Optimizing Law Firm Digital Strategy Results with LinkedIn A 5-Step Plan for Success

In Tuesday’s Business of Law Blog post, we presented tips from LexisNexis Client Advisor, Michelle Woodyear, on creating and implementing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Today, we riff on one of the key tactics Woodyear recommends that firms adopt in order to optimize the results of their digital strategy — the use of LinkedIn.

Not unexpectedly, the growth in General Counsels’ reliance on social media to vet law firms and lawyers mirrors the growth in the use of social media by law firms and lawyers themselves. According to surveys reviewed by Woodyear, between 60 to 73 percent of GCs check out lawyers and their firms online.

A LinkedIn-based Social Media Strategy — A 5-Step Plan for Success

With so much riding on a digital first impression, Woodyear recommends using a presence on LinkedIn as a cornerstone of a firm’s social strategy. She offers the following 5-step plan for firms to ensure that their LinkedIn-based social strategy is on track.

  1. Make sure the majority of the firm’s lawyers are on LinkedIn
    Take advantage of the synergistic effect of having multiple lawyer connections associated with your firm. Encourage all of your firm’s lawyers to create a profile on LinkedIn, offer assistance with developing a suitable bio, if necessary, and follow up to confirm participation.
  2. Encourage lawyers to create bios optimized for social media
    Simply cutting and pasting information from a resume or CV can result in a LinkedIn profile that ranks low in searches. Lawyers should highlight credentials, specialized skills and accomplishments that correspond to how clients and prospects search for a lawyer. Optimizing bios to rank high in online search results isn’t difficult, but it requires a laser-sharp focus on identifying and deploying the most powerful and relevant terms in the lawyers’ bios.
  3. Ensure that lawyers are actively engaged in connecting with colleagues and clients
    The difference between merely setting up a LinkedIn account and leveraging LinkedIn to become a social media thought leader is simply a matter of concentrating one’s efforts on creating, sharing and curating relevant content. Once a lawyer has established a targeted audience of colleagues, clients and prospects, it’s important to engage the audience. Nothing beats informative and useful content served up on a regular basis for fulfilling that role.
  4. Emphasize the importance of sharing thought leadership with connections on a regular basis
    Developing a consistent cadence of social posts helps build and sustain an audience that’s not only engaged, but which looks forward to each new piece of relevant thought leadership. When creating content becomes a part of the lawyers’ daily or weekly routine, the process will become increasingly less burdensome and may actually become a task he or she looks forward to.
  5. Assess what content results in the most engagement
    By focusing social media efforts on the types of content readers find most interesting or thought provoking, you can fine-tune your social strategy to yield the best return on your social media investment.

A Tool for Monitoring Brand Strength

As Woodyear mentioned in her previous post, Kredible is a useful tool for helping lawyers effectively use LinkedIn to strengthen their personal brand as well as the firm’s brand by optimizing online presence. The scoring Kredible provides helps lawyers focus on making sure the right information is being shared, and that the firm’s brand guidelines are being followed. Kredible also provides analytics that deliver insights into the effectiveness of a content strategy.

Create, Curate, Measure and Refine

Woodyear emphasizes the importance of lawyers strategically curating content for distribution to their clients. Because even the most interested clients or prospects will likely spend only a few seconds scanning content, the most important messaging has to stand out. That means avoiding long bodies of text and instead, delivering content in a user-friendly and engaging format.

Once the digital strategy, content and delivery mechanics have been fine-tuned, Woodyear recommends leveraging the content by creating targeted LinkedIn campaigns to promote thought leadership to a very targeted audience. “LinkedIn campaigns are a very cost effective and targeted way to make sure the attorneys’ thought leadership is being seen by the intended audience,” Woodyear says. She suggests experimenting with different types of content, infographics, and various headlines, and then leveraging LinkedIn’s analytics to identify the top performing content. One of the measurement tools LinkedIn offers is the Social Selling Index. Updated daily, the index measures how effective an individual is at establishing a professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.

