It’s no secret that today’s consumers are different. They are better educated and more informed, with an almost intuitive awareness of the marketing and sales world. As a result, “traditional” marketing approaches— using channels like print, radio, and television — no longer have the impact they once did. Large and small businesses alike have switched to a different approach, one focused on delivering value and meaning to customers and target groups: in other words, they have shifted to content marketing.
The marketing industry is seeing this switch in every sector. North America’s legal sector is no exception. Over the past few years, smart firms across Canada and the US have implemented a strategic content marketing approach. The result is a better use of marketing budgets, improved client engagement, and heightened brand awareness for those firms adopting this approach.
What is content marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Disseminating valuable information to clients results in increased business, and, perhaps more importantly, (with the knowledge that it is much less expensive to retain an existing client than to acquire a new one), brand loyalty.
The Move Away from Traditional Marketing
Law firms have long employed traditional marketing techniques for growing their client base. In-house marketing teams regularly crafted creative print campaigns or public relations activities that built awareness and sought to land new clients.
“Legal issues cannot be considered in isolation, but instead in a greater context — by industry and by business. We need to collaborate in a multidisciplinary approach to provide strategic, broader advice.”
Firms hosted existing clients at sports games, pricey bistros, or exclusive venues to “lock-in” loyalty. However, given the changing focus of clients, firms are starting to integrate a comprehensive approach — one with a heavy focus on digital, and more specifically, value-added content.
Judith McKay, McCarthy Tétrault’s Chief Client Officer, has shifted their marketing approach to content. “We are now advertising less and hosting more events with meaningful content.” McCarthy Tétrault’s recent collaboration with the Canadian Women’s General Counsel Group paired their internal team with potential clients - leading GCs - in a ‘Pitch Perfect’ event, focusing on skills development and networking. Their annual Technology Law Summit pairs GCs of technology companies with external experts, all providing thought leadership into the technology sector —both examples of events that provide meaningful learning to attendees, while connecting with target markets.
Hosting events is not new to the legal world, as most firms have long considered educational seminars and sessions a profitable marketing approach. National Canadian law firm Miller Thomson delivers monthly seminars, via video conference, to its Health Industry clients. One of Miller Thomson’s first content webinar sessions was in 2005 and dealt with Secondary Market Civil Liability in the Securities industry. The online experience has expanded to various targeted industries including Health (Coffee Talk) and Education (Morning Recess).
International firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP believes strongly in the business model of hosting educational and networking sessions. In 2015, Fasken Martineau hosted more than 200 in-person events.
While hosting events is not new, the focus on providing valuable, relatable content is a philosophy that has started to take hold. McKay elaborates, “Legal issues cannot be considered in isolation, but instead in a greater context — by industry and by business. We need to collaborate in a multidisciplinary approach to provide strategic, broader advice.”
That means having a client focus for delivering content. McKay explains, “Everything we do now is done through the client lens. We ask ourselves: Is it useful to them? Is it relevant to their industry?”
Clint Marcham, Director, Marketing & Business Development (Ontario) for Fasken Martineau, notes that “more and more we are offering our clients the opportunity to attend our educational events by webinar. Through surveying our clients (business people and in-house counsel) they have told us they like the convenience of accessing our seminars at their desks or even on the road. In addition to promoting content through email marketing we are leveraging social media and blogs to drive people to our website to download the content.”
Miller Thomson offers a Continuing Professional Development digital library so that clients are able to access and download content at any time.
Marketing Content from the Very Beginning
Content is not just a value-add, but an integral part of the sales presentation. Miller Thomson’s Barbara Doherty, a senior partner in the Corporate and M&A Group, incorporates client-focused content at the very beginning of the relationship. “At one time, when pitching to a prospective client, our team spent a lot of time talking about us and our firm. Now, we spend a fraction of the time talking about us, and the rest of the time discussing relevant legal topics specifically pertinent to the client, giving them content during the meeting/interview. Rather than leaving our brochures, we follow up with information that’s been tailored to that client.”
Marketing Content for 2016
The most important question is whether this shift is working. Miller Thomson would say it is. Martha Hartwick, Assistant Director of National Business Development & Marketing, suggests that the move to content marketing is a big part of the firm’s marketing budget for 2016. “We’ll see our focus on traditional marketing continue to decrease next year in favour of electronic and social media platforms.”
McKay notes that “traditional marketing like print media, advertising and public relations was once the main focus of our marketing efforts. We still see traditional media as an important element to our marketing plan, but we now follow a client-focused marketing approach, one that includes multiple channels.”
Fasken Martineau plans to keep their emphasis on developing valuable content. Marcham explains, “we will to continue to invest in targeted content whenever we believe it will add value for our clients. We will also continue to ask our clients what their interests are, what they want to know more about and how they would like to learn from us. As new platforms appear we'll invest time to explore their usefulness for our clients too.”
The future is not just about content, but about the client’s content — delivering what a client needs in the manner he/she chooses — the ultimate recipe for marketing success.
About the Author
Nadine Evans is president of the Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals.