Sometimes a Tree is Just a Tree: On Content Marketing

After Picasso had gotten tired of people asking him for the deeper meaning behind his paintings, he supposedly responded to one inquirer: ‘Sometimes, a tree is just a tree’.  Bob Ross might quarrel with such an assertion, but only to the extent that his trees might require a specific disposition.  But, Picasso is probably the exception; and, writers like James Joyce and William Faulkner seemed to delight in confusing their readers.

Of course, it’s not only artists who try to pack multiple meanings into every little thing.  And, I suppose that, if you’re going to be an abstract painter, you might as well be the most abstract painter you can be.  Lawyers, too, are completists, and perfectionists on top of that.  Those qualities, though, can often hold attorneys back as effective marketing people.

In a world where the attention span of the average consumer continues to shrink, lawyers’ capacity to bloviate continues to expand.  Lawyers love arcane issues of law; legal consumers do not.  Lawyers write more; legal consumers want to read less, and prefer to watch.  Because attorneys’ content preferences, and content production techniques, don’t often match what legal consumers are looking for, it is difficult for lawyers to succeed in content marketing, without reconfiguring how they like to develop marketing content.

Content marketing (which is exactly what it sounds like it is) is worth the effort for most law firms.  It is a free method for advertising, through which sweat equity is rewarded.  Since most lawyers are averse to spending lots of money on marketing if they can help it, content marketing is a great in-between proposition for law firms that want to make a dent in their market, and who can be patient enough to see the tactic through to results, where the time frame for return on investment usually involves a longer payoff than paid advertising.

That all being said, even if content marketing remains a good idea in the abstract for law firms, executing on its promise is a more difficult thing to do for the would-be Tolstoys and Holmeses among my legal brethren.  So, here are some tips for creating content that will resonate with legal consumers:

-Keep it short.  The shorter the better, like this.

-Emphasize problem-solving.  Your potential clients really could care less how many times you’ve been a Super Lawyer; they want to know if you can solve a problem they have.  So, focus on one, specific problem that your client base has, and present yourself as the problem-solver.

-Write and speak for your audience.  Remember that, in most cases, you’re speaking directly to consumers, not to other lawyers for the purpose of acquiring referrals.  Speak and write plainly.  Use simple words.  Create content for the level of a grade school student.

-Create an obvious call to action.  You’re creating marketing materials because you want your potential clients to hire you.  But, how do you want them to start that process?  Identify the method.  If you want a call, say so.  If you want an email, ask for one.  If you want a text, make it clear.

-Remember to edit.  You’re busy.  I get it.  But, take the time to edit your content so that it looks good.  No typos.  No weird videos where you’re recording 30 seconds of yourself trying to figure out how to shut your camera off.  You want to be professional?  This is another time to do it.  Most lawyers treat substantive work as the sole area in which they need to be professional; but, you must extend your acumen to your marketing production.

‘Be yourself’ is usually good advice; but, in this case, you’ll want to think about becoming the self that your potential clients want to see.