Content Marketing for Law Firms with John McDougall

Listen as we speak this week with John McDougall, CEO of McDougall Interactive, on content marketing for law firms.

Nicole Minnis, National Law Review, Legal PublicationNicole Minnis:  Hi. This is Nicole Minnis again, with the National Law Review. I’m here today with John McDougall, president of McDougall Interactive and author of LegalMarketingReview.com.

We spoke last time about Authority Marketing and thought leadership for law firms, so be sure to check out a link to that podcast. But today, we’re going to be talking about content marketing for law firms. Welcome back, John.

John McDougall, McDougall Interactive, Marketing, Authority MarketingJohn McDougall:  How you doing?

Nicole:  I am doing great. How are you?

John:  Excellent.

Nicole:  We had a great time last time. Tell me, why are eBooks and the top of the funnel calls to action important?

John:  A lot of people with website marketing make the mistake of expecting customers to only call them on the phone or fill out a form. When you don’t have a top of the funnel call to action, like an eBook or a case study that’s downloadable, or a whitepaper, you miss a huge portion of the Internet that is casually surfing and could become a lead, but a more casual lead.

A ToFu offer, as we call it — not to be confused with soy products [laughs] — a ToFu offer, a top of the funnel offer, is, again, like an eBook, and it’s somewhere around 85 percent of the Web is looking at the top of the funnel. When you search the web, do you buy something from Amazon or hire a lawyer every time you search the web? You don’t.

You tend to, most of the time, you’re searching and looking for things. You’re in the early stage of the buyer’s journey. Eventually, you’re making bookmarks, and later you go back and hire someone or buy a product. It’s about 85 percent there.

Maybe another 10 percent, roughly, are at the middle of the funnel. In the middle of the funnel, you’re comparing one law firm to another, you’re in that comparison stage. At the bottom of the funnel, maybe only five percent of people using that free consultation form on the attorney’s site or calling the phone number, et cetera, going to the contact page.

That’s such a small percentage of Web visitors that you’re really missing, a huge amount, potentially as much as 95 percent of visitors, if you don’t offer some way for them to casually connect with you — signing up for your email newsletter or getting your eBook.

Nicole:  Where are these ToFu calls, top of the funnel calls, most effective? Are we looking at a law firm home page or a blog page? Where will it have the most impact?

John:  You want to put them consistently throughout your site, so definitely at the home page level, because that’s usually the most visited page. Not always, but often the most visited part of your site. You should have at least one top of the funnel, if not a top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel, like your phone number or consultation form, call to action, at the home page level.

Then, if you go into a practice area, like intellectual property law, you might want to have a little sidebar there with a call to action for an eBook or a whitepaper or something around that topic. Then, you go to the blog, and you’re reading the blog, either in the right sidebar you can put an irresistible offer to download maybe a collection of the blog posts into one PDF for printing.

Or, at the bottom of a blog post, that’s a very effective way, after someone reads something and they’ve been very engaged, to then put a nice little…maybe a banner or a nice graphic that sells them on the idea of filling out the form to get your eBook.

Nicole:  Would you include these top of the funnel calls to action on a law firm publications page? To follow up, you wouldn’t limit it to just having a special page for all of their thought leadership?

John:  Yeah. I think it’s good to have a resources section, definitely. After Google Hummingbird that looks even more deeply at Q&A content and natural language search for mobile — Google eats up that kind of content where you’re answering customers’ questions.

It’s great to have that on a blog. That’s one of the most typical places to put it. But sometimes you can have the resources, Q&A library also, and then you have the collection of eBook and podcasts and videos and links to lots of blog posts, and break up your thought leadership in an area like that.

I would say all of the above. There are different types of people that…some are going to like the blogs, some will like the resources area, some will like video, some will like podcasts, some will like the text posts. Break it up and put it throughout your content, and ideally make content top of the funnel calls to action to match the page they’re on.

If at some point you can get around to having 30 eBooks or an eBook for every practice area — it’s a pretty tall order, but, again, made easier through podcasting. One hour of podcasting can be turned into an eBook, and that’s pretty easy to do. You can get a nice cover design and go to each practice area and then have a top of the funnel call to action for each area. That’s the ideal.

Nicole:  That way, you can cover all your bases, so to speak, in terms of who’s looking at your website and what they’re looking for.

John:  Absolutely.

Nicole:  Tell me, how can attorneys use content for their business development?

John:  I’m not a business development expert for law firms, per se. But this has been a very hot topic recently, because we’re doing so much blogging for law firms and content marketing for law firms. I’ve been interviewing people for one of my sites, both Legal Marketing Review and AuthorityMarketing.com, and talking about these issues.

I interviewed a couple of different people specifically on business development, and time and time again they’re saying that they do like to have their attorneys make use of their own posts, if possible. It’s great if the attorneys have their own content to share when they’re pitching people and following up with potential customers.

