Content Marketing and Web Analytics: The Yin and Yang of Any Successful Law Firm Marketing Campaign

Good content has always been one of the best ways for a lawyer to establish and maintain a professional reputation. In the hands of potential clients, good content demonstrates your understanding of the law and your ability to do what you claim to do.

Let’s say you write an excellent article on the recently signed patent reform act.

Prior to the Internet, your options for distribution of that article would be limited. You could submit it to print publishers who could decide whether or not to publish it and how to edit it. By the time it appeared on a client’s desk, it might be three months out of date.

In addition, you could snail mail a copy of your article with a cover letter directly to your list of clients, potential clients and referral sources. You could include it in the firm’s print newsletter. You could mail it to reporters covering the patent law beat and hope that they give you a call next time they are writing a story on that topic.

And that was about it. You really had no way of knowing what happened to that hard copy – if the publication was read or if the envelope or newsletter was even opened.

Today, thanks to the Internet, the options for distributing a well-written and informative article (and all kinds of content) to a wide range of interested parties are vastly expanded. So, too, are the options for finding out if the article was opened, was read and prompted further action on the part of the reader.

In the Internet age, online content marketing is the best way for lawyers and law firms to establish their reputations and attract new business. And web traffic analysis is the best way for lawyers and law firms to measure the success of a content marketing campaign and move forward based on that information. Content marketing and web analytics are inseparable parts of the same strategic process.

Online content marketing for law firms

Online content marketing involves publishing content (like the article on patent law) on your law firm’s website (including mobile website version), client extranet sites or blogs. It involves the e-mailing of your article (or newsletter) to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources.

An integrated online marketing program is an essential part of a law firm’s marketing program. Content marketing involves distribution of your content using popular social media sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) as well as successful content syndication sites (like JD Supra, LegalOnRamp and Scribd).

Each time your keyword-rich patent law article is published on one of these sites, it is indexed by Google and other search engines – enhancing results for searches on terms like your name, your law firm’s name, your geographic area and the relevant subject area.

The term ‘content’ applies to almost any kind of material your firm is publishing. It applies to documents like press releases, experience descriptions, attorney biographies (profiles), client alerts, blog post, white papers, email campaigns and e-books on legal subjects.

Content also includes non-written files, like an online ad campaign, courtroom graphics, a PowerPoint deck, or photos of an open house or employee charity event. It includes online surveys along with survey results. And it definitely includes audio or video recordings of a presentation, a seminar or a webinar.

All types of reputation-demonstrating content can be posted not only on your own website, but also to a wide range of (mostly free) social media and content syndication sites. Once posted, this informative content is available 24/7 and around the world.

Web analytics for law firms

Not only does the Internet facilitate the wide distribution of content,”it also allows lawyers and law firms to closely track distribution – to know how many visitors click on the content; how much time they spend reading, listening or viewing the content; and where (your website, search or some other site) they found the content.

Web analytics is a process for collecting visitor or consumer data, analyzing those data and generating reports on the overall performance of these different channels. It extends well beyond your website into virtually every online channel your law firm might be using.

In the early days, web analytics programs focused on the simple measurement of activity on a law firm’s web site. Today, a good law firm website still contains useful information about the firm and its services, but the site functions more like an interactive hub to which all of the firm’s online content distribution efforts are tied.

In addition, most social media sites have their own built-in analytics programs that can be accessed for more details about activity on your accounts on those sites.

The popular Google Analytics program is free and yields information about site visitors, including number of visitors (unique, new and repeat), page views, repeat rate, visit length, page view length, page view per visit, bounce rate (those who leave quickly from a given page), entry pages (where visitors enter you site), exit pages (where visitors leave your site) and referral sources (direct traffic, search engines and other referral sites).

Among other things, Google Analytics can chart data over time, compare data month-by-month or year-by-year, and internally compare different sets of results.

Other commercial web analytics programs allow the site administrator to ‘dig deeper’ into the data. Most analytics programs will record detailed information at the user level, allowing administrators to track the number of times a given user came to the site, which pages he or she viewed and, in some cases, the location from which that user is connecting.