Woodyear is an advocate for making use of the power of analytics to shape content strategy. “Before each campaign, you should clearly define your objectives and KPIs to measure its success. You also be sure to review metrics regularly with key management. If you collect lots of data and no one reviews it, than its pretty useless,“ she cautions.

“Use data to refine and adjust your processes. Over time, you’ll be able to predict what content works best, what events are most successful, what pitches you’ll win, what type of client is most profitable. Ultimately, you’ll be able to effectively use data to uncover new opportunities and prospect for additional business.”

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Optimizing Law Firm Digital Strategy Results with LinkedIn — A 5-Step Plan for Success

A Case in Driving Operational Efficiency: Identify What Matters Most

“You can’t boil the ocean,” said Kris Satkunas, director of strategic consulting for LexisNexis CounselLink, during a webinar focused on driving operational efficiency in the legal department. Instead of trying to accomplish everything at once, she suggested honing in on a handful of metrics that clearly identifies what is most important to the legal department.

“The legal department is a cost center we have heard,” Satkunas said. “Using data related to cost savings can help demonstrate the value of the legal department to the organization.”

During the discussion she offered three examples of real-life legal departments in various industries in which the legal department used a well-defined, systematic process to better manage its outside legal partnerships in the areas of price, panel selection, and matter budgeting. Here’s a closer look at one anecdote she shared:

The Insurance Company

A large insurance company sought to put a data-driven law firm assessment process place by using a scorecard approach to better determine pricing of matters. In order to accomplish this, the legal department first identified what attributes were most important to the legal department in an outside counsel partner. In doing so, the legal department realized that some of the attributes it deemed to be most valuable were more subjective in nature, such as:

  • How well does the law firm communicate with the legal department?
  • How creative is the law firm in its approach?

Once the legal team settled on a handful of key attributes against which to measure the department’s outside legal vendors they quantified them on scale of 1 to 4 to develop a scorecard. As a result of developing a scorecard approach, the legal team is now able to draw comparisons and make more data-driven decisions on how well their legal vendors perform in these areas. In essence, the legal department now uses a systematic, closed-loop process by which to measure outside counsel partners and makes direct comparisons on matter pricing. In addition, it uses the feedback it gets from the process to share with its outside legal vendors and let them know where they stand. As an added bonus, the legal department’s relationships with its outside legal vendors are improved and the department is headed towards a much more data-driven vendor management process.

“Select the best metrics that are most important to you,” said Satkunas.

3 Drivers of Operational Maturity

According to Satkunas, there are three drivers of operational maturity in the legal department:

  • Enterprise Legal Management (ELM) solutions that route information and documents related to legal matters and automate tasks that people might otherwise have to manage manually, is an example of how technology can be used to drive maturity and allow staff to attend to more core work responsibilities. In addition, ELM solutions can help the legal department communicate more efficiently and effectively, internally and externally with their law firm partners.
  • Analysis is another essential part of the maturity process. The discovery and communication of meaningful patterns of data can be used to make more informed decisions related to matter cost against the legal budget. By looking at consistency of outcomes, legal departments can better understand and forecast the various phases of the matter life cycle.
  • Process. Quite simply, process refers to the number of steps or actions the legal department needs to take to reach a particular end. Determining budgets or assessing outside law firm panels are both examples of actions that require a detailed process.

Bringing these three things together can get the legal department to the best place, Satkunas says.

Although Satkunas says there is no right or wrong place to be on the maturity scale, she encourages legal departments to advance as close to the maturity side as they are ready to go.

***

This post is by Carla Del Bove, who provides support to the business of law software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.

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A Case in Driving Operational Efficiency: Identify What Matters Most

A Digital Marketing Blueprint for Successful CRM Implementation

It’s no secret that one of the biggest impediments to implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system firmwide is enlisting lawyer buy-in.

Despite the potential that CRM systems hold for supercharging a firm’s business development success, when it comes to the value of sharing client relationship information within a law firm, marketing professionals and lawyers are sometimes inclined to see things differently.

