We take blogging very seriously at ONE400. Why? Because we want to be a valued resource to the legal industry and remain thought leaders in our area of expertise: and because we enjoy sharing our insights and experiences with those who are interested in learning more about how we do what we do.
We help law firms and legal tech startups acquire clients and users. Recently we were nominated to The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Contest and I am thrilled that our work is being recognized. It inspired me to put down a few words to explain the effort that goes into our blogs, with the hope that other bloggers out there may glean a lesson or two from our process.
Blogging done right is hard, and in order to generate meaningful content, we first invest in planning, listening and interacting with our audience, before developing a strategy and, finally, sitting down and writing. While you may find several spontaneous posts scattered throughout our blog, most of them are planned well in advance. Let me walk you through our process.
Understanding Your Audience
Everything starts with understanding our audience. Because we have been doing this for a while, we have a pretty good sense about who we are writing for and what kind of content our audience looks to us for, but even with that experience, we regularly update our client personas. Client personas are what we use to document demographic and psychographic information about our target audience. Here is an example:
We bring the team together on a regular basis (quarterly) and update and agree on our client personas. We also brainstorm and research information such as keywords that our audience may be using to find our content, what other blogs they may read, what websites they are most likely to visit, and what imagery they may respond to (our audience loves Teslas and private jets, even if they don’t have them parked in their garages). All of this information guides our next step in the process, determine what type of content we will be generating.
Before we can determine what type of content we’ll be generating, we first need to understand how various site visitors may be interacting with us and our content. Blogging is part of our own client acquisition strategy, but it’s not all about selling. It’s really about providing the type of content your desired audience wants to consume and making sure it reaches them. Here is how we see this working for us and for our clients.
All people online that consume our content fall into one of four categories or stages:
- Stage 1. Those without any need for marketing or product development services
- Stage 2. Those with a need for marketing or product development services
- Stage 3. Those considering choosing marketing or product development services
- Stage 4. Those actively engaged in hiring a marketing and product development firm
In order to make sure that we are able to reach each person in each category, we must publish content directed at every stage. Capturing our audience at each stage is key to building an online relationship with our readers and leading them down a path of conversion (from blog reader to client). We know from experience that certain types of content have a higher likelihood of engaging a particular site visitor depending on the stage they’re at; we have labeled the approach for each of the stages like this:
- Stage 1. Entertain
- Stage 2. Inform
- Stage 3. Influence / Validate
- Stage 4. Persuade
Before I go into what each label above means, I want you to see a visual representation of how someone may go from general blog reader (Stage 1) to researcher (Stage 2) to shopper (Stage 3) and, finally, to prospective client (Stage 4):
Of course, not everyone will follow this very linear path. In fact, very few will. Most people will actually enter our content marketing funnel at various phases in their journey, from prospect to client.
Having content available for a site visitor in any of these phases is key to running a meaningful blog and generating a large and engaged audience. So let’s talk about those categories.
Each of the four categories of content is designed for a stage of the customer journey as they travel down our funnel. Since this about how we approach blogging, I’ll use existing content on our site for the examples.
Stage 1: Entertain
This type of content is what we also call click bait. It’s content that is easy to digest and fun to read. This content is designed to create brand awareness and to reach people in our industry, even if they are not actively looking for services we offer. This could be an article with a title such as “3 Things Every Lawyer Does Wrong but Doesn’t Realize!” Or “5 of the Richest Lawyers in America” or “5 TV Shows That Make Us All Want to Be Lawyers.” Have fun, but be relevant.
Stage 2: Inform
This type of content is where we spend most of our time. This is where we geek out and show our expertise. It’s how we convey our subject matter authority. We generate how-to’s, provide insights on industry trends, disclose strategies, provide tips, and talk about innovation and the future of law. The content we put together here provides the greatest value to our audience and often requires the most time commitment to develop.
Stage 3: Influence / Validate
Most of this content comes from our off-site work and isn’t always published by us. We publish off-site content in the form of guest blog posts, answering questions on Quora or Reddit, posting content within LinkedIn groups and generating content on our social media channels. Content that is off-site and not published by us includes client reviews on Yelp, Google Plus and other sites. Additionally, we’ve been fortunate to have several news outlets cover our work, which has generated substantial off-site content for us as well. This type of content is great for when potential clients are evaluating us as a potential solutions provider. Reviews and news coverage influence their decision making and validate our expertise.
Stage 4: Persuade
This is when you sell. This type of content typically comprises case studies, e.g., “How we helped a law firm grow to…” or “Why ONE400 is the best choice for…” People reading the stuff we are generating here are ready to purchase and need some prodding to help them choose us over a competitor. I know, it’s shameless self-promotion but people in this stage want to hear it.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is and we are only about three quarters of the way done. Once we have our strategies down, we get started on generating keywords, titles and an editorial calendar.
When generating keywords we take into consideration our audience, business goals and Google bots (in that order). Our keywords are ultimately used to inspire titles and content pieces. They will be formed based on what we know our audience wants to read about, what we are good at writing about, and a few technical things like search volume, rank competition, and other factors. Here is a shot of some of our team members knee deep in keyword research:
Once the keywords for the quarter are determined, we get to brainstorming on blog titles. Our brainstorming sessions usually involve chips and salsa, as you can see here:
Titles have to be catchy, tell the reader what the post will be about and be search engine friendly. We also have to take into consideration character limits on social media (e.g., Twitter). These can be lengthy, multi-session meetings, but they definitely pay off in the end.
After we have generated all of the titles, we sort the content by the categories I defined above, and then focus on the approach we will take for each, distributing the content something along these lines:
- Stage 1 = 10%
- Stage 2 = 60%
- Stage 3 = 20%
- Stage 4 = 10%
It’s not until we get to this part of the process that we are finally ready to come up with an editorial calendar and start handing out assignments to the team for fulfillment. Our editorial calendar aims to set specific dates and times for distribution, assign blog writing tasks to team members and ensure proper distribution of content across each category.
Once assignments are distributed to the team, we make it a point to deliver our assignments on a monthly basis and not all at once, so we are always writing from our most current experience. This keeps our content fresh, relevant and engaging.
There really is no shortcut in this process: It’s a very intellectual exercise that requires a lot of time and effort, but it’s certainly proven to be time well spent for our business. We have had prospects call us because they were inspired by something we wrote and they have become clients because of it. Being recognized by The Expert Institute is a welcome development and I do hope you vote for us under the technology category. To be recognized by your vote would be inspiring: CLICK HERE to cast your vote for ONE400.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts, so please comment below.