Law firm marketing, like marketing in general, is a layered and nuanced activity. It isn’t just one thing.
Quite the contrary, it can involve multi-faceted and interrelated legal marketing tactics that are ultimately focused on one goal: attracting new clients.
One of the discussions I have had lately with law firms I am consulting to is about the audiences they are appealing to through their law firm marketing activities. At least, I think of these prospective clients as audiences and I’ll explain why?
Think “audiences” in law firm marketing
When you write an article on your blog or conduct a campaign online, you are appealing to the people you would like to take on as clients. If you are being deliberate then you will have a fairly clear idea of who these people are and what interests them most.
Instead of thinking of them as an amorphous group of people who will find something of interest in what you have to say, it may help to think of them as audiences. One of the definitions of an audience is “the people giving or likely to give attention to something”.
In this case, your audience is a group of people who you’re hoping will pay attention to your article or your promotion for your services.
If you want to capture their attention, you have to do what marketers strive for, generally. You need to offer your audience information that is relevant to them and that addresses some need they have.
If you want to attract individuals who are interested in estate planning, you won’t have much success by talking at them about high-level legal concepts and complicated estate planning regulations. You’d just lose them at the first “herewith”.
Instead, work out what these individuals, this audience, is most interested in and feed their curiosity with material that is written for them specifically. Just because you are a lawyer doesn’t mean you should bewilder your audience with fancy language.
At the same time, don’t treat your audience like idiots and patronize them with overly simplistic language. Use plain language and explain complexities with respect.
One of the most important things you can do is make the effort to understand what your audience’s needs are and address them specifically and clearly. Don’t talk “at” them, talk to them about the issues that matter to them.
If your firm services a variety of clients with varied services, identify each audience and consider whether you are communicating with each in an appropriate voice?
You will probably speak to your estate planning audience in a different tone compared to your corporate law audience. Each expects you to communicate with them at their level with a demonstrable understanding of their particular challenges and requirements.
Each of your audiences is different. Unless you run a highly focused, niche practice that addresses one audience with one category of services, you have to identify each audience’s differences and adapt your messaging.
If your messaging isn’t relevant to the audience you are speaking to and communicated in engaging terms, you probably won’t have much of an impact.
Where your goal is to attract more clients then you need to have an impact if you are going to hold their attention long enough to have the conversation that secures their business.
Anything short of that isn’t law firm marketing, it’s wishful thinking.
One of the newer buzz terms in the content marketing space is snackable content. It’s premised on the idea that short pieces of content are preferable to longer form articles. Who has time to read an in-depth discussion about an important topic, anyway?
Back of the napkin explanation of “snackable content”
Proponents of snackable content (for some reason, this phrase bothers me considerably) link research revealing shorter attention spans with the length and depth of your content. As Shanna Cook put it in her blog post titled “How to Create Snackable Content” on the Marketo blog:
See it, scan it, share it. Your audience is hungry for content and consuming it at a faster pace than ever before. In fact, a recent study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the average attention span is getting remarkably shorter, down to just 8.25 seconds this year from 12 seconds in 2000.
Since your fans are consuming content faster than ever, you need to make sure that yours is short and snackable (read: easy to digest on-the-go). Can they absorb everything you want to convey in these short 8.25 seconds, or do they require a teaser to whet their appetite and take them to a larger piece of more easily digestible content? As a marketer in today’s “always on,” mobile, and social environment, you need to make your content available, easy to absorb, and totally shareable.
I’m not convinced that comparing the articles you read or the videos you watch to food is entirely appropriate but let’s run with that for the purposes of this discussion.
Junk food marketing
What this snackable content trend amounts to is shorter, more superficial content designed to give the mistaken impression of being informed.
Your reader scans through a short article and leaves it feeling s/he is up-to-date on its subject matter. You, the author of the material taps “Publish” and feel the satisfaction of knowing that you have shared something worthwhile that will generate leads.
