The following article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Marketing the Law Firm.

Strategy is a high-value word. When something is “strategic” it is seen to have value and purpose. What then is the strategic value and purpose of thought leadership and content marketing?

Thought leadership is a powerful credentialing tool. Thought leaders lure interesting work that commands premium-billing rates, which enables their firms to attract and retain the best talent.

The point is to break through the clutter and use content to demonstrate, not only your own expertise, but also your interest in your clients and prospects and a genuine understanding of the work they do.

Content (articles, whitepapers, analysis in news articles, client alerts, etc.) is most often used as a means to transmit thought leadership and demonstrate a professional’s expertise. The problem is that there are only so many ways for an expert to describe to a target audience the effects of an issue important to them, and there are often dozens and dozens of experts trying to do so. In other words, content as a differentiating tool to generate leads and build awareness is suspect. Given how crowded the market is and how much content is needed to standout in it, content development programs for this purpose (reach) are often too expensive and time-consuming for all but the largest, richest firms.

However, the promise of reach – the appeal to ego – is powerful and gives content one of its most useful – and less costly — purposes: an opportunity to routinely engage clients and prospects.

Several years ago BTI published research finding that it typically takes seven calls to get a general counsel to agree to a meeting because GCs routinely reject such requests in order to test for flow-up. Sadly, 90% of attorneys fail to follow-up after the first rejection. Can you blame them? Imagine inviting a prospect to lunch but them rejecting the invitation. When would you call back? What would you say? “I know you rejected my invitation to lunch a few weeks ago, but how about today?” Of course not. You’d call when you had something valuable to share or offer. “I was just down in Orlando at that big conference you missed. I presented on a very important topic to you. How about I take you to lunch and tell you about it?”

Content is easily acquired grease to facilitate this active and routine engagement. From this strategic perspective, counting clips (and re-tweets and shares) is less important than counting actual touches and their revenue-generating effects on a specific client or prospect.

The opportunities are boundless when you see content’s purpose this way. The opportunity to create content is an opportunity to involve a client or prospect (or several) in its development, and yes, the created content itself becomes a tool to engage and educate many others afterwards. And, the best part? It doesn’t even have to be yours…Your expertise is enhanced when you act as a filter and identify and share the valuable content of other experts in your field.

Your effort doesn’t need to be all about business either. Perhaps your prospect is a big music fan or a frequent runner. Considering how inundated she might be with your competitor’s client alerts, she’d probably appreciate receiving an article from Vibe about her favorite band or from Women’s Health about the latest training techniques.

The point is to break through the clutter and use content to demonstrate not only your own expertise but also your interest in your clients and prospects and a genuine understanding of the work they do—not just the things they work on with you.

So partner-up and create content with your clients and prospects as often as possible. Use the development process to reach out to prospects and clients for advice and use the resulting piece as an excuse to circle back and engage them again.

Remember, being a thought leader is valuable and content can be a powerful tool to demonstrate expertise, but content’s full potential will be wasted if it isn’t used as a means (and excuse) to engage with targets.

Positioning Professionals

Hellerman Communications is an award-winning corporate communications agency specializing in positioning professionals to win business. With expertise in strategic marketing & content development, crisis & litigation communications, and social influencer & stakeholder relations, we help the world’s most elite professionals and their firms build and protect their most lucrative relationships.

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