But even if there’s a blog on the law firm’s site, and then an individual attorney, even if they didn’t write the post, they can share that content. You can share your newsletters and alerts and all different things.

But the more thought leadership content you have, the better off you are at reaching out to, say, a general council, and not annoying them with, “Hey, can we get together? I’d really like to work for you guys.” [laughs] Because that’s really salesy. That’s more old school marketing.

New school, inbound marketing is more, “Hey, Mr. or Mrs. General Council, I thought you’d really appreciate this blog post that we wrote, because I know you’re going through this particular issue with your company. I saw something on the news, and we have a post that really addresses just that issue. Just thought you might like to see this and that you might find it helpful.”

I’ve heard that a lot at the LMA conferences. I spoke recently at the LMA New England conference, and I’ve heard a lot of people talking about that in both my interviews and at conferences — that it’s a healthy way to extend that strategy we’re talking about, about SEO and content marketing and doing it for Google reasons. But there’s this great, of course, offline reason that lets you extend the value of that further.

Nicole:  This content marketing that’s being produced by attorneys, is it trackable in terms of improving these sales? I was going to say they’re selling themselves, but I don’t mean to make it sound so silly. But attorneys are marketing their services, so is the content marketing trackable?

John:  Absolutely not. No, I’m just kidding.

[laughter]

John:  Here’s when it’s not trackable — when you don’t track it. It sounds really simplistic, but you would be amazed, actually shocked, if I told you how many people come to us and they have no tracking mechanism to see if it’s working. First, some people don’t even have something like Google Analytics installed on their site, if you can believe it in this day and age.

Is it trackable? It’s trackable if, number one, you take the 10 minutes to take the snippet of code from Google Analytics and put it onto every page of your site and embed the code. That’s really easy to do, but it is still amazing to us that we see people not doing it.

Number two, and this is a really big point I’d like to make, is that, with the goal tracking on your website, for example, if someone fills out the form for a free consultation, it should be set up so that they hit the submit button and they go to a “Thank You” page.

Some programmers like to make it tricky so that it doesn’t even need to produce a “Thank You” page, and there are ways to track that. But we prefer to have a traditional “Thank You” page, so yourlawfirm.com/thankyou.html kind of thing.

Then, you need to set that up in Google Analytics to register as what is called a “goal conversion”. You can do that also with phone tracking, with the free consultation forms, you can do it with your eBook signups, you can do it with the email newsletter signups.

You can do it even if you want to set up a goal conversion to track in Google Analytics if someone just views your “about us” page or an attorney’s bio page. There are all different things you can set up. But, again, it really only works if you take the time to set those up.

It’s so beautiful, and it sounds so geeky of me, but it’s so beautiful to go into Google Analytics and see basically the numbers. You can actually see, OK, last year in November, say, we got 18 leads, but this year in November we got 37 leads or 87 leads, and they came from these channels, from SEO, from social media, from Google paid ads, from email marketing.

You can track all the different channels they came from, and then you can see which lead forms or eBooks were downloaded. You can get a really good picture of the amount of leads coming in. Then, it goes a step further if you start to do lead scoring and lead nurturing.

Very briefly, lead scoring is when you’ll let your agency know, now that you’re tracking these leads in great detail, you let your agency know that, “These leads are good and these leads are bad”, or even feed back into Google Analytics the data on what the value of those leads were.

You can plug in, “This lead generated a million dollars in a mesothelioma case for the firm, and a $400,000 profit”, or whatever it might be. You can even go that far, if you want, to tell the agency that, “These are good leads. These are bad leads. They’re worth this much.” You could feed that back into the system.

Then, you can make better determinations on what keywords and what channels are driving the best quality leads, not just the most leads. Then, lead nurturing, or marketing automation is when you’re getting so many leads that you can’t even follow up manually with everyone.

Say you’re getting a thousand eBook downloads a month, or even 300. You would want to have a trigger mechanism to automatically say, “Hey, thanks for downloading the eBooks.” Send another email a few days later, “Hey, you might like this case study.” Another few days later, you might say, “Would you like a free consultation?”

You can set up a work flow in something like HubSpot or Eloqua, Pardot, to use marketing automation to send these automated emails so that people feel like, “Wow, I downloaded this eBook, next thing you know they’re giving me other ideas.”

But the salespeople don’t have to, every single eBook that gets downloaded, manually do it. That’s where you can take the tracking and Google Analytics, and then extend it with nurturing those people that are coming to your site.

Nicole:  If we’re talking about a law firm or an attorney who’s starting from scratch, how much of this data do you think needs to be collected before they can really start to implement changes for their marketing strategy, or implement their marketing strategy at all?