What’s really happening here is that you are churning out the equivalent of junk food that your audience is “snacking” on. They feel as if their hunger for knowledge and insight is sated, not realizing that there is little nutritional value in this snack blizzard.
Worthwhile content takes longer to prepare
I had an appointment with my dietician earlier this week. I’m diabetic so my diet has a pretty big impact on my health. Some of her advice is relevant so bear with me.
As I described what I typically eat for lunches (usually something I can toss in the oven and prepare quickly), she pointed out that if food is quick and easy to make, it usually isn’t that healthy for you. Food that nourishes you tends to take longer to prepare but it gives your body what it needs.
When I think about “snackable content” now, it seems a lot like that quick and easy food I tend to eat when I lack the energy to prepare something healthier (probably not a coincidence).
Sure, you can pump out a higher volume of material but at what cost? Perhaps attention spans are shrinking but creating shorter pieces of content in an effort to fill those attention gaps isn’t the solution.
You’re aggravating the attention problem
When your audience finds itself faces with higher volumes of “easy to digest” content that, necessarily, lacks any meaningful depth or insights, they’re often overwhelmed. It’s a bit like walking through a food court and all the food vendors are throwing small, bite-sized chunks of food at you.
It’s probably not going to be a satisfying dining experience (unless you are about 8 years old). If that’s how you eat your meals, your audience is going to find themselves on their hands and knees a lot, picking up bits of food and stuffing their faces.
Using better food cannons may increase the volume you’re hurling at your audiences but is it really giving them what they need? If anything, you’re just fragmenting their attention even further (which means louder and bigger food cannons, right?).
To aggravate the situation, you’re also insulting your audience’s intelligence by force feeding them with this superficial stuff masquerading as “content”.
Maybe it isn’t about attention, not really.
What if the underlying assumption is wrong? Perhaps attention spans are shrinking because there is too much junk food content being thrust at audiences and they have become far more selective.
You can try break through to them with a bigger banners, clickbait titles and other shiny objects but it’s not a sustainable strategy.
One of the statistics they highlighted was that 84% of the study’s respondents said they are most likely to share long-form articles. Charts and data came in at second place with 47%. A related insight reinforces this:
88% of executives are likely to share good content, and its source almost always (85%) influences their decision to share it.
Long lunches and better conversation
Certainly, long-form articles take time to write and they take time to read. The same applies to longer videos, podcast episodes and so on.
It’s worth it.
When you think about the audiences who are most valuable to you, who are they? Are they the people who like your tweets and Facebook posts without reading them? Are they the people who click on your site links and almost immediately click away because you aren’t offering the equivalent of a free box of chicken nuggets?
In all likelihood, the audience that is most valuable to you are the people who take the time to read what you publish. They will read your longer articles, consider your arguments and insights and share it with like-minded colleagues and friends.
What is the point of creating all this “content” anyway? You certainly don’t need to add to the digital mountains humans create each day just for the sake of it.
Besides, like most junk food, this snackable content will only give your audience the mental equivalent of a quick sugar kick, followed by a nasty blood sugar crash. There’s nothing satisfying about that.
No, you write all this stuff and produce these videos because you have valuable insights to share and our audiences want to be informed, stimulated and entertained. You take the time to write a 2,000 word analysis of an important industry development or edit a seven minute video because you believe that your perspective will give your audience something that was previously lacking.
This is a big part of what it means to add real value and your ideal audience appreciates that. Not only that, they crave it and they will share it and your audience will grow.
Oh, and if you said that a growing number of mobile consumers changes this dynamic, think again.
As the Quartz study also revealed, executives are much more selective with their time and younger executives tend to be more discerning. This means they are more particular about what they focus their attention on and that quality really matters.
If you can deliver good quality and relevant material, your audience will take the time to appreciate it and share it. Just like a long lunch at a great restaurant with stimulating conversation.
Save the junk food for the kiddies’ birthday parties. Well, perhaps and in moderation. You wouldn’t want to cultivate bad eating habits, would you?
