What makes content effectively stand out for the clients of professional services firms in today’s volatile economic and geopolitical landscape? A new research study from strategic communications firm Greentarget and consulting firm Zeughauser Group finds that executive decision makers still favor traditional media and other editorial-filtered sources, but C-suite execs and in-house counsel have also deepened their digital focus since COVID-19, and are seeking more business intelligence and interactions online.
The newly released 2022 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey, the first iteration of the survey since 2019 and the 10th overall, reveals important findings about the preferences of decision makers who are the intended consumers of content from professional services firms—at a time when the blistering pace of news and sheer volume of information online is making it harder than ever to break through to those critical audiences. The researchers also uncovered new business priorities for in-house counsel and C-suite execs, including a strong focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that is driving demand for additional content in that area.
“The events of the past three years have changed how legal and executive decision makers seek out and consume information—and reinforced what they find most valuable about that content,” said John Corey, Greentarget’s president and founding partner, in a news release. “DEI is new ground for this research, and we’re excited to bring those findings to light and facilitate a thoughtful conversation about the need for guidance and insights on these urgent topics.”
The survey examines the content choices and tendencies of 200 in-house counsel and C-suite members, two groups that exert strong influence over hiring of law firms and consulting, accounting and other professional services firms. As in past iterations, this year’s report also compares their views with those of chief marketing officers of professional services providers, to identify white space between what content those decision makers crave, and the extent to which their outside law and advisory firms are satisfying those needs.
Key findings include:
Decision makers continue to value trusted editors and established outlets to sift through the noise and tell what matters most for them and their businesses
Both in-house counsel and C-suite members find traditional media nearly as valuable in 2022 as they did in 2019, with the category ranking No. 1 for the former group, and No. 2 for the latter group, behind publications and websites covering their profession. Law firm marketers are shifting gears accordingly: in 2022, 94 percent of CMOs said traditional media was an important distribution channel/source for marketing their firm, up from 67 percent in 2019.
Utility remains the most valuable attribute for content, demonstrating the continued importance of content that tells busy executives what they need to know—and what to do with that information
Both groups prefer articles above all other content types. Conferences/webinars and research reports also cracked the top three for each group, with decision makers favoring content that’s educational, relevant, and easy to read and access.
The pandemic accelerated the digital shift documented in our previous research.
Decision makers increasingly favor virtual events and webinars, with C-suite members placing more value on video and podcasts than in-house counsel. The pandemic also drove new priorities for time-crunched executives working in largely remote environments, putting a premium on video content that is easy to view and brief.
Most notably, LinkedIn’s popularity has surged among executive decision makers
The business networking site is making inroads both as a content source, and also as a valued distribution platform for in-house counsel and C-suite members who increasingly see the networking site delivering information curated to their needs and interests.
Thought leadership and credentialing activity, done well, is increasingly important to decision makers when researching outside law and professional services firms for potential hire
In-house counsel and C-suite members are increasingly visiting thought leadership websites and blogs. Seventy percent of in-house counsel said these online outlets were a valuable source of content in 2022, up from 57 percent in 2019. Among C-suites, 63 percent cited them as valuable, compared to 50 percent before the pandemic. More than two-thirds of respondents (71 percent of in-house counsel; 69 percent of C-suite members) cited articles and speeches from thought leaders as a critical factor when it comes to researching law firms and professional service providers for potential hire.
“CMOs and their teams are drinking from a firehouse when it comes to content–after three years of historic upheavals in business priorities and communications,” said Mary K. Young, a partner with Zeughauser Group, in the release. “From the continued importance of traditional media to thought leadership content that showcases your business, there are lessons here for marketers and the firms they service that can help them adapt to this changed world–with the ultimate goal of increasing the ROI on their efforts.”