It goes without saying the importance quality content serves in capturing new leads and building authority for your firm. Good content is what first draws people into your website and eventually helps them navigate through your entire marketing funnel. Although most attorneys realize the importance of content in growing their online presence, many are confused on how to go about approaching this task.
Thankfully, the answer is fairly simple. The goal of any decent content marketing plan is provide visitors with the right content, for the right person, at the right time. That means starting with visitors at the first stage of their investigative journey and guiding them through the entire process all the way until the very end. Not just trying to close the deal at first sight.
Clients are smart these days. They understand how to utilize the web to find the answers they need and choose an attorney based on their perceived quality and level of service. Providing thorough, relevant content during each stage of your client’s legal journey is one of the fastest ways to build rapport and create trust.
Contrary to what you might think, the majority of legal web searches don’t have a specific focus in mind - they’re usually a general inquiry more than anything else. According to a study from Penn State University, internet searches can be divided into three main categories: Informational, Navigational, and Transactional.
Informational Searches - These are searches where someone is trying to answer a question. What happens after my accident? How do I go about paying my bills? Who can I turn to for help? The searcher starts off looking for general information that frequently develops into more specific questions.
Basically, these are prospects who are starting from square one and trying to figure out where to go from there. They want to KNOW something.
Navigational Searches - These requests begin with greater focus and are designed to solicit information about a source or location. Where is the closest lawyer’s office? What’s the shortest route to get there? Which attorneys service my area? In this case, the person already knows what they want, but can’t remember where it is or how to get there.
When you perform a navigational search, you’re looking to GO somewhere.
Transactional Searches - Once someone has made their choice about a particular attorney, office or firm they move into transactional searches. They have all the information they need, and now they’re ready to act on their case. How do I sign up? When do we get started? Where do we begin? Simply put, they’re about to pull the trigger.
Because transactional searches involve action, the end goal is to DO something.
Here’s the kicker: While most firms go for prospects in the transactional phase of their search, that’s rarely the optimal place to begin. For starters, this search type accounts for a mere 10% of total search volume. Not to mention the fact that many potential clients have already made up their mind at this point. Meaning, if you weren’t on their radar already, you’re probably not going to be now.
So where, you might ask, is the majority of search traffic based? Surprisingly, it’s in the informational phase.
And the results are not even close. Informational searches account for a whopping 80% of total search volume. That means your clients are looking for information about their cases long before they ever reach out to you. And what kinds of questions are they asking? Let’s take a look.
Since prospects begin their research long before ever contacting you, it’s important to be viewed as a trusted resource during each stage of their journey. In the world of marketing, this is what’s commonly referred to as a “funnel.” Sales and marketing funnels are defined as the steps a typical prospect takes before deciding to buy your product or service.
At the top (biggest end) of your funnel, you have a large pool of visitors that may eventually wish to become clients (whether they qualify as one or not). Think of them as cold leads.
As you move towards the middle of the funnel, the customer pool starts to shrink and you're left with more qualified and interested prospects. They’re contemplating your services, but usually aren’t quite sold just yet. These persons would be considered warm leads.
Lastly, at the bottom of the funnel, you have the most qualified customers - those who have a case and are ready to secure representation. These are hot leads that are motivated and about to move.
The best way generate more hot leads, not surprisingly, is to begin nurturing them at the earliest stages possible. That’s where a comprehensive content marketing plan comes into play. Again, it’s all about the right content, for the right person, at the right time.
The secret to developing great content for all stages of the buyer’s journey is to put yourself in the client’s shoes. You should be asking questions like: Where is my head at right now? What questions do I need answered? Which option is right for me? The more you can get into your customer’s mindset, the better you’ll be able to serve them.
Let’s take a look at the first stage of the legal client’s journey.
The very first step in the process. Your client has just experienced an event or discovered they have a problem. They’re trying to decide what to do next. Although a need has been identified, they may still be unaware that legal action is even an option at this point.
They’re not ready to schedule a consultation or hire an attorney, but instead are looking for answers to their immediate problems from authoritative, neutral sources. Content at this stage should be purely informational and have no sales connotation to it whatsoever.
Example Content Opportunities:
The focus here is to simply help clients deal with their immediate issues. When you do, they’re much more likely to progress to the next stage of the funnel.
As the victim begins to heal and come to terms with what has happened, they move into the next phase of their research - considering legal action. For starters, they want to know if pursuing a claim is even possible. What are the requirements? What’s involved in the process? Am I entitled to compensation for my injuries (and if so - how much)? Basically, they want to know where they stand in the grand scheme of things.
Example Content Opportunities:
In step 2, we’re helping prospects identify their options and educate them on what to expect. The knowledge gained inspires confidence and a sense of empowerment and helps move them into stage 3 of the process.
By now our prospect is content in believing they have grounds to take action. Everything they’ve read up until this time points them in the direction of contacting an attorney. They want confirmation that their claim is legit and they are seeking guidance on what the next step in the journey will be.
Stage 3 is the first area where a bit of salesmanship comes into focus. You’re going from being the trusted, neutral authority to an ally in resolving their problem. Think of this area of the funnel as a balancing act. You’re providing valuable content while at the same time helping the client determine if your firm is right for them.
Example Content Opportunities:
The idea here is to promote the innate qualities of your firm without coming across as being too pushy or salesy. Give prospects all the information they need, and then step back and allow them to make their own choice.
The bottom stage of the funnel is where potential clients actually make their decision. They’ve utilized the content you’ve provided to understand their case, they’ve considered your firm and now they’re ready to commit.
In this last and final stage, the goal is to reassure clients that they’ve made the right choice. That your firm is the best to meet their needs. You do this by making them feel confident, secure and valued beginning with their very first interaction with your organization.
Example Content Opportunities:
Building trust and instilling confidence is the surest method of obtaining a client’s business. And the best part, is if you focus on this principle from day one - by providing world-class content throughout each stage of the funnel - the client’s decision becomes an easy one once the time is right.
So what’s the secret to landing more high-quality clients? There is none. It all boils down to completing your due diligence. That means extensive research in determining who your ideal client is, deep-diving to understand what major questions and concerns they have and working hard to address those needs in an honest, genuine and helpful manner.
The more you can think and act like your client, the better you’re able to serve them and the more likely you are to earn their business.
Establishing trust and confidence early on is key. How? By providing the right content, for the right client, at the right time. That means a comprehensive content strategy that closely aligns with each stage of your buyer’s journey. Content designed to gently move prospects through each section of your marketing funnel.
Content that makes an impact with your audience and turns visitors into leads...and leads into clients.
Matt Byers is a co-founder of Smart Growth Labs and has been working in the digital marketing industry for 8+ years. Matt has developed strategies leveraging a combination of SEO, content, pay-per-click, email, mobile, and display advertising to execute effective lead generation campaigns in the fields of legal, insurance, and non-profit event marketing.