I recently switched to an Android device. I have a post in the works that I may eventually finish and publish. Until then, I still need to get things done and, like I pointed out in my post “The tools I use to be productive with ADHD”, my big challenge has been to migrate from iOS/macOS-centric workflows to something more cross-platform.
When it comes to picking a solution to manage my tasks, I went with OmniFocus. It was practically designed for GTD and I can use it on all my devices. It isn’t cheap and it only works on macOS/iOS (the platform limitation bothers me but I can live with it). At the same time, it is excellent software and nothing really comes close to it.
My first challenge was which task manager to use for my tasks. I started exploring alternatives such as Remember the Milk and Todoist but the thought of reinventing my whole system wasn’t a happy one. Still, I experimented with them a bit and even started migrating tasks to RTM.
Fortunately, I discovered the Focus GTD app for Android that syncs with my OmniFocus data in the cloud. The design isn’t as polished as OmniFocus but the main thing is that the app syncs reliably with my OmniFocus data and I don’t need to recreate anything to keep going.
Lately I’ve been playing around a bit with some Google options for getting things done. In particular, Google’s Reminders that integrate with Google Inbox (which I don’t really use, I prefer Gmail), Google Calendar and Google Keep.
It’s not that Focus GTD doesn’t work. It does. The notifications could be better but the app does what it says on the box and it saved me hours of recreating a GTD workflow with another app or service.
Mostly, I’m curious about the Google option because they are cross-platform, cross-device and are pretty native to my Android phone.
Google’s approach to productivity is to combine everything, where possible. Makes sense; Google wants us to use its services more. The Google approach is pretty different in many ways.
I’m accustomed to a task manager being distinct from my calendar and email. Google’s approach is to bring it all together and even go so far as to use your email interface as your task manager (specifically, Google Inbox).
By contrast, my OmniFocus workflow is more about using a standalone task manager as the focal point of my productivity system with email being just one input. Calendars are where you record tasks or events that are date sensitive and everything else goes into a general task service that you review regularly and maintain on an ongoing basis.
Still, the Google productivity suite that comprises Calendar, Gmail/Inbox and Keep is intriguing because it is better integrated with my phone (probably my primary device overall) and is largely OS independent.
So I started using Reminders in Google Calendar this week just to see how they would work for me.
I also started playing around a bit with Calendar’s Goals feature. I’m curious to see if this approach will help me achieve those goals more effectively. I also really want to see just how smart the machine learning behind goal-related task scheduling is when it is tied into my calendar.
At the same time, Evernote isn’t really a task app for me. As I mentioned in my productivity post, Evernote is my reference system with almost 27 000 notes about just about everything in my life. Reconfiguring Evernote to handle my tasks as well as function as my reference service would be messy so I haven’t really explored that.
Method behind the madness
That brings me back to my experiment with Google services for get things done. The linchpin when it comes to OmniFocus is currently my MacBook Air.
If I reach a stage where I can’t use a MacBook every day for work, it will become that much harder to maintain an OmniFocus-centric productivity system. Focus GTD is good but relying on that completely while a work machine doesn’t support it adds a lot more friction to being productive.
This is a real concern for me. I am currently looking for a new job and it is rare to be offered a MacBook by a new employer. My MacBook Air has been my primary work machine for most of my time in Israel but the battery has failed and I think it’s time to give my trusty device a vacation.
My next work machine will likely be a Windows-based or, preferably, Linux machine. Neither will support OmniFocus so this seemingly academic debate about which productivity system to switch to isn’t going to be academic for very long (I hope).
A big plus in the Google column is that the apps it uses are free and available on whichever device I am likely to use. Of course, there is a reason for that. Not only does Google want to keep us actively using as many of its services as is possible, it uses the data from and about our interactions to build and improve its services (including ad targeting) overall.
One day we may see the true cost of that and it may bother us. For now, though, it seems like a fair exchange: we get stuff to help us get things done fairly effectively and Google receives a lot of data it can do to create more things and sell is really accurate ads.
