We live in an age of information overload. And consumers in the world of legal marketing are all too familiar with content created without an overall strategy.
That’s what makes the findings of Greentarget’s new Legal Technology Service Providers Use of Content and Social Media Marketing Survey so troubling. Far too many marketers at companies that provide services to law firms said their own organizations create content—and plan to create even more—without creating and documenting strategies. And many of those marketers will be creating more content without commensurate increases in resources—a sure sign that the quality of their content won’t be increasing, either.
These results, collected in early 2018, reflect the findings in Greentarget’s 2017 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey, which found that just one in four law firm marketers had documented content strategies—even as their audiences (in-house counsel) were being overwhelmed by content. The end goal of content marketing, no matter the intended audience, is generally to win new business. And failing to think strategically about content makes achieving that goal much harder—no matter if you’re a law firm or a business trying to market to law firms.
But there’s a flip side. Organizations with documented content strategies that keep their audiences in mind can successfully break through the noise and stand out—if for no other reason than many of their counterparts still haven’t seen the light.
More content, not a lot of strategy
Respondents from almost every legal services company surveyed (94 percent) said their organizations planned to produce more content in 2018 than in 2017. Meanwhile, half of respondents said they had no documented content strategy. About a third said they had a strategy that wasn’t documented, and 13 percent said they planned on documenting a strategy within the next 12 months.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, the top challenges for content marketing were lack of staff time (38 percent) and budget (34 percent). And while 59 percent did say their content marketing budget had increased for 2018, the gap between that group and the larger one that intends to publish more indicates that many organizations will be producing more but not better content.
As marketers try to determine how best to use their budget and staff resources, now’s the time to focus on quality over quantity. Marketers clearly know the value their content can bring, with one respondent noting that content marketing efforts “generated nearly $200,000 in new revenue from leads that came through the website, landing pages, white papers and other content.”
Another respondent recounted an interaction with a customer prompted by content work.
“A partner at an Am Law firm call us and ask for a demo that led to the firm subscribing to our service,” the respondent said. “Previously, the CMO had not responded to our calls.”
New business is the focus
Winning new business was the top goal for individuals involved in content marketing, followed by building new website traffic and lead generation. Despite this clear focus on attracting new customers, more than half of respondents also identified several other goals—from demonstrating thought leadership to gaining exposure and building awareness of individuals.
While this in part reveals the broad usefulness of content marketing, the lack of clarity also may reveal a pervasive failure to carefully plan and target content marketing efforts.
More budget allocation needed
Respondents to the Greentarget survey reported more widespread budget increases in 2018 than respondents to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute (59 percent compared with 39 percent). But relatively few marketers in the space spend as much as their peers in other industries. Sixty-nine percent of the respondents to Greentarget’s survey allocate less than 20 percent of their budget to content marketing. A wider group of business-to-business marketers spends an average of 29 percent of marketing budgets on content, according CMI.
“If you’re not spending a third of your budget on content marketing, you’re not keeping up,” said Kevin Iredell, Greentarget’s director of research.
LinkedIn, email strongly valued
Seventy-five percent of respondents said email was very valuable when it comes to content distribution—much higher than any other channel. But LinkedIn may reach some readers that even email doesn’t. All respondents said LinkedIn was at least somewhat valuable, whereas 6 percent said email wasn’t valuable at all.
Email can miss its target for several reasons, from over-active spam filters to unlucky timing. But as a business-focused social network—one that has consistently proved popular in professional services ranks—LinkedIn adds a layer of curation. Readers see only content from their network and only from individuals, not from companies or organizations, boosting the authority of the content published there.
Comparing information sources, there was only a slight difference between the value of traditional news media and blogs. They were equally seen as very valuable by respondent, but traditional media was seen as somewhat valuable by a slightly larger group. But that might not be surprising. Greentarget’s 2017 State of Digital & Content Marketing Survey found that in-house counsel continue to give traditional media (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, The Economist) higher marks for credibility as sources of legal, business and industry news and information—even in an era of so-called “fake news.”