with research being billed at 60 percent or less than the rate of other legal services.
Key Takeaway: Innovation that streamlines research and other legal tasks is a win-win. It allows lawyers to do what they’re good at rather than attempting to comb through and synthesize mountains of data.
|Ryan King, Director of Communications, Ogletree Deakins |
|Erika Ritzer, Senior Partner, Finn Partners |
|Nicole Abboud, Founder, Abboud Media and host of The Gen Why Podcast||Rob Kates, Executive Producer, Kates Media|
How do you make legal marketing content POP? How do you not only generate good content, but get it in front of the right audience at the right time? Just as the best ideas are worthless without execution, the best content is worthless, commercially speaking, without promotion. This panel discussion at the 2018 Legal Marketing Association’s Tech West conference focused on the why and how of having a strong content strategy. Panelists made two key points up front:
What Is Content Strategy?
Content strategy is more holistic than content marketing. The starting point is asking, “What is keeping my client up at night?” Answer that question and you’re ready to get to work on an effective content strategy – determining topics to address and the best vehicles to promote them.
Content Marketing Framework
The Content Marketing Framework has five sequential pillars:
Some degree of rigor is required for each pillar, but there is often a lack of tactical focus or execution when it comes to packaging and distributing content. For any piece of content, making effective use of multiple platforms will improve engagement and generate far more leads then single-channel distribution.
Understanding each piece of content as part of a pipeline helps tie content creation and promotion into a broader strategy to improve your bottom line. Go through the sequence, review what worked and repeat.
Do they matter? Nicole shared the following data with us:
Nicole pointed out why podcasts have been so widely adopted and why law firms should consider creating more of them:
There’s a tremendous convenience premium with podcasts vs. other media. Hundreds of podcasts can easily be browsed, and dozens stored, on a mobile device. Additionally, they can be consumed while driving or on the go.
Consider the adage that clients hire lawyers rather than law firms. What better way to give a client a sense of what your lawyers are like to work with than demonstrating their temperament and expertise in video content?
Videos offer a huge advantage regarding SERP (search engine results page) placement as well as other SEO and social engagement metrics. Video is also a great accompaniment to text to boost engagement. Consider that one-third of online activity is spent viewing video and that users spend, on average, 88 percent more time on websites with video. Simply put, videos have quickly become essential to marketing.
Video is often seen as a bridge to other content, yet this is a misconception for a platform that builds relationships and strengthens credibility on its own. It should be used as primary and supporting content.
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of employee advocacy. Get employees and influencers to share and promote content. It’s a virtually free way to get that content to snowball and provides cultural benefits, such as engagement at the firm level.
Program Chair, MarTech
The legal marketing landscape is changing faster than anyone could have anticipated ten years ago, raising some uncomfortable questions: Is artificial intelligence (AI) a friend or foe? Will our firm’s services remain relevant? Which marketing technologies can help our firm thrive, and which do we need to use just to survive?
At the recent LMA Tech West conference, keynote speaker Scott Brinker of HubSpot examined how marketing, technology and management have converged in the last five years. Here are his key insights on how law firms can apply marketing technology for their own benefit and that of their clients.
The Big Picture: Convergence of Disciplines.
Marketing. Technology. Management. “It wasn’t that long ago that we thought of these as being completely different departments,” noted Scott. Yet these three disciplines have converged to a surprising degree in the last several years. Digital technologies such as customer relationship management (CRM) platforms have become central to marketing and management.
There has been a huge proliferation of marketing technology platforms for marketing automation, email marketing, client surveying, CRM, business intelligence, social media marketing, booking software, webinar creation and other needs. The marketing technology landscape now includes over 5,000 technology platforms. Compare that to around 1,000 in 2014 and approximately 150 in 2011. Notably, there are more than 150 email marketing platforms alone. The pace of change is dizzying.
The average number of cloud services that large, vertical, global enterprises are using is striking. We’re seeing the same kind of exponential growth in storage and speed as Moore’s Law 9 (see footnote) suggests for computing power. Similarly, “MarTech’s Law,” named for the marketing technology conference Scott chairs, is this:
Moore’s law refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention.
Technology changes quickly; organizations change slowly.
Narrowing the gap between technological change and organizational change is a competitive prerogative.
The three-legged stool of People, Process and Technology:
“Do you have someone explicitly in charge of marketing technology?” Scott noted that top performing firms are seven times more likely to emphasize their investment in people than in data and technology. Why?
Historically, when marketing involved a very small number of expensive campaigns, there were few opportunities to experiment and innovate; however today, digital channels and multiple touch points offer greater opportunity and leverage to those able to utilize talented employees and partners.
Marketing Technologist has become a profession in itself. A marketing technologist may assume some of the following responsibilities:
Subordinate/secondary responsibilities may include:
Process and Technology
Remember MarTech’s Law: You need to be more agile than your competitors. But how?