Ok Google, help me be more productive
A lot of this experimentation is about experiencing all the things Google services can do. I’m still getting used to using Google’s voice stuff and it’s pretty impressive. I don’t have Google Assistant yet but I’m sure that will be even better.
I’m not sure if Google Reminders/Keep/Calendar will be a viable replacement for OmniFocus but it seems to be worth exploring. What do you think? Do you use Google services to get things done?
Despite the tremendous demand for PPC advertising talent, there are already signs that smart machines are moving in to take over this lucrative business. The Drum published an article titled “IBM starts using Watson AI to buy online media in the UK” that provides a preview of a machine-driven future for PPC, SEM and other paid marketing activities:
Sitting within The Trade Desk – its media planning platform – Watson over time learns how effectively a campaign is performing for different audiences at different times, locations, devices and browser.
Based on this information, it will then only bid on inventory that aligns to any given audience, and even then will consider the size of an ad and how effective it will be in relation to those other factors.
In the US, IBM claims this has reduced its cost per click by as much as 71%, although the average hovers around the 31% mark.
This should give performance marketers something to think about. I doubt the demand for SEM or PPC advertising professionals will diminish in the very near future but I can definitely see a time when smart machines like Watson will take over paid media and put a lot of people out of work.
My LinkedIn activity stats (on average):
– Textual post: 3k views
– Post with a video: 4K views
– Post with an image: 6.5k views
Published article: 80 views
You read it right, it is generating only 80 views.
If I put so much effort in it, why do I get only 1% of the views I see from other kind of posts?
To have more traction and content on its platform, LinkedIn will have to change this realty.
I tried to share my thoughts about LinkedIn engagement with him in the comments but it seems my feedback was too long for the comment box so I shared a shortened version instead. Here is my original comment:
I don’t think this is limited to LinkedIn. The major social networks optimize the interactions that keep people on the sites and clicking. I suspect text posts, videos and image posts keep people moving through the site. They are fairly low friction content pieces, easy to engage with through likes and comments and easy to consume before moving on to more. They’re the digital equivalent of snacking – high volume.
When it comes to articles, they are longer form and people need to dedicate more time to reading the articles. It would be interesting to have % complete metrics like you have on Medium to see how much of an article people read before abandoning it.
You’d probably find that people view longer articles less frequently because they prefer to snack on social media and not spend time reading the articles in their entirety. The problem with this is that it tends to discourage longer form content. It also doesn’t help all that much to write longer form stuff elsewhere and share it here because these services optimize for keeping people in the service, not making it easier for them to leave for sites outside the social network.
Advertising need not alienate consumers. David Ulevitch wrote an interesting post about the the downsides of algorithmic advertising and a purely data-driven approach. I highlighted a couple comments in Ulevitch’s post and this particular one encapsulates what perturbs me most about advertising:
If your business has an algorithmic advertising revenue model where more user installs equates to more revenue dollars, you will become addicted to a metrics-tracking mindset where the user-experience is ignored, security models are just a hurdle to jump over, and the only thing that matters is more user installs.
On one hand he is absolutely correct. So many advertisers approach advertising as a data challenge to meet by directing relatively faceless consumers to ads they are probably interested in. Programmatic advertising enables advertisers to target consumers far better but there are times when the advertising model only seems to have shifted slightly from a metaphorical “spray and pray” approach to a “radar guided spray and hope” approach. It’s almost as if many advertisers have decided that ad targeting technology works well enough to relieve them of the burden to do much about the user experience.
Granted I am pretty new to the advertising industry but just based on what I have seen from the inside and as a consumer, many advertisers are missing an opportunity to change perceptions about advertising simply because they stop too soon along the path to better engagement with their target market.
Instead of seeing programmatic advertising as an end in itself, these advertisers could see it as a revolutionary platform that takes them light years closer to a fully engaged consumer and all they need to do is go that last mile and deliver a terrific experience.
Here is an example of an ad which really appeals to me. I love how the music soundtrack and the imagery really resonates with me on so many levels. I only noticed this was an ad at the end and I didn’t mind at all, the ad sold me on the brand already.
