In today’s legal marketing landscape, establishing a practice specialty, focus, or emphasis is the most effective way to create a draw for your expertise. Becoming a known expert in a niche relevant to your target audience is how you can build credibility and focus marketing efforts in a way that makes them have the most impact.
Thought leadership, a term that includes all forms of professional writing and speaking, is the most scalable way to educate clients, prospects, referral partners, colleagues, and peers on exactly when to think of you for the distinctive value you provide.
Reasons to Incorporate Thought Leadership into Business Development Efforts
Boost your credibility. As a frequent author/speaker on a niche subject, you will position yourself as an authority. This is further amplified when you align and distribute your thought leadership through platforms your target audience respects. Early career attorneys with a shorter list of representative matters may be especially interested in the credibility built through thought leadership.
Build your reputation and online profile. Your prospects are looking for answers to questions, and the best return on investment on your marketing is when those prospects turn to the internet and your thought leadership provides insight to those answers. Further, when referred prospects inevitably conduct an internet search on you, you can make it easy for them to understand your area of expertise through a variety of links to podcast episodes, bylined articles, presentations, and media commentary about the very topic they seek. These educational pieces are also easy for contacts to forward on to decision makers.
Command a premium for your services. Professionals known for their unique expertise are less likely to compete for work based on price.
Grow your audience. Writing and speaking are great ways to expand the number of people who become familiar with your work. Internet search engines, individuals sharing articles or videos, and third-party distribution channels are all ways new prospects and contacts can find your written or recorded thought leadership.
Bolster and initiate key relationships. Most professionals are flattered to be invited to collaborate on thought leadership projects, especially if they don’t require much time and preparation on their end and can create visibility for them. Inviting someone to participate on a panel discussion, provide commentary in an article you are writing, or be a guest on your podcast are all ways you can initiate or expand a valuable professional relationship.
Improve your visibility. Creating regular and consistent thought leadership is a great opportunity to reach out to your existing target network. You can provide something of value while reminding them about you and your expertise. Increased activity leads to engagement, and better top-of-mind interactions with your target audiences lead to new opportunities.
Strengthen your expertise. Researching and developing topics is a great way to further develop your insights and understanding, deepening your expertise on a subject.
Create value. Sharing thought leadership on public platforms provides value to your clients and prospects and is also a valuable contribution to your profession.
Decide What to Focus on
Random acts of marketing are not a wise approach to business development. Determine your longer-term professional goals before getting started.
Go narrow. Select a topic to develop that demonstrates your sophistication in your practice area, even if there is limited application. If you show a high level of expertise in a complex arena, it will be assumed that you are capable of handling more commonplace issues.
Be intrigued. It is wise to choose a topic that is interesting to you, something you are excited about. To see the best results from a business development perspective, you will need to discuss a topic repeatedly; make sure you choose something you like talking about.
Collaborate. Consider working with a colleague, client, prospect, or professional in a complementary space on a marketing opportunity. When you partner with someone else on thought leadership, you can bolster your credibility through theirs, strengthen the relationship with the collaborator, gain exposure to additional networks, and lighten your workload. Plus, it is often a lot more fun to collaborate with someone who has complementary expertise.
Be consistent. Always aim for topics that are of interest to your ideal client and directly related to the type of work you want more of.
Hire assistance when needed. Consider working with a copywriter or ghostwriter. Hiring a professional legal writer to help you initiate a topic or to flesh out an outline can be a considerable time-saver and can create the momentum you need to get moving on a piece.
Securing Opportunities with Complementary Platforms
While many people choose to self-publish their thought leadership on firm blogs or LinkedIn, usually you can make a greater impact on your business development if a credible third party will provide a platform for your expertise. Consider which platforms are highly regarded by your key contacts and which will increase the exposure to your target audiences when deciding where to seek to publish or distribute your writing or speaking. If your ideal prospects attend an annual conference, consider speaking there; if your target referral sources belong to a professional association, consider writing for the association’s newsletter or offering to give an educational webinar. Having your thought leadership published or promoted by a third party can take a few more steps than self-promotion, but the rewards are worth the effort.
- Start by creating a list of target publications and platforms that you would like to align with.
- Create a brief, compelling description of your article or presentation that you can use to pitch to organizations to secure opportunities.
- Include a few sentences describing the issue, how you plan to approach the topic, and the key takeaways the audience will walk away with. Prepare a short bio highlighting your experience, and include links to previous writing and speaking engagements.
- If an organization is interested in working with you, they will give you the specifications they are looking for, such as presentation requirements or guidelines for the types of writing they are interested in. This method ensures that you approach a piece within the parameters of the publication, for example, which could reduce your editing time or the chances you work on something no one is interested in publishing.
- Alternatively, if you know exactly what you would like to write about, write your article first, then send it to your target publications asking if they are interested in publishing it.
- Reach out to the organization’s leadership. Let them know you are interested in being a contributing author or speaker and ask what the submission process is.
- Your firm’s marketing department or an outside public relations resource can help you pitch your article and presentation ideas or your finished pieces for publication. Make sure you are clear with your marketing resources on what your goals are with your thought leadership, specifically who your target audience is, and which platforms would be ideal.
Making the Most of Your Efforts
Developing a topic into an article or presentation takes a lot of time and energy, so make sure to take full advantage of your work. Ways to leverage your work include:
Individual outreach. Once your piece is available, reach out to your clients and top contacts directly with a personal note inviting them to watch or read, and include a link or copy. If you are giving a live presentation, consider personally and individually inviting your key contacts to attend.
Update your website. Add your thought leadership to your firm or practice area’s list of such highlights, such as an “Insights” or “Resources” tab on the website. Update the sections of your firm bio related to publications and speaking engagements to include the title of your piece or presentation and when and where it was published, with a link.
Post on social media. Post your thought leadership on social media, including LinkedIn, with a thoughtful comment.
Repurpose the content. Consider new ways to use your thought leadership. You might want to turn your article into a presentation, video vignettes, an infographic, or posts on social media. Similarly, you could turn the transcript of your presentation into an article or white paper.
Adjust for a different audience. Consider writing a follow-up piece or a new version of your thought leadership for a different target audience. If you wrote an article for corporate attorneys working in biotech, consider rewriting the piece for CPAs in the same niche.
Lean on marketing resources. Make sure your firm’s marketing department or outside resources know about your thought leadership engagements so they can post them on firm platforms, promote them internally, and offer additional visibility ideas and opportunities.
To be effective in your marketing, you need to be consistent. It is easier to be consistent if you find your business development activities to be enjoyable. If you are in the advantageous position of not needing to bring in business to stay busy, you can focus on developing relationships with people you truly enjoy and respect and build your reputation and expertise around matters and issues that are interesting and exciting to you.