Adopt agile management principles. Normal project management can’t keep up with change; by the time you roll something out it may be obsolete. Agile is more iterative, focusing on tight feedback loops and continuous improvement as opposed to traditional project management. Agile involves short-term initiatives or development cycles called “sprints,” which typically take four weeks. Given the pace of advancement in marketing technology, that matters.
“You can’t wait a year or two to get these capabilities deployed and leveraged,” Scott warns.
For example, Cisco is using 37 different marketing technologies. You would naturally assume there is redundancy among them, but MarTech found that in fact each of them served a specific, unique purpose. Each does something better than any other product.
The key is to integrate and orchestrate them, which can be challenging. Reassuringly, these software providers are getting better at allowing out-of-the-box integrations with other platforms.
Scott recommends that firms invest the majority of their resources on proven, scalable systems that are working. Invest strongly but not disproportionately in innovation.
Final takeaway: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
AI algorithms are a commodity that can typically be downloaded for free. What makes AI a competitive advantage isn’t the algorithms; it’s data. So collect data, have a grasp of which data matters and use it shrewdly.
Finally, take a deep breath. The site willrobotstakemyjob.com states that the job Marketing Manager is “Totally safe.”
|Susan Kostal |
Principal, Stet Consulting
|Adrian Lürssen |
Vice President, Co-founder, JD Supra
|John Page |
Director of Communications, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP
“Oh great, extra work that I can’t bill for.” As discussed at the recent 2018 Legal Marketing Association Tech West conference, lawyers are often reluctant to become involved in their firms’ marketing efforts. This is particularly true of content creation because it’s just one more task in their never-ending workload. This creates managerial and leadership challenges for legal marketers, including how to incentivize lawyers to write beyond a legal brief.
Fortunately, lawyers need not restrict themselves to writing. Creating videos, webinars and podcasts are all ways that they can contribute to a firm’s content strategy. John stated that at the international law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP, they create various types of content and use sharing analytics to get attorneys more engaged in content creation. Metrics, such as new clients and leads, as well as analytics and anecdotal examples, validate the lawyers’ marketing efforts.
“Content strategy is the high-level vision that guides content development to deliver against a specific business objective.”
Using content to deliver specific business objectives requires knowledge of clients, competition and the firm itself. For instance, RFP managers should be focusing on who’s reading the content their firm produces, and who among them awarded or declined to award contracts to the firm.
“Small data is more important than big data.”
According to the panel, the pieces that only get 35 or 40 reads may be the most valuable if they get read by the right people. This relates to vanity metrics vs. engagement metrics; it feels good to have a post that gets read by hundreds of people, yet what ultimately matters is whether that translates into new business.
There are several types of data:
Panelists noted that every data type has its strengths, but motivational and integrated data are the most effective ways to use data to get lawyers engaged in your content strategy. Combining information from various data points into general feedback (integrated data) and highlighting the positive data points (motivational data), can be key factors to keeping your attorneys on board with content strategy for the long term.
“Perspective and context is everything, so you shouldn’t be talking about data unless you understand the role of strategy in your firm.”
Susan noted that managing the content attorneys contribute is also about being able to say “No, but…” or knowing how to say no without saying “No.” Content may not target the kind of client your firm is best-suited to work with; it may be too jargon-laden or it may be off the mark in other ways. Navigating issues like this and building consensus in your firm are central to content management.
The point here is that attorneys should be looking at analytics just like the marketing and business development people do, although perhaps in less detail.
“Some data is like a Tinder date – looks good in candlelight after a drink, but probably deserves closer consideration.”
As you use data to monitor which prospects are viewing your firm’s content, and which subjects they’re most interested in, you should expand upon those topics and give clients an unimposing “heads up.” For example, you may offer a free webinar on some aspect of patent law based on that prospect’s viewing history, and give them advance notice. You don’t have to tell people you know they’re reading your work in order to act on that information.
John reaffirmed Adrian’s insight: “Be as creative as you want and have fun with it.” In his assessment, not being afraid to fail was a big ingredient in the success of Kilpatrick Townsend’s content strategy. Don’t fail to create content because there’s already “too much noise.” People say there are way too many lawyers, but there could always be one more good lawyer, and similarly, there will always be room for good content.
The panel closed with a few final tips regarding content strategy:
While that level of “flair” shouldn’t be used all the time, people like sexy, fun headlines, with some caveats. Headlines that intrigue people without being misleading are essential to rise above the noise.
