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Content Under Pressure

Launching an Emerging Practice Group? Think Buyer’s Journey in Your Content

By Susan Kostal

SEO content under pressureEarlier this month, Legal Week ran a heartbreaking but fascinating piece titled “Australia Is Burning and Demand for ‘Climate Lawyers’ Is Rising.

Search consultants aren’t yet placing “climate lawyers,” but no matter. Like climate change itself, the market is moving faster than we can reasonably respond. You can envision managing partners Googling “climate change lawyer” and shouting down the hall to their marketers: “What does our website and practice group descriptions say about climate change?”

The article noted that there is no good working definition for “climate lawyer.” With a new practice like that, it can be tough to talk to clients about your services if they don’t know they need them, or what the expertise involves. This raises important, fundamental questions about how to communicate with clients about your services.

Where Is Your Prospective Client on the Buying Continuum?

This is where the “buyer’s journey” comes in. For a working definition, let’s go with HubSpot: The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and decide to purchase a new product or service.

The journey consists of a three-step process:

  1. Awareness: The buyer realizes they have a problem.
  2. Consideration: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it.
  3. Decision: The buyer chooses a solution.

When it comes to new or emerging practice groups (think Climate Change or Environmental, Social & Governance), it’s paramount that we consider where the potential buyer is in their journey. Most law firm content marketing assumes the consumer fully understands the issues they are facing and are searching for very specific solutions. These are the fundamentals that drive SEO. “I have an identified discrete problem and want someone with experience to solve it.” Search, done and done.

But with emerging issues, clients, like all of us, don’t know what they don’t know. So rather than focusing on creating “decision copy” (we are highly ranked in XYZ, this is why you should choose us, here are our bona fides), it makes sense to focus on “awareness copy” as you gradually introduce potential clients to issues that they may not yet be considering, but should.

Lay Out the Issues This Practice Group Tackles

Say, for example, you are talking about launching a page to promote services to help companies cope with climate change or improve their ESG metrics. You will want conversational copy that meets clients where they are, and gently explores the short- and long-term implications of the issues they are facing (more efficient supply chain management, as an example).

This is copy that builds common ground, establishes working definitions and, most importantly, is written from the mindset of the clients and their lived experience, not the law firm and its offerings.

This is not the time, at least not until much further down in the text, to come across as the expert. It’s the time to share (think about how the last compelling documentary you watched unfolded) why these issues may be more important to the potential purchaser than they initially appear.

Awareness Builds the Relationship

This is incredibly important in forging a relationship, in building a common language, and getting the kind of buy-in in which clients are convinced you understand what they are facing. In-house counsel say again and again “Know my business.” When it comes to writing practice group descriptions, this includes entering inside the client’s mind, understanding what’s there, and reflecting it back with some intelligence from the client’s perspective.

Practice group descriptions written this way don’t differ terribly much from many others. But the distinction for the reader is clear. It is rather like the difference between using dried herbs and fresh in a recipe. One is predictable, routine; the second produces a decidedly different experience that provokes engagement, leaving the consumer wanting more.

As the legal services industry becomes more segmented and more highly specialized, this approach to content becomes more important. Apple has been one of the greatest companies in figuring out that the market doesn’t always understand or know what it wants. (Were you missing your iPod before they introduced one? No.) You need to begin with what’s missing in a client’s repertoire, and then discuss how your offering meets the need you’ve identified.

Read more about the customer journey: “LMA Tech West: Marketing, Professional Services and the Customer Journey.”

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Susan Kostal Susan Kostal

Content Under Pressure columnist Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and business development consultant based in San Francisco. She is a contributing editor for Attorney at Work. Susan has covered legal affairs as a journalist for nearly three decades. You can follow her on Twitter @skostal and view more of her content at www.susankostal.com.

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