Granted not all ads we see are video ads (video is still a pretty small percentage of the display ad market) but imagine ads, powered by programmatic ad technology, that touch the right consumers at the right time and in such a personal way.
With ad-supported business models, the desire to collect as much data as possible to better target advertising to you becomes an insatiable addiction.
Data powers the ad-tech machine. There is no doubt about that and the amount of data used has practically propelled the data protection industry to incredible heights. Unfortunately a typical response to the idea that advertisers use troves of personal data to target ads is horror.
It need not be. Ads are also opportunities to tell consumers about the things they may be looking for or may find interesting based on their browsing behavior, information they give to their service providers about their preferences and perhaps even leave room for serendipitous discoveries. It sounds idealistic but this is technically possible. What is lacking is the desire to take the extra steps to make this happen.
What could advertisers do? Here are a few thoughts:
Collect data from informed and willing consumers. Use meaningful consent mechanisms that inform consumers what you want from them and how you’ll use that data and then stick to that. Brands lose consumers’ trust when they lie (even little, white lies).
Do something useful with the data. Collecting data just to pitch somewhat relevant products and services is a pretty weak effort. As much as you can, find out what really interests consumers and show them ads for things they have told you they want. I don’t have any answers how to make that scale but you probably have really smart people who can figure that part out.
Put more effort into the ad experience. Great advertisers have this figured out and they present well designed and engaging ads. Sure, budgets are not unlimited and this is mostly a numbers game so you can’t spend too long on ad creative but a little more effort could go a long way and boost those CTRs.
Pick better ad products. Consumers are faced with so many ads these days that they don’t see them anymore. It’s called “banner blindness” and it is the result of far too many ads over a protracted period of time. It may have been inevitable and, in a sense, it is probably leading to even more obtrusive ads as advertisers fight for what little attention remains from the consumers who still see the ads. Try different ad products that are more likely to reach those consumers and less likely to alienate them further. In-image ads are a great option but then I am biased.
Online advertising models don’t align your interests with your users’ interests. Justifying the invasive and insecure actions as being a fair trade for free isn’t the kind of justification any company should make …
This seems to be how many people perceive advertising and you can’t really blame them. It often seems to be the case that I am the product when I have access to a free service or product and, probably, there are times when I essentially am. That doesn’t mean that being the product is necessarily a bad thing if I know what I am trading and why.
Facebook stands out as a classic illustration of the “you are the product” argument and, more than almost anywhere else, that is certainly the case. Facebook is available to me with all its capabilities because of the revenue ads in Facebook generate. Facebook could not operate in its current form without that money and I am ok being the product here. Facebook and other, similar, services are enormously useful and while I’d prefer not to have to risk losing so much of my control over my personal data, the cost seems pretty fair when I consider what I can do with the service and the degree of control I have over my personal data. It’s not a perfect situation but it works for me.
The advertisers that make the extra effort to create better ads and share them with targeted audiences may have far better responses than even a “radar guided spray and hope” campaign. Consumers may even seek out their ads for the entertainment value (I know I do).
I was asked to write a short post for a marketing company and came up with this piece. It’s a little more of a marketing piece that my usual writing but was partly a product of some thinking I’ve had (and seen online) lately about how blogs and social media services can work together quite nicely.
Your customers are bombarded with an increasing amount of marketing material. As a marketer, your job isn’t just to deliver a message to potential customers, it is to capture their attention and persuade them to take more of an interest in your brand than the next. The challenge with conventional spray-and-pray marketing campaigns (you know, the ones where you point your email campaign at a massive database and hope 0.something percent of them receive and open the email?) is that it all just looks like spam unless you have somehow distinguished yourself from the rest of the maddening crowd.
Social media is based on the premise that “markets are conversations” and represented a departure from a marketing style which offered “any color, as long as it is black”, metaphorically speaking. Social media promised a different, more meaningful way to engage with your customers: involve them in the sales process, offer them more personal service and options and reap the benefits of a loyal fan base.
