An important tool to gain positioning and foment business development in professional services is thought leadership. Marketing gurus have been preaching for a while that “every company is a media company now”.
In today’s world of instant digital communication, social networks and (virtually) free online content production and distribution options, firms that don’t differentiate themselves through content risk becoming invisible to their potential clients.
Thought leadership is the practice of consistently creating and sharing smart content that is relevant to a particular type of company, sector or community. Producing great content can help law firms to engage with decision-makers and start conversations that can eventually turn into new business.
Law firms that succeed as thought leaders in a specific domain will become professional influencers and a go-to resource for businesspeople seeking information; as a reputation-building business development strategy, it has become ubiquitous in the legal market.
The cost of entry to be relevant in today’s legal market is content – but content that
(i) is relevant (read: well-targeted or personalized),
(ii) is credible and fact-based,
(iii) offers compelling and actionable insights,
(iv) is made available across different formats with a focus on digital and mobile first.
Research by Longitude, a Financial Times Company dedicated to helping firms in this area, demonstrates that executives will actually choose branded thought leadership content over traditional media brands as long as it meets the above-mentioned criteria. The results of its recent survey of over 1,000 high-profile business executives showed they spend on average 4 hours a week consuming corporate thought leadership content and that there is a strong correlation between high-quality thought leadership, decision-making processes on the path-to-purchase, and the commercial bottom- line of the firms that integrate it their growth strategies.
There is a big difference between sending out the occasional newsletter to the firm’s general mailing list, and an effective thought leadership strategy. Indeed, as we have seen throughout the COVID-19 crisis, law firms have clearly understood the importance of content marketing but are generally speaking still very much in the early stages of the learning curve.
Indeed, it was difficult to identify a law firm that did not have its own “COVID-19 resource center” after the outbreak of the pandemic in spring of 2020, but very few of them offered any original thinking, differentiated content or the kind of bold and inspirational writing that is required to stand out.
Thought leadership is not about one-way lecturing on theoretical or overly legalistic concepts but should be about practical and emotionally engaging stories grounded in the broader commercial conversations firms need to initiate with their audience. It should be focused on the issues that keep your clients up at night, and on the practical solutions that law firms can bring to the table.
Firms can seek partnerships with other institutions that might have the facts and figures and evidence that is required to add value throughout the content the produce. Effective thought leadership projects should also be actionable and linked to the firm’s relationship- building strategies by offering opportunities to the lawyers to connect with the “leads” generated and captured throughout the campaign.
THE HOLY GRAIL OF PERSONALIZATION
In many B2C sectors, marketers have embraced the concept of hyper-personalisation to deliver relevant content and services when customers most expect it.
Leading technology-driven companies such as Amazon and Netflix have created an entirely new customer experience that is permeating and spilling over into all other sectors and drastically altering client expectations. By leveraging customer data, these companies anticipate client needs and bring unique customer experiences in a fully automated way.
For law firms, this degree of hyper- personalization will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. But firms can start with baby- steps. Many firms still use a single firm-wide distribution lists and basically send all content to everyone. Firms should work towards more segmented distribution lists, based on the legal area of interest, industry sector, or typology (you will want to treat a key client different than a prospect, or overseas referral contact).
Modern CRM systems and Marketing or E-mail platforms already allow firms to become more targeted in their approach. Firms should also think about the different channels they have at their disposal, and not necessarily post every piece on all channels. This differentiated approach will only work when Firms manage their client contact data in integrated and automated systems that will give them more detail, more tracking options, and better list-building options.
Deliverability of email campaigns suffer when law firms ignore this drive towards personalisation. Getting attention from clients via e-mail becomes increasingly difficult, and firms need to explore additional channels to get in front of their clients.