At Tenrec, we combine basic Google Analytics with a program called Urchin (essentially, Google’s commercial analytics product) to obtain different levels of results for our clients. There are many programs out there. The one you select should be determined by how you plan to use the results.

It is important to remember that no performance metric is inherently bad or good. A limited number of the right kind of people visiting your content and reaching out to your firm is a better result than hundreds of visitors who take no action.

Strategic content marketing and web analytics for law firms

Web analytics programs are capable of generating a vast amount of information. There are far too many metrics for users to process and interpret. Measurement tools are only useful when there is something specific to measure.

The challenge is not to get more data, which can needlessly complicate your decision-making, but to get better data. Be strategic. What is the purpose of this online content campaign (within the context of our business goals), and which select measurements will indicate progress towards achieving this goal?

Let’s go back to that article on patent reform. You post it on your website. You reference it in your blog. You e-mail it to clients, potential clients, referral sources and media sources. You post it (with links back to your site) on a variety of social media sites and content syndication sites.

On your website, analytics will let you know who visited the page and how they got there. In addition, you will discover if they stayed a while, read the article and downloaded a copy.

If no one comes or if visitors take a quick look and ‘bounce,’ you know that there is something wrong with the content. The subject is not newsworthy. The headline or keywords need work. The article is too long or too short. It is too dense and needs shorter lines and subheads, to encourage skimming. It is too casual or too filled with legal jargon. In other words, it needs work.

An e-mail analytics program will let you know who opens the e-mail and clicks on the link. Other analytics programs will indicate how your article fares in the blogosphere or is shared or re-tweeted on social media and content syndication sites.

The information generated by web analytics is a valuable tool to help lawyers and law firms plan — and continuously improve — their content and their online content distribution campaigns.

Doing Well by Doing Good: Law Firm Social Responsibility

Corporations increasingly subscribe to the principle of corporate social responsibility. CSR is based on the belief that a demonstration of concern for the environment, human rights, community development and the welfare of their employees can make a corporation more profitable. And if not more profitable, at least a better place to work.

Law firms can learn from corporate experience to create their own social responsibility programs. Such programs can help law firms to do well by doing good. They can strengthen the firm’s reputation and market position. They can help the firm identify with the culture and CSR activities of clients and potential clients. They can help lawyers and staff find more meaning in their work and improve as human beings.

In the words of the social responsibility Karma Committee at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: Be kind. Be generous. Be concerned. Donate time. Donate effort. Donate money. Just find a cause and give. You’ll quickly discover giving is also receiving.

A panel discussion about how law firms can learn about CSR and introduce some of its elements into their own models was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. The program was held May 8 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in downtown Denver.

Panelists included Sarah Hogan, vice president of Barefoot PR; Bruce DeBoskey, lawyer and founder of The DeBoskey Group, which focuses on philanthropic advising; Joyce Witte, Community Investment Advisor and director of the Encana Cares Foundation, Encana Oil & Gas (USA); and Amy Venturi, director of community relations & karma at Brownstein. Moderator was Cori Plotkin, president of Barefoot PR.

At law firms, the product is the people – the lawyers and support staff who provide high quality legal services. It is an easy fit. There are many ways that this ‘product’ can contribute time, talent and treasure to socially responsible activities.

Social responsibility: Focus and strategy

Law firm social responsibility is all about making a difference within the community and the profession, and within a firm. Even the best efforts will make no impact if spread too thin. You cannot maximize the value of your contributions or tell your story if your efforts are too diluted. To decide how to most effectively invest its resources, a law firm needs a social responsibility focus and a strategy.

Social responsibility efforts must be authentic. Law firms and other entities should always avoid ‘green-washing’ – telling a story that is aspirational, but not really true. Know yourself. Let your firm’s unique culture and skills determine which efforts to pursue and which to avoid.

When examining your culture, don’t limit yourself to partner input. Law firms are small communities, almost like families. Any effort to define culture and social responsibility should represent not only the interests of lawyers, but the interests of all levels of support staff. Efforts must be meaningful throughout the firm. The benefits to employee recruitment, retention and satisfaction can be remarkable.

DeBoskey outlined three types of community involvement and stated his belief that a good social responsibility plan includes elements of all three.