The first challenge revolves around the BD professional’s ability to incorporate all of the firm’s attorneys’ legacy contact data into a CRM system where it can be aggregated and analyzed to provide detailed information about relationships. Going forward, the next challenge is to get the lawyers to update the system with additional information related to meetings with clients, prospect pitches and other details that would help build out a more complete picture of all client and prospect touch points and allow the firm to sharpen its business development focus.

But CRM initiatives are frequently met with a mixture of skepticism and mistrust. “Attorneys don’t want to share their contacts. The idea scares them. Lawyers aren’t sharers, but we have to make them into sharers,” says Michelle Woodyear, the former Digital Marketing Manager for a leading global law firm and now Client Advisor at LexisNexis.

Marketing the Marketing: Strong Value Proposition Helps Overcome Objections

Overcoming a lawyer’s reluctance to share contacts with others across the firm is critical to the successful functioning of a CRM system. “The value proposition for doing so has to be greater than the negatives,” Woodyear says.

To help both to demonstrate and to communicate the value of sharing contacts within a CRM, Woodyear suggests enlisting the support of those she refers to as “early adopters and fast followers.”

Early Adopters and Fast Followers Strengthen the Case

Woodyear cautions that rolling out an effective CRM-based business development program is a long and incremental process. “Coming from a Fortune 500 company to my role as a law firm Digital Marketing Manager, I thought that we could just make a decision and roll it out. I found out that you have to deal with people on a grassroots level first — find like-minded people, early adopters and fast followers and get them excited about it.“

Fortunately for Woodyear, her firm’s newly hired chief marketing officer was one of her initial supporters. “She not only bought into my vision, but she packaged it in a way that got the chairman and the partners to buy in, too.” With support at the top secured, Woodyear turned her attention to finding champions for her vision at ground level. Focusing on a single practice group, she presented her case, convinced the leader to try a pilot program, and began guiding the group along its journey toward CRM enlightenment, one step at a time.

One of Woodyear’s early successes materialized when 20 attorneys in the pilot practice group used email signature scraping to update some 6,000 contacts in the CRM database. The experience emphasized how a firm’s contact information can become inaccurate over time– and how technology can make the process of maintaining accurate contact information easy and painless.

The Digital Marketing Blueprint

Woodyear’s blueprint for BD success via digital marketing incorporates several common sense — yet often overlooked — steps that help optimize results.

Step 1. Create client personas

You can’t deploy a successful digital marketing campaign if you don’t know who the prospect is, Woodyear cautions. She has lawyers describe the attributes of their “ideal” client and uses that information to target qualified prospects whose profiles match the ideal.

Step 2. Make it easy

“Most lawyers didn’t go to law school thinking they’d have to become salesmen, so you have to make it easy,” Woodyear advises. Integrating the CRM system with Microsoft Outlook, ensuring accessibility via mobile devices, enabling relationship scoring via a tool such as InterAction IQ and offering business card readers are key tactics for minimizing the work required to access and update the system regularly — helping to ensure its adoption firm-wide.

Step 3. Optimize bios for search and for personas

One of Woodyear’s most surprising discoveries was that many of the lawyers failed to include the terms “lawyer” or “attorney” in their online profiles. The use of relevant keywords helps ensure that search engines find the lawyers’ bios. Woodyear also notes that crafting the bio to appeal to the needs and pain points of the client personas is equally important.

Step 4. Go social

General Counsels vet attorneys online. If an attorney’s name doesn’t appear in LinkedIn search results, he or she will lose out to one whose name does. Using tools like Kredible can help attorneys focus on the most important elements of the profile while enforcing brand standards and best practices.

Step 5. Develop a Digital Content Strategy

Technology has impacted the way law firms should engage with their clients. The ability to provide rich content is essential. If a firm’s lawyers don’t already know how to use CRM, ERM, bios, blogs and social media to communicate, it’s high time to learn. And if the firm doesn’t have the technology required to support its lawyers’ digital efforts, it’s time to implement it.

