9 Steps to an Effective Content Marketing Plan

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In my last post, I provided a quick summary of content marketing—what it is and how to do it right. Now that you have the foundation, let’s create a plan that will help you achieve your business goals.

And here’s the thing: you do want to do it right. If you are willing to put time and money into marketing yourself, you need to follow these nine steps to build a content strategy that will achieve your law firm’s goals.

1. Define Your Vision

Before you dive head-first into content marketing, you must first define your overarching vision for your firm and your marketing efforts. Consider what image you want to portray about your firm and services. Outline what makes you different from your competitors. Clearly communicate your vision to everyone involved with your marketing efforts.

2. Set Your Goals

With your vision in place, you can now determine what goals you want to achieve through your (content) marketing efforts. Your goals may include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Increasing traffic to your website
  • Increasing leads from your website
  • Building brand loyalty
  • Creating relationships with strategic partners
  • Demonstrating your expertise

It is not enough to define goals, however. You must also tie each goal to a specific and measurable metric. For instance, if brand awareness is your main goal, then you will want to measure how many social shares your content earns. If your goal is increased lead generation, you will want to measure how many leads you receive from your website or how many clicks your emails generate.

3. Identify Your Audience

The well-defined your audience, the greater impact your content will have. Identify your audience as specifically as possible, and then create your content geared directly to that audience.

A proven method of reaching your desired audience is to create buyer personas. Personas can make your website 2-5 times more effective and easier to use. According to Hubspot, a persona is a “representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

You should create at least one persona for each service you provide. Doing so will help you craft personalized and highly-targeted content. Personas should include as many details as you can gather for maximum impact, including:

  • Demographics (age, sex, income, location)
  • Background (family, work, social)
  • Motivations and goals (personal, work)
  • Challenges or pain points (primary and secondary)

Want help quickly creating personas for your marketing efforts? Download this free persona template from Hubspot. If you feel you are ready for a deeper dive into buyer personas, review a sample persona from the Buyer Persona Institute.

4. Choose Your Media

You do not have to partake in all forms of content marketing to be effective. In fact, I encourage you to avoid taking on every single option. This will spread your budget too thin and leave you wondering why you bothered in the first place.

For greatest impact, consider which content types work best for your audience and your budget. Hone in on two or three specific tactics that you can do well on a consistent basis. These can include:

  • Ads
  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • E-books
  • Emails
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Whitepapers

Consistency and quality are imperative here. Time and again, I have seen attorneys create basic social profiles because they believe they have to be present everywhere. But then those attorneys fail to personalize their pages or to update them with posts, comments, and the occasional like. Failing to show dedication in this way sends the message to potential clients you cannot follow through.

5. Determine Your Platforms

You need a website for your law firm. Beyond that, it is up to you where you distribute your content. But distribute it you must.

Potential clients are out there, and they are seeking out answers to general legal questions they have as they go throughout their days. The majority of these potential clients will go online to find answers. Now you just need to decide how to make that content visible to potential clients.

Your options vary by audience and content type. From an audience standpoint, you are more likely to encounter greater engagement with other lawyers and professionals on LinkedIn. Facebook may be a better route for you, however, if you are seeking clients with more personal issues (such as divorce).

From a content perspective, images such as infographics can spread far and wide on platforms such as Pinterest. And while YouTube hosts videos, they are more likely to spread like wildfire when shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Again, the point here is to choose platforms so that they tie directly to your goals. Focus on the networks that will make the greatest impact on your bottom line.

6. Listen to Your Audience

Before you start publishing content on a consistent basis, you want to make sure you understand what your audience is actually looking for. You can gather this information in a couple of ways:

  • Pay attention to pain points. When prospective or existing clients come to you, they often have a concern or issue on their minds. What are those concerns? What questions do they have? If you listen long enough, you will find common patterns arise across your client base.
  • Partake in social listening. This means more than just keeping an eye on mentions and notifications on your own blog or social media profile. It also means actively watching conversations around particular terms or phrases to identify opportunities to create content your audience wants. I am a fan of using Hootsuite for social listening—it allows you to track conversations happening on Twitter by keyword or phrase. Other tools to try are Social Mention and Google Alerts.

7. Finalize Execution Details

Once you have documented the elements described above, it is time to create an execution strategy. Here are three items that are essential to execution:

  • Budget. You know what you want to create and where you want to distribute it. You must now establish a budget, which will help you keep costs manageable and keep yourself on track. This budget should include costs for contributors, tools, and other resources you will rely on to accomplish your goals.
  • Schedule. You must set a schedule if your content marketing strategy is going to succeed. Without deadlines and dates in place, your content marketing goals will easily fall by the wayside. Make sure you consider all contributing factors when you set your content schedule. For instance, how often do you want to publish your work? Will your schedule vary by content type? Will you dedicate time to sharing other people’s information?
  • Contributors. If necessary, determine how many contributors you need on hand to keep your publishing on track. Contributors include all parties you must pay to help accomplish your business goals, including writers, designers, editors, web developers, and proofreaders.

If you do not have time to ensure you are creating and sharing content on schedule, you will want to invest in a project manager. This person can keep your marketing efforts moving while you keep your business on track.

8. Measure Your Efforts

I mentioned at the outset you must set goals tied to direct metrics. The metrics you must measure vary by distribution channel, but they all tend to fall into the same four categories:

  • Consumption
  • Social sharing
  • Lead generation
  • New accounts

You can use the following three tools to help you measure those four key metrics:

  • Google Analytics. This tool helps you see how many people have visited, viewed and left the pages on your website. It can also track downloads, how long visitors stayed on your website, and other engagement metrics.
  • Social stats. Track the statistics on your social media channels to see how many people have tweeted, liked, shared, commented, and more. Using a social media management system such as Hootsuite or Buffer can help you consolidate most of those numbers into easy-to-use reports.
  • Client reports. Use a CRM or other database to help tie consumed content to new clients. This can help you see which pieces of content gain the most traction. You can use this information to build off of and increase promotion of those pieces. If you do not have a CRM in place, and your current law practice management software cannot provide you with detailed tracking features, then I recommend looking into Hubspot and Salesforce.

Another great metric is simply asking your current followers for feedback with a short survey. Any insight you get here will help you better engage with those who are already interested in hearing from you.

9. Revise and Repeat

The metrics you gather will provide you with an understanding of what is working, as well as what isn’t. Rely on your metrics to help you rethink your approach and adjust your content marketing efforts. Then publish and try again. In an ideal world, the strategize-create-distribute-measure process would go on as long as your business does.

Free Marketing Plan Templates

If you are not one to start a plan from scratch, consider using one of these free content marketing plan templates:

Featured image: “Strategy Planning Plan Process Directing Growth Concept” from Shutterstock.

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