In a traditional model, an organization ‘gives back’ randomly to the community when asked – as a good citizen, rather than for any strategic purposes. In a social responsibility model, these efforts align with the capabilities of the business – like the legal skills of lawyers. Every non-profit needs legal advice.

At it’s most sophisticated, a social responsibility program involves using your core product – legal services – as a tool for social change. Volunteer with organizations like the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, or the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center.

A strong focus makes it much easier to make decisions. Encana, for example, focuses its charitable giving strategy on issues surrounding its product — natural gas. Brownstein will donate money only if the request comes from a client, or if one of their attorneys is a member of the organization and on the board.

Law firms looking for additional advice can find valuable resources within the Corporate Community Investment Network. CCIN is an association for professionals whose primary responsibility is to manage community investment programs in a for-profit business setting.

Many corporations and a few law firms have actually created separate foundations to mange some of their giving. A foundation comes with more restrictions and different tax methods. As entities with a life of their own, however, foundations are more likely than one-off efforts to continue a useful existence.

Social responsibility: Good policies make good decisions

Strategy and focus provide the foundation for an effective social responsibility policy. Most law firms are inundated with requests from good causes asking for their support. A policy helps you know when to say “yes” to and when to say “no.”

In the law firm model, where all partners are owners with a sense of entitlement to resources, it can be very difficult to say no. A keenly focused policy makes it much easier to do so and keep the firm’s efforts on track.

Encana, for example, uses a five-step tool to determine the level of fit between a request and the company’s strategic goals in the field of natural gas – with level five being the largest commitment and level one the lowest.

Level five efforts integrate core product or service and often involve natural gas vehicles and energy efficiency initiatives using natural gas. These efforts contribute to best practices and leading trends in the industry, while enhancing the company’s reputation as a leader.

Level four efforts focus on strategic partnerships and often involve sustainable and long-term solutions like workforce development initiatives, signature programs (which can be repeated in other markets) and multi-year grants.

Level three efforts include strategic grants to assist with projects, programs or initiatives made to local non-profits aligned with natural gas.

Level two efforts include responsive giving, which is a one-time gift for a broad community effort that has local support. Participation of company representatives is required.

Level one efforts include the “t-shirt and banner” category, which contains one-day items like dinners, receptions, golf tournaments, events and races. These offer the least impact and awareness for the money, and therefore the least support.

At Brownstein, requests made to the firm are judged by two factors. The firm considers only requests made by clients and requests made by organizations where one of its attorneys participates at the board level.

Social responsibility: Engagement

Effective social responsibility programs involve not only checkbook involvement, but personal and professional involvement.

At Brownstein, the brand has always been about being out in the community. Six years ago, Venturi was asked to formalize this essential component of the firm’s culture into a social responsibility program that would further energize lawyers.

She started by spending 15 minutes with each of the attorneys, to discover their passions – which were used to identify a good non-profit match. After all, lawyers and staff will stay involved and do their best only when an organization is something that they care deeply about. If there is no engagement, the placement will backfire.

Finally, Venturi offers the lawyer’s services to the non-profit in some capacity – but it must be at the board level. Otherwise, she won’t make the match.

Project Karma is a Brownstein program dedicated to volunteer opportunities, and maintains a committee in each of the firm’s 12 offices. It sponsors informal lunch & learn presentations by local non-profits to encourage interest.

The message about active engagement by lawyers and staff must come from the top. Brownstein makes it very clear that the path to partnership for a new attorney is based not only on legal skills, but also on engagement and involvement with the community.

It is important to add a community involvement component to lawyer reviews, even if it is only one goal a year. That lets the lawyers know that you are serious. The Colorado Supreme Court asks every lawyer in to contribute 50 hours of pro bono work each year. Integrating these programs leads to win/win results for the firm.

Not every firm can match the efforts of a large company like Encana or a large law firm like Brownstein. However, there are good matches for firms of every size. Once again, it is all a matter of focus.

In fact, it is much easier to get five members of a small firm to focus on a strategic initiative than 500 lawyers in a huge firm. If a law firm has $10,000 to donate, that money goes a lot father and has a lot more impact to one organization than do $100 donations spread across 100 organizations.

