Blog Post

2011: The year that content marketing becomes king


I recently stumbled over an old New York Times article that declared 2005 to be the year that law firms embraced “branding.” The article got me thinking. When it comes to legal marketing, what can we expect 2011 to be known for?

Social media? Perhaps.

However, in my opinion, social media is only a small part of the story. After some serious reflection, I’ve concluded that 2011 will likely go down in legal marketing history as the year that content marketing became king.

Why content? Why now?
Several trends in the legal marketplace – and society as a whole – are converging to make content marketing (i.e., “thought leadership” articles, newsletter, blog posts, etc.) more valuable than ever. These trends include:

  • An Increased Skepticism of Marketing – Over the past 25 years, our society has become increasingly numb to marketing messages. As a result, it’s no longer enough to simply claim that you’re the best – you have to prove it. Content marketing gives attorneys the platform to do so.
  • A Trend Towards Specialization – Routine matters are increasingly being handled by in-house legal departments. This means that the work given to outside counsel tends to concern highly specialized, bet-the-company matters. Content marketing is simply the best way for attorneys to demonstrate that they have the specialized expertise that clients are looking for.
  • An Increased Reliance on Websites – A 2009 survey (conducted by the Wicker Park Group) showed that nearly all general counsel visited attorney bios on a firm’s website when considering hiring them. What are they seeing? In most cases, not much. Attorneys are now recognizing that this is a problem – and remedying it by beefing up their bios with articles, case studies, blog posts, etc.
  • The Emergence of Social Media – As attorneys embrace social media marketing, they are coming to the realization that it’s not sufficient to simply “be social.” Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that an effective social media marketing campaign requires you to be a “thought leader” in your niche. And that means generating insightful, cutting-edge content.
  • A Realization that Content Marketing Works – A recent survey by The Brand Research Company found that 53% of executives surveyed have put a firm on their short list based on the information found on the firm’s site. Data like this indicate that attorneys offering the highest quality content are best positioned to reap the benefits.

Where is this leading us?
We’re heading towards a major shift in the way that law firms think about their websites. The idea that a law firm website is an “online brochure” will fade. Instead, the next generation website will be thought of as a publishing platform for thought leadership content.

More about this in my next post.


19 comments... read them below or add one.
  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Great Jakes and Samantha Collier, Great Jakes. Great Jakes said: New Blog Post: 2011: The Year That Content Marketing Becomes King #legalmarketing […]

  2. […] Great Jakes Blog 2011: The year that content marketing becomes king December 17 by Robert Algeri “I’ve concluded that 2011 will likely go down in legal […]

  3. Enjoyed the post. We know that developing trust is paramount to creating business opportunites. No one is parting with their $ unless they are comfortable with you, period. Networking – via any medium- and referrals certainly portend greater results than cold calling and direct mailing. We now instinctively ‘check out’ businesses and people on line. It stands to reason that the more effectively professionals can convey their expertise and insights, the more trust they will garner. Lots of people build websites and setup social media sites – but those firms that enhance their client’s ‘trust quotient’ will stand out in the crowd.

  4. It’s almost like creating a law review for firms, though not in any traditional print form. The marketing mix to bring the concept from idea into success will be the challenge, but there are limitless possibilities!

    It’s key that there be a good plan in place for distributing ideas or stories that are expressed through whatever means. And significantly, that plan must be well thought-through, grounded in substantive material and checked by an internal review department prior to being splattered across the infinite web world!

  5. I absolutely agree that the development and broad distribution of substantive content is perhaps the most effective way for firms to establish leadership in their practice areas and influence potential clients. That said, I’m not sure that in 2011 firms will be ready to start allocating significant resources outside of the more traditional platforms.

  6. Robert- Thanks for the post. While more and more legal professionals are grasping the benefits of “content marketing”, there remain many that either don’t recognize the value, or quite simply, aren’t willing to make the time investments necessary to develop effective content marketing strategies. I think 2011 will see more legal professionals adopting these strategies, but I’m not sure that this will be the “tipping point” year.

    I also think that this year will mark some significant changes at Google that will diminish the effectiveness of “content for the sake of content”, meaning that the quality of one’s content will become increasingly more important than the quantity with which one publishes.

    Finally, in addition to developing quality content, to have success with content marketing, the importance of content publicity will become increasingly important. In other words, effectively promoting, distributing, and publicizing good content will become just as important as the quality of the content itself.

  7. Obviously, I’d like to see more firms using video. But unlike writing blog posts and articles, which I consider at this point to be what I referred to as “more traditional platofrms,” that takes a bit more of a financial commitment without significant proof yet that there will be a return on that investment. That said, I’m working with several firms right now who are taking an aggressive position in terms of developing content to help position their firm in a specific industry or practice area and some of those decisions are being driven by the partners and in some cases the CMO. As far as attorneys v. firms stepping up to the plate, I think they have a unique window of opportunity to stand out from the noise and in some cases above the more established firms. One important point I’d like to make is that developing content without a plan for broad distribution will assure you’re limiting your ROI on the development of that content. Hosting thought-provoking discussion, either in articles or videos, predominantly on your own firm’s site is great, but is not particularly forward-thinking marketing.