What did you take away from this content strategy discussion? What would you add? We’d love to hear from you. Contact Berbay Marketing & PR
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), a term linked to teenage fear that by missing a social event they will miss out on something great, can be just as unhealthy for the financial health of law firms as for a 13-year-old. In the legal industry, many firms still fear specialization because, on the surface, specializing narrows the pool of potential clients. Yet by failing to specialize, you wind up in a large but hyper-competitive pool with narrow margins and a lot of sharks. If you’re in the FOMO boat, you’re likely to find yourself in such choppy waters.
Fortunately, there’s a cure for law firm FOMO: FMM, or Focus Means Money.
A recent panel discussion at the Marketing Partner Forum provided rich insights on the rationale for FMM and, equally important, how to implement it. The panel featured in-house counsel, partners at several niche law firms and several consulting firms, who shared their stories and spoke to the benefits of specialization.
Panel discussion: “The Market Settling: Assessing Strategic and Profitability Measures in Practice, Specialization and Segmentation”
Jan Anne Dubin, Principal, Jan Anne Dubin Consulting
|Nathan A. Darling, Chief Business Development and Market Officer, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.||Dan Harper, General Counsel, GEA Farm Technologies, Inc.|
|Mark Klender, Principal, Strategy and Operations and Service Delivery Transformation, Deloitte Consulting||Tim Mohan, Chief Executive Partner, Chapman and Cutler, LLP|
|Jaimala K. Pai, Principal Legal Counsel in New Business Models Health Law, Medtronic|
The untold benefits of specialization
The panel briefly touched on the usual benefits we hear about related to specialization. First, you/your firm become the go-to resource in a particular industry or practice area. As you become known in one area and jettison distractions, you increase the potential for profitability. Additionally, specialization can make it easier to scale because at each level you are building on an existing foundation instead of starting from scratch
Focus and you will be found
The message from Dan and Jaimala was clear. They know the specific expertise they are looking for, and know when it’s not there. Dan looks for expertise within farm manufacturing equipment and familiarity from a farmer’s perspective, whether driving a tractor or working within a regulatory body. Just having manufacturing expertise does not cut it.
Jaimala’s experience in the medical technology/healthcare industry has been similar. Far deeper than just healthcare, she is looking for expertise with medical technology (medtech) — not pharmaceuticals and general healthcare.
In order to find those with this specific expertise, she talks with colleagues and searches online. Her primary method of sorting the wheat from the chaff is looking at online biographies to see if they mention the specialized skills and experience she is looking for. She skips “laundry list” bios and counsels lawyers to overcome their fear of missing out, and hone in on what they do and who they do it for.
Bottom line: If you think you are casting a wider net by putting in everything you’ve ever done, you may really be tearing a hole in that net and driving prospective clients away.
How to specialize: leadership
Mark outlined the challenge for law firms in becoming more focused. Many law firms lack the centralized “command and control” centers that well-run professional services firms have, such as the Big Four accounting firms. For the most part, law firms tend to be politicized and factionalized, a deterrent to everyone rowing in the same direction.
Law firms also generally lack the well-developed business development and financial tracking systems needed to provide guidance on where to focus, i.e., high-margin clients.
Retention and rejection
Specialization means that when recruiting laterals, you know what you are buying. When you’re interviewing and recruiting laterals focused in the same area as the firm, you can read between the lines. In a smaller playing field, everyone knows everyone else, making targeted recruiting easier. It also increases the possibility that you can pull back the curtain and get more first-hand information. You know what questions to ask and how to evaluate responses because you work in the same narrow area. For similar reasons, focus increases retention. You understand each other’s needs and clients’ needs.
There are casualties, however, when transitioning from a full-service to a focused firm. Some lawyers may leave because the firm reduces their support of extraneous areas, and others because their expertise doesn’t fit in well.
Now hear this! Nathan, of the environmental law firm Beveridge & Diamond, reminded the audience that specializations have their own sub-specialties, which potential rainmakers can capitalize on. For instance, environmental law sub-specialties include air and water quality issues, oil and gas exploration, mineral and water rights, environmental remediation, compliance issues and numerous other niches. He advised finding the unmet need and filling it.
Where to specialize
Mark talked about Deloitte’s disciplined practice of determining where to specialize and the four determinants they look for, addressed by answering the following questions:
Tim went on to discuss how, in a sense, Chapman and Cutler’s transition from full-service to a specialization in financial services came from failure. They were doing a lot of work in financial services and tried to diversify the range of industries they worked in. After multiple unsuccessful attempts, however, the firm decided to go deeper into areas within financial services as opposed to diversifying. This decision was born of the recognition that it provided the greatest value and earned the highest margins in an area where it already had specialized knowledge.
FMM can pay off
It seems paradoxical if you’re trying to grow your firm, or if your margins are suffering, to decline RFPs and otherwise ignore prospective clients. Yet this business strategy is paying off big for law firms willing to implement and put resources forth to support it, just as it has in other industries.