Smaller law firms can also multiply its impact by partnering with others in an industry, like vendors or clients, to support a particular non-profit.

Social responsibility: Return on investment

Corporations measure the results of their social responsibility programs, and use these results to make decisions on efforts going forward. Law firms should do the same.

At the end of the year, Encana uses its five-level model (outline above) to analyze our charitable giving. How much was given at each level? Then the company sends a form to each non-profit, asking the recipient to evaluate outcomes (statistics for what was accomplished), process (did efforts meet the intended audience) and impact (what difference did it make).

Encana asks recipients to reply within 60 days, and uses this information to calculate return on investment. Those who do not report back are not eligible for further contributions. The non-profits might gripe at first, but they seem to change their minds once they’ve been through the process – finding that it has useful strategic value.

It is entirely appropriate to ask a non-profit to document the results they’ve achieved based on your contribution. It lets them know that you are truly invested in the organization. They will see you more as partners and engage you differently.

Most corporations have created and benefited from well-thought-through and strategic social responsibility programs. Law firms are starting to do the same. A program with tight focus and strict guidelines guarantees maximum impact and awareness in exchange for a law firm’s commitment of time, talent and treasure.

How to Hire Law Firms With Ease

Legal matters are something that strike the fear of God in most people’s hearts, because of the complications involved, not to mention the astronomical legal fees one can incur. Legal matters, however, can happen anytime, anywhere and while people know that they must be prepared for anything, it doesn’t erase the fact that it can be quite a daunting prospect and as such, something to be avoided as much as possible.

However, fears of anything new and unfamiliar can be conquered with a proper understanding and learning of the matter. Once you understand the ins and outs of hiring law firms you’ll find that there was actually nothing to be apprehensive about. You need to hire lawyers who are well-versed in the language of litigation.

First of all, determine all the possible reasons why you need to hire a law firm. Of course in addition to wanting your tough legal problem solved, you may also want to hire a law firm because you want to augment the legal team you already have in place to increase your chances of winning your case and at the same time let your adversary know that you are determined to win it. Hiring the best law firm also increases your confidence about winning the case because you have a lot of legal experts behind you. And more importantly, you want to be able to win your case without causing too much of a dent in your bank account.

The next thing you need to do is research. Start with legal directories that will help you shortlist the best lawyers within your area complete with phone numbers and background information. You can also try researching online for law firm rankings, that rank the best law firms according to practice, diversity and region. Of course this will all depend on what type of case you have and the details involved.

A law firm’s expertise is based mostly on the fact that they hire the best graduates from top law schools. Since a lawyer’s core worth is based on his intelligence, knowledge and experience, you will increase your chances of winning your case since they will be updated on all the latest nuances of the law and be able to keep up their end of the defense with facts and figures relevant to your case.

While price is a major consideration, remember that the costs you incur will depend on the size of the law firm you need and want to hire. Solo practitioners usually entail lower costs and fees, small firms usually entail lower costs and more personal interaction, mid-size firms usually have more legal resources and therefore the ability to address your legal issues more effectively and large firms are what you need for larger and more complex legal concerns. When you go online, the best legal websites will have all the necessary information posted.

You will also need to check if the websites have posted their accreditation and certification and have very thorough information about their lawyers’ specialties. There are law firms that allow you to download reports and white papers on very popular legal topics, ones that their previous clients have been through so you can get more insights on your particular case and how it could turn out. The more information you have, the more empowered you feel so go for sites that also offer tips and advice on going through difficult legal matters and how to deal after the smoke clears.

And lastly, go for law firms that are able to explain things in a language you’ll understand. Forget about law firms that go technical, it is important to find one that provides personalized service and are very responsive – one who will actually return your calls because they understand time constraints and value your time as much as they value theirs. While most law firms put on an impersonal fa├žade that they mistake as professionalism, a true indication of a competent and able law firm is one that shows the human side of the legal profession. Clear cut and straightforward about the law but at the same time, showing a sympathetic side.

It is easy to feel daunted or intimidated when you enter a legal situation where you need to hire law firms to get you out of it. As long as you know what you need and want and what to expect, hiring lawyers to champion your cause won’t feel so challenging.