And equally importantly, content must be part of an overall strategy rather than randomly produced, disconnected and ad hoc. When formulating a digital content strategy, Woodyear suggests keeping the following rules in mind:

Make it personal. 1-to-1 Marketing. People expect it. That’s what the experience on other websites. There is so much digital noise, personalization the key to standing out in today’s cluttered digital environment.

Be social. If your lawyers aren’t on linked in GET THEM THERE. Why? Because GC’s use Social to vet law firms and find relevant content. How many? Somewhere between 60 and 73 percent check you out online according to recent surveys.

Analyze results. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. You can’t gain credibility for your marketing efforts if you don’t have the data to back up your claims. Today’s marketer must understand how analyze and interpret data.

Cross-serve and convert leads. When you know HOW your clients are interacting with your content then you can begin to see patterns and uncover opportunities for cross serving existing clients. It’s much more cost effective to sell additional services to existing clients rather than chasing down new clients. In fact, the cost of winning a new client is 7x the cost of retaining an existing client.

Staff up. Woodyear says that many of the firms she has talked to are beginning to realize that they’ll need to change their whole approach to compete with other firms. They may need to retrain existing staff or hire new experts who have a deep understanding of marketing technologies and content strategy.

Step 6. Create and curate content

Good content gets shared and linked to. Shared and linked content gets Google’s attention. Content that gets Google’s attention gets found, shared and linked to even more. The feedback cycle doesn’t go on indefinitely, though. Content must be refreshed periodically to ensure that viewers and search engines remain engaged.

Step 7. Deliver personalized content

Content should be written with the specific information needs and pain points of the prospects in mind (see Step 1). Use the power of your CRM system to segment your target audience and then target them with appropriate content and messaging. Don’t bombard them with every client alert and white paper your firm produces, otherwise you’ll become noise and they’ll ignore all of your content.

The “Age of the Customer” is Changing the Face of BD

Having experienced the challenges as well as the benefits associated with implementing CRM solutions, Woodyear acknowledges their indispensible role in the business development mix. “We’re in the age of the customer,” she says. “The customers are in control. It’s our job to manage and nurture relationships in ways that address their needs and maximize business opportunities for firms. Implementing an effective, CRM-driven digital marketing program is a new strategy, but it’s a great place to start.”

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A Digital Marketing Blueprint for Successful CRM Implementation

40 Pro Tips To Improve Your Content Marketing: Content Jam Review

“Remember somewhere the sun is shining” sang Chet Baker. It was certainly shining in Chicago last Thursday for Content Jam. The event, organised by our friends at Orbit Media and sponsored by our friends at SEMrush, was attended by over 300 enthusiastic content marketers. We were privileged to listen to a great set of speakers including Robert Rose, Ardath Albee, Brian Fanzo, Ian Lurie, Andy Crestodina and others, who provided ideas and inspiration in equal measure.

View from the Gleacher Center venue

I originally intended to write a short review of the event but I found myself making so many pages and pages of notes that I decided to list the key points and ideas. Here is my take from the event.

