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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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10 comments
 
+Martin W. Smith this post is extremely relevant and helpful for attorneys. I had the opportunity to just scan this, but I am circling back around to read completely tonight and implement the thoughts.  

I would say that most attorneys are followers as you stated, however, the group that +Neil Ferree was referencing tend to be the leaders, but are smart enough to know that there is plenty we do not know.  

I will be back.  
 
Great post +Martin W. Smith, I personally work with many law firms (small and corporate size) and know they are a bit scare to jump  in the social media wagon. 

Now, content marketing is great, but knowing what type of content and format is best for a specific market takes some practice and a lot of testing. And let me tell you that a law firm can go without the direct use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+... they can still run a very successful social outreach and content campaign using other more professional and interactive formats.

With the right combination of cross-channel marketing and the social power of their audience they can generate enough  buzz for their content which turns into high level of branding exposure.

I have to share this to make sure people understand that social isn't everything, and social isn't just top networks like Facebook!
 
This is such a great read, +Martin W. Smith. I'm going to be sharing this with +Wendy Hernandez as it's relatable to how we are transitioning our website. Wendy currently utilizes the "Youtility" method as +Jay Baer has mentioned in his book. 

One thing we know about our website is that we want it to be user-friendly and helpful to the person who is seeking help. Again, we have a lot of work to do as always.  Thank you for penning this post here on Google+ and your website. I will be sharing it to other attorneys.  -SH
 
Thanks +Hernandez Family Law and I will be sure to pick up +Jay Baer's book (sounds great). One of the conclusions I reached in the early hours of the morning was the "tent pole" of any lawyer website must be TRUST and Trust can be tricky online (as I outlined in the CATCH-22 problem my team stumbled on the hard way - when WE attempted to create trust we were less trustworthy but when our community stepped in for us TRUST rolled in like a clear blue sky after a rain :).

I think of the web as a giant lie detecting amplifier. Truth and Trust come from TINY moments. I remember one amazing test we did when I was an Ecom Director.

We were testing multivariate testing, a way of testing the next impact of a series of changes in order to know if the red button with the B copy located on the left wins.

On this day we tested adding quotes to some homepage tease copy. My theory was without quotes our visitors would see the unattributed quotes (something I don't like and can't remember why we weren't attributing). Those tiny quote marks quadrupled conversions from the page.

Our CFO refused to believe such a tiny thing could make such a large difference. My theory was the quotes made it clear CUSTOMERS were talking not us and I had no problem believing such a tiny change could produce such a large result.

I love any law firm with the word FAMILY in its title since you clearly have a great creation story and, like many lawyers I've met here in NC, are doing something I don't think I could do for a week (work with my father LOL).

My father is a brilliant man, but trying to figure out how to be his son is work enough. When a law firm creates GENERATIONS of TRUST that is a special thing, a thing dwindling all too fast in our digital world.

Most law firms have a strong sense of PLACE too. That is why I like the idea of a strong and visual creation story, bios and then letting visitors ask questions or share generations of thoughts on how they've been helped out of difficult times repeatedly by a firm they trust.

THERE is the hero story many law firms have but don't share. I spoke with some great and very smart lawyers from Ligget and Meyers about a year ago and the story of how son went away only to return when father needed him was compelling and amazing.

Share those stories and be helpful and your web presence will capture the sense of FAMILY I know must be important to your practice. Thanks for your kind note and the book recommendation. Marty
 
+Martin W. Smith Thank you for sharing those thoughts! I believe that +Wendy Hernandez is already doing much of that in her weekly posts.  As of right now, the firm posts three times a week (one of those being Wendy's story/newsletter update).

The people who subscribe to the email list have learned all about upbringing and struggles faced by the head attorney. She knows that she isn't perfect and that she is continually growing to be a better person everyday. 

You're right, telling the story is very important.  She has already had subscribers respond back to her and give her the feedback that we (as an office) need to hear. It had to be realized that the website needed to be a destination for connection and answers. 

Thank you so much for your thoughfulness in getting back to us. We are definitely picking up with you're throwing down! :)
 
LOL +Hernandez Family Law yes you certainly are picking up what I'm throwing down and with the PERFECT Internet marketing attitude. Internet marketing requires a strange mix of courage and humility you seem to have mastered. Other law firms should follow YOUR lead. Marty 
 
+Luis Galarza thanks for your point about TIME and TESTING with regard to content and social marketing. Both points are RIGHT, but I designed the "short stack" attack plan for a mid-level law firm partially so they could wander around for a year and do more GOOD than HARM. 

I've probably created close to a million tests now and knowing what to test and why is still a challenge. There are two approaches to creating websites and the content and social marketing they need to be successful: Great From Jump, UGLY at start but capable of getting better fast.

I fall into the later school, a school I realize will be DIFFICULT for lawyers to embrace. There are somethings that may ONLY be learned by being LIVE. No simulation, idea or thought is half as good as a real world TEST. 

Problem is creating a testing culture is TOUGH. Most customers I advise should GO and GO NOW since we have a much more valuable conversation after an idea is live. I also never know what to test at first and so inevitably test the wrong things. 

I used to try to explain this problem to my DM bosses as we could test, see the results and fly our plan directly into a mountain feeling good about it the whole way in. 

We've just run into why I like +Scoop.it so much. Content curated into my 12 feeds (http://www.scoop.it/u/martin-marty-smith ) produce VIEWS data. Now we are about to have a very DEEP and INSIDE Internet Marketing baseball discussion. 

Many analytics types will RANT about how VIEWS don't mean anything. My rant back to them, and I've yet to have one QUANT except for my friend +Melinda Thielbar get this, is when ALL data is equally meaningless than any data is valuable (lol). 

Why is "all data equally meaningless"? Read Black Swan by Taleb and you will discover how forceful our human pattern making machine is even, and perhaps especially, when no actual pattern exists. 

The more Internet marketing you create the LESS data you need to KNOW how to hedge. I can hedge an entire content plan based on my Scoop.it views (and promise to explain how and why I do that soon). The value of that hedge is worth lots of money, time and other Internet currency (GoogleJuice, positive site heuristics). 

I am NOT saying a #lawfirm  shouldn't open up GA and test away since the sooner they begin to understand how when all data is equally meaningless any data can be used to create significant advantage the better. 

BUT anything they do TODAY and improve upon TOMORROW is more valuable than not (and that was +Neil Ferree's idea that started our discussion). Another option for #lawyers  is to hire a great IMer like you and enjoy the view from the backseat.

AT SOME POINT, all lawyers will need to drive this car. Waiting until the car is easier to drive is one option. Wrecking a few cars and learning the hard way another (and my preferred approach). I know you teach as much as you do and my ultimate advice to any lawyer reading this is you may be the greatest lawyer in the world, but if your online presence is absent or creates dissonance with GREATEST EVER then you will suffer (eventually).

If that last sentence sounds like something very FUNDAMENTAL just changed in what it means to be a lawyer congratulations since you are getting it. The distance between what Luis and I do for a living and what any lawyer or law firm does for a living is shrinking fast and daily.

Marty 
 
BTW, I am about to put up a post about the future of web design and predictive analytics that is at least a year away from impacting my recommendations on how to design a website for #lawfirms  with billables below $50M. The web design becoming predictive analyitcs conversation is confined to a handful of pretty geeky IMers (at the moment), but it will breakout (not for most SMBs, lawyers and real estate agents for at least a year). M 
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