Content Under Pressure
Sharing Legal Information Online Isn’t ‘Giving Away the Store’
There are so many different ways to push marketing content out into the world. Some are brought to you by the wonders of the internet. Others require your real time participation. Some are free, requiring nothing beyond the creation of dynamite content. In her new column, “Content Under Pressure,” writer and business development strategist Susan Kostal clues you in on the new rules of effective content marketing, helping you avoid the pitfalls and find new opportunities to market your law practice. —Ed.
By allowing Roman advocates trained in rhetoric to practice law, Roman Emperor Claudius was the first to legitimize the legal profession. By the fourth century, advocates had to be enrolled on the bar of a court to argue there — the first regulations on the legal profession. Ever since, lawyers have been leery of giving clients helpful information otherwise closely held by an exclusive, licensed profession.
But today, savvy attorneys and law firms, both B2B and B2C, are providing clients with everything from basic information on how to best use their services to sample contracts and concrete, detailed information about the law directly relevant to their legal needs, including Q&As and information about options they should consider.
Build It and Share It and They Will Take It, Leave, and Never Return
But isn’t this giving away the store? It’s the opposite of “Build it and they will come,” right? It’s “Build it, share it and they will take it, leave, and never come back again.”
Only that’s not what happens.
Thanks to organizations such as Nolo and LegalZoom, consumers and businesses are becoming more savvy about what they can do on their own and when they need an attorney. And attorneys and organizations that share credible legal information are building unparalleled trust while educating consumers to become more intelligent and engaged (read: profitable) clients.
Increasingly, B2B and B2C attorneys are offering sample contracts and publishing extensive Q&As on their websites. Scott Harris, a San Francisco Bay Area consultant who helps consumer lawyers develop SEO-optimized websites and content, works with his clients to put thousands of words of useful consumer information, often in the form of Q&As, on their websites.
“There are two main benefits of adding content to websites,” says Harris. “The first is that Google’s algorithm analyzes every website and interprets quality, original content as a ranking signal. Google rewards the firms that give out free information by increasing their prominence in search results.”
And Why Not Give This Content Away?
Consumers can go to WebMD to learn about medical conditions and symptoms, but it doesn’t deter them from seeing a physician. On the contrary, consumers are more likely to see a physician once they are armed with information on point with their medical questions and concerns. Information helps consumers and spurs them to act; it doesn’t lead them to think they are experts and that they don’t need to see a professional. They ask better questions and are more engaged in their matter — essentially becoming the most ideal and cost-effective clients possible.
“The other benefit of giving out useful information is that prospective clients are more likely to hire firms who show their expertise as opposed to just claiming that they are experts,” Harris says.
In Silicon Valley, top law firms put sample contracts on their websites for startups and potential clients. These are “press print” documents. And why shouldn’t those be shared? Earning a client begins with earning their trust. And how better to do that than by providing basic information they can use, a clear illustration that the attorney intends to deliver value, not pro forma answers that should legitimately be routinized.
This doesn’t reduce business; it spurs educated clients to seek the services of a trusted provider. All of the top indigenous Silicon Valley law firms had double-digit increases in revenue and profits last year. Giving away sample contracts hasn’t deterred clients from seeking their services.
Here are some value-add content examples:
Don’t be shy about providing helpful client information. It doesn’t push clients away — it draws them to you as a trusted advisor.
Susan Kostal is a legal affairs PR, marketing and business development consultant based in San Francisco. She 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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