  1. Content shock is real. For those that don’t believe in content shock, consider this. If you search for “How to drive more leads” on Google it returns over 236m articles. It will take you a little time to search through that lot. This reinforces the power and importance of the Google algorithm in deciding what you see. Realistically how many pages down those 236m articles are you going to go?
  2. 4 trillion webpages = overload. Drew Davis, author of Brandscaping, kicked things off at the event after a nice jazz sax introduction by Sean Packard. Drew emphasised the theme of content shock “we live in an information overload world” but just because there is more information available doesn’t mean we can consume more. The reality is we will only ever see a fraction of the 4 trillion indexed webpages.
  3. Own the moment. How can you get people to consume your content? Drew advised thinking about the moments you can own and also posed the question “do you need them to come to your site?” If people watch your video on YouTube or review your slides on Sildeshare and become a customer, does it matter? I think the answer is yes and no. I had the words of Joe Pulizi ringing in my ears about not building your house on rented land.
  4. Focus on creating value. Content marketers can be self-deprecating. Only 34% feel they are successful in what they are doing. Robert Rose reinforced that point that content marketing is hard work but done well you create strategic value for your business.
  5. Build a content brand. Don’t simply create branded content was Drew’s advice. Branded content is created for a company whereas content brands are created for an audience. Thus think of your content as your product and its brand tone and values.
  6. Short form content is ok. People have limited time, can you use short form content. Drew’s example was the 15 second videos from Fish Friday by Fish Tales. Even owning 15 seconds can be useful, though Fish Tales videos were later extended to 4 minutes.
  7. Tell stories. Fish Tales was a good example of telling a story, in their case about where the fish comes from, which is reinforced on their products. Ardath Albee reinforced the importance of stories in her session. She quoted research that indicates stories activate parts of the brain that allow a listener to turn the story into their own idea and experience.
  8. Think like a TV executive. Think about your content like creating a TV show. You should commit to a format, which is repeatable, such as videos or podcasts. Audiences often fall in love with the format such as popular TV and radio shows. What format will you adopt and use?
  9. Make an appointment with your audience. Schedule your content and reinforce the expectation even if your audience doesn’t consume it at that time. A great example is Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Fridays.
  10. Find your audience. Drew talked of finding a valuable branch of your tree, a specific niche. “Go niche to get rich” was his suggestion. Look for content holes, are there gaps in the content market? Yes, these do exist despite 4 trillion web pages.
  11. Build relationships. A common theme that emerged during the day was the power of relationships including building long term, subscription style relationships. Robert Rose emphasised the importance and cost benefits of maintaining and keeping your audience. Relationships are built with people more than brands. Brain Fanzo emphasised this point in his session on influencer marketing.
  12. It is about individuals. Drew emphasised the importance of building and nurturing talent your audience trusts, as the audience builds relationships with individuals.
  13. Understand your audience. Develop buyer personas and write them in the first person, advised Ardath Albee. Not Diana wants to make product launches more efficient but “I am struggling to get products to market faster my boss is worried that changing them will create more chaos.” Get inside their head and really understand your buyers.
  14. Understand your users job role. Use Linkedin to do a search and see profiles buyers have written about themselves. Try typing in ‘a day in the life of a ‘job role’‘
  15. Do original research. Andy Crestodina shared some great practical advice on how to improve your content marketing starting with original research. Andy quoted the research we did with Moz showing the power of original research and how research content gets more links. Andy gave the example of CMI’s research that has been linked to by over 4,000 websites.
  16. Different research options. You can undertake different forms of original research for example:
  • Observation research — chose a dataset, such as the 10 best practices on top 50 websites.
  • Aggregation — review pay scales for marketers
  • Surveys — Andy gave an example Orbit Media created on how long it takes to create a blog post (350 websites link to the results of the research)
  1. Have strong opinions. One way to get people engaged with your content is to share your opinions. Andy’s example here was Mark Schaefer’s post on content shock, who owned and still owns this conversation.
  2. Create and own a term. Robert Rose emphasised the option to create your own category or term as Mark did. Robert referenced Hubspot who created and own the term inbound marketing, so much so that I actually exclude their domain from my BuzzSumo results on inbound marketing.
  3. Be controversial. Be careful there are risks with this, no one was suggesting you become Donald Trump. Andy’s example was a post he wrote titled “PDFs are the rust of the internet”. Make a list of your strongest opinions and the questions in your industry that are people afraid to answer. Dare you write about them?
