A Law Firm Marketing Blog Series: Edition #17
Welcome back to our blog series, in which we talk legal marketing with real law professionals. In this edition, we hear from Rodney Warner, professional storyteller and creator of website content and marketing material for law firms.
We hope hearing the thoughts and ideas shared by the people in these blog posts, will inspire you to make positive changes to your marketing strategies. We also know that marketing legal services these days is more complex and challenging now than ever before, and hope that some of our readers may identify with some of the marketing struggles presented here, and perhaps be able to offer solutions.
The biggest goal of this blog series is to get the conversation going, so let’s dive in.
Our Marketing Conversation With Rodney Warner
Our guest today, Rodney Warner, has written for law practices all across North America, has an extensive marketing background, and has established himself as a master storyteller. His uncanny ability to put himself in the shoes of potential legal clients and understand their wants, needs and concerns, has helped make him a content writing star in the legal community.
In our below conversation with Warner, we discuss best practices for creating website content for legal consumers, how to write blog posts that will actually generate new leads, and the importance of providing website visitors with social proof.
Answering Legal: What type of consumer questions should attorneys be looking to answer through their law firm homepage content?
Rodney Warner: Potential clients want to avoid problems, resolve problems or exploit opportunities. What does the firm do to accomplish these things? Why should they be trusted with this responsibility? What are the benefits of the attorney’s services, not the features? How is a prospect’s life improved by the attorney?
AL: What are some of the most common mistakes you see attorneys making with their website content?
Rodney: It’s boring, not all that relevant, it can be very aggressive, it’s material the attorney wants to talk about – not something a prospect wants or needs to see. The content talks at people, not to them. It should pass the “Who cares?” test, which is not always the case. There’s a constant need for new content which raises the problem of it just being cranked out. Creating quantity can become more important than creating quality. That would be a mistake because to be effective content needs to connect with the reader and you can’t do that with lousy content. A firm buying ineffective content is throwing its money away.
AL: Why is it important for lawyers to be great storytellers when creating content for their website?
Rodney: They need to generate trust and create an emotional connection with prospects. Most of us make decisions based on our feelings and emotions, not cold hard facts (as much as we may like to think so). Making a connection with the reader is easier with good storytelling.
AL: You are one of many to transition from a career in journalism to a career in marketing. Are there any lessons legal marketers can learn from journalists?
Rodney: It’s been a while, 30 years or so, since I worked in a radio station news department. Writing should be short, sharp, to the point, that’s meant to get a message across, not to try to impress or massage an ego. Depending on the audience, but generally, it should be easy to read using language that most people will understand.
AL: Any tips for lawyers on creating blog posts that will actually generate new leads?
Rodney: A key to effective marketing is empathy. You need to understand what the prospect is going through, their fears, wants and needs. If you can get on the reader’s same wavelength, walk in their shoes, show that you understand them and you are willing and able to help them, that should generate leads.
AL: Should attorneys consider sharing case studies on their websites to inspire confidence in prospective clients?
Rodney: Case studies are the secret marketing weapon hiding in plain sight. They break down psychological and intellectual barriers. They show the firm can help and has helped others in the past. It shows they’re trustworthy and can get the job done. I think they’re especially helpful if the prospect is a business and the case study can show a positive ROI on the client’s spend. If so you’re speaking the prospect’s language.
AL: In a recent piece for the National Law Review, you talk about how the need for social proof can be a driving factor for people when choosing their attorney. Is it fair to say that the opinions of fellow consumers mean a lot more to prospective legal clients, than the opinions of a law firm?
Rodney: The opinions of fellow consumers mean more than the opinions of law firms, banks, car manufacturers or insurance companies. It applies to all our decisions and drives consumer ratings for attorneys, doctors, restaurants and lawn mowers. My daughter’s in college. We have a friend who went to the same one some time ago and has great things to say about it. If our friend said she hated it our daughter might not be there. We might’ve crossed it off the list of schools to apply to.
AL: What must attorneys be doing with their website content to give site visitors the social proof they need to consider using their services?
Rodney: Due to ethics rules client recommendations are limited on law firm marketing material, but they’re not totally banned so they can be used to some extent (attorneys and marketers need to check the applicable local rules). I think case studies are a form of social proof. An attorney could claim a rating on Chambers on a website (though it would have to be accurate so it wouldn’t be misleading). There could be endorsements from other attorneys who refer clients to the attorney. Could a law firm get away with putting on its website a link to another website that has client endorsements that otherwise would violate ethics rules? I’m not sure. Before going that route the firm and the marketer need to do their homework to make sure that’s okay. I think technology, the internet, social media and digital marketing are moving faster than the rules of professional conduct so there are grey areas. How aggressively a firm wants to go into those areas is up to it.
AL: Do you see many attorneys being successful with content creation on their own, or do they more often than not require the assistance of a content creation professional?
Rodney: It depends on the attorney. I think attorneys who write blogs well are in the minority. That group gets even smaller when the attorneys consider what their time is worth working for clients or doing other things to generate new clients. I imagine for most attorneys the choice to hire a writer comes down to deciding what’s the best use of their time (which probably isn’t writing blogs).
AL: I see you recently attended the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference. What were some of your most interesting takeaways from this year’s event?
Rodney: The most interesting presentation I attended involved the fact more clients, especially some large corporations and government-related entities, want to use more diverse law firms. That diversity (whether that’s sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.) is especially important when it comes to the firm’s management and those with the most power. I practiced law for 16 years, most of that time was related to employment law, much of that involved employment discrimination. I think it brings up the ability of the free market to bring about more opportunities for more people, but it could also involve reverse discrimination if it’s not handled properly.
AL: What’s your best piece of content creation advice for an attorney starting a new firm in 2019?
Rodney: It takes time. Don’t expect instant success and don’t stop if you fail to see quick, amazing results. Many clients come through referrals from other attorneys or professionals. Target content to referral sources and think about using LinkedIn as a tool to reach them. Be organized, create a content marketing ‘to do’ list, calendar what you need to write, when, and stick to it.