John:  I think it’s almost immediate. Once you start to get a few days or a few weeks of data, you can start to make assessments. But it does get a lot better when you have year-over-year data. If you’re looking at, again, November of 2014 versus November of 2013, or all of 2013 versus 2014, in terms of what channels drove traffic, the amount of leads per channel — it really gives you data to show where you’re headed and how things are improving or not.

We do something called conversion rate optimization, where we look at the data in Analytics, and we say, “You know what? Barely anybody is going to our about us page,” or, conversely, “Everybody goes to the about us page.” Usually, they’re the second most visited page on a website.

If there are pages that are hit very consistently, you want to go and fix up those pages and make them even better. Conversely, if there’s a page on your site that nobody ever goes to, but you think it’s really valuable, you can then go make more links to that page or make calls to action that highlight that content. You can definitely, very quickly get data from Google Analytics to go and make very practical changes to your site.

Nicole:  These are all great ideas and strategies for attorneys and marketing professionals at law firms. Thank you so much, John, for sharing your thoughts on this topic today.

John:  Absolutely. I appreciate you having me.

Nicole:  No problem. We hope to have you back another time. Thanks so much for listening.

Data Analytics as a Risk Management Strategy

Risk-Management-Monitor-Com

In our increasingly competitive business environment, companies everywhere are looking for the next new thing to give them a competitive edge. But perhaps the next new thing is applying new techniques and capabilities to existing concepts such as risk management. The exponential growth of data as well as recent technologies and techniques for managing and analyzing data create more opportunities.

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Enterprise risk management can encompass so much more than merely making sure your business has purchased the right types and amounts of insurance. With the tools now available, businesses can quantify and model the risks they face to enable smarter mitigation strategies and better strategic decisions.

The discipline of risk management in general and the increasingly popular field of enterprise risk management have been around for years. But several recent trends and developments have increased the ability to execute on the concept of enterprise risk management.

First, the amount of data being produced everywhere has exploded and continues to accelerate. The typical executive today is swamped by data coming from all directions. Luckily, just as the raw amount of data has grown, the cost of the hardware to store data has decreased at an exponential rate. For example, in the last 10 years, retail hard-drive costs have dropped from about $1.20 per gigabyte (GB) in 2004 to about 4 cents per GB today. What’s more, the cost of hardware to store all that enterprise data is quickly becoming negligible.

But such huge amounts of data present a problem: Somebody has to manage and analyze it. All data is not equally important or relevant to the problems business executives need to solve or the risks they’re trying to manage. The explosion of data has created a greater amount of helpful and relevant data, but it can get lost in an even greater amount of useless, irrelevant, and distracting data. So an effective data management and analytics program is crucial to take advantage of the opportunities resident in the new flood of data.

One job of analytics is to sort the important from the unimportant and analyze and synthesize the data in new ways that create actionable information. Fortunately, the tools and techniques to manage large volumes of data have been progressing over the past several years. In particular, there has been a lot of buzz about big data. The field of big data has developed from a specific platform to manage large volumes of data into an entire ecosystem of related technologies. These tools are critical to the process of picking out the grains of useful intelligence from the vast quantities of distracting chaff that are characteristic of many big data sources.

Of course, all the recent technical developments and analytic techniques that make it possible to extract actionable information from a flood of data are all professionally exciting—if you’re an analyst. However, analytics for analytics’ sake does not help an organization. Often, analytics groups can remain isolated from the business itself. When such groups ultimately present what they have discovered, they may simply talk about the part most interesting to them—the analytics process—rather than focusing on the resulting information.

It is important to remember that actionable information is the ultimate goal of the entire exercise. The information must reach the decision makers in an understandable form when it is needed—the right information at the right place and at the right time. When designing information systems or even just presenting information to business executives, it is important for technical professionals to keep technical details to a minimum and focus on the actionable information. A feedback mechanism is critical. Users of the information must have a method to tell the creators of the information whether it was sufficient, correct, timely and understandable.

It’s been said that the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, and location. Similarly, the three most important factors in effective analytics are data, data, and data. Good data can sometimes make up for mediocre analytics, but even the best analytics will never produce anything useful from poor data.

Where should a business begin to leverage the new data and risk analytics? It has to start with the data itself. So start collecting and storing the data that’s available to you. Every business generates vast amounts every day. Collecting, managing, and analyzing internal data is necessary; but by looking outside the organization at social media, government data sources and third-party data vendors, a company can really begin to illuminate the environment in which it operates.

Managing data for analytics is a specialized field in its own right, and a topic for another day. But the business that can effectively leverage data and analytics to manage the risks it faces will be rewarded by seeing the future more clearly, making better decisions and ultimately being more successful than those companies that cannot.

Article authored by Phil Hatfield, modeling data services executive for ISO Insurance Programs and Analytic Services (IPAS), a Verisk Analytics (Nasdaq:VRSK) business.

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