  8. Good point, Ellen. Content should definitely be vetted, not just from a legal perspective but also so it’s consistent in terms of firms positioning and “brand message,” if you will. Also, it’s important to edit the content from an SEO perspective — starting with the title! We’ve tweaked article titles a bit and have had good success in bubbling up to the top of google search on a variety of search terms. I’ve made this quick Google Search Stories video to illustration that …

    One final point in regard to “internal review” — there’s a strong advantage to moving quickly, so best to avoid “analysis paralysis!”

  9. Rafi Arbel says:

    What is the difference between social media and content marketing?

    Isn’t content marketing really a subset of social media? Blogging, tweeting or even adding regular content to a website strikes me as a form of social media. Maybe the distinction is that social media is a conversation while content marketing places less emphasis on the dialogue and more on one-way thought leadership. Would like to hear your thoughts.

    Great post and lots of insightful comments.

  10. Rafi,
    I think of content marketing more as a sibling to social media than a subset. Many people engage in social e-conversations intended to get their names out there, but not having content behind them. Others create content but are not necessarily adept at getting it networked in a social media way. Both are really important and should work together to be most effective.

  11. Content is king, and always will be. People go searching for information, online, and they want answers. Gone are the days where people have a consultation with a lawyer over every little thing; they WANT their investigative research to be anonymous and very informal. They turn to the Internet for a reason. Therefore, to pull the clients in the door, the law firm of the future must provide an avenue to build trust by providing quality content.

  12. Well said Divorce Attorney — “to pull the clients in the door, the law firm of the future must provide an avenue to build trust by providing quality content.”

    Quality content helps to differentiate one attorney from the next — but building trust may be the greatest benefit it provides. Having only a website bio with some bullet-points doesn’t do the trick anymore.

  13. Robert, thanks for describing so succinctly what we’re focused on for 2011. It’s great to be able to take advantage of online media to share quality content.

  14. I think in 2011 we will have more attorneys understanding the value and the benefit of content marketing but there is always room for more learning and educating. If you think of your website as a sales tool and content as your in-house sales person your on your way to growing your business with content marketing. Creating content that educates and guides your reader to want more is the first step. Once your readers have contacted you, ordered a free report or filled out your contact form you must nurture that potential client. At We Do Web Content we are strong believers in the marketing cycle we encourage and educate our clients on their content strategy and the steps following.

    Alex Valencia
    [email protected]

  15. Great discussion. It is refreshing to see law firm’s moving past “content for content’s sake” and focusing on substantive content that is relevant to clients. To achieve quality content means taking a strategic approach to an online marketing strategy, including clarity on ideal clients, unique value proposition (core differentiator) and the firm’s mission and vision. Creating content without this foundation leads to dismal results and dissolution about the opportunities for building an on-line reputation and attracting profitable and desirable clients.

    -Liz Ferris

  16. Thinking that 2005 would be the year law firms embraced branding was wishful at best. Branding is just beginning to be embraced. You have to look at the vast majority of law firms, particularly the small and middle market firms, most are positioned around expected values which positions them as providers of a commodity service. Consequently, there’s no meaningful point of differentiation and client’s can’t separate one from the other. This becomes particularly challenging for business and corporate firms. Branding and market positioning along with a rethinking of the structure of their business and value model have become the key drivers of growth. This is based formal studies by several prominent research firms who have conducted formal studies across global markets. So you don’t have to just take my word for it. In the end, brand and market positioning is just beginning to take on great importance. But these firms need to be educated about the inherent value.Without the knowledge input, the need is not clear and positive change won’t happen. Thanks for your contribution, I agree with your assessment on content also being a critical component. There is a great deal to be said about that aspect of the business.
    Great piece.

    – Marc Romano
    Owner/President, Ignyte Inc.

  17. […] Website – Publish or Perish? By Randy Wilson Here is an ABA article that supports the contention of DSD Law Sites Solutions that lawyers need to look […]

  18. Let’s get down to basics, folks. Your web site AND your blogs are the modern equivalent of the storefronts of old. It is the place where you display your wares. Using your store windows to display “goods” (namely content gathered from other media and journals) sends the message that you are not a creator of your own unique wares, but merely resellers of goods manufactured by others. Your web site must showcase your artisans, craftsmen and your talent. It should have a display of the goods you deliver. Your web site and your blog should be the display case in which you show your finished products; namely, the successful engagements you have concluded and the insightful legal analysis your firm produces on cutting edge technology.

    Your display ideally should be that you are a class purveyor not merely a mass marketer or re-marketer.

    Stroll down any main shopping thoroughfare and compare the high end displays of high end purveyors and compare those of the mass marketers. The differences will become immediately obvious.

    -Jerome Kowalski
    Principal and Founder, Kowalski & Associates

  19. […] = ''; } Divorce and Separation: How to Handle The Reactions of Family and Friends2011: The year that content marketingbecomes king var ajax = new Array(); function TrackClick(link,title) { var index = ajax.length; ajax[index] = […]

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