  4. Cover the buying cycle. B2B customers only contact vendors after they are fifty percent of the way through the buying process. Thus your content needs to help them along the way while they are doing research. Make sure your content strategy covers content for all stages of the buying process from awareness through to conversions.
  5. Collaborate on content. Marketers are now journalists and everyone you know and meet is a potential source. Thus include people in your content, quote them, ask them for a quote, include them in an expert roundup, or interview them for a deep dive post. As Andy says an ally in content creation is an ally in content promotion, and we all need as many allies as we can get.
  6. Help people. Relationships are about reciprocity, you get what you give but most importantly do try to help people. Ask people:
  • What they are doing that we can promote?
  • What are you writing that we can collaborate on?
  • Who can I introduce you to?
  1. I will say it again, help people. Fundamentally try to be helpful, people will never say you are helping too much.
  2. Bridge the trust gap. Brain Fanzo pointed out Neilson research that shows that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know. Brand advocates and influencers play an important role. Brian puts it this way “influencer marketing bridges the trust gap between the audience and the customer” as “no one trusts a logo”.
  3. Identify your influencers. Brian also outlined 3 types of influencers:
  • Social amplifiers
  • Thought leaders
  • Subject matter experts
  1. Influence is about trust and engagement. The amount of influence someone has is based on the trust they have with their audience. It is NOT about numbers of followers but rather do they inspire people to action? It is very common to see people with large numbers of followers getting very few retweets because they don’t have an engaged audience. Also does the influencer have influence with your audience? It would be great if Adele said BuzzSumo is the best content marketing tool in the business but would it move many of our audience? Adele, if you are listening, we would be grateful for any mention, we loved Hello by the way.
  2. Pick your content battles. Don’t go up against Hubspot for inbound marketing. Use the Moz Keyword Explorer tool to see how difficult it is to compete for different keywords relative to your own domain authority.
  3. Make sure your content is relevant. This is not about putting your terms in the title, header tag and body. Google is increasing semantic, it understands things not strings of letters. You should include semantically related topics in your content. You can use the keywordtool.io to suggest phrases connected to your topic or Google related searches.
  4. Be the best answer on the topic. Andy quoted Marcus Sheridan “They ask, you answer.” You need to help your audience and you can do this by simply being the best answer to the questions they are asking.Buyer questions are unlikely to be about your services or features but how do they achieve something and overcome obstacles.
  5. The buyer should always be the hero of your story. The story may follow a typical arc such as the hero has a problem, they seek a solution, they decide to take action, they encounter obstacles, they learn from you as their mentor, they gain acceptance for their ideas and achieve a successful resolution.
  6. Upcycle and recycle your best content. You might simply refresh the content, use a different format or just re-promote the content but get it back out there to work for you. Don’t get too distracted by the new.
  7. Content ultimately needs to convert. Content is the cheese but you also need a mousetrap to catch the mouse, to misquote Barry Feldman. A great conversion page emulates a sales conversation, it is a question and answer process.
  8. Track what matters. Views and likes can be vanity metrics if they don’t drive action. Track users, measure time spent on page and did they convert. Remember, It don’t mean a thing you aint got that swing, I mean revenue.
  9. Evidence backed content. Always support any claims you make in your content with evidence. Provide sources and links.
  10. Never make a testimonials page. This was Andy’s advice who says people don’t visit, testimonials pages instead make every page a testimonial.
  11. White space is valuable. Ensure you have plenty of white space around your call to action. It is important to very clear what you want your reader to do, remove unnecessary distractions.
  12. Try something different. Be aware of best practice, do trust your instinct sometimes and try different things. A great example was from software company Drift. They ungated their content and found they actually got more subscribers with ungated content than gated content, they just had a sign up option. Drift achieved 30% growth in subscribers by scrapping lead generation forms.
  13. Create a content strategy. You need a documented content strategy, even if it is as simple as:
  • Who — audience, personas, target map
  • What — purpose and journey maps
  • When — the buying process
  • Where — channel and distribution plan
  • Why — goals tied to business objectives
  • How — business plan, editorial calendar, value proposition
  1. Build related assets. Robert Rose emphasised that in every content driven success story, it is the collection of assets that is important. You need to provide focus for your content, so that you build set of related and reusable assets. Often the business case is not what to start doing, its what you should stop doing.
  2. Remember your core purpose. Finally, Robert Rose closed the event by making the point “content marketers are there to create strategic value.” We help create value, communicate value, and deliver value to a target market at a profit.

I told you I wrote a lot of notes. Next time why not check out the event yourself and share what you learn.

Finally, just for fun here is Drew’s welcome on stage.

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