Blogs introduced a more authentic voice, a sort of rebellion against corporate-speak. Twitter shortened your posts to 140 characters and, in return for giving up room to expand on your ideas, you gained the benefit of Twitter’s immediacy. Facebook didn’t confine itself to Twitter’s short post length but it brought you even closer to your customers because you could talk to people who had already expressed an interest in your brand. Since then, various other services have offered you ways to connect through images (Pinterest), convenient multimedia sharing with easily customisable blogs (Tumblr) and branded chat (WeChat). In the decade and a half since blogs broke the marketing mould, marketers have gained numerous other ways to connect more personally and more meaningfully with people who have told you that they are interested in what you have to offer them.
Content remains the most compelling option for engaging marketing campaigns and blogging experienced a digital renaissance in 2014 because it is a perfect medium for your content. Your social media channels have become extensions of your blog, personalized to suit your customers’ preferences based on how they want to connect to you and your content. You are perfectly positioned to engage more meaningfully with your customers and the best way to ruin what could become a sustainable relationship is to fall into the trap of dumping generic content on them, hoping for that infinitesimal conversion rate.
Your key to a successful engagement with modern consumers is to make it personal. You know who your customers are, talk to them directly and keep it relevant and interesting. Don’t become just another spammer, build relationships.
Privacy is more than a couple settings and a consent checkbox on a form somewhere. Privacy and publicity seem to be pretty straightforward concepts and, legally, they are treated fairly superficially and defined mechanically.
A result of that is a similarly superficial treatment in conversations about privacy and publicity in social and commercial engagements which rarely touches on what privacy really means to us.
This leaves us fundamentally confused and conflicted about privacy because we have a deeper sense of what privacy means to us but the typical conversation about privacy lacks the language to describe that deeper sense of it all.
Anil Dash and dana boyd recently published articles on Medium titled “What is Public?” and “What is Privacy?”, respectively, which dive deeper into what publicity and privacy mean to us. If you are interested in what privacy and publicity mean in modern times, you should read both articles carefully:
One of the paragraphs in Dash’s article that stood out for me was this one:
What if the public speech on Facebook and Twitter is more akin to a conversation happening between two people at a restaurant? Or two people speaking quietly at home, albeit near a window that happens to be open to the street? And if more than a billion people are active on various social networking applications each week, are we saying that there are now a billion public figures? When did we agree to let media redefine everyone who uses social networks as fair game, with no recourse and no framework for consent?
I agree more with boyd that privacy is more about social convention. I particularly like this extract from boyd’s article:
The very practice of privacy is all about control in a world in which we fully know that we never have control. Our friends might betray us, our spaces might be surveilled, our expectations might be shattered. But this is why achieving privacy is desirable. People want to be in public, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to be public. There’s a huge difference between the two. As a result of the destabilization of social spaces, what’s shocking is how frequently teens have shifted from trying to restrict access to content to trying to restrict access to meaning. They get, at a gut level, that they can’t have control over who sees what’s said, but they hope to instead have control over how that information is interpreted. And thus, we see our collective imagination of what’s private colliding smack into the notion of public. They are less of a continuum and more of an entwined hairball, reshaping and influencing each other in significant ways.
I also think this next extract nicely captures why people become angry with brands and why reputational harm happens at an emotional level. If you represent a brand, you should read this a few times:
When powerful actors, be they companies or governmental agencies, use the excuse of something being “public” to defend their right to look, they systematically assert control over people in a way that fundamentally disenfranchises them. This is the very essence of power and the core of why concepts like “surveillance” matter. Surveillance isn’t simply the all-being all-looking eye. It’s a mechanism by which systems of power assert their power. And it is why people grow angry and distrustful. Why they throw fits over being experimented on. Why they cry privacy foul even when the content being discussed is, for all intents and purposes, public.
Privacy is contextual. Law is also a poor mechanism for protecting it because law tends to be mechanical (it has to be). What we need more is a better awareness of what privacy and publicity mean in a social context and where the line is.