Content Marketing & Web Design For Lawyers
Couldn't sleep last night and was so fascinated by the conversation we had yesterday with +Neil Ferree +Charlotte Christian and +Michael Ehline that I wondered what I would do if I were a mid-sized law firm needing to create successful content marketing supported by social media. 

Neil's post explained that NOT being part of our new content marketing social media Google party isn't an acceptable option. If we stipulate Neil's point I wondered what to do next. 

Lawyer Websites = Simple & FLAT
The linked post provides a quick overview of important ideas such as what is the difference between a website and a blog (in some case nothing these days but explaining that statement is another 1,000 words lol). 

As Marketing Director for +Atlantic BT I've talked to several local law firms and would rate those "buyers" of our services as well informed and easy to teach. I see several common problems such as:

* Lawyers inevitably want to understand Internet marketing's logic. 
* Lawyers want to follow not lead (they want to adopt the precedent set by their competitors). 
* Lawyers tend toward Sistine Chapeling (wanting perfection). 
* Lawyers thinking they know more about Internet marketing than they do. 

That last bullet is a universal truth btw. We all think we know more about #internetmarketing  than we do :). The biggest issue is trying to apply LOGIC to what happens on the web. 

There is LOGIC and there is math and SPEED. Online math and speed trumps logic and our single Internet marketing truth is what is happening now. And that comment leads into the next problem. 

Never copy non-universal best practice features from competitors. Creating a services page LOOKS like a universal best practice for lawyers and most B2B websites. Yes services pages are common. NO services pages almost never matter. 

Services pages are where a company explains the services it offers, the products its sells. If there is more boring or one sided conversation I don't know what it is. Back in the brochureware days services pages made sense. 

In our social, mobile and highly dynamic web a boring one sided services page is death. Far from remaining neutral a services page will kill conversions fast. YES create content about your products but do so with videos, testimonials and mashups. 

Also, chances of your competitors knowing some secret you must emulate are almost ZERO. Everyone I know who even knows ONE secret worth money is an Internet marketer.

Yeah but there are Internet marketers who work for law firms you may be thinking. Yes I've met many IMers who work for law firms. There are some good ones. I've yet to meet a GREAT IMer who works for a law firm (may exist but I haven't met them granted).

GREAT IMers would be bored to tears working on most law firm websites. Every GREAT IMer I know could give a flying hoot about money. Knowing what is happening NOW and NEXT is the currency GREAT IMers trade. 

Here is the other rub for #lawyers . The unstated goal of any web presence a law firm develops is to create TRUST. Trust is the hardest thing to create and the RUB is to the extent any law firm works hard to look, sound and act trustworthy they create THE OPPOSITE impression.

When I was a Director of Ecommerce I noticed when our staff SOLD conversions went down. When we hosted a party where our customers sold each other conversion went UP. Lawyers have this same problem. The CATCH-22 of any law firm website is you must create trust and to the extent YOU attempt to create trust you don't.

Lawyer websites must use tools such as:

* Visual creation story (emphasis on story).
* Client testimonials (for types of practice and to reinforce the firm's creation story).
* Q&A Content - nothing like helping for FREE to create trust online (and yes I know every senior partner reading this is throwing things at the screen now :).
* User Generated Content - including comments, answering submitted questions and being present and available on social media creates the most important content you can't buy #UGC .
* Blog Posts - Posting 200 to 500 words a day, or a picture or a video or a great link creates AUTHORITY online.

I've also found lawyers to be REALLY SMART about the relationship between time and money. If you just read that list above as costing about $100K you win admission to law review. I NEVER PLAN to spend $100K (ever).

I always plan to spend $10K since you never want to SPEND IN ADVANCE of your feedback loops. After I spend $10K I can see how to spend the next $10K. A few years ago I wrote a piece about how the real cost of a website is somewhere in the $50K range then ($100K now).

The word "website" is the problem in that sentence. You could call your Facebook page a "website". I am  #ecom  guy so website to me means $10 to $1 #ROI  . My first website in 1999 cost $5K (so $10K in today's dollars) and made $80K in its first two months.

1999 was a very different time online than NOW. Now your site will need to spend $2 in marketing support for every $1 you spend in design (minimum).

If I was building a new #ecommerce  website I would say the safer ratio is now $5 to $10 for every design (or redesign) dollar. Cutting through CLUTTER is expensive.

Expense is the LEAST Of The Cut Through Clutter Challenges
The real problem is the supply and demand curve. There may be 5,000 truly gifted content and social marketing experts on earth today (and everyone of them is BUSY).

I know about 1,000 of the 5,000 truly gifted (in varying degrees of familiarity) and the difference such an expert can make thee post Google-algorithm change days in TIME to scale and MONEY is $10 to $1 or their very expensive costs.

The reason this very elite group is so valuable NOW is #socialmediamarketing  and #contentmarketing  are so new there is no farm system, no way to create 100,000 gifted social and content marketers (can't learn this stuff in SCHOOL that is for sure :).

As I'm writing this I'm also working on new publisher tools to help connect top of funnel traffic generation to bottom of the funnel conversion. I share that comment about our SpinSnip publishers tool set because we are missing more than a farm system to create 100,000 or a million gifted social and content marketers. We are missing the TOOLS a farm system needs. Everything is bailing wire and chewing gum and in some geniuses head right at the moment (so hard to TEACH it to others and impossible to sell it to C-level and lawyers). 

What is a law firm to do?

Don't hire a social marketing expert (no matter how rich your firm) because there won't be enough WORK for a content / social expert to do for at least a year.  Why pay my $350 an hour rate when our version of para-legals can do a lot of the ditch digging at $100 an hour? I DO NOT suggest a law firm attempt to go offshore because I know what I am doing and find that relationship TOUGH and I usually spend the difference in price in support money (so net is the same).  

The linked post explains how to create a lawyer site with enough PRESENCE after about a year that bringing in a big gun to look hard at your competitive space and find the #blueoceans  where $100,000 investments become worth many multiples. 

Yes I could make a #startup  argument to go in hard and fast, but not for a firm whose yearly billables don't exceed $50M (and the number may be more like $100M). Once we get into that level of business those firms are already fighting the online equivalent of the Battle of Britain. 

Should a $50M or $100M law firm have a $200K content and social expert on staff? ABSOLUTELY. When you are playing at that level the absence of a brilliant content marketer costs so much potentially unrecoverable dollars it is a hole you must fill NOW.  I would be tempted to hire TWO of social / content marketing experts (so they smack each other down and you can have a viable B option always). 

The linked post is NOT a Battle of Britain plan. The plan on my Martin Marty Smith blog is meant for a mid-size law firm who is now officially late to the game and wants to win big enough to justify the first an then the next $10K.

If your firm creates and then exhausts the ideas outlined THEN bring in a BIG GUN and tell them you want to rule the world (or your little corner of it) online. 

Hope this post helps law firms who are ready to get in the game know how to sart. I STRONGLY agree with Neil. Your law firm MUST be creating online reputation daily. The content and social marketing jury is in (lol sorry couldn't resist) and laggards will be jailed :). 

NOTE: If your firm is in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area I host a free open Q&A session most Saturdays at Saladelia on University in Durham. Follow @ScentTrial(http://www.twitter.com/scenttrail) to know for sure if we can grab lunch and you can ask questions without getting stuck with a bill :). M 
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